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Washing Cloth Diapers in a Front Loading Washing Machine

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I got into cloth diapering for all the “right” reasons. I wanted to save my environment by using less water and not contributing to those nasty landfills I read about in one issue in Time magazine. I wanted to save money. I wanted to protect my daughter from potentially harmful chemicals like Dioxin.

I didn’t want to commit to full time cloth diapering, so I went in part time. And this worked for me, well, until I got a front loader machine. First problem: How to Clean Cloth Diapers in a Front Loading Washing Machine.

washer and dryer

Unbeknownst to me and many other unsuspecting, cloth diapering parents, washing cloth diapers in a front loader requires that you, essentially, disregard most of the literature that’s out there on washing cloth diapers.

Front loader washers are different from traditional, top-loader machines. The main difference between the two is that front loaders are more energy efficient. They use less water and less energy than traditional machines.

So, yeah, I know what you’re probably thinking, “So energy efficient = good, right?” Well, in the case of how to clean reusable diapers, “no,” energy efficient is not as good. And it’s their energy efficient nature that must be worked around in order to successfully clean cloth diapers in front loaders.

Here are my tips, from experience, on how I keep my cloth diapers clean in my front loader and my cloth diaper wash routine:

Washing Cloth Diapers

Add more water! Front loaders use less water, which is good for your water bill but bad for cleaning cloth diapers. So, when washing in a front loader, be sure to select the option on your machine for extra rinses.

Develop a routine that works for you. With my Maytag front loader, I first run a cold cycle with no spinning and no detergent. I add an extra rinse to this cycle. Then, I add detergent and set my washer to wash on “Normal” with the temperature on Hot. I add an extra rinse to this cycle as well. With this cycle, I do set the “spin” option to medium. (This helps with drying time.)

Use less detergent. So, front loaders are energy efficient and use less water. They also use less detergent. For washing cloth diapers, you’ll want to use even less detergent. In general, using 1 tablespoon is standard.

Use Tide. What is the best detergent for cloth diapers in a front load, you ask? I tried the all natural, organic detergents that are generally recommended for washing cloth diapers and they did nothing for my diapers. So, I switched to Tide, specifically Tide HE powder detergent, and I’ve been very happy.

Smell your diapers after a wash, always. I always make sure to sniff my diapers before drying them to ensure that they are clean. If I smell any urine or poo residue, I repeat all of my cycles all over again.

Run on the Sanitary cycle only when necessary. The Sanitary cycle on front loader machines washes your diapers at a very high temperature that can prove detrimental to your diapers’ life cycle over time. I generally only run on Sanitary on rare occasions when I think my diapers aren’t as fresh as I like. When running on Sanitary, I still begin with a cold cycle and add an extra rinse to the Sanitary cycle.

Be mindful of your washer’s health. When deciding to jump back into cloth diapering after the six month long hiatus that I took on account of being frustrated with dirty diapers that were causing my toddler to develop rashes, I read a lot online about washing in a front loader.

Many advised that when washing in a front loader, one should keep the door open immediately following washer use to dry the inside out. Others advised that to keep the washer clean, one would need to wipe it out (including the rubber ring) on a regular basis to prevent mold.

So far, I haven’t had to do any of these things. I run my washing cycles with the door closed. I don’t wipe down after a wash since my 5 month old is exclusively breastfed and my toddler poops in the potty. I do, however, remain vigilant in observing my washer to ensure that it looks healthy and clean.

These tips have proven monumental for me to be able to continue cloth diapering. Even though I do supplement my children’s cloth diapering experience with disposables (at night and for outings), I am happy that I have been able to continue with cloth diapers in my front loader machine.

Oh, and I wanted to add that even with all of the additional rinse cycles (I wash my diapers everyday), my water and electric bills have not gone up! I know. It’s amazing! And my diapers (BumGenius 4.0 pocket diapers with snaps and prefolds with Thirsties covers) look brand new!

Just in case you are curious, we have reviewed a special Samsung Baby Care washer that is perfect for just cloth diapers if you have a big budget: Samsung Baby Care Washer Review

If you have a front loading machine and cloth diaper, what are some tips that you’ve found/used to keep your diapers clean and your washer happy? 

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Wednesday 13th of May 2015

Telling people to use 1 TBSP of detergent on human feces? Shame! This most certainly will lead to rashes as baby will be sitting in their own ammonia piss.

Don't listen to this lady. In a front loader or regular machine, use a.cold prewash and spin with line 1 of a mainstream detergent like Tide, then a Hot heavy wash wish a FULL SCOOP of detergent. Dry.

Your baby will thank you and people won't tall about your nasty smelling diapers behind your back.


Tuesday 15th of December 2015

She is using high efficiency Tide in a front loader and her loads are not full if she is running it daily. She also mentioned that she smells them and runs it again if necessary. Yeah if you had a full load and weren't smelling them it would certainly be a different story.


Saturday 12th of October 2013

Hi three, I just bought a Maytag and am trying this for the first time today. What soil level do you select for the cold cycle and then for the normal wash cycle?

Thanks for this info! Very helpful.


Thursday 4th of July 2013

Hi Jessica. Despite this being an old post, I decided to give it a shot and ask. How would you suggest to wash the diapers if my front loader does not have extra rinse cycles? Our washer is pretty old but I'm really trying to find a way to make this work, I think it could save a lot of money in the long run. Thank you and I hope you still check these comments.


Tuesday 15th of December 2015

Could you run another wash cycle at the end?

Kate Insley

Saturday 18th of May 2013

Thank you for posting this! I have always had a regular top loading washer and have loved it for my cloth diapers, but now that we are on an extended trip visiting my DH's parents, and they have a top loader, I have noticed stinky diapers :( I have been scouring the web for helpful tips and yours are great! Thanks!


Friday 4th of May 2012

Yeah so this is why I gave up CD'ing after the EBF stage. We have a front-loader and we live in Holland. So no tips on what laundry product to use, what exactly is meant by "hot" by US standards, what exactly is meant by "bleach" (hahahaha turns out it is not what I thought it was here...). So THANK you for saying it out loud: things are different!

One thing I can advise though, is to use the "sanitary" setting (which I assume means 80-90 degrees celcius, or what the Dutch machine fondly labelled "boiling wash") for a different load of laundry every month or so (say towels, or anything that can stand that heat). That can really help get rid of some build up that may be preventing the dipes from getting as clean as you like.

I will definitely be using the CD's again for whenever #2 comes along (we have BG 3.0 pockets), and now I have finally found the type of bleach needed for stripping I'm hopeful we'll be able to for longer.

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