Wash At Home

(Care of Changing Ways Diaper Service)

Every washing machine is different, so you may have to tweak these guidelines a bit.  Do some experimenting and figure out what works best for you.  At the RDA/RDIA (realdiapers.org) annual meeting, these notes from a laundry expert helped members understand what successful laundry is really composed of.  Check it out!

The best recommendation is to start using a cloth diaper friendly detergent with all your families’ laundry. Use the detergent you already have without any enzymes to first  see if it works well.  Most detergents do.  Cloth diapering at home and perfecting a laundry routine is about finding the right product for you!

Let’s start with the don’ts….

Don’t use bleach on diapers – it breaks down the cotton fibres and reduces absorbency and lifespan of the diaper. (You may wish to use bleach every couple of months, or after a bout of diaper rash.)

Never bleach your diaper covers – it will lead to leaky diapers!  Bleach alternatives can be used on cloth diapers to help fight stains.

Don’t use fabric softeners (liquid or dryer sheets) – It will coat the fibres of the diapers and reduce absorbency, as well as may cause rashes on baby’s sensitive bottom when the chemicals mix with urine.  Be aware that some baby laundry detergents contain softeners.

Don’t use enzymatic detergents (such as Arm and Hammer Advanced) – the enzymes don’t get removed by rinsing and can cause terrible rashes when diapers get wet.

Diaper Pail – Wet or Dry?

I have found wet pails are awkward – heavy to carry and messy to deal with.  You also have make sure you have a locking lid for your pail to keep toddlers away from a potential drowning hazard.

If you have a front loading washer, I recommend using a dry pail – it’s much easier.  Using a wet pail with a top loading washer, you can just pour the contents of the pail into the washer.

Regardless of what pail method you choose, make sure you shake all solid waste into the toilet (or use flushable liners).


Wet pail… Fill ½ way with water and add ¼ cup vinegar or washing soda.  Don’t leave for more than 3 days or you may get mould.  Don’t soak your covers, it can break down elastic and damage waterproofing layers

  • Pour contents of pail into washer (or fish out diapers)
  • Run a rinse (cold) and spin cycle to remove all the dirty water
  • Run a regular hot wash cycle using regular detergent and powdered hydrogen peroxide (available at health food stores) if wanted for brightening and stain removal
  • If your washing machine offers it, select an extra rinse to make sure all detergent is removed

Dry pail… Line your pail with a garbage bag or washable pail liner for easy transportation to the laundry room.

  • Empty contents of pail liner into machine
  • Run a cold pre-wash cycle with detergent to remove any solid waste
  • OPTIONAL: Run a second warm or hot pre-wash cycle adding powdered hydrogen peroxide and stop ½ way through cycle to let soak for at least 1 hour or overnight
  • Run a regular hot wash cycle using regular detergent and powdered hydrogen peroxide (add if you did not soak like in previous step) if wanted for brightening and stain removal
  • If your washing machine offers it, select an extra rinse to make sure all detergent is removed
  • You may add ¼ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle if ammonia smell is a problem or if you wish to soften diapers – especially good if drying diapers on the clothesline.


  • Dry diapers in the dryer until completely dry (1 hour) OR hang on clothesline in the sun – you will be amazed at the sun’s ability to remove stains. ** Check covers for individual drying instructions**
  • Watch the lint trap for a build up of cotton fibres from the diapers.  Check your lint trap at half an hour of drying.  This occurs mostly with brand new cloth diapers.  Wash your lint trap with soap to clean off the residue which can build up and cause fires in clothes dryers.


Use flushable liners when changing diapers.  If diaper is soiled you can just pick up the liner and flush the whole thing.

You may wish to add bleach to one diaper wash every few months or after a bout of diaper rash. Keep it to a capful.  Bleach alternatives can be considered for cloth diapers too.

I know this sounds complicated, but it isn’t. Once you find the system that works for you and your washer it’ll be way easier than lugging home disposable diapers from the store and then hauling the dirty ones out to the curb – not to mention cheaper!

Good luck!

Trouble Shooting

Here are some extra links for those with other diaper washing issues:

Does your washing machine have build up from other detergents? With soft water: clean your machine by using one cup of vinegar and 1/2 cup of baking soda and run a normal hot cycle with nothing else in the machine.  With hard water: clean you machine with 2/3 cup of bleach poured in the detergent compartment and in the bleach dispenser and run a normal hot cycle with nothing else in the machine.  If you still have bubbles in your rinse water, run it again, empty, on a cold cycle.  Then wipe it clean with a spare diaper or rag.

Ammonia buildup – baby gets a rash and diapers smell strongly of pee after just one change.  Time to strip the diapers, but there are different strategies for different machines and water conditions.  First check if your machine has build up from other detergents, and then target the buildup in the diapers.

Yeast breakouts with baby – recommendations for creams and liners for baby’s bum plus how to get them out of the diapers so the yeast goes away

Front Loader washing machine – high efficiency and water conservation are why we support bringing these monsters into our homes (myself included), but they can be a challenge to cloth diapers.  Check out some hints & tips from other moms or contact Andria with your own ideas!  The wet towel trick involves adding a water soaked towel into the washer so the machine uses more water to clean with.

Bummis own instructions for washing diaper covers

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