Before washing cloth diapers be sure to fold any rough hook tape down and attach it to a piece of loop tape on the cloth diaper. Inserts can be washed with your diapers. If using colored microfiber inserts it is advisable to wash them separate from the diapers for a couple of washes to prevent the color from bleeding onto your diaper fabrics and Aplix or Touchtape closures.
Wash cloth diapers, mama pads, and nursing pads with VERY little detergent (about 1/8 of the manufacturer’s suggestion) in hot water with a cold rinse. Ideally you should only see very few bubbles that persist once the machine begins to agitate.
A 30-minute pre-soak in cold water is advisable for heavily soiled cloth diapers. Put the diapers through an extra rinse cycle after washing them to get as much detergent out as possible. Again, in the ideal situation during the second rinse no soap bubbles should persist. Soap build-up on cloth diapers, particularly on synthetic fabrics like suedecloth and microfleece, can lead to diaper rash.
Never use fabric softener when washing your re-usable cloth items. You should also never use dryer sheets when drying your re-usable cloth items in the dryer. Use bleaches sparingly (1 tbsp per load on occasion). Bleach can wear down the fibers and fabric softener reduces absorbency.
You can add a ¼ cup of white vinegar to the first rinse cycle to serve as a rinse aid and adjust the pH of your laundry.Also, you can use ¼ cup of Borax on occasion to help sanitize the diapers as an alternative to bleach. For especially smelly loads that have been sitting more than a day, you can add ¼ cup of baking soda to the wash cycle.
If you are uncertain whether your diapers are clean (because you are not using much soap or bleach) smell them! If you don’t smell anything nasty, they are clean! All cloth diapers and re-usable cloth products (including those made with PUL waterproof fabric) can be dried in the dryer or line dried. Never use dryer sheets in the dryer with your re-usable cloth products-they will cause repelling of liquids in your fabrics.
Always wash and dry your re-usable cloth products in the dryer after sewing them. Drying PUL will help to seal any holes in the PUL that were created in the process of sewing the diaper. Sometimes inner fabrics have a "residue" from the manufacturer that needs to be washed off in order to allow them to work properly and let liquids through to the soaker. 1-2 washes usually suffice. Natural fabrics (made with cotton, bamboo, hemp, etc.) need to be washed and dried at least once before sewing with them as they will shrink. Hemp and Bamboo should be "prepped" by washing them 5-6 times on hot water to release their natural oils and allow them to absorb liquids well.
If over time you have problems with diapers leaking that never leaked before, you may have detergent buildup on your diapers.Wash them in hot water with NO Detergent and look for bubbles. Continue to wash the diapers with no detergent until no bubbles remain. Add a drop or two of Dawn dish detergents to your load to "strip" the diapers of excess laundry detergent. When you are confident that the detergent build up is gone, return to your regular wash routine, being careful to use less detergent with your cloth diapers and other cloth re-usable products.
Summary of a typical wash routine:
- Cold Soak
- Hot wash with very little detergent
- Cold rinse (with vinegar if necessary)
- Extra cold rinse is advisable
- Line or machine dry