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What to Do if You Wash a Diaper in the Washing Machine

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So. Have you ever accidentally washed a diaper in the washing machine? I’m guessing that you have if you’re here, right? Unfortunately, I have some experience in this area, and it’s reason #847 that I’m glad I (usually) use cloth diapers. Sigh.

Some backstory: we were on a road trip to Santa Fe, and, of course, there was a ton of laundry to be done. One of the first things I did when we got settled back home was to throw some laundry in the machine.

laundry room Pinterest pin image

I threw our vacation laundry in the machine, which included the pair of pajamas that my son was wearing the night before we left for the weekend.

I get the load going and don’t think anything more of it until the rinse cycle when I went to the laundry room, which happens to be in the bathroom. Since our machine has a glass top, I looked in to see how things were going.

That’s when I saw it. That’s when I saw that I had washed a Pull Up that was never thrown away before my son threw his pajamas in the laundry pile. I love that the little man was helpful with the laundry, but you’ve got to be kidding me!

Related post: How to Identify Different Types of Diaper Rash

The last thing I ever thought I would do is accidentally wash a disposable diaper since I’m usually a cloth diapering mom.

I’ve heard of people who have washed a diaper in the washing machine and always wondered how in the world that could happen. Well, now I know.

What to do when you wash a disposable diaper. How to clean diaper beads out of your laundry and washing machine.

This is what it looks like when a diaper explodes in the washer. What a mess!

After my initial panic and a quick check with Professor Google, I cleaned up the mess. Now my mistake can help others clean diaper gel out of the washing machine.

What To Do When You Accidentally Put A Diaper In The Washing Machine

First of all, if you do wash a disposable diaperdon’t panic! It’s easier to clean than it seems like it will be. Trust me.

First, pull the diaper out as soon as you see it, then complete your wash cycle.

Once the Wash Cycle is Finished

  1. After you removed the diaper and completed your wash cycle, shake every piece of laundry out as well as possible.
  2. Put all the laundry in the dryer as normal, OR you can rewash everything first.
  3. Dry your laundry normally. The beads will either disintegrate or end up in your lint trap.

How to Clean the Washing Machine After Accidentally Washing a Diaper

  1. While your laundry is drying, wipe as much of the diaper gel out of the washing machine as possible with a damp paper towel. Don’t worry about getting everything.
  2. Add a half cup of laundry detergent and 1/4 cup of salt to the machine.
  3. Run an empty wash or cleaning cycle using as much water as possible.

That’s it! My machine was clean after this step, but I ran a clean cycle with Affresh washing machine cleaner afterward just to be on the safe side.

How Does Salt Dissolve Diaper Gel Beads?

If you tried adding salt to the mixture, you might have noticed that the texture and volume of the gel mixture changed back to a liquid. This is because salt breaks the attraction between water and polymer chains.

The added salt breaks into negative and positive ions, which are also attracted to the water molecules. Each salt ion attracts several water molecules to it, thereby pulling them away from the polymer.

Eventually enough water is pulled away so that the mixture goes from gel back to liquid.

Diapers: What Keeps Babies and Astronauts from Springing a Leak? – Scientific American
What to do when you wash a disposable diaper. How to clean diaper beads out of your laundry and washing machine.

With one wash, my laundry and my machine were good as new again. I don’t plan on having this accident again (who does?), but if I ever do, I know not to panic.

While it’s messy and looks like an absolute nightmare to clean, it’s quite easy to clean up after washing a diaper in the washing machine.

