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How to hand-wash Cloth Diapers

[ 24 ] October 22, 2012 |
Hand-washing Diapers
Washing cloth diapers has become so easy thanks to the modern washing machine. But did you ever plan ahead in case something happened and that luxury was taken away? Last October, the Northeast was hit with a huge snowstorm which took out power to most of Connecticut! In fact, 95% of my town was without power for more than 1 week! This experience brought a whole new meaning to washing my cloth diapers!

So how would you handle washing your diapers without a washing machine? Do you know how to hand wash your diapers, or even where to begin? In this article, I hope to give you a few helpful tips on hand-washing your cloth diapers.
  1. When hand-washing cloth diapers, sometimes keeping it simple is better. What I mean by this is go back to the basics – prefolds, flats, and covers. These types of diapers are the easiest to hand wash and tend to dry quicker than All in One’s or Pocket diapers.
  2. Try making your own washer with a 10 gallon bucket and plunger. This can be done indoors or outdoors. You could even fill up your tub with water and plunge the diapers in the tub. I have found that the plunger is the best way to agitate the diapers and get them clean.
  3. No need to substitute your cloth diaper detergent, use the same amount of detergent and you are good to go. If you are however washing fewer diapers at a time while hand washing, you may want to adjust the amount of detergent you are using for each wash accordingly.
  4. My typical washing machine routine consists of 3 washes (cold rinse, hot wash with detergent, and hot rinse). When hand washing cloth diapers, you may not have access to hot water, or even have enough water to do 3 washes. You may need to adjust your wash routine to fit your needs. I found it best to use this routine while hand washing my diapers:
  • Cold Rinse (plunge/agitate diapers in cold water for 50+ plunges). If you feel you need to do more, go right ahead. It may be a trial and error in the beginning to see what works best.
  • Refill with cold water and wash with detergent (plunge/agitate diapers in cold water for 50+ plunges). I then like to let the diaper sit in the soapy water for 30 minutes or so. If you can was the diapers in your tub, you can use hot water for this one. I always hand wash outside and did not have access to hot water.
  • Come back to soapy diapers and plunge 20-30 more times. Empty water and refill with cold water.
  • Plunge diapers again until soapy water is gone.
  • Hang dry diapers or better yet, sun them. The sun will act to kill bacteria and get out the stains. If you have access to a dryer, you can always throw your diapers in there as well.
  1. Depending on how many diapers you are using, while hand washing, you may need to wash more frequently.
These are just a few tips to help you if you ever had to hand wash your cloth diapers. I was very surprised at how easy it was to hand wash. I did have some serious doubts in the beginning, but those were quickly put to rest as I dove in head first. Even if you have access to a washer and dryer, you never know when you might not. It is always good to have the experience and knowledge just in case. I will admit that it was a little more time consuming, especially in the beginning when I was figuring out my wash routine. Once I had it down, it was simple. Plus you get a good arm workout from the plunging too, add in a few extra calories burned, seems like a win-win to me.
Have you ever had to hand wash your cloth diapers?
What tips and tricks do you have for hand washing your cloth diapers?
Bio: Julie is a semi-stay-at-home mom to her handsome son J.T. who is 7 months old and wife to hubby Jered who is a teacher and pastor. J.T. provided her motivation to start Cloth Diapering! Not wanting to expose his little bum to all those chemicals in disposables and not returning to work full time, she was looking for a safe and inexpensive alternative. Cloth Diapering were her answer! Julie considers herself an advocate for cloth diapers and with her blog, My ClothDiaper Stash, she hopes to share her passion and help others reap the benefits too.  She is also a contributor for She Thinks Media.

Category: cloth diaper washing, detergents, hand washing cloth diapers

About Julie ()

I'm Julie, a former cloth diaper retailer who discovered a passion for the industry. Now, instead of selling cloth diapers, I advocate them and promote small businesses I love who sell and manufacture them. I'm the wife of a fireman and mother of three. I have a 13yr old daughter and identical twin sons who are 9yrs old.

Comments (24)

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  1. 1
  2. 2

    Our washer broke down in July. I had to hand wash diapers for 11 days. (Among other things). We used flats, fleece liners, microfiber towels and covers. We have two in cloth, so I had to wash two to three loads of diapers a day in my bucket. Thankfully I had older kids that were home from school for summer, and more than willing to help! Cutting back on the detergent in a 5 gallon bucket was essential for me. I also used a wetpail method during those 11 days so that things were a little easier. I sometimes had to do a second rinse if the water was still slimy/slippery after the first one, because of detergent still being in the diapers after the rinse cycle. I have never been so thankful to have a washing machine. I almost cried when the delivery guy showed up to drop off our new rental!!!

