How do you clean a soiled cloth diaper? The Big Cloth Diapering Question


Cloth diaper laundry isn’t a whole lot different than other laundry.

I hate to see parents getting discouraged about using cloth because they’re afraid of a little poop. Lets be honest, in life, poop happens. I’ll take you through my routine in how I clean dirty cloth diapers, but this is by no means the rule book on how it should be done. Do what works best for you and yours.

diaper sprayerIf you’re using a diaper that requires the entire diaper to be changed then you would just remove the diaper, wipe off the baby’s bottom and set the diaper aside. Pop on a new cloth diaper and send your little one on their way. Or put your little one some place safe if they’re too little to run about while you attend to the dirty diaper.

If there are solids in the diaper you would go straight to the toilet, open the cloth diaper and shake off the solids as best you can. If you have soil on the cloth diaper that won’t come off, you could use a diaper sprayer if you have one.

step to open trash canNow it’s time to store the dirty diaper in a pail or wet bag. In B’s room I have a diaper pail. It’s nothing fancy just a step-to-open trash can I bought off Ebay that has a removable bucket inside. I have been meaning to get a wet bag that fits inside, but for now, the bucket works well. Once the cloth diaper is either shaken or sprayed, I plop it in the pail (or you would plop it in the wet bag if that’s what you have) until you are ready to wash.

TIP: After a couple days, the pail can get pretty full and a bit stinky. When that happens, I bring the pail over to the washing machine and get the water filling. I have a top loading washing machine, nothing fancy. Turn the water setting full load and use the cold water option.

I refuse to "unstuff" dirty diapers, so I simply dump the whole bucket of diapers into the washer while it’s filling up.  Once the wash is finished; I crank it to the hot water setting, add a little detergent and send the diapers around again. While the tub is filling with hot water I inspect the diapers to see if any of them need "unstuffing". If needed, I separate the inserts from the diaper and let the washer go again. I don’t add a lot of soap because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about washing diapers (and clothes for that matter) is that a little bit goes a long way. The water does the cleaning and the soap is merely an aid to the water. After the wash, I either hang my diapers and inserts out to dry or pop them in the dryer.

hanging plant standInstead of building a long clothes line, I sort of MacGyver’d one.

Here’s how…

I got this neat hanging Octopus with 16 clothes clips from IKEA and a hanging plant stand from Home Depot.

I installed the plant stand in my back yard, just outside the door in the grass. We have a rack for hanging clothes in my laundry area, this is where I store the octopuses from IKEA when they’re not in use.

When it’s time to hang the diapers outside, the process is so easy. I clip up the cloth diapers & inserts onto the Octopus while in the laundry room, and then hang the octopus on the plant stand outside. This is much nicer to do, versus having to stand outside with a wet load of clean cloth diapers and hang them on a long clothes line.

I also like that the hanging Octopus arms spin in the breeze so that all of my cloth diapers can get a little air and sun.

TIP: Sunning your diapers is a good way to remove stains. Also, the UV rays from the sun will help kill bacteria and will help to battle any lingering stinkies.

Up Next… “How to make your own laundry detergent that is cloth diapering friendly”


8 thoughts on “How do you clean a soiled cloth diaper? The Big Cloth Diapering Question

  • July 23, 2016 at 8:47 am
    We have a new adopted 14 year old daughter[3 months now] and we just baptized and christened her two weeks ago at our parish and dressed her in the traditional,white,poofy,short sleeve,top of the knees baptism dress with the matching bonnet,lace anklets and white shoes.Her diaper was cloth with rubberpants over it and she soiled it during the ceremony! She confessed that she was nervous and thats why she did it.I took her to the nursery after the ceremony and took the diaper off of her,cleaned her up,then pulled the rubberpants back up and she wore them under her dress for her party.I threw the cloth diaper away,as i didnt want to wash it. Reply
  • October 22, 2012 at 9:42 pm
    Your laundry octopus is GENIUS. Love it. Reply
  • October 11, 2012 at 10:28 am
    Thank You for this! I love the great idea's and advice. I must say I love the make shift clothes line! What a grand Idea!!! I think I am gonna steal this one;-)!! Reply
  • September 18, 2012 at 1:48 am
    I like your idea for drying the diapers outside. I will have to visit ikea so I can try it with my cloth diapers. Thank you Reply
  • August 12, 2012 at 12:25 am
    Thank you so much for posting this. My daughter who lives with us has a 9 month old and bought cloth diapers to use but honestly the last time I used them were the old style folded cloth ones over 25 years ago. My husband just hooked up the diaper sprayer a few weeks ago, and I just told her she needs to use the diapers...she spent a lot on them. I had no idea you didnt remove the soiling and could run that right through the wash? We used to dunk and dunk to get the soil off in the toilet. Then often even wring them out. Well, it IS just water after all, as long as the toilet is clean. Just flush a few times to get the worst flushed away. Do some people use a diaper service to clean? I know that would defeat the whole idea of saving money, but still saves the environment by not dumping disposables in landfills. Plus, at least one kind of diapers gave the baby a horrible rash. Soetimes "old fashioned" IS best! Reply
  • August 9, 2012 at 11:04 am
    I really have wondered how mom's with cloth diapers care for the diapers. It's kind of intimidating so this is good to know. Reply
  • August 7, 2012 at 8:32 pm
    I have questions about cloth, poop, and travel. We are headed on a two week vacation in a couple months and I want to stick with cloth diapering. Do you have tips for transporting the dirty diapers when I cannot wash them daily? I am especially nervous about the poop odor. Thanks! Reply
    • August 7, 2012 at 8:42 pm
      Will you be some place you could rinse them out? Definitely get a good size wetbag and maybe some tea tree essential oil and try your best to rinse the dipes out. Even if you can't wash daily, I would try to get somewhere to wash every couple days. Tea tree oil kills some bacteria and can do wonders for the poo smell! Good luck, and let me know how it goes on vacation! Reply

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