How Do You Wash Cloth Diapers Without a Washing Machine?

Are you getting excited about cloth diapers but the thought of having no washing machine at home is making you think you can’t cloth diaper?

Perhaps you’re just going on vacation and you know you won’t have access to laundering facilities but still want to cloth diaper?

Cloth diapering does not require ownership of a washing machine. Cloth diapers can be safely washed by hand, or in shared laundry facilities. Cotton flat diapers can be boiled to ensure proper sanitization.

If you’re wondering how to go about cloth diapers without your own washing machine, read on and find the option that you feel will match your needs the best.

How Do You Wash Cloth Diapers by Hand?

Cloth diapers can be washed by hand by applying the principle rinse – hot wash – rinse – dry and enough friction during the washing process. They can be washed in the sink, bathtub, bucket, or any other appropriate container you have at your disposal.

Depending on the size of the container you use, you’ll need to adjust the number of cloth diapers you can wash at once.

Obviously, you’ll be able to wash many more diapers in the bathtub than in the sink, so keep this in mind.

Make sure you remove as much soil as possible right after you take the diaper off your child already.

Don’t forget to wash the cloth diaper pail and wet bags as well. Turn them inside out before washing – it’s the inside that’s really dirty, not the outside.

It is a good idea to rinse all cloth diapers after each use if you intend to hand-wash them. Rinsing immediately after use will save time, detergent, and water during the handwashing process, since the diapers will be less dirty.

How to Rinse Cloth Diapers by Hand?

First, you need to do a cold rinse to get as much soil out of the diapers.

Put all the cloth diapers you intend to wash in a bathtub or other container, filled with cold or lukewarm water.

It’s a good trick to use the bathwater from anyone that took the bath last and save additional water.

Leave them for about half an hour and stir them occasionally.

Drain the water and get on with the next crucial step.

How to Do a Hot Wash with the Detergent by Hand

Add hot water to the bathtub and add a cloth diaper-safe detergent. Follow the instructions for the correct detergent dose (hint: it will be much less than for the washing machine).

A basin filled with white laundry and soapy water.

Start stirring them with a stick or a handle, rub them with an old toothbrush, use a washboard, or do anything else that you can do to introduce some friction to the dirty diapers. If you don’t have any other equipment, simply start rubbing two diapers together.

If the water gets really dirty and you have a feeling, the diapers still aren’t clean enough after a while, feel free to drain the water and repeat the hot wash.

Drain the water and follow the next step; rinsing.

How to Rinse Cloth Diapers After the Main Wash

The diapers are now soapy from the detergent, so it’s time you thoroughly wash everything out of the diapers.

You can either do this with all diapers at once in the bathtub or simply rinse them separately in the laundry sink.

To rinse the diapers in the bathtub, add fresh cold water and stir them. If a lot of suds appear immediately, I recommend you drain the old water and add fresh water.

When the diapers are rinsing in the bathtub, squeeze each diaper to get as much detergent as possible out of it.

Repeat this process as needed until the rinsing water remains clear.

If you don’t want to do the rinsing in the bathtub, just take individual diapers and rinse them in the laundry sink until the water runs clear. Make sure you thoroughly “massage” the diaper to get all the detergent out of it.

Put rinsed clean cloth diapers in a clean basket to bring with you when you hang them to dry or bring them to the dryer.

This is it for the washing process. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just use your common sense and your other senses (🙂) to determine if the diapers are clean in the end.

Can You Boil Modern Cloth Diapers?

Modern cloth diapers should never be boiled since the heat will damage PUL and other materials. Cotton flat diapers, on the other hand, can handle such temperatures and can be boiled safely.

Nevertheless, boiling isn’t actually necessary for cloth diaper sanitation. At least not to the same extent it used to be. The detergent nowadays are much more efficient even in colder water temperatures, so decide for yourself if you really need to boil them.

Nevertheless, try to use the hottest possible water temperature that will still be safe for you if you’re handwashing cloth diapers. Combined with an efficient detergent this will sanitize your cloth diapers properly and no boiling will be necessary.

Can You Wash Cloth Diapers in a Shared Washing Machine?

Shared washing machines.

As a general rule, it is okay to wash cloth diapers in a shared washing machine, as long as you follow certain etiquette, such as rinsing soiled diapers outside the washing machine before loading them into the washing machine.

There are a couple of things, you should take into account when using shared laundry facilities.

  • Shared or industrial type washing machines are usually bigger than household washing machines, so keep this in mind when deciding about the load size. You’ll most likely be able to wash more diapers at once than at home.
  • In some shared laundry facilities you won’t be able to use your own cloth diaper-safe detergent, since the washing machine does its own dosing. If this isn’t a possibility, find out which detergent is used there and see if it is okay for cloth diapers.
  • You might not be able to adjust the spin level to gentle, which means the diapers won’t last as long compared to only washing them with a gentle spin. If you use a stronger spin a couple of times, nothing will happen, so if you’re on vacation, don’t worry about this at all.


By reading this post you’ve learned that if you don’t have regular access to a washing machine in your home, it is definitely possible to cloth diaper your child. Just handwash the diapers according to the above instructions or use a laundromat!


When I first became a mom, it shocked me how much more waste we produced by adding a tiny little member to our family. Since then, it's become very important to me to be more sustainable as a family. I'm excited to share with you what I'm learning along the way!

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