Thursday, March 09, 2006

How To Wash Cloth Diapers at Home

Many of my family and friends are surprised to learn that we wash Lila's dirty diapers at home. In fact, I was skeptical before we tried it. So I have put together this pictorial guide. It's ridiculously easy to wash cloth diapers if your baby is only fed breastmilk and you have your own washer and dryer.

Not everyone has seen what cloth diapers and diaper covers look like. Here's an unfolded "Chinese prefold” beside an empty cover:

You fold the insert and place it in the cover. There are many ways to fold the insert. We fold ours the way you do a letter and that works well for our girl.

The baby wears the diaper and soils it with either urine or breastmilk poo.

Put the soiled insert into a medium sized garbage bin with a washable bag. If the cover is dirty, put that in too. The size of the bin should accommodate about two days worth of diapers.

When you're ready to wash the diapers, empty the bag directly into the washer. That's right! Just dump them in. You do not have to rinse the poo diapers of breastfed babies. Breastmilk poo is 100% water soluble! (Wash the bag with the diapers.)

The diapers really do come out clean.

Put the wet diapers in the dryer. You might need to run your dryer longer than usual. (I'm in Houston where nothing is ever truly dry.)

If you follow these simple steps, you will have accomplished a feat that many people think is disgusting, vile, and beneath them. In case you are wondering, our water and electricity bills have not gone up by a noticeable amount. We use cloth diapers in combination with elimination communication. I highly recommend this combination if you can manage it. You save money, you save environmental resources, and you're more emotionally connected with the baby.


Megan said...

I am a huge cloth diaper fan but I must add the cleaning process gets a little trickier with stinky toddler poop!

Jillian said...

what kind of diapers do you use and where did you buy them? do you use regular detergent? i have high hopes for doing my own but i'm very nervous about it.

Anonymous said...

I find that for baby poop from a toddler the best thing is a handheld bidet (about 30 dollars) just spray them out over the toilet no need to dunk your hand!!!

I get my diapers from

Anonymous said...

What about the issue of harsh detergent chemicals in the water system? That kind of negates the 'green' idea, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

we use chinese prefold diapers that we bought at a local children's consignment shop calld young and restless (you can order them online). we bought some used, some new.

i liked the imse vimse organic cotton bumpy diaper covers, though i also bought the majority of the covers used at young and restless, as well. my friends who didn't ec like tighter fitting diapers, however...whatever brand it is that has all the snaps. but they're so expensive!

we are now into training pants and i buy the over the nile ones.

on the other point about harsh chemicals, i can only answer that we didn't call the blog pristine parenting for a reason. i wish my tap water was spring water...but it isn't. the nice thing about elimination communication, however, has been that in the last four months or so, we do very few loads of diaper laundrey. we have used far less diapers than people who rely soley on diapering of any sort. i'm fairly certain the only greener way would be to ec without diapers from birth...which we weren't ready to do.

many of the decisions made for me by industry, government, etc, and that effect my water, air, etc. are daunting. but it doesn't stop me from making green choices where i can.


GreenDaddy said...

I also want to add to MaGreen's response that we spend a little extra on Ecover laundry detergent which, I believe, is less harsh on the environment than other brinds. According to their website, they use: plant based ingredients that lead to quick and complete iodegradability (OECD-test 301F, full product), no optical brighteners, ingredients that cause minimum impact on aquatic life (OECD-test 201 & 202, full product), no animal testing, non-ionic and anionic tensio-active surfactants, water, citric acid, citrate, plant based ethanol and plant based fragrance (lavender type).

Anonymous said...

We use Charlie's Soap to wash our diapers. It is natural, biodegradable, non-toxic, etc. And cheap! It is much more green to wash your own diapers than to use a diaper service, which do use harsh chemicals. And there is no comparison to disposables, which take water to produce and in transit (over and over again, several thousand per baby), and of course are the third largest item overflowing landfills.

Marcy said...

I have tried washing my diapers this way. I use prefolds. I soak and do a prewash in cold with baking soda. Then I wash in hot. All of the diapers come out with poo stains ( my baby is only breastfed). Any suggestions????

Anonymous said...

For stains, try line drying in the sun. I've also heard of spritzing lemon juice on particularly stubborn spots, but so far sunning has worked for me. You might need to use more detergent, where I live the water is hard so it takes a bit more soap to really clean my dipes. HTH!

Anonymous said...

i put my daughter in the tub for a bath when she goes #2 and i hose down the diapers (and her) with a handheld nozzle ($10 bucks someplaces). i scrub poop diapers by hand while the water runs over them and soak them in hot water and baking soda over night, then wash... i only ever use baking soda in the wash never detergent. safe. naturAl. chemical free. and no stains!

Kelly Atkinson said...

Hello, I have a 5 year old and a 2 year old and I've just started learning about green parenting. My question is this. What would I do about poopie diapers when you're out in public? Keep in mind he's 2 years old. Trying to potty train, but not there yet. You can't hose him down (which I'm sure he would love), and a tottler #2 is pretty yucky. Any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

We have a 19 mon. old at home and we use cloth diapers for him. We do use the gerber premium pre-folds I found at Target and Wal*Mart. I also cloth diaper my 16 mon. old step-son when he comes over for his visits. I love it.
I use Charlies soap to wash all of my laundry. It's green and cost effiecient. One 2.65 lb. container washes 80 loads of laundry. At a tablespoon per load, it doesn't add a bunch of weight if you take your stuff to the laundromat either.
We are still looking for some more cost efficient diaper covers (right now the gerber vinyls work but we're looking toward long-term)

Kristen said...