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26 Comments

  1. The problem I have is that washing the disposable diaper in the washing machine cause the drain pipe to clog up the kitchen dink

  2. This actually happened to us a few months ago. We had an eight year old front loader washer that ended up paying the price.The night before, I was washing all of the kids clothes and hadn’t noticed that one of my daughter’s pull ups was in the mix. I threw the clothes in the dryer and it wasn’t until after they were dry that I noticed the mess. The next day I get a text from my wife saying the washing machine is making a grinding noise. The gel ended up getting between the washer drum and the outer drum of the machine and caused the machine to basically seize up and burn out the threads on the motor drive. Since the diaper gel is an absorbent, once it had hardened in there it was curtains for the machine. Long story short, I cannot stress enough how important it is to clear out what you can by hand first and then immediately run a sanitary cycle to clear it out. 700 dollar lesson learned from this guy, but hey we wanted a new top loader anyways 🙂

    1. Oh no! That’s excellent advice, but I’m sorry you had to find out the hard way.

  3. I have 2 3yr olds in pull-ups, and a 40 year old who put those pull-ups in the washer… ye gods what a mess, Doctor Google to the rescue… so you say just put the stuff in the dryer with the gel stuff all over still?

    well, i shook the clothes over the laundry sink and dumped ’em on the floor figuring i’d run another wash cycle after running a rinse cycle on the empty washer… i’ll give ’em another spin then try the dryer….

    1. How many Pull Ups were washed? Two, or just one? In my case, I shook out as much of the gel as I could when I took them out of the washer but since the clothes were wet, not much came off. The dryer itself took it all off in my case, but I only washed one Pull Up. If two were washed you may need to do a double wash.

  4. I found three diaper it’s in the wash and the wash looks like a mess going to try out this method

  5. Thank you! I started a late night wash and one snuck in on me.
    I’m also thankful that I accepted the old salt from grams’ estate when we were cleaning out her pantry. I just knew that I would need it someday. I just figured it would be the cast iron needing a salt clean, not the washer! So, I thank you AND Grams!

  6. Thanks so much for the common sense tip! I’m so glad I’m not the only one! It worked fine and was as easy as you said. I took the added step of interrupting the drying cycle to wipe up what beads collected in the drum a couple of times.

  7. This isn’t just for young moms!! My hubby has dementia & is now incontinent. He has agreed to use “male pads” which is a miracle! He left one in his underwear & I didn’t notice it. There aren’t beads in those; they disintegrate & that gel gets on everything!! — There are so many challenges when dealing with dementia & I just found 1 more.

    1. Oh no! I hope you were able to get the gel cleaned out. That sounds like an even worse mess than the gel beads.

  8. hahaha! This is the SECOND time this has happened to me. I think I cursed more this time around. Couldn’t remember how I cleaned it last time. Thanks for the laugh.

  9. Oh, thank you so much for this! I did that once and it was so so difficult clearing all the mess. I wish I knew about it earlier.

  10. Uncle in charge of cleaning up the mess….. 3 YO with nightly pull-up requirements…. one snuck in…. time to clean the washer. Thanks for the cleaning tips!

  11. Uncle in charge of cleaning up the mess….. 3 YO with nightly pull-up requirments…. one snuck in…. time to clean the washer. Thanks for the cleaning tips!

  12. 3 kids…9,4 & 2….it was bound to happen….and tonight was it! Lol! Thanks for posting…. I thought I just wrecked our new washer :/

  13. Whew! Thanks for the tip before having a semi-meltdown….potty training nightmares…this too shall pass!

    1. Haha! I’m sorry that it happened to you, too. Yes, this will pass and thankfully this is easier to fix than it looks like it will be. Good luck!

  14. Thank you for posting this! I’m cleaning up the mess from a pull-up diaper in the laundry as I type this. 🙂

  15. Thanks for posting this! I unknowingly washed a pull-up, and then because I’m SUCH an awesome mom, I left the wash too long and had to wash it again. So double the pull-up carnage. Oy vey.

  16. This just happened to me today….pretty much your story exactly! My daughter only wears the bedwetter pull-ups when we travel. We just got back from a trip and I threw the laundry in the washer. I didn’t realize my daughter had left one of the pull-ups inside her pajamas. Arrrgh! What a mess! Hey, it sounds/looks like you and I have the exact same washing machine.
    Anyway, thanks for the tips!

  17. Blargh. I did that a few months ago. It was also a bedwetter pullup inside jammies!! Aaahhh four year olds……

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