Your questions answered: Frequency of washing cloth diapers

Some of my diapers, drying on the clothesline

Robin wrote to me and asked,

In your post on housekeeping, you mentioned that you do full loads of laundry, and you also said that you wash cloth diapers 2-3 times per week. Do you have full loads of diapers 2-3 times per week, or do you wash small loads? I am new to cloth diapering, and I am unsure what to do. I only have one child in diapers, so if I wait until I have a pretty full load, it will be at least a week, and the diapers will be very smelly. But, I don't like to do too many small loads because of the waste in running the washer for a small load. Can you tell me what you do?

Hi, Robin! Thanks for asking! I do usually have a full load of diapers after 3 days. I'm sure it depends on how frequently the baby/child needs changed, and my boys have always needed changed frequently. :)

When I had two in diapers, I had a completely full load every 2 days. Since we observe a day of rest each week (Sabbath), I washed diapers 4 times a week -- usually including both Thursday and Friday, even though I didn't have a full load on Friday. That way, I didn't have to wash them on Sabbath and I didn't run out of clean diapers.

I don't like to wait longer than 3 days simply because of the smell. Another thing I take into consideration is the weather. I prefer line-drying my diapers since the sun keeps them so fresh. If I have to do a slightly smaller load on one day, because rain is predicted for the next day, I usually go ahead and wash.

I try to conserve water, etc. but I guess using cloth diapers and hanging them out to dry is saving money, even if I have to wash a smaller load every week. I love cloth diapers, anyway, and my youngest gets a rash from disposables, so I guess I don't really have a choice, either. :)


I have one 18 month old in cloth diapers. We change her every 2-3 hours, except at night, of course. I use a two Chinese prefolds(CPF), one bigger, one folded smaller one. At night she gets two and a folded hemp booster. I use one cover all day, unless it gets dirty, but one of the CPFs is laid flat out in the cover to keep it clean.

We do diapers about every five days, and I keep the dirty ones in an open weave wide rectangular plastic laundry basket in the garage next to the washer. I can't smell them out there, and the wide stack in the open weave basket lets them breath which helps with smells.

I also try to get all the solids off in the toliet before I chuck them into the basket. Sometimes I need to dip them into the toliet and flush, swish and wring them out to get them clean enough for the basket. They clean better in the washer if you can get all the solids off.

I love your line Tammy...I've been asking my husband to put one up for me. I'd save more if we could run a line outside. For now I use the dryer for the diapers and hang the covers on a small portable rack. I tried drying the diapers on the portable, but it takes too need to hang those things up on clothes pins to get the air to dry them quickly.

Thanks for addressing my question, Tammy & Alexandra. It helps to know what other people do. I think we will just wash the diapers every 5 days or so, depending on the weather. I like to hang them outside when possible. It's unbelievable how much the sun helps with stains. We don't have a garage, so our diaper pail is inside. Right now, the smell does not get too bad, because she's only nursed. We'll see what works once she starts solids.
Thanks for your help!

Alexandra, thanks for sharing about your method! Cloth diapering is so versatile! :) My baby eats solids now, too, so I always wash out the messy ones in the toilet first, too :)

Robin, you're quite welcome!

Oh, another idea is to fill your washer with cold water and soak the diapers overnight or for a day until you have your full load. If I had a pile of stinky diapers but not a full load, sometimes I would put them in the washer, fill it with cold water, and let them soak until I did have a full load. You can add baking soda to the soaking-water, too! :) Or sprinkle baking soda on the diapers in the pail. It helps with any smells, and is great for the wash-water, too! :)

Hi, I just wanted to share that often I wash diapers and clothes together now that I only have one in diapers and often just at night.

When I had two in diapers I washed daily (except Sunday) and would wash the diapers in a separate load. I always line dry.

Now with just a few diapers I just give them a really good rinse and throw them in the machine along with everything else. I have a front loading washing machine so I can wash them nice and hot.
Often if I had a smallish load of diapers in the machine I would put them through a rinse cycle and then add clothing and towels etc and put it through a regular cycle.

I know some people don't like mixing diapers and clothes but if you do a rinse cycle it isn't bad at all. You may find you have enough socks, underwear, towels etc to top up the size of the load so you can wash more frequently (if you want to).


Louise, thanks for mentioning those ideas! Since my two babies came fairly close together, I never had just one child in diapers part-time. I'm glad you shared your solutions! Thanks!

I have diapered four children in cloth diapers, and I have tried many of the ideas above through the years. I like to put 1/2 cup of borax (baking soda also works) in a 5 gallon bucket, dissolve it in hot water, then add cold water to 1/3 bucket full. I put diapers and other yucky things (shaken off or rinsed as needed)in this for a week - or longer (also great for stinky dish rags when you aren't doing diapers - or if you don't mind doing them together) The borax helps with the smell, and softens the water for when you do wash them. If they are stinky when you go to wash them, do a pre-rinse. I like to wash in hot water and line dry in the sun when I can. Don't you love having a several-year's supply of diapers on one shelf? :)
~Wendy Ray

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