Washing Cloth Diapers With an HE Top Loader and Hard Water

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Almost a year and a half ago I wrote about my cloth diaper wash routine. Since that time some things have changed and I have experimented with my washing machine a bit more. We moved to a new house with even harder water, and Dub is now 3 years old so his diapers are more soiled than before.

I needed to kick it up a notch since my diapers were starting to have more stains and we were getting diaper rash again. The rashes told me that my diapers were no longer getting as clean as they were before.

Washing cloth diapers in an HE top loader and hard water #clothdiapers

Be warned that my routine “breaks the rules” of typical cloth diaper laundry recommendations. I am not afraid to use the proper amount of detergent to clean my diapers and I am also not afraid of oxygen bleach. If you are worried about your warranty then this routine may not be for you. I have never had to make a diaper warranty claim so I am not as concerned with that as I am about a rash-free baby and clean diapers.

Now my routine looks like this:

  • Pre-rinse – in my machine I wash on the hand wash setting with warm water, no detergent. 
  • After the rinse I add Tide Free & Gentle* powder to the 3 line, a scoop of oxygen bleach or Oxiclean Free & Clear, and sometimes a half cup of washing soda to soften the water a bit.
  • Power Wash cycle which on my machine is a hot wash that includes a pre-wash, deep clean, and an extra rinse. The Whites cycle works just as well.
  • When the wash cycle is finished I remove the covers and hang them on an indoor drying rack then add 2/3 of a capful of a plant-based fabric softener (Ecover, Vaska, Mrs. Meyers) and run another rinse cycle to soften up the inserts and wipes. *This is optional. I do this because my inserts are crunchy due to the hard water.
  • Dry wipes and inserts in the dryer on medium.

This routine has been working very well for me for almost a year now. You might be asking why the fabric softener? Isn’t that a no-no for cloth diapers? Typically yes, but the plant-based softeners don’t have all of the chemicals that coat your fabric and they soften naturally without residue. Of course this is an optional step in the routine but it has worked very well for me.

Washing cloth diapers in an HE top loader and hard water  #clothdiapers

* I switched to Tide Free & Gentle from Tide Original because it doesn’t have Acti Lift in it. Some people have had problems with the Acti Lift formula and others haven’t. I decided to just play it safe and make the switch. Some say that free and clear detergents may cause repelling but I haven’t had any issues with this at all.

Photo credit: Diapers by Jake Krohn via Flickr

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  1. I really need help! I am new to cloth diapering and my baby has struggled with yeast from birth! After many rounds of meds dyflucan I decided that it may be the disposables we were using after many natural rounds of disposables as well I decided to take the plunge into the cloth world. I am currently using g diapers. Bough those thing the bretabality in them would help my baby be rash free… I do now know how to wash my inserts and I am struggling with it big time. This is what my routines consist of … First I throw in my g cloth and diaper liners and wet bag into a rinse cycle then a hot heavy wash with extra rinse using ecos free and clear then they don’t look clean so I run it thro another quick wash with a little bit of detergent. Then I dry them up. I live in Florida so not sure if I have hard water I think I may. And now not sure if she has a yeast rash or a regular diaper rash. I don’t have a sprayer bc she is breastfed so I just throw everything like that in the washer. Please help! Can I use vinegar?

    1. Hi Julianna,

      I am more than happy to help you, though it will probably be easier via email than in the comments section. Please send me an email to regan@theantijunecleaver.com with the amount of detergent you’re using in each cycle. You can try vinegar, though it probably isn’t necessary.

      Here is a water hardness map to check out too. https://www.h2odistributors.com/pages/info/hard-water-map.asp

      The map is just a general guide and there are other variables besides just location that could mean you have hard or soft water. You can get a free water hardness test strip here: http://www.mortonsalt.com/article/order-a-free-test-strip-to-find-out-if-you-have-hard-water/

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