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But What About the Poo? Washing Cloth Diapers.

Updated on June 19, 2013

Inevitably when people find out that I cloth diaper Little Bear I get one of two reactions. The most common, is a look of shock, disbelief, confusion and fear of the alien antenna which has suddenly sprouted from my head. The other reaction I get is intrigue and fascination. But regardless of the reaction, there is always a follow-up question asked by those uninitiated to the cloth diapering world and that is… “But what about the poo?” Here I will de-mystify that ever present and often-asked question.

First of all, if you are the parent of small person you have discovered they consume vast quantities of liquids and what goes in must come out. And come out it does, from a variety of orifices at a variety of unpredictable and inconvenient times. Like when you have just put them in nice clean clothing or perhaps put yourself in nice clean clothing. What does that mean… you feed baby and they poop, often! Well, the first thing you need to know is not matter what kind of diaper your baby wears, you are going to have to deal with, touch, and wash poopy clothing! Simply put, “poop happens”. Disposable diapers are WELL KNOWN for what is not-so-affectionately termed…. “blow outs”. You know, when your darling baby has decided to fill a diaper to capacity (and beyond) and now you have a whole poopy outfit, child, bouncy seat/highchair/car seat, etc and a bath for the child and washing machine for the clothing is your only salvation.

What happens depicted by another truly awful picture.
What happens depicted by another truly awful picture. | Source

Well, one awesome feature of cloth diapers it “blow outs” rarely or never happen with cloth diapers. Personally, we have never had one since we switched to cloth. I can count on one hand the number of moms I know who have reported a “blow out” in cloth and that ended up being a bit of poo leaking out of leg or wicking up the back of a onesie – still nothing compared to the “Gertrude, WHAT have you been feeding that baby?!?!? Now we have to power wash the playroom!!” type of blow out experienced by disposable diaper wearing darlings.

But, that STILL, isn’t your question is. So, let’s get on with de-mystifying where the poo goes?? Well, the poop goes in the toilet of course! WHAT? The toilet you say? Yup, flip that diaper over the toilet and plop that icky stuff in. Get yourself a diaper sprayer to hook to your toilet & spray off the ick and voila – poop – in the toilet where it belongs! Did you know – you are supposed to flush poop from disposables too? My family always has so I guess this is why transitioning to cloth was not so hard for us. We could not stand a stinky baby room from that silly diaper holder thing. Diapers even say so on the package in small print. Really, go check your package!If you happen to be in the stage where you are only breastfeeding and haven’t introduced any type of solids yet, you can simply toss dirty diapers straight into the wash. Breastmilk poos are completely water soluble. Awesome! If you are formula feeding or have started introducing solids, then you are going to have to rinse your diapers into the toilet. Once they are eating solids almost exclusively, poos simply roll into the toilet and spraying is rarely needed.

There are some simple rules to follow when washing cloth diapers.

1. No Fabric Softener – EVER! It will ruin your diapers and make them unable to absorb, which is their function. Aside from that, it is gross – go check out my hub and see why. (

2. Use less detergent – approximately ¼ to ½ of what you would normally use for a load of laundry (depends on how heavy your hand is with your laundry). Excess detergent causes build-up which can also cause them to be less absorbent.

3. Use cloth diaper safe detergent – if your diaper has a warranty, follow the washing/drying directions including the detergent to make sure you do not void the warranty

Add diapers, inserts, wet bags and pre-rinse with cold water to remove most debris/urine. You cannot see it very well, but the machine is still filling in this picture.
Add diapers, inserts, wet bags and pre-rinse with cold water to remove most debris/urine. You cannot see it very well, but the machine is still filling in this picture. | Source

That said, here is a general set of washing instructions. Again, please follow the instructions for your brand, if it has a warranty!!

Step 1.

Pre-Rinse. Use cold water and set your washer to level required for the load of diapers your are washing. If you have 5 diapers in there, you do not need to set your water level to “high”. Similarly, if you have 20 diapers and set your level to “low”, they will not be properly rinsed.

Opened the washer mid-agitation in Step 3 for this shot. Notice very little suds because you use less detergent for cloth diapers.
Opened the washer mid-agitation in Step 3 for this shot. Notice very little suds because you use less detergent for cloth diapers. | Source

Step 2.

Soak. (Cold/Warm Water)If your washer is like mine and has a soak setting use this, if not, you will need to manually override your washer mid-cycle. Many people like to add something to this step. Things like a scoop of borax or washing soda, calgon water softener, oxyclean, or I like to add some Biz. Again, make sure what you are adding is okay per your diaper maker’s washing/warranty instructions. Soaking can be done for as little at 30 minutes or as long as overnight. If you need to manually over-ride the wash for a longer soak, just push or pull the knob to “stop” the cycle.

Step 3.

Hot Water Wash. My washing machine has several wash settings. For diapers, I use my “heavy duty wash” setting. It has extra agitation and an extra rinse already built in. This is where you add your diaper safe detergent. Usually 2-3 tbsp for a FULL load of diapers. You have many kinds to choose from, I use Vaska’s unscented herbatergent or Rockin Green. You wanted to avoid detergents with added enzymes, optical brighteners, perfumes, dyes, bleaches and of course, fabric softener. Not considered “safe” but widely used with good results is the original powdered Tide detergent.*


Step 4. (optional)

Hot Water Rinse. After the wash you want to give the diapers another rinse. This is sort of optional if your wash setting had a good rinse built in. I like to add another rinse to make sure all the detergent is really rinsed out. As I mentioned I use Biz in my soaks and without the extra rinse I could get build-up. If you aren’t adding anything extra during your soaks, you can probably skip this.

Step 5.

DRY – Follow the instructions for your diapers. As a general rule, my PUL lined items get hung to dry on either my indoor clothing rack or outside on my deck during summer and other items like inserts and non-PUL lined items – fitted diapers, prefolds, etc go into the dryer for winter and out on the deck during summer. I bought an inexpensive rack and some clothespins for this purpose. I would like to note that I do “fluff” my natural fiber diaper items in the dryer a bit prior to hanging as they tend to get stiff otherwise. These are items made of 100% cotton, hemp, and bamboo.

At the end you should have clean, dry diapers all ready for baby’s bum! They should smell fresh and clean or perhaps have no smell at all. In my family, folded up diapers have been known to be substituted for pillows on longer drives because yes, they are THAT clean and soft! AND, if you’re lucky, your clean diaper laundry will look as cute as mine!

*Sometimes differences in water require tweaks to the washing routine or even an individual child could have a sensitivity to a type of detergent or additive. Leave a comment if you are having trouble with your diapers, I am pretty good at figuring out solutions to get you back on track.

Clean Diaper Laundry!
Clean Diaper Laundry! | Source


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    • ExpectGreatThings profile image


      6 years ago from Illinois

      I always got some weird satisfaction out of folding warm-out-of-the-dryer cloth diapers. I can still picture the stacks of them sitting on my daughter's table.

      We used disposable diapers on my son. And I can say without a shadow of a doubt, we saved a fortune on my daughter! Thanks for writing this.

    • Ayenney profile image


      6 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for this! I really appreciate it.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Youre so right about that million dollar question! I asked it myself in the old days. "so be honest--what happens with poo?!" I rinse mine in the yard sometimes or soak in a bucket. :)

    • adawnmorrison profile image


      6 years ago from The Midwest

      Great hub...I remember the looks I got when I was using cloth diapers. A pregnant woman I met at a baby shower was planning on using a diaper service, so she thought cloth diapers were a great idea. She and the other ladies couldn't believe that there is no diaper service in our little town and I washed them myself!


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