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How to Hand Wash Cloth Diapers

image of diapers in yellow and teal colors

Anyone can use cloth anywhere! Whether you use a washing machine, laundry mat or hand wash your diapers, there are several different methods of washing diapers and hand washing, specifically, can be used pretty much anywhere. Most of the items you'll need to hand wash your diapers are easily accessible and can be purchased almost anywhere.

In this article, we are going to discuss how to hand wash cloth diapers as well as the reasons some people choose to hand wash, the materials and methods they use as well as some tips and tricks to make this process just a little easier.

Reasons to Hand Wash


So, why do people hand wash their cloth diapers? Maybe your financial situation doesn't include a washer and dryer just yet. Or maybe you love to camp, hike and enjoy the outdoors without having to drive back into town every time you need to do cloth diaper laundry.

This is also a great method to learn when there are circumstances beyond your control. The power going out or your washer breaking means you need to find an alternative way to get your diapers clean. Or maybe you are traveling with friends and a washer and dryer just isn't available. Either way, Thirsties has you covered! Let's learn how to hand wash.

General Routine


The general routine includes removing solids, then a doing a prewash followed by a hot wash and then an extra rinse. So this means that if you do have access to a washer and dryer, your routine would look something like this:

  • Remove solids either by using a diaper sprayer, a liner, or the dunk & swish method
  • Do a prewash on WARM with 1-2 lines of detergent
  • Do a heavy duty wash on HOT with the recommended amount of detergent for soiled laundry
  • Rinse

Of course, everyone's routine will vary just slightly, but in general, your regular cloth diaper laundry routine should be fairly quick and easy.

image with text on how to wash diapers

Plunger Method


So, let's get started with the bucket and plunger method. For the bucket and plunger method, here's what you will need to have on hand: a bucket or tub, plunger, gloves, and cloth diaper safe detergent. I like to have some extra towels on hand too in case you have an accident.

Many folks like to use the  “The Breathing Washer”, a plunger that cycles air through the water while agitating your clothing or diapers. It's a great plunger to use for long term cloth diapering using the hand wash method. However, if all you can find is a normal, household plunger, that will work just fine as well.



The process of hand washing cloth diapers itself isn't necessarily difficult. You can count the steps in this process by the number of plunges or the length of time, whichever works for you. The point is to fully agitate and diapers and allow the detergent to do its job removing waste.

Here's the general process for using the bucket and plunger method to clean your diapers:

  • Rinse / Prewash – 100 plunges, or for 5 min
  • Hot wash with about 2tbs to ¼ cup of detergent: 50 plunges, Soak 5-10 min, 50 plunges, drain & wring out diapers
  • Rinse – 100 plunges, drain & wring out diaper
  • Do additional rinses if there are a lot of bubbles or if your diapers feel slimy

Wonder Wash


The Wonder Washer is another great way to get your clothes and diapers clean without the use of a washer and dryer. The Wonder Washer is a cylindrical container with an opening at the top. Just drop your diapers in with the right amount of detergent and you are ready to use the hand crank to start washing!

The general Wonder Washer routine should look a little something like this:

  • Warm Prewash – 60 cranks or about 2 minutes (I use one line of detergent), drain, wring out diapers between ‘cycles’
  • Hot Wash with detergent – 60 cranks, soak 5 – 10 minutes, 60 cranks, drain (this will be one of the very very few instances where Thirsties recommends that your diapers be left soaking)
  • Rinse - 60 cranks or about two minutes, drain & wring out diapers. Do this two times or until water runs out clear.

Using the Wonder Washer is a great way to be able to cloth diaper on the go, save money and save electricity.
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I have personally washed lots of diapers by hand and it's so much easier than you think! The best advice? Take what works for you and leave the rest. Cloth diaper the way that makes sense for you, your baby and your family.

Are you currently cloth diapering? Which tip is your favorite? Tell us in the comments! You can shop Thirsties cloth diapers at your local retailer or online with Thirsties. For more cloth diaper tips and tricks, you can visit Thirsties on Facebook or join the online community, Thirsties Groupies. And don’t forget to checkout Thirsties Instagram feed, @thirstiesinc.


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