Cloth Diapering Questions

Updated on July 01, 2007
E.S. asks from Nashville, IL
11 answers

I am new to cloth diapering and was wondering if anyone can give me suggestions on cleaning them. I have used disposables until a couple weeks ago, when I started using them on my two little ones. For economical and environmental reasons we made the switch and it's harder than I thought! I was told by the company I bought them from not to soak them or use bleach, washing soda, or Oxi Clean on them. I have a couple of All in ones and the rest are prefolds with covers. Even after washing them and hanging them on the line to dry they are badly stained and still have a yucky odor. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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answers from Cleveland on

You've already rec'd a lot of great advice. The key is to use the smallest amount of soap possible. It sounds like they may need to be stripped... Wash them with no soap. Keep washing them until you see NO bubbles while they are being agitated in the wash.

I've found that a teaspoon of Dawn dish soap works the best for cleaning diapers & keeping the buildup from starting. Also, there are many detergents that are just bad for dipes.

I think this site has the best directions/recommendations

I love my cloth diapers... DH would say I love them a little too much. LOL!

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answers from Toledo on

Hi, E..

You might have to switch detergents. I used to live in Chicago where the water was pretty hard. No matter what I did, I couldn't get the detergent to rinse clean. The buildup caused a real bad stink and a nasty rash.

If you're at your wit's end, try Sensi-Clean or Sport-Wash from It worked great for us. Without it, I wouldn't have been able to cloth diaper. is a great place to start. So is

KT Naturals Mineral Makeup


answers from Columbus on

my mom has always told me that if you have an stubborn odor that wont come out, no matter what you've tried, try soaking your laundry in vinegar, and the vinegar combats the odor. its worked for me. i was washing my nephew's shirts 1 day, and apparently he doesnt know about deodorant yet. after washing these shirts about 3 times, that onion/sweat smell just wouldnt come out. so i filled the washer 1 last time and added about a cup of vinegar, and let the load of clothes agitate and then soak for a while. i cant say for certain that this will help, but its definitely worth a shot.
good luck!!!



answers from Cleveland on

I am the world's lazest cloth diaperer. I do not soak or rinse anything. If it doesn't shake out of the diaper, it goes in the wash. When I have soaked them, the stink took 3-4 washings to get out- a horrid fishy smell. The only thing that helps a soak if you insist on one is to add vinegar to the soak. I do wash them every day or two- longer and they are harder to come clean, I think. I wash them on hot with a small amont of tide free and clear/sensative. I put vinegar in the downy dispenser. I found that on warm setting things stained more than washing on hot. I think I use more deteregent than some diapers reccommend, but they were stinky otherwise, and you can just use Dawn detergent to strip them if you need to. I have been cloth diapering for a year now and love it!



answers from Cincinnati on

Honestly, the far easiest thing to do is bypass the poop-in-diapers problem to begin with, and it's waaaay easier than you might think. Plus, your older kids will be able to help you with this too. Even if you completely laugh at the idea of this at first (I totally did, and then I tried it and about fell out of my chair when it worked so incredibly well and was SO much easier than cleaning poop out of my cloth diapers), it's worth considering:

Babies love it. It's easier for parents (trust me - way easier to put baby on potty, wipe w/ a tiny square of toilet paper, put diaper back on, than it is to have a huge poopy blowout, clean up baby and all of the crevices, get poo off diaper and into toilet, then send diaper down to be laundered, etc.). It's easy to get into a regular rhythm (esp. if baby can trust that you'll potty them at typical times during the day like after naps, after meals, first thing in the morning, etc.). And honestly? It's seriously FUN. Even my husband and my parents became converts in short order. You can do it totally part time, and it's really flexible, and your older kids will be able to tell you when your baby has to potty (my 3 yr old helped me w/ my newborn - sometimes she was able to tell even before I could!).

And oh yeah - that cloth diapering laundry? It, too, becomes a lot easier if you're ECing your baby (even if just part time, for poops only).

I know it sounds like a crazy idea, but it really does work. I started w/ my daughter when she was 9 months old (and she was done around 21 months), and my son was pottied from birth and when he started crawling, he would crawl to the bathroom to signal to us to take him, and now at 16 months he walks up to us and tells us verbally when he has to poop ("mama, poo poo!"). It's so incredibly more pleasant and easier than dealing with poopy diapers, and EVERY child who is developing in a normal, healthy range can do this, NOT just mine! So... I know probably not the "laundry advice" you were expecting, but seriously, if you can get past the "I don't see how that's even possible" thinking and give it a try, your baby will shock you with how much he knows about his own elimination, how well you can both work together as a team to help him go in the potty (the focus is communication, the potty part will follow!), and how much easier it is than you ever suspected once you've tried it for a week or so (and if it doesn't work for you/your family, there's no harm done and you can quit)!

