Cloth Diaper Frequently Asked Questions
Molly’s Suds uses the RDA’s washing guidelines and suggests that you “keep it simple” when it comes to your routine.
- Dump solid material into the toilet.
- Rinse diapers in warm if possible, cold if not.
- Wash diapers with Molly’s Suds using hot (HOT!) water and two scoops of powder
- Rinse diapers in warm water. Suggested to do an extra rinse to be sure all detergent is washed away to prevent repelling.
- Dry your diapers on the line, inside on a drying rack, or tumble-dry on warm and our Wool Dryer Balls get them dried quicker! *Be sure to follow your diaper’s manufacturer’s guidelines when washing and drying to stay within warranty.
Yes! Molly’s Suds Cloth Diaper Powder has been formulated specifically for cloth diapers. We want to make washing diapers easy without the risk of detergent build-up. Ingredients: sodium percarbonate, sodium carbonate (from the Green River Basin in Wyoming), Sodium bicarbonate (food grade) and an unrefined triple filtered sea salt. We will have a DIY “scent” instruction on our site, but we did not add essential oils, fillers, or toxic surfactants and optical whiteners to our formula.
We use all natural ingredients with no scents, parabens, sulfates, phosphates, or petrochemicals. This means that everything in our soap is not only safe to use on items touching your delicate baby’s skin, but also kind to the earth. If you’d like scent added to your detergent please see our instructions to DIY at home. We also have Wool Dryer Balls that can replace chemical-laden dryer sheets as an alternative way to soften your clothes and diapers with the added benefit of reducing your drying time.
We did extensive testing of our detergent before bringing it to market in all types of water. Our testers all came back with positive experiences, including those with hard water. Molly’s Suds is based in Florida where the water is very hard so we know a thing or two about that! If you find you are having trouble washing your diapers in hard water consider adding a small amount of Calgon Liquid Water softener in with your wash cycle.
Hard water has an excess of minerals that makes the water have to work harder to get things clean. Try adding a drop of dish soap to a jar of water, close the lid, and shake vigorously. If the water has a heavy amount of suds you have regular or soft water. If there are few suds you likely have hard water. Another way to tell is to remove the cap on your faucet; if you can see white crust or small pebbles in the aerator you likely have hard water. You might need to use extra detergent to get your diapers clean if you have hard water.
A typical load of diapers should be no less than 8 diapers and no more than 12. You want enough diapers so that they have enough to agitate against one another to help get them clean. Adjust your water level accordingly, though generally you will want to use a Large or Super setting. Diapers soak up the water in your washer. If you have a Front Loader HE machine you may need to add additional water for the most effective wash possible.
When washing cloth diapers “less is more.” Two scoops are usually enough to get your diapers clean unless you have overloaded the washer or if your water is very hard. If you use too much detergent you could run into problems with repelling. If you suspect your diapers are not getting clean enough either wash fewer diapers per load (optimum loads have 8-12 diapers) or add more detergent. (See our Troubleshooting Guide.)
Yes, unless the diapers are brand new or you are stripping your diapers and they started out clean. Rinsing before washing helps remove any leftover solid waste and rinses out the urine. Imagine not rinsing before a wash- the detergent will have to work against all of the waste that is mixed in the water. With a rinse, there is less “mess” to wash against and your diapers will get cleaner.
Once all of your diapers are prepped you can wash them together with each cycle. This includes waterproof covers, pockets, AIO’s, AI2’s, fitted, prefolds, and flats. When it comes to washing your brand new diapers for the first time you will need to separate your natural fibers (hemp, cotton, bamboo) from anything with synthetics (suede cloth, microfleece, microchamois, CoolMax, etc.) and prep them in separate loads. See next question for more.
To prep your brand new diapers you will need to wash them at least once before using to remove any leftover dirt or chemicals from the manufacturing process. Prepping also maximizes the absorbency. New diapers often come unwashed and will not be absorbent enough until prepped, like prefolds or other diapers made with natural fibers. (Confused about these terms- see our Terms and Materials Guide)
Natural Fibers- for all diapers made with natural fibers wash them apart from diapers made with synthetics. Do 2-4 HOT washes, then rinses, in a row. If you are prepping prefolds you may want to dry them between each wash to quilt them up. You can choose to use no detergent at all for all but one wash, and for one wash use only half a scoop.
Synthetic Fibers- For diapers made with synthetics like pocket diapers and microfiber inserts use half a scoop of detergent in a HOT wash, then rinse with warm or cold and dry.
Microfiber will reach peak absorbency after 2-4 washes, while natural fibers will take at least 6-8. If you are having leaks in the beginning your diapers may just need a few extra washes.
Stripping diapers are only necessary when you are having problems- such as stink, ammonia build-up, repelling, or have encountered yeast rashes. (See our Troubleshooting Guide.) Unless you have any problems you can continue washing your diapers as you always do. Some manufacturers suggest bleaching your diapers once a month. Please consult their washing instructions before using chlorine bleach.
Diapers need to be washed every 2-3 days. Diapers should not sit any longer than 5 days to avoid mold growth, ammonia build-up, and the breaking down of elastic or PUL.
