The Stinky Truth…Cleaning Cloth Diapers

When people find out that I cloth diaper, their immediate reaction is always the same– “Eww.”  So let me clear some things up right away.

No, changing a dirty diaper is not my favorite thing to do.

No, I do not touch poo more often than anyone who uses disposables does.

No, I do not have little poo particles swimming around in my washing machine.

And, no, it’s really not that big of a deal.

Cloth diapering is no more disgusting than picking up after your dog on a walk.  And if you don’t pick up after your dog on a walk, you’re just a bad neighbor!  In many ways, I find that using cloth is significantly LESS disgusting than disposables for several reasons:

  1. I’m not contributing an enormous amount of hazardous waste to landfills.
  2. I NEVER have to deal with poo-splosions…in turn…
  3. I never have to deal with poo stains on clothes.
  4. Cloth diapers absorb the stinky smell, unlike disposables.

I thought I would share my method of cleaning cloth diapers for those that are thinking about making the switch to show how easy it can be.

The Stash

This is my set-up…

ez change

I put the inserts in the diapers after they are dry so that I don’t have to deal with a squirmy kid on the table when they’re ready for a change.  Then I place them nicely in these cute little baskets. (Note: you do not have to fold them or organize them like I do…I am just a freak who likes things to look pretty and put-together!)  On the changing table I also keep a jar of coconut oil and Homemade Baby Powder, along with my cloth wipes (currently working on a post for my Natural Wipe Solution Recipe) and extra inserts.  My 2 year old gets two inserts every diaper, my 3 month old gets one insert during the day and two at night.

Next to the changing table is my dirty diaper storage.  This is just a trash bin with a lid, lined with Kissa’s Pail Liner.  I definitely recommend getting two pail liners so that you can have one in your bin between loads.  There are several different kinds of pail liners, I suggest getting one with a zipper close for travel as well.

How it works

My three month old is exclusively breastfed, which makes her process super easy!  For her, every change, I just pull out the insert and throw everything into the bin.  Yes…even the dirty.  Breastfed babies’ poo is water soluble meaning that it dissolves in the wash!  My 2 year old is a little different.  The number 1’s just get thrown into the bin like usual (after pulling out the insert), but the number 2’s I take to the toilet and use my diaper sprayer to clean off the mess.  Then I throw the diaper into the pail.

I absolutely recommend a diaper sprayer! The three days that my son was in cloth and we didn’t have one were three yucky days!  There are other methods (like the wet pail method–I do NOT recommend) so do some research and find what works for you, but I think the diaper sprayer is the least yucky of all!

How often do I need to wash?

We started my daughter on cloth right away, hoping that we could potty train my son quickly and only have one child in diapers.  HA!  That didn’t work as well as we planned so we ended up switching him to cloth, too, until he gets the toilet thing figured out.  When it was just my daughter in cloth, I could go as many as three days in between washes.  Breastfed babies’ poo doesn’t stink (one of the MILLION reasons to breastfeed your babe!).  Once we put my son in cloth, though, every other day washing became a necessity.  The specific pail liners that we use are deodorizing, but if you’re still worried about the stink, put a couple drops of essential oil into the pail.  I like to use lemon because it gives a burst of fresh cleanliness to the room every time I open the bin!

What to do

Simple.  When I wash the diapers, I take the whole liner out and carry it to the washer, dump them in, throw the liner in as well, and start the load on COLD.  This is just the rinse cycle, there is no need to use detergent.

After that wash is complete, start it again on HOT and add your detergent.


cb detergent

I received this when I ordered my Charlie Banana diapers from eBay, so that’s what I’ve been using.  When this detergent runs out, I will use Soap Nuts on them like I use for my family’s clothes.  Make sure the detergent you choose to use is cloth diaper safe, that means no bleach, brighteners, fragrances, or dyes.  These chemicals can shorten the life of your diaper, plus are just unsafe to use on your baby’s bottom anyways!




Inserts are easy, just throw them into the  dryer.  The more times they are washed and dried, the more absorbent they become.  Don’t put your diaper into the dryer as it will significantly shorten the life of the dipe!  My favorite part about living in this old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere is that we have a clothes line, and I just love how cute all these dipes are when they’re hung up on it on a pretty day!

Not everybody has the luxury of a clothes line so I recommend something like this…

We got ours for $10 at Walmart but there are tons of alternatives like hanging a line in your laundry room, or even just flipping over a laundry basket and laying them on that.

Stains and stink

Sure, cloth diapers are totally adorable…but what happens when they start getting stained and a little stinky?  Don’t use bleach on the diapers as it will deteriorate the quality and life of the diaper.  Instead, try adding a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of the wash.  Also, you could rub lemon on the stain as it is a natural bleacher.  The easiest, cheapest, and most effective  way to get rid of stains and smells, though, is to lay them out in the sun while wet every once in a while!


As you can see, there really isn’t much to it!  The difference is changing your perspective.  Instead of constantly changing out a stinky diaper genie every few days, I just do a load of laundry instead.  I find a strange sort of pleasure when doing a load of cloth diapers.  It makes me feel good that we aren’t contributing waste to our environment and I feel a great responsibility as a mom taking care of my kids in the best way possible!


Do you have any tips or tricks for you cloth diaper laundry?  Let me know!

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