Wash and Bleach your Diapers! – A ‘How To’ Guide


Cloth Diaper Washing 101

How to Bleach Cloth Diapers


This is an easy, comprehensive guide to getting your diapers clean. You CAN have clean diapers, without ever needing to strip your diapers unless there is a problem.

First, we will start with a few basics. There are things you want to avoid and things that you want to do. These are important and determine 95% of the time what the outcome of your routine will be.

Things to Avoid Things to do
  • Fabric Softeners – do not use dryer sheets, liquid fabric softener, or dryer bars. If it is made to soften fabric, do not use it.
  • Homemade “Detergents – We will get to the reasoning behind this further down, but the main reason is they do not contain any actual detergent and do not clean human waste.
  • Dawn Soap – Dawn is for oil/petroleum based products. It is a degreaser and it will only degrease things.
  • Vinegar – Vinegar is said to be a natural softener but it will react with the minerals in hard water and cause stink problems
  • Set your washer to the correct water level – You want your diapers to bump and grind against each other. Like crazed teens or single people in a night club. This is how they will {scrub} each other.
  • Use a Quality Detergent – Don’t use Fairy Farts, Prancing Unicorns, or Rainbow Pixie Tears. {aka detergents marketed toward cloth diapers} Use a detergent that is strong enough to clean POOP.
  • Use Enough Detergent – 2 Tablespoons isn’t going to clean crap, literally. Use the recommended amount for a heavily soiled load.
  • Add a Water Softener – If you have hard water {like just about all of Oklahoma has} a water softener is going to make or break your cloth diapering experience.


*Note: When your baby soils a diaper, place it into your wetbag or into your diaper pail. For a diaper pail, many people use a step lid trash can with a pail liner.

Let the washing begin!

    1. Plop the Poop.If you have any poop on the diapers, plop it into the toilet, spray it out, wipe it off, use a liner, dunk and swish. Whatever you have to do to get the poop OFF the diaper, Get it off. – With the exception of Exclusively Breast Fed poop. You can toss EBF poop into the washer without rinsing it off first but you can run a rinse cycle if you want to. {It is best to get the poop off the diaper before you put it into your diaper pail, but it can wait until wash day if that’s the way you want to do it.}
    2. Rinse it out.Warm or cool whichever you choose, when you put your diapers into the washing machine, do a rinse first. With of course the exception of EBF poop if that is what you want.
    3. Wash
    4. Rinse (see below for rinsing)
    • If you have a small load, set your washer to the small setting
    • If you have a medium load, set your water to the medium setting.
    • If you have a large load, set your washer to the large setting.

Set the water level so that the diapers are not swimming around. You want them to bump and grind, to scrub each other. Look at your load of diapers and think about them as just being laundry. If if is a small load of laundry, set your level to small. In a conventional top loading washing machine, it takes about 30-35 diapers for the setting to be at a Large load.

{{ If you end up with too much water, like if your loads are between a Small and Medium & Medium and Large, set small to medium and medium to large and add a towel or two to the wash. }}

Now you can add your detergent, If you have hard water add your water softener in with your detergent cycle. You can use any water temp, but most like warm/hot.

USE ENOUGH DETERGENT.  I cannot stress this enough, 2 tablespoons is not going to work to clean sweaty armpit stains so it certainly isn’t going to clean heavily soiled pee and poop saturated diapers. Below is an example chart that may help you get a visual.

{ For comparison on NORMAL loads, not heavily soiled. So you may end up using a bit more if you have a bunch of super poop diapers. Use the recommended amount for heavily soiled loads. This is no exact..it is only an *Approximate Example* of scoop sizes to give you a visual, since most people know what a Tide scoop looks like with non HE detergent. }

4 Tablespoons
Line one on a Tide Scoop
Small Load
8 Tablespoons
Line two on a Tide Scoop
Medium Load
12 Tablespoons
Line three on a Tide Scoop
Large Load

Use a quality detergent. You can use any detergent that does not contain fabric softeners. Whatever works for you and your family. Tide, Gain, Arm & Hammer – whatever you can use on your clothing, minus fabric softeners. Powders rinse easier but you can use liquids if you like.
Use HE detergent for HE machines. Make sure it is HE detergent and doesn’t just have an HE symbol on the box. (Yes, some have the symbol and are not HE detergents)
If you decide to or have to use a weaker detergent, you may end up having to use double the amount to get your diapers clean


 4. RINSE. After you have ran your wash cycle, with the appropriate water level and detergent amount, You may run an extra rinse if necessary. You do not need to run another rinse if your diapers don’t feel slippery/soapy. Of course if you want to run an extra rinse, that is up to you.