Stains happen. If your clean diapers still have stains the best and most effective way to remove them is to lay the diapers, stains facing up, out in the sun. If you live in an area where you can’t put them outside you can lay them in front of a window where light shines through. Even cloudy days can still sun-bleach diapers. Sunning will also kill bacteria and germs in your diapers and is a great thing to do regularly to keep them bright and clean. For very stubborn stains squirt lemon juice on top and then sun, but be sure to re-wash before using them on your baby.
Many manufacturers suggest that you line-dry your diapers to extend their lifespan. If you choose to tumble dry make sure you use the “warm” setting. Drying on HOT every time can wear out the elastic, or worse, damage the waterproof PUL lining of your diapers. To speed up drying time and save energy costs consider using our Wool Dryer Balls, which can shave 20-30 minutes off of a typical load of diapers.
While your baby is being breastfed the poop is water soluble and there is no need to scrape out or spray off the poop. Once your baby begins eating solid foods, around 6 months, you will have to start removing the solid waste before washing.
Sprayers, while nice, are not necessary. Diaper sprayers are used to spray off the solid waste before washing a diaper. If you don’t want to use one you can scrape the waste off using toilet paper, dunk and flush the diapers in the toilet, or use flushable cloth diaper liners.
Yes, you can wash them all together.
Most manufacturers do not cover using vinegar or other additives in your wash routines. Some brands do suggest an occasional use of bleach to disinfect. Please consult your diapers’ warranties beforehand. Using too many products other than detergent on your diapers can complicate the delicate balance that is washing cloth diapers. Keeping it simple, unless warranted, is the best route.
Cloth Diaper Troubleshooting
We here at Molly’s Suds understand that washing cloth diapers can be a real challenge, no matter what detergent you use. This is why we have compiled a troubleshooting guide to answer all of your questions. If you are using our soap and can’t seem to find an answer here please get in touch with our customer service team.
Solution: This smell is caused by an excess build-up of ammonia. Urine contains ammonia salts and if not washed correctly, they build-up over time and the smell will get progressively worse. In the worst cases, the ammonia will cause a “burn” that causes a bright red and flat rash that can be painful. You need to strip your diapers of the ammonia. Try soaking your diapers overnight in a product like RLR Laundry Treatment and then do several hot washes with no detergent. If you are comfortable, use a 1/4-cup of chlorine bleach while stripping*. For future washes to avoid more build-up try using more hot water and not letting diapers sit for long periods of time before washing. If you are using diapers with a microfiber insert be aware that ammonia is most likely to occur is this material.*See your diaper manufacturer’s guidelines before using bleach or other additives. Using certain products can void your warranty.
Side note: Ammonia will naturally occur when diapers sit for a while, only be concerned when the smell is extremely strong, occurs immediately after your child wets the diaper, or smells of ammonia when clean.
Solution: Diapers not getting clean enough cause barnyard stink. Try adjusting the amount of detergent you are using by adding just a bit more. Start with adding ¼ of our scoop more and go from there. Clean diapers should not smell dirty when clean and still wet, or clean and dry.
Solution: Diaper leaks can be caused by a number of things, including a poor fit, gaps in the legs, compression leaks caused by tight onesies, and repelling. Repelling is harder to fix than adjusting the fit.
The cause of repelling stems from a build-up of detergent on your diapers that preventing liquids from soaking into the absorbent layer. This most often happens with diapers that use a synthetic, stay dry layer such as suede cloth or microfleece.
To get your diapers absorbent again you need to strip the residue away. Consider using a product like RLR Laundry Treatment and do an overnight soak, or simply run several hot washes with no detergent. Check to see if there are bubbles when your washer is agitating during a hot wash cycle. Once the suds have stopped you should be clear of excess detergent and your diapers will absorb liquid once again.
Detergent build-up can come from residue left in your washer, or even dryer, if you use standard grocery store brands on your clothes. It can also come from fabric softener residue on your washer/dryer, a dryer sheet left in the drum on accident, or using too much detergent in your wash. To avoid repelling again remove these items from your laundry room and/or clean your washer and dryer drum using vinegar.
Solution: We cannot diagnose rashes and are not doctors. If you are concerned about a rash please consult your pediatrician. That being said, rashes can be caused by many things, including sensitivity to synthetic fibers like suede cloth or micro fleece, sensitivity to natural fibers that allow moisture on your baby’s skin, a reaction to the detergent being used, yeast rashes, or the result of a food allergy. Rashes will present differently depending on the cause, so please see your doctor to diagnose a rash. There are cloth diaper safe rash creams available if needed.
Solution: Often when you line dry diapers they will not be as soft as those that are tumble dried. Do not use any fabric softeners to try and solve this problem since they will cause repelling. If you are line drying prefolds or flats there is a trick to softening them- twist the diapers in your hands and crumple them up. They will feel as soft as if they were dried in your dryer! If it is your fitted, contours, pockets, or All-in-Ones that are rough consider tossing them in the dryer just for a fluff cycle if you own a dryer.
Terms and Materials Glossary
A diaper that is all one piece and has a waterproof layer. This is considered the easiest diaper to use and is most like a disposable. Some varieties have a sewn in soaker while others have inserts that are attached at one or both ends. Also called an AIO.
