A Simple and Manageable Cloth Diaper Wash Routine

Cloth diapering can be a great way to save money and reduce the amount of waste going into landfills. Did you know it takes 500 years for a disposable diaper to break down in a landfill? Five hundred years! If the money-saving aspect alone wasn’t enough, maybe that startling statistic will seal the deal for you. We decided to start cloth diapering because we were pregnant with twins. I knew that the cost of diapers for two babies would be astronomical, so that’s how our cloth diapering journey started and has been going strong for 15 months! I have settled into a simple and manageable cloth diaper wash routine that makes cloth diapering so simple! You can check out a video version here

Getting Started with Cloth Diapers

If you want to get started with cloth diapering there are a few things you’ll want to consider and some essential supplies you will need to have great success with cloth diapering. First, decide what style of cloth diapers you would like to use. I have a whole blog post going through the different cloth diaper options from pocket diapers to using a pre-fold and waterproof diaper cover or even a hybrid model like the ones we use. Check out all those details here! Once you have your cloth diapers, then there are a few more things you need and you are ready for having your own simple and manageable cloth diaper wash routine. 

three cloth diapers stacked.

Essential Supplies

Here are the essential supplies we use in our simple cloth diaper wash routine! 

Diaper Sprayer

A diaper sprayer attaches to your toilet and allows you to spray the poop off into the toilet before putting it into the washing machine. If you plan to start cloth diapering with your newborn, and your baby is exclusively breastfed, then you don’t need to spray or rinse those poopy diapers at all. They can go directly into the wash. The reason you can do this with exclusively breastfed babies is because breastmilk poops are water soluble, meaning they will wash right out. However, once you start introducing solid food, around six months of age, you will need to start spraying out the diapers. This diaper sprayer is easy to install and comes in handy for spraying out clothes stained from blowouts.

Sprayer attached to a toilet.

Wet Bag

A wet bag is like a pail liner for cloth diapers. It is a bag that you can put your dirty cloth diapers into that has a waterproof lining. This keeps all wet items from leaking out and the bag stays dry from the outside. I recommend having two larger ones, then when one is in the wash, you have another. It can also be a good idea to get a travel waterproof bag. These make it possible to continue using cloth diapers while you are out and about. It has a handle that can snap right to your diaper bag and zippers to lock in any stink. These bags can also be super helpful if you have wet swimsuits or towels after a summer day by the pool! 

Spray Pal 

The Spray Pal is an easy way to spray out your diapers in a mess-free way. You clip the diaper into the spray pal and use the diaper sprayer to spray off any poop. It folds up for easy storage. Another option is more of a spray bucket that sits on top of your toilet. Both have the same purpose and function, just different styles. I prefer the one that folds up so I can store it easier when I am in a season of not using cloth diapers. Having this Spray Pal makes it so easy to clean off dirty diapers.

Diaper sprayer.

Laundry Detergent 

There are lots of different detergents you can use when it comes to getting clean diapers. I use the Norwex liquid laundry detergent. This detergent has enzymes that help break up urine and fecal matter, as well as stains. You want a clean detergent free from fragrances, fillers, or fabric softeners. These things will coat the fabric of your cloth diapers making them less absorbent, curing leaky diapers. There is a great detergent index from Fluff Love University. You can find just about any detergent and it will tell you if it is suitable for cloth diapering. You can find this resource here.

Drying Rack 

I have a hybrid diaper that has a soaker pad and an outer waterproof shell. To lengthen the lifespan of the elastic in the shell, I hang dry them. I like this drying rack becasue it doesn’t take up much space. It also has been a great thing to have to hang wet towels to dry before putting them in the laundry hamper. You could use any drying rack or clothes line to dry your diaper covers.

Hanging rack with clips and 5 cloth diapers hanging to dry from it.

Cloth Diaper Liners

These liners were a game-changer for me! These are not an essential item, but something I like to have. You just lay them on the diaper before putting the diaper on your baby. The job of the liner is to catch the poop to save on the number of diapers you need to spray out. This brand averaged out to be $0.05 a liner, which was something I was willing to spend if it meant having fewer diapers to spray out.

Cloth diaper with a liner in it.

Prepping Your Cloth Diapers

Depending on if you bought new or used cloth diapers, you will want to prep them by washing them a few times before use. The reason you do this is to make them more absorbent. If you are using a used cloth diaper, then you would do a stripping. Stripping your diapers is removing any buildup on your diapers. I use the Grovia Mighty Bubbles, which is a pod that you add to your washing machine. Follow the instructions on the back of the package.

If you have a cloth diaper made out of a natural material like cotton, hemp, wool, or linen you will want to wash your diaper 4 to 5 times. It requires so many washes becuase you are removing the natural oils on the fibers to help make the diaper more absorbent. You do not need to dry the diapers between washes. You can also add additional laundry to these loads to save on water usage. If you have a cloth diaper made of synthetic materials you only need to wash them once.

