Cloth diaper drawbacks - Part 2: Laundry Issues

This is where my laundry detergent/house cleaners reside.
The most common reason that parents who try cloth diapering do not stick with it is probably laundry issues. Diaper laundry can be extremely simple once you get a routine down but doing this can be challenging. What works for one family may not work for another. Washing cloth diapers can seem very complicated to the beginner, I'm definitely not an expert but I will try to explain diaper laundry as simply as possible. Here are some common questions that a new cloth diapering parent might have about laundry.

What detergent do I use? This is definitely a personal decision! It depends on whether or not you want to use a different detergent for diapers and regular clothes, what kind of water you have (hard or soft) and how much you want to spend. A generally "safe" recommendation is Tide Powder, it is cheap and works for most people. It can also be used for regular laundry so you don't have to switch. I have never used it myself but know many people who it works for. When I first started cloth diapering I used my regular detergent (something eco-friendly) and it worked okay. I don't use softeners, bleach or fabric sheets so that is probably why it worked as well as it did. That being said I eventually got "stink issues" which can happen when ammonia builds up. I ended up trying Rockin Green detergent and I highly recommend it. I plan to write up a big review of this product soon but I really do love it. I have used it in both a HE front loader and a top loading machine and have NO stink issues and no stains. There are other cloth diaper specific detergents but I haven't used any of them. I know that Meagan uses a homemade detergent for regular clothes and diapers and this works for some people also, she uses the Duggar recipe. I plan to make some of this when I run out of regular detergent for clothes, but I'll continue to use Rockin Green for diapers. I don't want to fix what isn't broken!

Why can't I use softener, bleach, dryer sheets, etc.? Many diapers (especially the "good" ones) will say not to add softeners, bleach or other additives right on the tag. This is really simple for those of us who didn't use those things in the first place, but if you use them in your regular laundry you may wonder why they are not cloth diaper safe. Fabric softeners can cause liquids to repel off of diapers, obviously you don't want this because it causes leaks. Dryer sheets can do the same thing to diapers in the dryer, many cloth diapering parents choose dryer balls instead to reduce static and for added softness.

Why do my diapers stink/leak? The most common reason for smelly diapers is using either too much detergent or not enough. If you are using regular detergent you should use 1/4 to 1/2 (start with 1/4) of the recommended amount. If using a cloth diaper specific detergent, use the amount specified on the label. It's also very important to always do an extra rinse when you wash diapers. Leaking problems are often caused by the use of softeners or dryer sheets so make sure that you don't use them and that there is no residue from them in your washer/dryer. It's very important to wash diapers on hot to get them properly clean, and to do an extra rinse to make sure all the soap has been washed out.

How do I get rid of stains? Washing promptly is the best way to avoid stains in the first place. I have found that if you wash every other day (or every day) stains aren't really an issue. My diapers really don't have any stains, and I have never done anything special to prevent them. If you do have stains, hanging them in the sun is the best way to get rid of them. The sun naturally "bleaches" the diapers. Line drying is also thrifty (free!) and green (uses no electricity) so it's really a win-win. I bought some diapers a while back (used) that had stains in them. I was pretty mad because the seller didn't mention the stains and they were pretty obvious. I did the following and ended up getting rid of 90% of the staining. First I hung them out in the sun, for a couple of days. This helped a lot but didn't get rid of the stains. I then tried an oxiclean soak (a bucket of water with a little less than a scoop of oxiclean) for a few hours. After the soak I washed and dried and the stains are pretty much gone! I will try to sun the diapers again and hopefully they will be completely gone. I had never used oxiclean before (didn't have to) but some cloth diapering friends recommended it and it seems to be a good way to get rid of stains.

What exactly should I do to wash my diapers? No wash routine works for everyone, a lot of it depends on your washer/dryer and water. Here are two wash routines that have personally worked for me, the first was used at my in-laws house in a HE front loader, the second is what I use at home with an older top loader:

HE front loader: 
Pre-rinse in cold (if there is poop, for me there isn't always since I have an older toddler so sometimes I skip this step)
HOT wash with 1 TBSP of Rockin Green
Cold rinse, plus extra rinse

Top loader:
Pre-rinse in cold (if there is poop, if not, skip)
HOT wash with 2-3 TBSP of Rockin Green
Cold rinse, extra rinse
Very similar, except more detergent is used with the top loader. Top loaders aren't the most "green" way to do laundry because they use more water but many people find that they get the diapers cleaner. Just add an extra rinse if your HE machine isn't getting your diapers clean enough. I always line dry my covers and usually line dry my pocket shells. Microfiber and hemp inserts always go in the dryer and prefolds are often hung to dry but thrown in the dryer for a few minutes after just to make them soft.

This is what works for me. It may not work for everyone but it's a good start. The key things to remember are not using softeners/additives, always washing on hot to disinfect and making sure to rinse enough to get all of the soap out of the diapers. I hope this helps! Feel free to contact us if you have any other diaper laundry questions, we aren't experts but we will help if we can!


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