Part 4: Dr. Strangepoop: Washing Reusable Diapers

A full load of dirty diapers and inserts seen in a clothes washerI dreaded the thought of dirty diapers in my clothes washer. Disgusting! It was the one issue that had me afraid of choosing reusables. In the end, I bit the bullet, and… the washer comes out sparkling clean after each wash, as do the diapers. I worried for nothing.

Bringing a baby into your home means increased stress in doing all the normal household chores. Washing diapers was one of the easiest adaptations for me to make as a new father. At first we washed diapers every 2 to 3 days, roughly 10 to 12 diapers a day.* After a year we wash every four days, roughly 4 to 6 diapers a day. I capped Mom’s spending at 27 pocket diapers. Much to her disappointment, I shot down her idea to buy more diapers when orange-colored Wonderoos hit the market as a Halloween promotion.

The process:

  1. Cold water rinse with pocket diapers and inserts together.
  2. Hot water wash on a mode designed for heavy soil, plus a stain cycle. Updated: We now add a scoop of baking soda to eliminate odor.
  3. Cold water rinse, occassionally adding a cup of vinegar to deactivate urine odor. We have a water-saving front-loading washer. If you have a top-loader, vinegar may not be needed very often.
  4. Hang dry the pocket diapers or put them on low heat for 15 minutes. Dry inserts on high for 60 minutes.

Buy disposables for the first week your baby is home. New baby poop [], called ” meconium,” ranges from green to black, is thick like melted Tootsie Rolls and stains! It’s also good to have one pack of disposables around to use when traveling out-of-town where you won’t have easy access to a clothes washer, or don’t want to be storing dirty diapers in your suitcase!


If you have faced the yucky muck of changing a disposable diaper, you have the guts to go reusable. It’s not more complicated, just different. These days I wonder why I fussed about reusables at all.

P.S. For anyone confused by the Dr. Strangepoop title, it is an homage to the movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (love reusable diapers) [].


3 Responses to “Part 4: Dr. Strangepoop: Washing Reusable Diapers”

  1. Amy says:

    Just FYI for anyone new to cloth diapers reading this – vinegar isn’t always good. What you add to your wash will depend on the type of washing machine (front-loader vs top laoding) and the type of water you have (soft water/hard water/well water/etc).

    A lot of the cloth diaper folks I know use regular old Tide or Era to wash their diapers, they just use MUCH less (like 1/4 of what is recommended.) If you have softer water, like we do, a squirt or two of Dawn dish soap works beautifully. :)

    Also, all cloth diapers that have PUL should be dried on HOT at least every couple of times. It helps keep the PUL in good, water-proofed shape. If you only every line-dry or dry your PUL on low, you may have leaking problems eventually. (PUL was designed to be exposed to high head on a regular basis for sterilization in the medical industry, so I promise your dryer won’t ruin them!)

    Also, drying the dipes and inserts in the sun and naturally bleach out any stains. :)

    July 14th, 2005 at 8:20 am

  2. AJ says:

    Good tips Amy, thanks. I should clarify that we wash the diapers with regular detergent. The vinegar is to deactivate any ammonia from the pee and thwart odor.

    By all means, anyone considering cloth diapers should not use me as a blueprint. Start at

    When we began diapering we didn’t know what was involved in day-to-day operations. I wrote this four-part rundown as merely a glimpse into the logistics.

    July 14th, 2005 at 8:42 am

  3. Amy says:

    I think it’s a great little primer, especially for someone who’s never been exposed to the ‘new’ cloth diapering world. :)

    July 14th, 2005 at 12:22 pm