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How To Clean Cloth Diapers

image of cloth diaper
If you look on 10 cloth diaper websites, you will most likely find 10 different recommended cleaning methods! The method used can vary with the kind of diaper and the fiber used. Through research and trial and error, we have compiled our recommended care and use instructions, to keep your diapers clean and looking newer longer! Our recommendations are safe for the environment, and safe for baby. Before Wearing Wash all diapers at least one time before use, using a cloth diaper safe detergent such as our Thirsties Pre-Wash and Super Wash. Thirsties hemp products can be used after 3 wash/dry cycles, and will reach maximum absorbency after 8 wash/dry cycles. You will need to wash Thirsties hemp products separately from your other diapering products for these initial cycles. Diaper Changing Station Shake solids into toilet after each diaper change. Store your soiled Thirsties Cloth Diapers in a DRY diaper pail. A standard 52-quart garbage pail with a lid works great and can be purchased at your local department store. Be sure to line your pail with a Thirsties Deluxe Diaper Pail Liner to avoid having to clean your pail on every laundry day. Stow your stash of Thirsties Fab Wipes in an accessible location to your changing table along with some fresh water for wipe dipping. Toss soiled wipes into your pail along with your diapers. Pre Wash *Although soaking can aid in stain removal, we do not recommend soaking anything but natural fiber diapers for any longer than 10 minutes. This is due to the fact that it can eat away at lamination, and lock in odor. For optimum cleanliness, limit the size of your load to no more than 18 M/L or 24 XS/S diapers and wash every other day (plus inserts and wipes). Use COLD water for the pre-wash cycle with 1/2 ounce Thirsties® Pre-Wash solution, to help pre-clean your diapers. If you do not have a pre-wash cycle on your washer, a short or quick wash cycle will work just as well. You may alternatively use 2 TBLSP of detergent in the prewash cycle (2 TSP for HE machines). For HE machines, we suggest a load of 12-15 diapers. Diapers need a good amount of water to clean them properly, and HE machines use less water. Here are some tricks to adding water to your HE diaper load:
  1. Adding a wet bath towel to your diaper laundry will trick the washer into adding more water. You will use this in the prewash cycle, and leave in for the wash and rinse cycles.
  2. Select the Soak option to fill the washer with water, and then spin the water out. This will wet the diapers, making them heavier. In turn, that will trick the washer to use more water.
  3. Spray the diapers with a diaper sprayer before putting into the diaper pail. This will wet the diapers, making them heavier. In turn, that will trick the washer to use more water.
Wash Choose a HEAVY cycle and wash on HOT for the main wash. Please be sure not to use temperatures over 130 degrees for any item with components. Use 1/2 ounce Thirsties Super Wash or the recommended amount of cloth diaper safe detergent per load. Thirsties Pre-Wash and Super Wash are HE safe and have been custom formulated for use on cloth diapers. For hard water, use 1 ounce of Pre-Wash and Super Wash. Most detergents on the market will leave a residue on your diapers that will affect the absorbency and will cause odors and diaper rash. Please avoid soaps and Free and Clear detergents, as well as additives such as chlorine bleach, fabric softeners, brighteners, enzymes, and dyes. These can not only harm your diapers, but your baby's sensitive skin as well. Please avoid using the following for diapers or covers with components such as elastic, Aplix, and lamination:
  • Sanitize cycles
  • Pure Soap
  • Vinegar
  • Washing Soda
  • Chlorine Bleach
These practices and/or additives can void the warranty on your Thirsties products.  Rinse on warm, adding an extra rinse. Dry Hang your cloth diapers to dry or dry in dryer on low. Inserts, flats, and prefolds may be dried on higher settings. *Routine drying in the dryer will hasten the life of any diapering product - especially on diapers or covers with components such as hook and loop fasteners and elastic. Add a dry towel or wool dryer balls to the dryer to speed the drying process. A hot, 15 minute dryer cycle once a month is beneficial to lamination. Drying in direct sunlight is the very best method for drying and disinfecting, and at getting rid of stains. However, take care not to leave diapers out longer than necessary, as UV rays and high temperatures can also have an ill effect on diapering products. Cotton and hemp diapers will be somewhat stiff when hung to dry. One option to soften sun-dried textiles made from natural fibers is to use the dryer while still slightly damp. Stripping Even if you follow all of our Care and Use instructions, you still might end up with occasional stinky and less absorbent diapers due to water mineral residue. In this case, we recommend running your diapers through a HOT wash with no detergent, followed by two rinses. You may need to change detergents. If you are still having trouble, you will need to strip your diapers of the residue causing the problems. Following are the instructions for diaper stripping. Strip only as needed, as it can be harsh on your diapering products. Standard machines: Maximum load size is 18 XS/S or 24 M/L diapers. Starting with clean diapers:
  1. Fill machine with Hot water on the highest water level.
  2. Add 2 Tablespoons of Dawn Classic dish soap to the wash water and agitate for about 10 seconds.
  3. Add diapers and run wash cycle, adding an extra warm rinse.
  4. If the rinse water is slimy or has any bubbles during the second rinse, you should add another rinse.
HE machines: Dawn dish soap is NOT low sudsing. Please check with the manufacturer of your machine as to whether this can void your warranty. Maximum load size is 12 XS/S or 15 M/L diapers. Starting with clean diapers:
  1. Put diapers into the machine.Use one of the tricks above to add weight to your diaper load.
  2. Wash on Hot with 2 Teaspoons of Dawn Classic dish soap on the highest water level.
  3. Add an extra warm rinse.
  4. If the rinse water is slimy or has any bubbles during the second rinse, you should add another rinse.
Important: If you have residue on your diapers, you will want to strip the diapers but also take care of what is causing the problem. First make sure you are using the correct wash instructions above. If you are not using a recommended detergent, you will want to strip your diapers and change to a cloth diaper safe detergent such as our Pre-Wash and Super Wash. Make sure that if you use a diaper cream that it is cloth diaper safe. You may want to use a liner when using diaper creams. For hard water, you will need to use a water softener such as Calgon Water Softener to your wash load.
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  • This is a great article for a new cloth diaperer! Hoping to get some smells out if some gently used diapers I purchased!

    Christina L. on
  • Few new things I learned and I’ve been doing cd’s for three years now!

    Jessica Cook on
  • Love the super wash! It took out stains that I thought were permanent! Thanks Thirsties!

    Rachael Dziedzic on
  • Thanks for the directions on stripping. Have heard of it, and read basic directions but now realize I was not using enough dawn. (info I was using said “small amt”, I was only using a drop or 2) Wish my son was awake now (not) so I could dump his diaper drawer into the wash for a stripping. They have a funky smell & he is starting to get a rash around the elastic area on his legs. Hope a correct stripping of his diapers will help

    Jen on

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