+++ COVERS - I used ProRaps seconds for my covers. They are much cheaper than regular and the only "flaws" have been small pin point black marks that usually come out in the first wash or velcro that isn't fully attached. You need to call the company directly, but they have great service. Mine have lasted 3 years with no problems. I also started using gDiapers with prefold inserts for when my baby got wiggly.

++ For icky BMs, I started using Bummis flushable liners that can be tossed and a zippered wet bag for messes. The wet bag zips up to seal out most smells and ALL wetness and gets tossed in with the laundry with the diapers.

MaGreen said...

Thanks Kristen!!

We ECd so only experienced that problem a couple times and had no solution.

The Mom! said...

As a mom expecting her second baby and hoping to enter the world of CD'ing, I really appreciate your photos and entry. Thanks for sharing!!

Anonymous said...

we are new to cloth diapers have been checking out "bum genius" anyone familiar with this washable brand?

Norma said...

No matter what detergent we choose to use, cloth diapering will always be better for the environment than using disposables.
At least we are supporting one less factory that doesn't care how many trees it tears down, how much waste it spits out into the water or how many chemicals it puts on our babies bottoms.

Kat said...

I have a 5 month old, we are just starting cereal. When will his poop change from the breastfed poop I am used to? When will I have to start to flush and rinse poop diapers before washing?

Ingrid Johnson said...

I love your blog! I am a green baby parenting coach
and also support parents in their journey.
Drop by some time:

Thanks, and keep up the good work!


GreenDaddy said...

Thank you Ingrid.

Kat, I wonder if you have figured out the answer to your question through experience. My guess is that the percentage of the baby's diet that is not breastfed will be directly proportional to the poo's water solubility. So if he's eating a tiny bit of cereal, you could probably still use the method described above. But if it's a big meal of cereal, you might have to use a more elaborate washing method. I can't say from experience because we used elimination communication and our baby rarely pooped in her diaper by the time she was eating.

Anonymous said...

We use bum genius and fuzzi bunz. I love them both! My son is 15 months old and I just started cding a couple of months ago and I never looked back. I think I slightly prefer fuzzi bunz over bum genius because the FB have lots of snaps to adjust both the fit in the waist and around the thighs and snaps don't wear out like velcro. They're also easier to stuff than the BG, lay flatter when stuffed, and seem less bulky than BG.

BG are a little easier to use because they have velcro closures and no complicated snaps. The waist seems more stretchy on the BG as well and they are a one size fits all diaper so no different sizes to order like with the FB.

As I said, I like them both for different reasons. They're both excellent choices imo but they are expensive.

Anonymous said...

Several people asked about cleaning the diapers. I have a large bucket I keep in the bathroom. When we have a poopy one, I shake out the big stuff. This actually takes care of most of it. Then I place the diaper in the bucket and turn on the bath water. I hold the diaper under the faucet inside the bucket. The faucet "blasts" off the remaining chunks and the bucket catches the icky stuff. I then pour the water in the toilet.

Kaleena Marie said...

we use bumgenius diaper covers with our gerber 3 ply cloth diapers for our 2 year old and they work great...also get some snappies to replace the old fashion pins. We have a small trash can with a lid that we keep a bit of water and baking soda in and we shake the poop into the toilet then throw the diaper in the trash can to soak till we get to it later.
also we make our own laundry det.
12c borax
8c baking soda
8c washing soda
8c. ivory bar soap (grated)
mix well, store in airtight covered container and use 1/8th of a cup per FULL load.
its all natural, and it works awesome!!!
you can also put a few drops of lavender oil in it if you want a scent to it.

get some dryer balls to cut down on the drying time too!!!

My Green Diapers Rocks! said...

I use a cloth diaper service in Lafayette, IN They DO NOT use harsh chemicals like some others have said. They use a combination of soap nuts baking soda and vinegar.

Brooke said...

Hello to all and brilliant blog! Helpful hints and sharing frustrations are always good outlets for all of us! I too have a toddler being potty trained and using cloth diapers. I use a recipe similar to the above one and I am currently looking at starting a diapering service in our area, as we are in desperate need of it! I have had a baby and mom store for a few years now and sell cloth diapers as well as Snappis! Love them! Feel free to drop by at: I also make my own organic lotions, diffusers, sprays, etc. Use promo code: newcustomer and take $5.00 off immediately! Thanks again for the blogs you all have wonderful advice! Best of luck to all!
Brooke =)

Anonymous said...

We have used washables for both our boys and if rinsing your washables when they are dirty is an issue for you, you can always use flushable liners. Some are really soft and it's just like flushing toilet paper (as far as water treatment is concerned). Sometimes some still ended up on the nappy, but now it doesn't gross me out so much and I am using washable liners and don't mind "getting my hands dirty".

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