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Laundering your diapers: The Complete Guide

Posted by Andrea/Admin on 7/28/2017
Learning your machine and your water

20 years ago there was one type of washing machine. Today there are hundreds of brands & styles and they all have unique settings. Here are the basics for your machine:
  • Any HE machine, whether it be a front-load or top-load works by filling based on weight. They use less water, which is not great for washing dirty diapers. They need to be tricked into using more water. These are some tips and tricks you can use during your SECOND wash:
    • Use a "Rinse, No Spin" cycle
    • Add water to the drum or into the detergent dispenser
    • Add a towel so that its wet weight tricks the machine

Now the most important part, your water.

  • How hard is your water? What is the PH level? Did you know that the cleanliness of your laundry is directly related to these variables. Soft water and adjustable PH is how all the professionals get their linens so clean. We would know, we own a diaper service!
    • Soften your water. Whether you have a whole home water softener or need to add a Hard Water Booster to each cycle, this is extremely important for all laundry, but even more so for diapers. Diapers with mineral build-up cause all sorts of issues; rashes & ammonia stink being the two biggest.
    • Changing the PH. A higher PH is good during your wash routine. Soaps work better in an alkaline environment (anything over an 8). However, you do not want to put an alkaline diaper next to your baby's skin. That will cause a burn. Babies' skin is naturally around a 6 PH, so your diapers should be as close to that as possible. Sound complicated? It isn't!! You only have to figure it out once and you are set. 
      • White vinegar is a natural acid. When used in your fabric softener dispenser, it will lower the PH of your water to the appropriate level for your final rinse. Your quantity will vary depending on your water's current PH level. The higher the PH, the more you need in order to lower it to the right level. However, if you get the PH too low it will damage your PUL (waterproofing), so it is important to TEST and not GUESS!

How do you test these things? You need water testing strips, your hard water booster if applicable and some white vinegar.

  • Test your standard water so you know where you are starting. Add your Booster first and then your vinegar until your strips show that your water is soft and your PH is a 6-7. 
  • Test 1 Gallon of water. Then extrapolate the amount of Booster and Vinegar you needed in relationship to how much water your washing machine uses. 
  • Use these measurements for your laundry and you are set!

Simplifying your current laundry routine

Laundry is not difficult; it is simple. Take away all the fluff and your laundry will Thank You. You only need 4 things for ALL your laundry.

Your Soap

Simplify. If soap is good enough to wash dirty diapers, it is good enough for your lightly soiled clothes. Choose your cloth diaper soap and switch to it now! Use the same soap for all your laundry. It will keep your diapers from getting an accidental chemical mixture that could result in a burn on baby’s skin. Baby Junk has years of experience with Charlie’s Soap and we LOVE it! We also carry EcoSprout for those that want their soap to have a nice light scent.

Softening your water

As we discussed, softening your water is very important. Minerals are a big problem, especially when it comes to cloth diapers. Add Charlie’s Hard Water Booster to every load to kill all the bad minerals in your water. If you do this with all your laundry, you will notice a huge difference in softness and in your colors when they are no longer dingy.

Fabric Softener/Dryer Sheets and Bars

What is fabric softener? It is a coating that artificially softens your clothes. Because it is a coating, it will create a film on everything in touches: your washer, your dryer, your clothes and your diapers! For some of you this will be a BIG change. NO MORE FABRIC SOFTENER…on ANYTHING, not just your diaper laundry. This is very important. If you continue to use liquid softener, dryer sheets or a dryer bar on your other laundry, your diapers will eventually repel. Guaranteed. Softening your water will help on its own but we have some other options too.

First, you can use white distilled vinegar in place of your liquid fabric softener. Your clothes will not smell like vinegar and they will be super soft! Add it to your machine exactly like you would your liquid fabric softener. Then use 3-5 Wool Dryer Balls in your dryer instead of sheets or bars. I personally use both vinegar and wool dryer balls. 

If you place 2-3 diaper pins in your wool dryer balls, the metal grounds your dryer and reduces static. The only reason we even sell diaper pins is for your wool dryer balls! Also, an easy way to reduce static is to prevent over drying your clothes.

Cleaning your cloth diapers

First, what do you do with the poop?

  1. Shake off all the excess you can into the toilet and put whatever is still stuck into your pail. Because it is water-soluble, it will wash away!
  2. Use Flushable Liners against baby's skin so you can flush or toss the majority of the poop.
  3. Hook up a diaper sprayer on your toilet and spray off the poop before placing in your pail.

Use a pail liner in a diaper pail or a large wet bag. Pre-treat stains by spraying dirty diapers with Bac-Out before placing them in your pail. Bac-Out also acts as a deodorizer. You could use our Pail Freshener as a deodorizer. Our Buncha Farmers Stain Stick is a great stain fighter if you don't pre-treat or they still end up stained.


Begin with a warm wash cycle. Why warm? Bodily fluids wash out best at body temperature. So you want your water to be as close to 98o as possible. This initial wash is not meant to really clean, but more to flush out all bodily fluids from your diapers. We recommend using your soap during this initial wash. This will help flush the waste down the drain where it belongs. **If you use Pail Freshener, you can skip adding soap to this cycle. 

Do an extra rinse on this first wash cycle. Warm if possible. This will act as a second flush to really pre-clean your diapers and prepare them to be washed.

Now it is time to clean your diapers! Do your hottest, longest cycle on your machine. You should be using the booster (if needed) and putting your vinegar in your fabric softener dispenser. Use your soap. Do not do an extra rinse. This probably contradicts everything you read, so why would we recommend this? You just lowered your PH to the perfect level. If you do an extra rinse, this will ruin your PH balance. Also, there should be no fear of soap build-up if you are using a great cloth diaper detergent (like Charlie’s or EcoSprout).

If you ever want/need to bleach your diapers, you would add the bleach during your Hot wash. However, I would leave out the vinegar during a “bleach” wash and then do an extra rinse (or two) and add your vinegar to that final rinse. Bleach is OK to use on all types of diapers. Most manufactures do not recommend it, but we have literally bleached every brand of diaper on the market through our diaper service, which is much more powerful and they hold up beautifully. 

DO NOT USE "REGULAR" DETERGENTS ON YOUR DIAPERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I CAN'T EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH. DETERGENTS LIKE THESE DESTROY YOUR DIAPERS...WORSE THAN ANYTHING BLEACH COULD EVER DO. Do believe everything you read on these Facebook Groups that say it's's not! With 10 years of expertise in this industry, the only destroyed diapers we have ever seen came from using the wrong detergent.


When your diapers are clean and still wet, this is the best time to hang them in the sun. This will naturally bleach them. If you live somewhere cold (like us) you can also hang them in a sunny door/window to get the same effect. 

However, you do not HAVE to hang dry your diapering items. You can put everything in your dryer! Just know that over time this is harder on your diapers, but it isn't going to ruin them. You will get a higher resale value if you air/line dry them because they will stay "prettier." Make sure you use your Wool Dryer Balls with diaper pins to speed up dry time and reduce static!

Finally, if you do not treat your water and your diapers end up stinky, we can help. You can use our professional diaper stripping service. Even if you live across the country! Just get your diapers to us and we do the rest.

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