For more info:



answers from Columbus on

You can use Borax on them. I used cloth for my first and we had a diaper pail full of water and Clorox. I used a freshener that is used for urinals to combat the stench.

- I dumped the whole pail in the washer and ran a rinse cycle (no soap) so all the ick was gone.

- After I washed once (with Borax and regular alundry saop) I would rinse again. Like the others said, soap lingers longer than you think.

- I didn't have a clothes line and I used a dryer with no dryer sheets.

- Plastic pants (the outside protection) got washed if they were really icky or smelly and I washed them regularly but with no bleach. I didn't put those in the dryer since I was afraid the plastic would break down.

(Borax is sold in the laundry aisle and is green with yellow and some mules on the box. My family has always used it.)



answers from Cincinnati on

Hi E.,
Good for you for thinking of the environment (and your children at the same time.) Have you tried the products recently highlighted on the Oprah show? Here's a link to them if you're interested:
When I switched to these products, my son's allergies decreated by 50% overnight. They are very economical but still work great (better than the "green" brands we've tried at health food stores).
If you try these and want some recipes I've found for many other household cleaning jobs, let me know and I'll get them to you.



answers from San Antonio on

Hi, E..

I have an 8 month old and we use cloth diapers. If the diaper company made suggestions about how to clean the diapers, try to follow them as much as possible. If you have a front loading washer, you have to be really careful about the amount and type of soap used. We have a top loader. I usually do a cold rinse cycle to help get rid of any left over solids (I spray off as much as I can with a toilet sprayer, you can find one at I then to a full wash with 1/4 cup of soap on hot/cold. Diapers can retain smells if there is any soap residue. You can do extra rinses after washing to make sure all the soap is out. There are some websites with detailed instructions. You may want to check out and Cottonbabies has faq sheets and a forum section with great information. Good luck!



answers from Cleveland on

I am currently using cloth diapers on my 15 month old and this is what I do:

I dont soak my diapers as I too find it makes them smell more. I seperate the ones with poop and I rinse them out the best I can.

I wash my diapers every day to every other day, depends.

The trick to getting them clean is using the lowest water setting possible as it agitates better the less water you have. First I put them on a quick wash with cold water and all I add is 1/2 cup vinegar, then they rinse.

Next I wash them in cold water with a detergent made for babies, and then rinse. Then I put them thru an extra rinse and add 1/4 cup vinegar, ( vinegar will help remove odors, and it also whitens ) then I hang them out on the line to dry, you can dry them if needed.

For the vinyl pants, I soak them in a bucket of water with a splash of vinegar for about half and hour, then I add a little bit of detergent and wash, then rinse and hang up to dry.

Also you may want to try diaper liners, I did for my 3 year old and it helped until I found out what worked best for me.

Good Luck!



answers from Cincinnati on

Everyone has their favorites, what worked best for me is Dr. Bronners soap. Just a bit in the wash and two rinses and they get super clean.
Be careful not to use too much soap!
Good luck.
Oh, I use the lavender one, but there are others. - peppermint works well also.



answers from Cleveland on

I agree with the "lazy" poster--I did things the easy way! and I never had odor problems.

1) Number one, I read that too much soap can cause odors! Use VERY little detergent

2) I didn't soak at ALL. I had 2 diaper pails, one for poops and one for pee only. (I would dump as much as possible in the toilet first but I didn't rinse it or anything).

3) When it came time to wash, I washed the poopy ones first by themselves in COLD water with a TEENY TINY bit of detergent. Warm water sets the protein stains.

4) After that, add the pee ones and wash them all in warm or hot, again with a little detergent (think 1/4 the recommended amount).

5) To eliminate all detergent, you can do an extra rinse if your washer lets you, or go back and just rinse them again after they're done. You could add vinegar to the first rinse, that's supposed to help too (but rinse again, any residue left in the diaper will increase odors). I don't know about the all in ones, though, vinegar may not be good for them.

6) if you already have stains, the sun is the best way to get them out, or just don't worry about them.

7) You could also use a fleece liner to keep the stains off the actual diapers (I just bought some cheap, soft fleece and cut it in a peanut shape to fit inside the diapers, no sewing)

8) certain detergents are better than others, I preferred the fragrance free ones without any bleaches or other additives, and definitely NOT Dreft (supposed to be bad for the all in ones)

9) Make sure you've washed them all in hot water several times before using.

Are you breastfeeding or formula feeding? I was breastfeeding and that stains a lot less, so that might be part of it. For the covers, I would just rinse them out in the sink after each use and let dry. I'd use them a few times and wash only if they got smelly.

Hope that helps!

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