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Caring for Cloth Diapers

img_3106I’ve learned the hard way that there is a such thing as too much washing, or at least, using too much detergent.  I love that my son wears cloth diapers most of the time (there are a few exceptions such as while we’re at the office), but getting them clean is a pain.  No lie.

I absolutely detest the overpowering, “punch-you-in-the-nose” pungent smell of ammonia when I open the diaper bin to do the wash.  Long gone are the days of the odorless or almost sweet smelling diapers that only had breastmilk-induced waste. Yeah, it’s no fun to dump, dip, and scrape cloth diaper contents into the toilet.  But, there is a bright side to this mortifying task of natural motherhood, potty training awareness arrives sooner than later.

My son tells us when he needs to pee or immediately after he’s done some serious diaper dumping so that it’s MUCH easier to clean the diaper.  I’ve been waiting for this day for oh-so-long.  Cloth diapering definitely increases his awareness because he can feel wetness or solid masses of poo next to his skin, and his desire to be rid of it is finally here.  It’s enough to make me lift my hands to the heavens and sing praises to the Almighty.  Seriously, I’ve been praying for my son to want to potty train since he was born.  Does that sound ambitious?

Let me share some helpful cloth diapering cleaning and care tips that I’ve learned along the way.


j0396131There’s definitely a difference between natural, plant-based fibers and synthetic fibers.  You may not detect a difference when waste matter comes from only breastmilk, but once your baby hits solids and especially meats  you’ll notice that wake-up scent called ammonia hit you between the eyes.

1. Use a dry diaper bin.  You won’t have to worry about a mucky and stinky mess of a cess pool in your home that’s also a drowning hazard if you use a wet bin, so stick with dry. Line your diaper bin with a heavy duty trash bag or waterproof cloth bag that can be washed along with the diapers.

2. Dump, scrape, dip, and flush solid waste matter in the toilet.  It sucks, but it has to be done.

3. Remove any liners or doublers from the pockets of any AIO diapers, so they’ll come clean in the wash.


1. Wash diapers, diaper covers, and wet bags with a hot cycle (to remove and sanitize any excess solid waste matter).  Then, repeat with a cold cycle.

2. Instead of laundry detergent, I like to use Soap Nuts.  You can also use a couple drops of standard essential oils to brighten up the scent of the diapers.  Every so often, I add 1/4 cup of vinegar or apple cider vinegar to strip away any excess build-up.

3.  Hard vs. soft water may require modifications.  Sometimes I add some Oxiclean.  Usually, soap nuts is all I need to keep diapers clean and scent-free.

4. Line dry if able (we’re not able).  So, dry on perm press (not super high heat) with NO dryer sheets.  Those work like fabric softener to repel liquids and make the diapers less absorbent (not a good thing!).

5. Some of the thicker fabrics stay a little damp after the dryer cycle.  I just hang up the one or two diapers to air dry.

Check out my Cloth Diaper Essentials Comprehensive Review post if you’d like to learn about some of the best options available for cloth.

So, what works for YOU in caring for cloth diapers?

–By. Dr. Dolly

7 Responses

  1. […] Check out my Caring for Cloth Diapers Guide […]

  2. Hello Dr. Dolly, Soap Nuts are being widely validated as a purely natural way to clean diapers. Washing only in soap nuts should work fine. Because of the difficulty of washing diapers you may find it best to start them in hot water or use home made liquid or our Maggie’s Laundry Liquid. Using liquid jump starts the soap nuts. This is particularly good for short cycle HE washers. By the way, because of it’s ability to remove odors soap nuts are great for hunters clothes. Pets seem to like it, possibly for the same reason. Thanks.

  3. Also for that nasty ammonia buildup try using RLR laundry additive. It’ s a safe nonchlorine cleaner that helps remove the nasty buildup and remove the ammonia smell. Soapnuts are fantastic when it comes to cleaning I use them on all of my laundry

  4. Are you actually a doctor?

    your sister Vicky sent me over here.

    I see we have a LOT in common. Gonna look around and get to know you better.

  5. Dolly, is there a waterproof cloth diaperpail bag that you recomend?

    • presently, we use drawstring garbage bags. my sister-in-law also made me one from diaper cover material (I use this sometimes at home, and always when I travel). If you asked Vicky, she might make you one for a reasonable price.

  6. I love soap nuts! I use the ones from Eco Nuts because of their non-plastic recycled/compostable packaging. I wouldn’t recommend using essential oils though, doesn’t that cause the residue build up that would make the diapers repel?

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