How To Wash Cloth Diapers in Singapore
Hello and welcome to arguably our most important guide - how to wash cloth diapers in Singapore! Whether you’re a first-time parent considering cloth diapers or a convert with diapers in hand, properly washing and caring for them is crucial to a good experience for you and a clean, happy bum for your child.
Washing cloth diapers will be a simple matter of routine before you know it. It only takes a little more time than bundling up a disposable and throwing it away - just let your washing machine do the heavy lifting!
Here’s a list of what you need to get started:
A Quality Detergent
Soiled diapers are among the dirtiest of laundry, so you will need a quality detergent to wash the pee and poop from them. Baby detergents are a no-no because they lack sufficient surfactants to clean thoroughly. Mainstream detergents such as Top, Breeze, Dynamo, Persil and Tide work great in most cases, while plant-based or sensitive detergents will need higher wash temperatures to work effectively.
*Personally, I use a plant-based detergent by b clean co which works great! It's specially formulated to be safe and gentle enough for babies yet powerful enough to get out the gunk out of cloth diapers, and we use it for the whole family too! It is the first ever Clean Cloth Nappies endorsed detergent and we're glad to be their retailer in Singapore - check it out here: b clean co
A Dry Pail
A dry pail is where you store dirty diapers before a wash. This can be anything from a simple holey plastic basket from a DIY shop or an open laundry rack - avoid soaking buckets and closed bins! Good airflow will help prevent ammonia formation and reduce smells. If your service yard is space constrained, you can also consider hanging laundry bags but do keep them open for airflow!
A Washing Machine
Last but definitely not least, you need your trusty washing machine. Both top-load and front-load machines work fine, but front loaders are a little more convenient because they heat their own water. For most top loaders, you might need to bucket in hot water regularly to ensure a thorough clean.
Now that you have everything you need, here’s how to get started on your washing!
Pre-treatment and Storage
Once off the bum, a fresh pee diaper can go straight into the dry pail - no rinsing or washing required! Newborn poop is water-soluble and can also go straight into the dry pail*. For children on solids, any 3D poop will need to be sprayed or scraped into the toilet bowl before the diaper is placed in the dry pail.
*Personally, I prefer to spray off the poop and rub with soap bar - this helps to remove stains and reduce smells. We use Buncha Farmers All Natural Stain Remover available here, but you can also use LUX soap bar that is easily available in the supermarkets.
First Wash aka Prewash
Every one to two days, the freshly-soiled diapers in the dry pail will need to be given a first short wash, also known as a prewash. This removes the main bulk of the pee and poop and allows the second wash to get the diapers fully cleaned. Some machines have an inbuilt prewash function, but unless you can ascertain that it will drain the water between washes, it’s preferable to separate your pre- and main wash cycles.
Front/Top Loader Pre-wash
40-60 degrees Celsius
Half of the heavily soiled dose for your load
30 minutes to 1 hour
Word of warning: do not skip this very essential step! The photo below shows the water that comes out of a machine during the prewash versus the water in the main wash.
After the prewash, diapers should be placed in another dry pail or rack to air until it’s time for the main wash. If you’re doing the prewash and main wash back to back, there’s no need to dry them in between - just head straight into that second wash!
Second wash aka Main Wash
The second wash, usually known as the main wash, is what gets cloth diapers clean and ready for their next stint on the bum. Every three to four days, all prewashed diapers go into this second wash, which should meet four requirements:
- Front loaders: full when dry, 2/3 to 3/4 full when wet (30 minutes into cycle)
- Top loaders: enough water such that diapers get pulled down periodically
Correct loading ensures that optimal agitation is achieved, i.e. the scrubbing action that helps get diapers sparkly clean. You can fill out or bulk a load with other baby clothes, cloth wipes, or small towels smaller than 60cm by 60cm - larger items can wrap around your diapers and hinder agitation.
- 40-60 degrees Celsius
Warm/hot water helps relax the fibres in your diapers and ensures a deeper clean, so skip the cold water! Washing at 60 degrees is a necessity if you’re using plant-based (except b clean co - it performs well and reliably even at 40 degrees!) or sensitive detergents as it’s needed to fully activate the surfactants, while mainstream detergents works for most temperature.
- As directed on the packaging for ‘heavily soiled’ items - add 25% more detergent for each extra kg of load your machine is rated for
Don’t skimp on the detergent! Diapers are one of the dirtiest items of laundry your machine will have to deal with, so using sufficient detergent is key. Most dosage amounts tend to max out at a 7kg load, so use an additional 25% if your machine is 8kg (and so on). If there are no suds or too much, adjust up or down accordingly.
- Front loaders: longest non-eco cotton cycle, at least 2 - 3 hours
- Top loaders: longest non-eco cotton cycle (can pause to allow diapers to soak)
A long cycle is crucial to make sure that the diapers are agitated enough in the hot water for a good clean. Though the front loader cycle may sound long, front loaders are generally water-efficient, especially for a full load. In addition, soiled diapers need the usual levels of water for a more thorough clean, so avoid ‘eco’ options.
Drying Cloth Diapers
After the main wash is done, the diapers are almost ready to be put on a bum again! In sunny Singapore, there are plenty of options for drying depending on your family’s preferences.
Line-drying takes a little time and space, but if you have both, it’s the most economical and environmentally-friendly choice and it helps clothes to last longer too :) Dry PUL covers in indirect sunlight to prevent sun damage, which can cause fading or early delamination in the case of PUL layers. If it is pockets or AIOs - you can just let the cloth part face the sun!
Similarly, indoor laundry drying systems that use hot air work great to dry cloth diapers, especially during the rainy seasons.
Dryers are a good option for time-poor or space-constrained families, or if you just can’t catch a break during the monsoon periods - diapers made with better quality materials and elastics get along just fine with the hotter drying cycles, while more delicate materials or PUL might require lower heat (such as the synthetic or mixed cycles).
In short, your washing machine is your best friend when it comes to washing cloth diapers! A good wash routine will go a long way in giving you peace of mind and the assurance that the diapers on your child’s bum will keep them happy and rash-free.
If you need more help, or if there is any feedback or suggestions to improve this article for other parents, feel free to connect with me directly here - I'll love to help you!
If you'll like to read up more on laundry and cloth diaper cleaning, check out: Clean Cloth Nappies! It is a wonderful resource backed by science and research - which means it's constantly being updated to latest findings :)