Keep in mind that more rinses is not necessarily a good thing. More rinses means more minerals.

 5. Dry. Throw everything into the dryer on medium. Or you can hang dry anything with PUL, whatever you want to do to get them dry.


Why you cant use Homemade “Detergents”

Homemade Cloth Diaper Safe Detergents

Homemade Cloth Diaper Safe Detergents

 I understand that some make their own detergent and consider themselves to be problem free. Diapers are a different story. I have to say, that the ingredients available and what people put inside their Homemade versions are not detergents. There are plenty recipes out there, most are using some or all of these ingredients:

  • magnesium sulfate (epsom salt- water softener)
  • sodium citrate (citric acid-water softener/chelation agent)
  • sodium carbonate (soda ash – or washing soda but dont be fooled because it has the word washing in it, its a water softener)
  • sodium percarbonate (basically the pure form of oxyclean without additives – whitening booster)
  • sodium bicarbonate (baking soda – water softener)
  • sodium borate (borax- water softener)

Nothing listed here is a detergent. It is chemistry and you need to know what each ingredient is and what it does, what concentration it needs to be at. You need at least 2 surfactants/detergents; meaning you have to know what they are and where to get them. They aren’t cheap if you can find them. All in all, it is better to just buy a mainstream detergent. If you are worried about chemicals, ALL of these things (listed above) are chemicals. Water is a chemical, air is a chemical, urine (ammonia) is a chemical.

If you are worried about costs, considering how much actual surfactants cost, you are saving using mainstream. They buy in such large quantities that it becomes more affordable to the public. Also, enzymes. Enzymes.. There are 3 main kinds and they *All* do different things which is why Tide works so well. No, they are not the devil.. They are just really hard to get obtain, so you are made to feel like the are bad.

No Soap

No Soap

Adding Grated Soap. Noooooo! Soap is awful and will create soap scum on/in your diapers. It is almost impossible to remove. Do Not Use any kind of soap or grated soap. Soap and Detergent are absolutely not the same, they are very different from each other. Detergent is made, rather INVENTED to “Deter” soap scum. Link Here to definition of Deter. Deter+Agent=DETERGENT.

Helpful links:

So, none of the ingredients listed above are a detergent, they don’t work like a detergent and mixing them together doesnt make a detergent. They are water softeners and soap, if anything they are laundry boosters!

Except the soap will leave soap scum on your diapers/clothes/behind the holes in your washing machine drum. As I said before, soap scum is a nightmare to remove!

You can totally mix all of these ingredients up (except, leave out the soap) and add some to your detergent wash as a booster/water softener. I think it would probably be easier and more cost effective to just add Calgon Water Softener, but you do what works for you!

Dawn Soap


Don't use Dawn

Don’t use Dawn

 Dawn is a made to cut through grease and oils. If you have to use dawn to remove something oily/greasy or a petroleum based product. You can hand wash the items in the sink. Rinse them well and then follow up with your usual wash routine. It is not a substitute for detergent. It does not strip diapers of bacteria (we will get to that in just a bit), it will only strip away oils and petroleum based products.

Since it is made to remove grease and oils, I am sure that you can imagine what it will do to the bearings and internal mechanisms of your washing machine. It also voids the warranty of all washing machines.






Hard Water

Calgon Water Softener

Calgon Water Softener

RLR Laundry Treatment

RLR Laundry Treatment

Hard water is a pretty frustrating reality in Oklahoma. You typically need to be adding a water softener to your diaper laundry. This is what it looks like. Hard water causes the detergent to not work as well as it should and the minerals react with bodily waste and cause diapers to stink!

You can get Calgon Water Softener here, You can also use Powdered Calgon or any other non-precipitating water softener.

The difference between Precipitating and Non-Precipitating water softeners is that the precipitating water softeners will combine with hardness minerals in the water to form a visible, insoluble substance that will cling to fabric and to the inside surface of the machine.  Non-precipitating water softeners break  up the soil in the wash and keeps the hardness minerals from depositing on the diapers/clothes.

If you want to run several rinses on your diapers, add a water softener to your rinses so that minerals are not deposited on to your items. This is one of the reasons why 1 rinse should do it if the items don’t feel slippery, but you can do another rinse if you feel the need. No need to rinse 2-3 times.

