Wash/dry fleece and unbleached diapers on hot/high several times to reach initial absorbency.
Wash only about a dozen or so at a time for the initial pre-washes. The fabric will lint a bit in these early washes.
Wash and dry bright or dark fabrics on hot/high several times before mixing with lighter colored diapers.
Depending on your water source and temperature, you may need fewer or additional washings, so always test colorfastness before mixing wet diapers of varying colors (e.g., toss in a white rag during a hot wash and dry cycle or two).
Regular Washing Routine
There are many opinions about diaper washing, and many people have developed additional steps and routines based on their individual needs. Our advice is to start simple and adjust only if necessary for your baby or water-type.
- Toss wet or dirty diapers into a dry pail; wash every 2-3 days.
- An optional cold-water pre-rinse helps prevent stains and odor.
- Use hot water and everyday detergent, unless that detergent contains fabric softeners (a no-no for diapers).
- Veggie-based soap helps keep fabric soft, although its effectiveness depends on the hardness of your water. In any water, soap can coat fabric, so consider alternating soap and detergent to avoid decreased absorbency over time.
- No chlorine bleach. Nasty stuff, bleach.
- No fabric softeners, which coat fabric and reduce absorbency.
Some babies require fragrance-free or enzyme-free detergents; most don't.
Drying diapers in a dryer, even on high heat, is perfectly okay, although an occasional sunning of clean, wet diapers will go a long way to freshen them and reduce or eliminate staining.
If you choose to sun the diapers or line dry rather than use a dryer, we strongly suggest either laying the diapers flat to dry, or hanging them horizontally rather than by the waist or front section. Hanging wet diapers by the waist allows the heavy, wet weight to pull on leg elastic, which may reduce its useful life.
How many diapers to wash at a time depends on your washer, your washing routine, your philosophy, and your diapers. As a general rule of thumb, wash no more than 18 fitted diapers or 24 prefolds at a time. You may be able to do more or less, so do a little experimenting to find what works best for you and your washer.
Like towels and tee-shirts, diapers become more absorbent over time. This is especially true for cotton fleece and unbleached fabrics, which requires some initial "roughing up" in the washing machine.
Most detergents suggest using an obscene amount of detergent. Use enough to clean, but not so much that it leaves residue. If you see suds during a second rinse or a wash with no detergent, you're using too much detergent. Detergent residue attracts and retains soil and odor.