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How to Prep and Wash Used Cloth Diapers - With Video

Updated on April 24, 2013

Are Used Cloth Diapers Safe?

The reason many people are tentative about using cloth diaper is because of the high initial costs. Fortunately, there is an ever growing number of places that allow people to buy, sell, and trade their used cloth diapers at a deep discount. While using pre-loved cloth diapers is perfectly safe, it is important to prep used diapers properly before using them on your own baby. This is because used cloth diapers may potentially carry bacteria and yeast that can affect your baby or the previous owner may have used a detergent your baby is sensitive to, but this is easily fixed with proper prepping. You can any of the following steps to your own diapers if your child develops a bacterial or yeast diaper rash. Many people have their own methods of prepping cloth diapers, but they usually have very similar steps.

Strip Your Used Diapers

It is not completely necessary to a;ways strip used diapers, but it may be necessary if you notice a stink issue when you use the diaper, your baby develops a rash after using the diaper or you notice repelling. One method recommends allowing the diapers to soak in hot water with ¼ cup bleach or vinegar for half an hour. Some people also just do a hot cycle with a squirt of Dawn and rinsing until the water runs clear. You can also try other products like Bac-Out by ECover, but this does occasionally leave baby with a rash, so be sure to rinse a lot and keep an eye out for a rash.

Use Both Hot and Cold Water

Wash the diapers in a full hot cycle with an extra rinse, then a cold cycle and another extra rinse with a bit of cloth diaper safe detergent. This is to kill any remaining bacteria. As different types of bacteria thrive in different temperatures, this helps you get the full range.

Remember to Rinse, Rinse, Rinse

Give the second hand diapers an extra rinse or two to get out any residue detergent. This is especially important if you know that you use a brand of detergent that is different from the previous owner. Remember, some people use detergents such as Tide which may leave hidden residues. Check for any bubbles during the rinse process. It is easier to check with a top loader, but you still can with a front loader with the help of a flashlight. Remember, soap bubbles linger while agitation bubbles disappear quickly.

Try Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is a popularly used antiseptic. Some mamas add just a few drops to their wash to make sure their diapers are thoroughly cleaned. This is also a good idea to do with your entire stash at least once a week.

Here Comes The Sun

Sun the diapers while still damp. This is especially important if there is any leftover staining on the diapers. A lot of mamas like to buy diapers that have staining and the previous owner hasn't tried to remove them. The sun acts as a natural bleaching agent against organic stains. It also kills most bacteria that may live in the fibers. The best part is that it’s free, it saves energy, and it works even on overcast days. If your diapers take too long to dry, leave them to sun for a few hours then finish off in the dryer.

Basics of Prepping New Cloth Diapers

Washing cloth diapers for the first time (also known as prepping) is easy. Typically, many companies recommend separating your diapers according to fabric type. This is especially true if you are prepping hemp or bamboo, both of which have oils left in the fabric that may transfer to your other diapers and create issues with residue or leaking.

Honestly, I've never separated my diapers. I simply never had enough of any particular type at any given time to justify the amount of water I would waste. Over a year into cloth diapering, and I haven't had an issue with it yet. The basic way to prep cloth diapers is this:

  1. Separate your covers from any inserts (and separate the inserts according to fabric type if you want) Dealer's choice.
  2. Wash your inserts in the hottest water you have. If you decide to separate your inserts according to fabric, if you have hemp, you can also just boil them for half an hour and give them one last wash on their own later.
  3. Add a bit of cloth diaper detergent if you want, but it isn't completely necessary.
  4. Dry your inserts - again many people, including me, tend to skip this step.
  5. Repeat the washing and drying process for about four times.
  6. Toss in your covers and give everything a final wash.
  7. Dry on low or line dry if it is a sunny day outside.

Below is a great video on general information on prepping new cloth diapers. It explains why you need to prep new cloth diapers, and the methods needed for each fabric type. It also gives some additional useful information that pertains to used cloth diapers.


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Hi -

      I'm making prefolds out of flats - I'm wondering is it useful to put a layer of felted wool (upcycled) inside the prefold for soaking or would this lead to problems because i can't lanolinize it once it's sewn into the prefold?


    • ThisisShe profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      Yup! You can boil them. As long as it doesn't have PUL (the waterproof layer), so this is good for inserts. For the covers and pockets, a good wash in the tub will do.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Hi, great post— any suggestions for hand washing brand new diapers (to prep)? We don't have access to a washing machine or dryer.


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