Washing Cloth Diapers: From Breastfed to Solids

Motherhood has me exploring a lot of things that I never thought I’d have any interest in exploring, one of these things is cloth diapering. When I first got pregnant, a friend of mine asked if I had thought about whether I’d use disposables or cloth and I distinctly remember thinking, why wouldn’t I just use disposables? Well, turns out, I actually don’t mind cloth diapering. If you are interested in things like saving money, reducing waste, and reducing chemical exposure, then you might prefer cloth diapering. The main downside to cloth diapering is the fact that you have to wash the diapers. I’ve spent a lot of time searching for cloth diapering resources on google, on Facebook cloth diaper groups and asking my cloth diapering friends for their advice and I’ve discovered that washing cloth diapers is somewhat of an art, there isn’t a right way to do it.

I’ve been cloth diapering for about 5 months now and I want share some things I’ve learned.

Exclusively Breastfed Baby Poop – Not the Grossest Poop

Before having a baby and before cloth diapering, I’d have agreed that breast milk poop is just as gross as any other poop. Breast milk poop sure looks disgusting. You’ve seen those cringe worthy memes where the baby is covered with yellow poop?

Here are a few things I’ve learned while cloth diapering that lead me to the conclusion that breastfed baby poop isn’t the grossest poop:

Baby escapes diaper
An example of daddy’s handiwork with diapers.
  1. Cloth diapers have elastic around the waist and do a very good job keeping those explosive baby poops contained, unless of course the diaper wasn’t put on properly, or basically anytime daddy or grandpa diapers E. It turns out that an explosion like the one mentioned above, only happens when using disposable diapers.
  2. You can use a cloth diaper cover over a disposable to help contain a blowout. This trick has come in handy when we’ve traveled. Unlike many friends of mine, I’ve not had the pleasure of experiencing diaper failure while traveling, what a bummer that I have zero interesting baby poop stories.
  3. When you cloth diaper, you learn that stains are no match for natural sunlight. This is an extremely handy fact to know because there is always a post in your mom’s group asking how to get those stains out of clothes, baby bows, the carpet, etc.
  4. Both breast milk and formula poop are water-soluble and can go straight into the washing machine. This is not the case for your child’s poop any other time in their lives.

In summary, breast milk poop is the easiest poop you’ll ever deal with as long as you are able to contain it. And unless you are trying to clean it out of your carpet, it can be washed out in the washing machine and any remaining stains can be bleached out by the sun.

The Art of the Wash Routine and Troubleshooting

Let’s talk about the wash routine. This can be a pain point because if things are gonna go wrong, they will go wrong at this stage. Always remember, the main goal is to get the diapers clean, doesn’t really matter how, as long as they end up clean.

The general rule of thumb when washing cloth diapers is as follows:

  1. Do a prewash to remove most of the yuck from the diaper.
  2. Do a long main wash in hot water to ensure the diapers get enough agitation to get clean.

In my hours of research on the subject of washing cloth diapers, there seem to be two main reasons why things go wrong (you know something is wrong because you are dealing with diaper rash):

  1. Too much detergent
  2. Not getting clean enough

I have unfortunately experienced both problems. Troubleshooting these problems has turned out to be an art (in other words, a lot of trial and error). In my case, we have a water softener installed in our house and it is really easy to go overboard when using detergent. And the double whammy, we have an HE washer that is stingy on water output. If I’m not careful, I find myself going back and forth between using too much detergent and the diapers not getting clean enough. Unfortunately, no amount of internet research will help you with your unique problem, but if you are reading this because you can’t figure out how to troubleshoot your wash routine, I have a few suggestions for you:

  1. Try the dunk test to determine if there is any detergent build up. To do the dunk test, you fill a clear, glass bowl with water and swish a clean diaper around in the water. If the water starts to get sudsy, then you’ve been using too much detergent and will need to first wash all the detergent out (this could take several cycles without detergent, or you can do it by hand in the bathtub) and second, figure out the right amount of detergent to use so that you don’t have detergent build up.
  2. If your diapers aren’t getting clean, you might need more detergent or you might need a third wash, or a combination of both.
  3. If all else fails, pick up some Grovia Mighty Bubbles and follow the instructions on the package. This also works with soft water and you do not end up with a machine full of suds. I experienced a lot of stress the first time I used Grovia Mighty Bubbles because I could not find a source that said it was OK to use with soft water and I didn’t know if I was going to make my problems worse!

Starting Solids While Cloth Diapering – OH SH*T

Baby starting solids
E experimenting with yogurt and gnawing on his spoon.

We have been experimenting with solids for about a month now, but E hasn’t figured out that he can swallow the table foods that he’s been having so much fun chewing. I’m here to tell you that once your baby actually starts to swallow solids, you’ll know. I might be the only person in the world who didn’t know that it would be obvious once he started to swallow a bit of solid food, but now I know, and you do too!

How My Wash Routine Changed After Starting Solids

Why was it so important to me to know if I’d be able to tell the difference between breast milk poop and solid poop? Because solid waste cannot go into the washing machine. Did I have some stress around it? Yes. I was afraid that I wouldn’t notice the change and wouldn’t know that I needed to spray off the solid waste. We attached a diaper sprayer (like this one) to our toilet bowl and spray the solid waste into the toilet using a Spray Pal to contain the splash back before putting the dirty diaper in the pail to be washed. Other than that, everything is business as usual.

Cloth Diapers, Its Just Laundry

At the end of the day, cloth diapering is just laundry. It’s best to just jump into it and learn as you go. At times, it may seem like a huge headache, especially in the beginning when you don’t know what you’re doing. I have the tendency of imagining worse case scenarios, but once I actually experienced a problem, I find that a little common sense and some trial and error usually gets my diapers clean and usable.

Do you cloth diaper? Interested in starting? Save up to 10% with GroVia Cloth Diaper Bundles! Leave me a comment below and tell me how you approach troubleshooting with your wash routine.

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2 thoughts on “Washing Cloth Diapers: From Breastfed to Solids”

  1. Great tip about the diaper sprayer near the toilet! This would have been so handy for me back in the day. My three are now all past this stage – but an era that will be forever etched in my memory!
    Thank-you for an informative and amusing post 🙂

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