Precipitating Water Softeners:

  • Raindrops
  • Blue Dew
  • Borax
  • White King

Non-Precipitating Water Softeners

  • Calgon
  • White Rain
  • Blue Raindrops
  • Spring Rain
Tide is the most softened detergent. It already contains the most water softeners, which is probably why so many people love Tide. If your water is hard enough, you will still need a water softener even with Tide! Some get away without using any water softeners at all. However it is highly and strongly recommended that you do use a water softener. If you aren’t using one and are having trouble, the first thing I would look at is to start adding it.If you have not been adding Calgon or other water softeners, you are going to need to RLR your diapers. RLR gets rid of the minerals in hard water that become trapped in the materials and fibers in your diapers. Not many places carry RLR in store, but you can get it here, on the Fat Bottom Babies website,
Or you can get it here, on Amazon.

Like Dawn, RLR does not kill bacteria. It is a useful tool, though. You can use it for things that are not cloth diapers, like to clean a Pack’n’Play or sofa cushions, for your bed sheets or if your towels are feeling stiff. RLR does a fantastic job.


How to bleach strip your diapers



 First, we will talk about when to bleach. It is also important to mention that you do not have to bleach your diapers often. You only use bleach if there is a problem. A proper wash routine can eliminate the use of bleach all together, unless there is a medical problem like staph/yeast or if the diapers are new to you. Bleach is what is needed to kill bacteria.
  •  You bleach any diaper that is “new to you” or used. You don’t want your baby to be swimming around in a yeast, staph infection, left over urine, or poop particles that belong to someone else. I mean you don’t want them to be in that anyways, but when it belongs to another person that is super eww.
  • Bleach diapers that stink. Stink is anything that *doesn’t* smell normal. Barnyard, Ammonia, Fishy.. First you may try and wash them using the proper amount of water and detergent. If that doesn’t work, Bleach it!
  • Bleach diapers that have Yeast/Staph. <- Very Important.
  • If there is a rash. If your baby has a rash and you have already tried to wash with the appropriate amount of detergent + water and it didn’t work, Bleach it!
  • If you do have yeast/staph, you will probably have to move to disposables until the rash has not shown its ugly face for up to a week. Or you will have to bleach wash with every wash, which I do not recommend.

To Bleach:

  1. Take clean diapers (diapers that have already been thru the above wash routine. they don’t have to be dry) – Don’t add them to the water yet, just be sure they are ready to be added.
  2. Fill your washer, your tub, a bucket or a trash can with COLD water. – If your washer is a front loader or it does not/cannot soak, you have to use the tub, a bucket or a trash can.
Make sure you have DISINFECTING BLEACH.

Yes, there is two kinds and one is crap, it won’t do anything.
There is whitening bleach, scented bleach, splashless bleach, bleach tablets, color safe bleach and disinfecting bleach.

Use Disinfecting Bleach. It will have 5%+ Sodium Hypochlorite in the ingredients, Usually it is 5.25% or 8.25%

Dilution Chart:

Traditional Top Loading Machines 1/3 cup – Small load
1/2 cup – Medium load
3/4 cup – Large/Extra-large load
Bath tub 1/4 cup to a 1/4 full tub
1/2 cup to a 1/2 full tub
3/4 cup to a 3/4 full tub
Bucket, Trash can, Sink 1 tablespoon added to every gallon or water
  • Mix The Bleach in WELL. Or if you can do this in your washer, agitate for a few minutes.
  • Now, Add in your diapers. Agitate them for a few minutes.
  • SOAK everything for 30 minutes. This isn’t exact.. so it is okay if you go over a bit or a bit under, but try to let them be in there for 30 minutes. You do not need to do an all day/night soak.

After your items have soaked, you can continue:

  • Drain, Spin/Wring – whatever you have to do to get them out of the water
  • Do a normal detergent wash with the washing instructions above, use WARM or HOT water
  • Add an extra rinse if needed.

Ta-Da! These instructions for bleaching will clean your effectively clean your diapers and rid of any stinks, yeast and anything gross that may be living in them (bacteria).

Worried about bleach?

  • Sodium hypochlorite (bleach) is made from salt and water and after it reacts with the satins and soils in the laundry, 93-97% of it returns to salt and water again.
  • The remaining 3-7% is easily removed in waste treatment and is biodegradable.




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