How to wash cloth diapers for the first time

By Lynn •  Updated: 09/25/21 •  5 min read
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Cloth diapers wash routine is pretty simple. However, if you are first time mom,  you may find yourself wondering how to wash cloth diapers for the first time.

Should you soak them first? Should you wash in warm or cold water? How should you rinse and dry them?

These are some of the questions most parents ask when planning to wash cloth diapers. But, which wash routine should you follow when cleaning the dirty reusable diapers?

How to wash cloth diapers for the first time

How to wash cloth diapers for the first time by hand

Your cloth diapers wash routine usually starts immediately you change your baby’s diaper. You do not have to wash soiled cloth diapers after every change. That would be hectic. But if the diaper has poop, you should first shake and scrape it off into a toilet or use a diaper sprayer. Ensure all the poop has been scraped off to avoid staining then put the cloth diaper into a dry diaper pail.

Once the dirty cloth diapers in the dry diaper pail reach at least a dozen (usually in one day), it is time to wash them.

If this is your first time, you can choose to wash using a machine or by hand at home.

Things that you need for hand washing cloth diapers

  • Cold, warm and hot water
  • Safe cloth washing detergent
  • A brush with soft bristles
  • A washbasin/bathtub/bucket
  • Clothes hanging lines and clips
  • Gloves (optional)


  • Pre-soaking

Remove the diapers from the diaper pail and soak them in hot water with detergent. This should take approximately 30 minutes. You should soak everything including the inserts, boosters and cloth wipes.

  • Washing 

Wear gloves (optional) to protect your hands and nails from the detergent. Wash by rubbing the fabric against itself or kneading until the nappies are clean with no stains. You can also use a plunger for a few minutes.

  • Removing Stains 

Check for stains. If you notice any stains, use the soft brush or add oxygen bleach powder. This will also help to brighten the nappies. Drain the dirty water and start the rinsing process.

  • Rinsing 

Drain the dirty water and start the rinsing process. For the first rinse, use cold or warm water and drain it.

Rinse the second time until the water and the nappies are no longer soapy then gently remove excess water from the diapers by rolling them in a towel.

  • Drying 

Hang to dry in the sun

Tips to consider when washing by cloth diapers by hand

  • Avoid wringing the diapers since they may stretch and loss shape
  • Adding a teaspoon of white vinegar during the final rinse can help to eliminate odor especially for diapers used overnight.
  • Removing poop from soiled diapers immediately and soaking them helps to minimize staining
  • Strongly scented fabric softeners should be avoided as the baby’s skin may be sensitive. The best alternative is to use baking soda in the final rinse.

How to wash cloth diapers for the first time in a washing machine (front loader or side)


  • Pre-wash

Start by pre-washing the diapers in cold water. During this cycle, you do not need to add any detergent or use hot water. This should take about 15 minutes.

  • Regular wash

Manufacturers recommend that for best results, cloth diapers should be washed in hot water. However, make sure your machine’s heater is not set to extremely high temperatures as this may destroy some diapers. Using hot water helps the detergent to lather easily and remove most stains.

This cycle should take not less than 15 minutes and should be set on the extra heavy or heavy-duty option for maximum cleaning.

  • Rinse

Rinse the diapers until you see the last water is soap-free and there are no soapy bubbles on the diapers. This means running extra rinse cycles on your machine after the first one.

Smell the clean diapers to ensure that there is no smell or odor as this may indicate that the washing was not thorough. If they have even a slight odor, repeat the washing.

  • Drying

Use the machine dryer or hang on a line to dry in the sun. If using the dryer, ensure that you set it to the right temperature since too high temperatures may destroy the nappies.

Tips to consider when washing and drying cloth diapers in a machine

  • Protect the Velcro by closing them prior to putting the diapers in the washing machine or dryer
  • If possible, avoid using the dryer and hang diapers outside to dry. This is because the hot dry heat of the machine encourages wear and tear in the long run.

To conclude, there are several ways through which parents wash cloth diapers. Actually, many factors come into play when it comes to washing dirty disposable diapers. For instance, a parent living in a hard water area may need to use a particular detergent and very hot water in order to clean the diapers thoroughly compared to one living in a soft water area.

Also, a stay at home mom may decide to clean soiled diapers as soon as they change their babies; hence, no piling. A working mom, on the other hand, has to store them until laundry day.

This, therefore, means that cloth diapers wash routine differs from parent to parent. A routine that works for you might not work for someone else; hence, you are not required to follow a particular one. Alternatively, if the idea of washing cloth diapers does not appeal to you, there are several laundering services which will do the dirty work and deliver clean diapers at your doorstep.


Lynn is a freelance writer, a wife, and a mother of two beautiful kids. Lynn started Infant Empire with the aim of making parenting easier for fellow mums and dads. She believes the parenting tips provided here will be of great help to all parents.


  1. connie says:

    Great site, very informative!

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