Currently, I store my cloth diapers in a dry pail. Every two days or so, I need to wash the diapers. I put about 10-20 cloth diapers through two wash cycles: a COLD wash, then add other clothes to fill up the washer and do another COLD wash. The function of the first COLD wash is to rinse the diapers of most of the urine and poop.

The reason that I do two washes is based on what some websites recommend, e.g. How to wash cloth diapers says:

Send your diapers through two cycles - a COLD/COLD wash or a COLD rinse or soak, and a HOT/COLD wash.

I am wondering if it is a good idea to just put 10-20 cloth diapers through a COLD wash of a High Efficiency washer, and to hang them up to dry. I use about 2 tablespoons of baking soda and half the regular detergent because it's such a small load of laundry. If I could put the diapers through only a single wash, this would save time and money on my part. However, would the cloth diapers be clean after just a single wash cycle?

  • Did you try to avoid the second wash cycle? What is the result? – Guillaume Sep 22 '13 at 10:35
  • @Guillaume I did try it. See my answer below for the result! – I Like to Code Sep 24 '13 at 10:24

I tried this but found the ammonia smell wasn't washed out of the diapers when dry. I have a high efficiency washer though so it may have a different outcome if you're using a standard top loader (more water!).

Other variables to consider are how sensitive your kids bum is, type of detergent and how smelly their pee is... YMMV. Why not give it a shot?

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    +1 for "Why not give it a shot". I only wash ours once and they're fine. (Edit: I do rinse off any solids first in the toilet, but most of the solids get caught in the flushable liner anyway) – Vicky Sep 20 '13 at 9:32
  • You're right, I should just try it to see if it works. It's helpful to know that it works for others though! – I Like to Code Sep 20 '13 at 13:18

Since first rinse is only done to wash out urine and poop, and later you wash it again more thoroughly with clothes, you don't really need any detergent for that first wash. Baking soda is enough of a detergent to do the job any way... I used to rinse off any poop left on the diapers (what slipped off the liners) and then simply throw them in with the clothes, but that caused ammonia build up so I started giving them a rinse cycle before adding the clothes, using only baking soda - that did the trick.

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Based on Vicky's comment to just try it, and in response to Guillaume's comment/question, I did try to put the ~15 diapers through a single wash cycle, and there is some residual smell compared to diapers which are put through a single wash cycle with ~15 diapers, then washed a second time with other laundry to make a full laundry load. Using two wash cycles produces laundry that smells fresh, whereas using only a single wash cycle the laundry is a little smelly.

In my case, I am living in an apartment complex and the laundry machines which we use are High Efficiency (HE) washers. Perhaps older washers which use more water would give cleaner cloth diapers even with a single wash cycle. But in my case, I will need to wash the diapers twice.

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  • "Residual smell": do you mean that these diapers are clean enough? Either they are and you can use them, or they are not clean and your washing machine is broken or misused. I do not see any good reason to wash twice anything (except for the detergent industry). – Guillaume Sep 25 '13 at 2:13
  • @Guillaume I suspect that they are clean enough because they feel clean, but I am not 100% certain that they are. In our case, since we wash diapers every two days, and in two days we usually have regular laundry to do, it is easy to wash diapers and regular laundry for our second wash. – I Like to Code Sep 25 '13 at 15:01
  • You will not be 100% diapers are clean even after 10 cycles! What you can be certain of is that by washing them once you have done what has to be done. No need to culpabilize yourself on such a little thing... – Guillaume Sep 26 '13 at 2:20

What if you tried washing them on one HOT cycle instead? Perhaps with some baking soda or oxiclean with the detergent. It might solve all your problems! Never tried it, just a suggestion.

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  • Welcome to the site Memecourt and thank you for your contribution. Just as an FYI, we try to keep the answers here as coming from experience or a source that could be cited. Having said that, this answer seems a perfectly reasonable response the OP could try. – balanced mama Dec 22 '13 at 0:37

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