Step-by-Step Cloth Diaper Washing Guide


After I change a diaper, it goes directly into the wet bag. If I need to spray out a diaper, then I set that in a small basket on my stairs to do it when I have a few minutes. I spray the diaper out in our spray pal using a toilet sprayer attachment, which is so handy! When I have enough diapers to wash, usually about every 2 days, then I will start a load. 

1st Cycle

Cloth diapers need to be washed on a two-wash cycle. The first cycle is a cold rinse cycle. This is to give the dirty diapers a good rinse of any bits of solid waste, most should have been sprayed off beforehand. This can be a quick wash and you don’t need to use detergent in this cycle, but I sometimes do. This rinse cycle must be cold and not hot because you don’t want to bake in any of the debris or stink. We want to rinse that out. Don’t worry, you will give your diapers a full hot wash on their second cycle!

2nd Cycle

The second cycle is the main wash cycle where you get a thorough cleaning of the diapers. Use the heavy-duty cycle setting on your washing machine and turn on a hot cycle. At this point, you could add in addition laundry such as towels or clothes. I don’t do this in my own cloth diaper wash routine, but you could and it would be a way to save on water and increase your load size. Adding additional laundry at this stage can be especially helpful if you have a top loader. The more things in the washing machine, the more there to agitate the cloth diapers, helping get them cleaner. You want a good water-to-laundry ratio. This will help in cleaning the diapers. I have a front-loader and have not added additional clothes to the second cycle and our cloth diapers have been cleaned just fine. 


After both cycles are complete you can put any fabric liners into the dryer and hang any waterproof shells or pocket diaper shells on a hanging rack. Line drying your diapers outside is another great option. Pro tip: If you have staining, put your cloth diaper in the sun to bleach them.

That’s it! My simple and manageable cloth diaper wash routine. It may seem like a lot of steps now, but once you figure out your washing machine settings and do it a few times, it isn’t much work. 

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Dealing with stains and odor in cloth diapers

If your diapers are smelling after you wash them it may be time to strip your diapers. This is a deeper cleaning to remove build-up in the diapers. It is recommended to do this every 6 to 8 weeks. I use the Grovia MightyBubbles. You can repeat this process multiple times if needed. Follow the instructions on the back of the package. 

Adjusting your wash routine for hard water or soft water conditions

Water hardness can become a challenge when you are finding the best wash routine for your cloth diapers. One thing to never do if you have hard water is to run an extra rinse after the wash cycle is done.  This will put all those minerals back on your diapers that you just were trying to get rid of. To get more information and to find a water softener, check out this great resource from Fluff Love University

This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. See my full disclosure here.

Addressing Leaks

If you are having leaks in your diapers, it could be due to a few things. The elastic on the diapers may be loose and not creating enough of a barrier, if you suspect this is the issue, you may need to invest in some new cloth diaper covers. Another issue could be the absorbency of the cloth diaper. Build-up on the diapers can cause them to repel liquid rather than absorb it. If you suspect this is the culprit, I would do a stripping of your diapers, I use the Grovia Mighty Bubbles for this process, following the directions on the back of the package. 

Diaper Rash Concern

If your baby is getting diaper rashes there can be many causes. Teething, food sensitivities, or sensitivities to the fabric are possible. Related to cloth diapering, the main culprits would be a build-up of ammonia leaving bacteria on the diapers or yeast. To help treat diaper rash, offer lots of diaper-free time and change soiled diapers promptly. Cloth diapers stay moist, and sometimes that moisture when left on the skin can cause ammonia burns. Whereas a disposable diaper holds the moisture differently and keeps that moisture off of the baby’s skin and in the diaper.

My favorite diaper rash combination is Calendula Baby Cream with Kaolin clay powder. Rub a little bit of the cream and sprinkle with the clay powder over top. This was gifted to me by a daycare provider at a baby shower and she used it for many years in her home cloth diapering many children. I have had great success with this combination, and all very natural!

Container of calendula cream and a container of powdered Kaolin clay.

How often should I wash my diapers?

The frequency of washing your diapers will depend on a few things. Like how many diapers you have in your collection, how many diapers you are using daily, and the frequency of using cloth diapers vs disposable diapers. I wouldn’t go more than 4 days without washing dirty wet diapers so that they don’t begin to get too stinky. I wash a load of diapers every other day typically, but that is for twins! Every 2-3 days would be a good frequency. 

Quick Recap

Cloth diapering can be a fabulous way to save money and offer a more natural diapering expereince for your child. Make sure to establish a thorough cloth diaper wash routine starting by spraying out your diapers, doing a cold-water rinse, and then a heavy-duty with hot water and enough detergent The best way to get good results with cloth diapering is to follow a robust wash routine and troubleshoot any challenges that come up along the way. I know cloth diapering can be a whole new thing to learn amid motherhood, but hopefully, you see it can be simple and manageable. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments section below!

Cloth diapers hanging on a hanging rack with text that says "Cloth Diaper Wash Routine Simple and Manageable".

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