Cloth diapers: Frequently asked questions

Cloth diapers: Frequently asked questions
Curious about cloth diapers? We’ve got the answers to your questions.

Want to learn more about cloth diapers before you commit? Here, we answer parents’ most frequently asked questions about this diapering alternative.

How do I wash cloth diapers?

Flush any poop down the toilet and remove the disposable liner, if applicable. Place the soiled, unrinsed diaper in a dry pail to await laundering. At one time, soiled cloth diapers had to soak in a water and vinegar solution, but nowadays the vast majority should be stored dry before washing. Each manufacturer provides specific washing instructions, but in most cases you put your dirty diapers in the washing machine and run a cold rinse cycle, followed by a warm or hot wash cycle with an extra rinse.

Don’t use your washing machine’s sanitize setting, as it can damage the diaper’s Velcro fasteners and elastics. Do you have a front-loader? These machines use much less water, so watch out for residue. Always select the highest water level before running a load.

You can dry cloth diapers in the dryer, but this may shorten their lifespan. However, if your diapers are made with PUL, it’s recommended that you occasionally throw them in the dryer to maintain the waterproof seal. When hanging the diapers to dry, place one clothespin on the front and one on the back so as not to stretch the elastics unnecessarily. If the diapers feel rough after drying, put them in the dryer for a few minutes to restore their softness.


Diaper services
For about $20 to $25 a week, you can rent from a diaper service that will send someone to your home once or several times a week to bring you clean diapers and pick up the dirty ones. As your baby grows, they provide larger sizes. This type of service is available mainly in major urban centres.

What laundry detergent should I use?

Try laying your diapers in the sun to remove stains.

Ideally, your laundry detergent shouldn’t have any optical brighteners, softeners, fragrances, dyes, natural oils, enzymes, or bleaching agents. Each diaper manufacturer has its own detergent recommendations. Unfortunately, some are only sold in the United States. What’s more, the use of a particular detergent may be recommended by one manufacturer but discouraged by another. Stores that sell cloth diapers usually stock appropriate detergents as well. The most important thing is to use detergent sparingly, as soap residue in your washing machine can cause unpleasant odours and leaks. If in doubt, start with a small amount and gradually increase as needed. Never use fabric softener or bleach.

How many diapers should I buy?

Depending on how often you plan to wash them, it is generally recommended to buy 24 diapers for a newborn and 18 diapers for a baby aged 6 months or older.

Did you know that there are grants that cover the cost of cloth diapers? More and more municipalities are offering grants to parents who opt for cloth diapers. Terms and conditions vary from city to city, but the amounts allocated can be up to $200.


Useful accessories
Consider getting a pail or bag to store your dirty diapers at home, and a smaller bag to take on outings.

Are zinc-based diaper rash creams suitable for cloth diapers?

Many manufacturers strongly advise against using zinc-based creams, as they may reduce the cloth’s absorbency. Most stores that sell cloth diapers also offer zinc-free diaper rash creams.

What is stripping?

Stripping consists in removing all residues, including soap, that can interfere with a diaper’s absorbency and cause bad odours. However, this is a fairly extreme process and is only recommended as a last resort. Once again, the use of certain products may be recommended or discouraged depending on the manufacturer. The best thing to do is to contact the diaper manufacturer or seller to find out exactly how to proceed.

How should I wash new cloth diapers?

Wash all new diapers at least once before use. If possible, separate your hemp, cotton, and bamboo diapers from other clothes for the first wash, as they contain natural oils that could alter other fabrics. Note that hemp and bamboo reach optimum absorbency after 10 washes.

Are cloth diapers allowed in daycares?

Most daycares do not allow cloth diapers, with the exception of certain family child care providers and child care centres.

When should I start using cloth diapers?

Ideally, it is recommended to wait at least a few days for your baby’s first bowel movement, the meconium, to pass. Some parents also prefer to wait for their newborn’s belly button to heal, which takes about two weeks.

Can I put wet cloth wipes in the pail with dirty diapers?

Some manufacturers advise against this, as the dampness can cause mould and mildew problems.


What should I do with my cloth diapers once my baby is potty trained?
Once you’re done with them, you can resell your diapers on certain websites. You can also donate them to a local or international organization that will distribute them to mothers in need. Several stores that sell cloth diapers also collect used ones.


Things to keep in mind

  • The best way to wash cloth diapers is usually to run a cold rinse cycle, followed by a warm or hot wash cycle with an extra rinse.
  • It is recommended to buy 24 diapers for a newborn and 18 diapers for a baby aged 6 months or older.
  • Some municipalities offer grants for the purchase of cloth diapers.


Naitre et

Research and copywriting: Protégez-Vous
Web adaptation: The Naître et grandir team
August 2019


Photo: GettyImages/kasjato