A diaper that has two pieces- a waterproof shell and an absorbent insert that either lays in or snaps in. The inserts are removed when soiled but the cover can be used several times before needing to be washed. Also referred to as “hybrid” diapers. Also called an AI2.
A pocket diaper has two parts but functions on the baby as a once piece diaper. One part is the pocket shell- it has an opening that is stuffed with an absorbent insert. The lining of pocket diapers is often a stay-dry material such as suede cloth or microfleece, but there are exceptions to the rule. Inserts can be made from any material, but are most often made of microfiber. Pockets can only be used once before needing to be washed.
This diaper is not waterproof and needs a cover. It fits snugly on the baby and is considered the most absorbent style of diaper. It can be one piece, or may come with inserts that snap in. Fitted cloth diapers are usually made from bamboo or cotton or natural fiber blends.
A variety of the fitted that also has hidden layers of fleece inside. While still not waterproof, the fleece inside helps retain the moisture.
A contour is a non-waterproof diaper that has the shape of a fitted but does not come with any snaps or Velcro for closure. It needs pins, a Snappi®, or a Boingos for closure and requires a cover.
A rectangular shaped diaper that can either be closed around the baby using various folds, or folded into thirds and laid inside of a cover. It is most often made of bleached or unbleached cotton and double the layers in the center strip. It is an affordable option and very absorbent.
A flat diaper is one very large square of fabric, most often a Birdseye cotton or gauze. Flats have to be folded first before being secured onto a baby, or folded into a rectangle then laid inside of a cover. Flats are the most affordable diaper option and work very well. They need pins, a Snappi®, or Boingos for closure.
A cover is needed to go over any diapers that are not waterproof. It is either made from PUL (poly-urethane laminate) or TPU (Thermoplastic polyurethane). The outside is soft to the touch and is polyester and the inside is the laminate that is shiny and plastic feeling. Some covers will have an additional layer of cotton knit for aesthetics. Covers come in a variety of styles, closures, and sizes and have no purpose other than keeping wetness from leaking out.
Wool is another way to keep moisture in when using a non-waterproof diaper. Wool covers need to be washed separately from all other diapers and requires a special wool detergent and lanolin to stay waterproof.
A cover made from fleece holds in moisture and lets the diapers breathe better than a waterproof cover. It can be washed with your other diapers.
Some cloth diapers can be adjusted using snaps or elastic, which makes them larger or smaller. Most One Size diapers start fitting babies at 8-10 pounds and last up to 40 pounds. Also referred to as OS.
Sized diapers will only fit babies within a certain range. Cloth diapers mostly come in these sizes- XS (fits from birth to about 15 pounds), Small, Medium, and Large.
Dual sized diapers are a mix between One Size diapers and Sized. They will come in a Size 1 or Size 2.
Cotton diapers and inserts are not the most absorbent however they wash up well, hold up well over time, and are less prone to build-up and stink. Cotton is often used with other natural fibers in blends.
Bamboo or “Rayon from Bamboo fibers” has certain properties that are great for diapers. It is absorbent and bamboo is a sustainable resource. Bamboo has to be processed before being turned into fibers from wood pulp and it is now required to label them as rayon made from bamboo.
Modal is made from beech trees and is a super soft fabric great for inserts and fitted diapers. Like bamboo, modal is made from a wood pulp before being processed into fabric.
Hemp by itself is the most absorbent natural material but not as soft as cotton or bamboo. Often it is used as an insert for this reason, or used in blends with softer materials like cotton or bamboo.
This material is only used for inserts or doublers and is not safe to lie next to a baby’s skin because it will pull away their natural moisture and cause rashes. It is a man-made synthetic, is extremely absorbent, and quickly pulls in any moisture. If you were to magnify a microfiber fiber you would see why- rather than being one solid strand it is jagged all around. Not only is this great for absorbency, it is great for holding onto unwanted bacteria, excess detergent, and minerals. Many parents find microfiber inserts are the hardest to keep clean and switch to a natural material insert for their diapers. If you use microfiber inserts you may need to strip them more often than other diapers.
Stay Dry Fabrics
When a fabric is referred to as “stay dry” in cloth diaper terms that means it pulls moisture away from the baby’s skin (wicks) giving them the feeling of being dry, unlike the natural fibers above. Suede cloth, Microfleece, and newer fabrics like those made for athletic shirts let moisture pass through them where they are absorbed by another material. Unlike natural fibers, these synthetics are more prone to build-up of detergents, which is why using one designed for cloth diapers is extremely important.
Diapers can either be made with the closure already included or will need another item to secure it around the baby’s waist. All waterproof diapers and covers will have either snaps or aplix (also called touch tape or Velcro®). For non-waterproof diapers they can come with or without snaps or aplix. To close diapers that don’t include them you will have to buy a Snappi®, a pair of Boingos, or pins. Any of those items will hold the diaper closed.
Cloth Diaper Resources
You can find more information on cloth diapers at these websites:
Also look for local cloth diaper groups for more in person advice.
See tips for laundering cloth diapers below.