  3. 3
    Pix says:

    Thanks for the article! When I saw it in my email my reaction was Pfft. But I opened it anyway and I’m glad I did. I had just moved, about a week before that October storm, and lost power for 5 days. We managed to borrow generators but no washing machine allowed. I managed to just stretch our cloth diapers, but had the power not come on that day I would have been back at my old house (that had power) and spending my evening washing diapers in an empty house. We were told at that storm by our neighbors that our street looses power several times a winter and are the last to get it back ~week each… last winter was mild and it didn’t happen again and we are thinking about a new little one.. and this knowledge might come in handy! Thanks!

  4. 4
    Rebecca C. says:

    We live in an apartment and most weeks I don’t even have money for quarters to do regular laundry, so my only option is to do diapers in the tub. EVERY DAY. While pregnant and trying to care for a toddler.

    • 4.1
      Anonymous says:

      wouldn’t it just be a tad easier, less stressful to go disposable?

      • cass says:

        Disposable diapers are another way the government is trying to poison America …have you ever looked up what is in them….and you’re putting it directly onto a babys crotch…

    • 4.2
      Anonymous says:

      If she doesn’t have money for the laundromat, how could she buy disposables???

  5. 5
    Anonymous says:

    I am doing this pregnant with an infant, 4yr old, and a 5yr old. All while home schooling and Traveling in my travel trailer :)

  6. 6
    Anonymous says:

    I live in a temple and share a washer with a bunch of monks… Needless to say they dont want me washing my sons diapers in their washer… Lol. So i wash every day amongst my many duties plus being a stay at home mom. Tips i’ve found useful are attacking dirty diapers immediately and washing twice a day if i get the chance. Also we do a lot of diaper free time. We started EC at 5 months and now at 9 months we are still goin strong. Another thing i do sometimes if i know im not gonna have a whole lot of time to wash diapers i’ll take wet ones directly off of him and wash them with hot water til there is no odor, than hang them.

  7. 7
    Joy Ried says:

    Thanks for this article! I live in an apartment complex where I have to pay to do laundry and I end up washing my diapers every day. So to save on money I hand wash them with your method. It’s become part of my night time routine. :)

  8. 8
    Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for this post. My family is moving to West Africa next month and we won’t have access to a washer or regular electricity or hot water. Your tips are exactly what I have been looking for!

  9. 9
    Anie says:

    Great information!

  10. 10
    Maegan Washington says:

    This post was very helpful! We plan on camping some over the summer and this eases my mind about cloth diapering while there.

  11. 11
    Maegan Washington says:

    This post was very helpful! We plan camping alot over the summer so this will help us out while we are camping.

  12. 12
    Amanda F says:

    Thanks for all the info!

  13. 13
    charla says:

    Thanks for the post. I live where tornados pass through so there is a good possibility I could loose power and need to hand wash my cloth diapers at some point. This was very helpful.

  14. 14
    Rebekka Berlongieri says:

    Thank you for posting this article! I will be a first time mom as of this August, and I want to have as much knowledge of cloth diapering as possible!

    All of your posts and information are extremely helpful! Thank you!

  15. 15
    Jessica Hughes says:

    Super helpful! With all the bad weather we’ve had lately, I’ve decided I need a stash of flats or prefolds in the event we lose power for awhile. I think everyone should know how to hand wash, just in case!

  16. 16
    Amanda Castell says:

    the thought of not having my washing machine never really crossed my mind…

  17. 17
    Shanna M says:

    I’m new to cloth (haven’t really even started yet, baby is due in Aug) The thought of cloth diapering is really intimidating at first. However, I may try this a little later on when I feel more confident in my diapering abilities. You never know when things will happen and you can’t use a washer!

  18. 18
    Rachel says:

    This is awesome!

  19. 19
    Rita Topper says:

    Thanks for the info! It may come in handy on camping trips.

  20. 20
    Shawna S says:

    Thanks for the information! I’m always looking for DIY options especially with a little one on the way! A great way to save on electric too!

  21. 21
    Regina says:

    I’m not quite sure i could bring myself to use a plunger. Seriously that isn’t very sanitary unless its only for the diapers but still. I think i’ll just use the old time rubbing it together with my hands in soapy water, rinse it and hang it to dry.

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