Cloth Diapering with a Front Loader

Okay, so I am slowly, slowly working my way through a post that I think will be relatively interesting, but it’s taking me forever. In the meantime, I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time, because it took me ages to figure out a good system for keeping the smell out of my cloth diapers while only washing them twice a week. This system also seems to have done away with our persistent diaper rash problem, so it’s a double win. I know most of you don’t cloth diaper, so please skip this post (because truly, it will be BORING), but I want to put it up there for those who do cloth diaper, in case they may find it helpful.

Our cloth diapering situation:

– we have a mixture of Kawaii baby pocket diapers (both day and overnight heavy wetters), GroBaby/GroVias and a set of bamboo inserts.

– We use fleece liners to protect diapers from creams and to protect Monito’s skin from wetness.

– My in-laws watch Monito during the days and are willing to use cloth diapers for us.

– We have a front loading washing machine.

– I work outside the home (80% of full time) and can only wash cloth diapers 2x a week (every 3.5 days, instead of the recommended every 2 days)

– Our son has very sensitive skin and we battle eczema and diaper rashes constantly.

– We were having really bad odor problems–the diapers smelled very strongly of ammonia when wet.

– I had tried four different detergents, and while they all worked well for a few washes, eventually the smell returned

Dirty Diaper Storage System

– I take apart diapers (remove inserts from pockets/covers) after I change them. I keep pockets/covers in a hanging wet bag, fleece liners (and the washcloths I use to wipe his skin) in a separate, smaller, wet bag and urine soaked inserts in a diaper pail (I just got the ubbi and I really like it so far). I separate them mostly to save space; the diaper pail doesn’t have the capacity for 3 days worth of shells and inserts, and since the inserts smell worse, I put them in the pail and leave the pockets/shells in the bag.

(Also, my inlaws keep their dirty diapers in a wet bag with a zipper.)

– I rinse poopy diapers with a sprayer into the toilet. I keep them in an old tupperware by the bathroom until I’m ready to wash the diapers. They generally don’t smell if they’ve been rinsed, and Monito doesn’t poop much, only once ever 1-3 days, so I never have more than three poopy diapers in the bathroom at once. Sometimes I bring them down to the laundry (in the garage) if I happen to be going down there.

Soaking/Rinsing/Washing System

– On Tuesday nights I soak the pockets/covers and the inserts. Since they are already separated, and because they don’t fit in one bucket, I soak them separately. I use big buckets (from Home Depot) and fill them with cold water, 1/4-1/2 cup of powdered Calgon water softener (cheaper than the liquid stuff), a tiny bit of mild detergent and 1/2 cup baking soda. I use an agitator to mix them up with the water before I let them soak. I keep the fleece liners and washcloths separate throughout the process (they sometimes have creams on them, and the creams have to be kept separate from the rest of the diaper pieces or they will hinder their absorbency).

– On Wednesday, when I get home from work, I empty the buckets and put the pockets/covers and inserts into the washing machine. I ring out the inserts by hand before putting them into the washer. I put vinegar in both the detergent compartment and the softener compartment of the machine (about 1/2 cup total) and then run a “quick wash” load on cold. This rinses the diapers well with vinegar (which is necessary to offset the pH change created by soaking them in baking soda) and gets all the water out of them before they are washed.

– When that run is done, I add the wet bags (which haven’t been soaked in baking soda) and do a big load. I put 3/4 (of the recommended total) cap of liquid Calgon water softener (the powdered stuff clumps in my detergent compartment) and 1 scoop of Nellies Laundry Soda in the detergent section of my machine and run a Cotton/Normal load, on Warm. I also switch the spin cycle to the highest and the “soil level” to the highest (to add agitation time), plus I add 2-3 extra rinses. (These are all options on my LG washing machine.) The whole run takes almost two hours!

– When that load is done, I hang the pocket/covers and put the inserts in the dryer. If it’s sunny on Saturday (I wash the diapers on Wednesday and Saturday) I will hang the inserts in the sun (this further disinfects and helps remove stains/smells).

– I soak the fleece liners and washcloths separately from the diapers (only for a few hours) and then do them on a separate quick run or with the towels. I have enough fleece liners to last a whole week.

Assembling Diapers

– I assemble all the Kawaii pocket diapers at once, and give them to my inlaws on Monday and Thursday mornings. I assemble the GroBaby/GroVias and overnight diapers as I use them.


So that is my system. I think the thing that has really made a difference in the smell situation is using the Calgon water softener when I soak and wash the diapers (evidently our water is very hard, and the build up of minerals makes the diapers smell, and makes them less absorbent) and soaking them in baking soda. I also wonder if the vinegar rinse helps keep away diaper rash (it’s one of the ways you treat diapers when you have thrush).

Either way, this system works really well for us. It’s hard to get diapers clean using a front loader (because the diapers are never fully submerged in water), but soaking/agitating seems to help. Now my diapers smell great, even when they’re dirty. I was just noticing that the diaper pail doesn’t even smell bad when I open it (it used to be abominable), and Monito hasn’t had a diaper rash in over a month, so this system clearly works really well for us.

I hope this post is helpful to someone. It’s the product of months and months of research and trying different things until I finally found a solution. It’s a lot of work, but I think it’s worth it to keep over a thousand disposables out of landfills. It’s also saving me money, since we already had everything from using with Osita.

Do you use cloth diapers? What system works for you?

4 responses

  1. I always wanted to CD, but my hubby doesn’t. His logic is that neither of us needs the added work. Anyways, reading through this was very interesting. I never considered the smell factor with CD’s, but that totally makes sense that there would be some odor involved. I’m very sensitive to smells, so I know I would be researching ways to get the sweetest smelling diapers too! 🙂 I’m glad you have found a way that works best for you guys!

  2. We’re really lazy.

    When the diaper is dirtied (or wet), we put solids in the toilet and then throw the diaper into the washer where it will sit until it’s time to do a load of laundry. Then we run a rinse cycle (with vinegar if things are getting stinky). Then we throw in the rest of the laundry. Then we wash and dry everything together with detergent. With the AOI, we leave the slightly damp diapers in the dryer for another drying cycle, usually with the next load of laundry if there is one.

    We also do elimination communication and it is the BEST. (DC2 completely potty trained when her diaper is off shortly after a year, though if she’s wearing a diaper she’ll still go in it.)

  3. I sued cloth diapers occasionally with J. With C, I figured I still had them, so I might as well get my money’s worth. But they got sooo smelly. I stripped them once or twice and it helped, but they still smelled. I finally decided it was too much work for me. People who CD often say it’s really not that hard, but in reading this, and in watching some friends with a new baby using prefolds, it seems really hard. I also don’t like how bulky they are compared to disposables. Part of me wishes I were more hardcore, but I guess I’m not.

  4. I will definitely be referring back to this. We have an old school top loader right now that has worked AWESOME for cloth, but b/c our dryer is about dead we ordered a new W/D set that will be here next week… but the washer is an HE top loader, and that scares the shit out of me b/c I’ve heard nothing but horror stories about trying to get diapers clean with so little water in the cycle. *sigh* We shall see. Thanks for taking the time to write this all out!

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