Will Cloth Diapers Ruin My Washing Machine?

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Modern cloth diapers feature easy fasteners, waterproof liners, and machine-washable fabrics. Using a washing machine to clean reusable diapers makes the cloth diapering experience less complicated and more convenient. 

However, many people still have concerns about washing soiled diapers in their washing machine, as they’re afraid it could ruin the appliance. 

Cloth diapers will not ruin washing machines. The machine cleans all garments, including those soiled with urine and feces. Rinse or scrape soiled diapers first, then wash in hot water with an initial rinse cycle using a gentle detergent. Clean the washer’s filters seasonally for best performance.

This post discusses whether washing cloth diapers in a washing machine is sanitary and whether you can wash other garments with your diapers. Additionally, we’ll talk about how to keep your washer clean and working optimally. Read on to learn more. 

Is Washing Cloth Diapers in the Washing Machine Sanitary? 

Washing cloth diapers in a washing machine is sanitary when properly done. If the baby eats formula or solid foods, rinse feces from the diaper and put it into the drum. Wash with hot water and detergent. Hot water kills bacteria, so everything, including the washer, comes out clean and sanitized. 

A front-loading washing machine with a couple of cloth diapers inside.

With that said, it is not sanitary to wash soiled cloth diapers in cold water or without detergent. 

Hot water is a must, as it sanitizes both the clothing and the machine. Washing diapers contaminated with feces in cold water could leave bacteria behind. Additionally, detergent is necessary, as it binds to the dirt (source) and grime on the laundry, making it easier to rinse away. 

When washing cloth diapers in a community laundry facility, it’s a common courtesy to rinse the diapers first (source).

Can You Wash Other Clothes in the Same Washing Machine as Cloth Diapers? 

You can wash other clothes in the same washing machine as cloth diapers, even in the same load. However, cloth diapers require hot water and an initial rinse, whereas most garments do not. Also, many fabrics cannot be washed in hot water. As such, most people prefer washing diapers separately. 

It’s not usually sanitary reasons that stop people from washing their clothes in the same load as cloth diapers. Cloth diapers often require a different method of cleaning. 

For example: 

  • Extra rinse cycle: When washing cloth diapers, the extra initial rinse cycle washes away urine from the inner layers of the diaper fabric, making for a deeper clean. 
  • Hot water: Hot water is necessary for washing soiled diapers, as it provides extra sanitation (source). 
  • Gentle detergent: Many parents use only a gentle detergent on their baby’s cloth diapers to protect their sensitive skin. 

Additionally, there are some garments that shouldn’t go in the same load as cloth diapers. 

What Should I Avoid Washing With Cloth Diapers?

While most items of clothing are generally acceptable to wash with cloth diapers, you should wash the following items separately: 

  • Items with zippers or studs: Zippers, studs, and other embellishments can tear the water-resistant lining on cloth diapers.
  • Delicates: Cloth diapers with buttons or hook-and-loop closures could snag on delicate items, causing them to tear. 
  • Heavily soiled clothing: Heavily soiled garments shouldn’t go into the same load as cloth diapers. These clothes usually require stronger detergents and stain removers, which could potentially irritate your baby’s skin. 
  • Towels & sheets: Due to their size, towels and sheets often end up wrapped around cloth diapers, preventing them from coming completely clean. 
  • Deeply dyed garments: Heavily dyed items can transfer color to cloth diapers, especially when washed with hot water. 

Follow your regular cloth diaper routine when washing diapers in a washing machine, even when including other garments. Once the cycle finishes, separate the clothing for drying, or dry them together in a dryer if the tumble drying is safe on the fabric. 

Do You Have To Clean the Washing Machine After Washing Cloth Diapers?

You do not have to clean your washing machine after washing cloth diapers, as long as you clean them properly. Rinse the diapers beforehand and wash them using hot water and a gentle detergent. The washer should come out just as clean as the diapers.

You can, however, clean your washing machine every few cycles, if desired. You can use the built-in cleaning function on the appliance or use the following method: 

  1. Fill the washer drum with hot water. 
  2. Add two cups (500 ml) of white distilled vinegar (affiliate link to Amazon) to the filled drum. 
  3. Let the washer agitate for ten minutes. 
  4. Stop the cycle and allow the washer to soak for 30 minutes to an hour. 
  5. Resume the cycle and allow the washer to finish. 

How To Make Sure Your Washing Machine Stays Intact With Washing Cloth Diapers

To ensure your washing machine stays in good shape and doesn’t accumulate any bacteria when washing cloth diapers, here are some tips that you can take. 

  • Wash cloth diapers regularly. Don’t let them stand in the diaper pail for long periods, or else bacteria will multiply. The longer you wait to wash them, the more likely they are to stain. Additionally, the diapers could develop an ammonia smell that’s difficult to remove. Read this post to learn how often you really need to wash cloth diapers.
  • Rinse away any urine or poop by using a diaper sprayer or by swirling the diapers in a clean toilet before putting them in the washing machine. Breastfed poop doesn’t require rinsing beforehand, as it is water-soluble. These diapers can go directly into the washing machine if you wish. 

Always wash cloth diapers with hot water and detergent, and always run an initial rinse cycle to wash away any urine build-up. 

If you’re still worried about build-up or contamination, feel free to clean the lint filter on your washer four times per year, or once per season. This can keep the washer in optimal working condition. 


Cloth diapers require regular cleaning, and you must clean them properly to prevent bacteria multiplication, foul odors, and stains. Ensure that you rinse them first, wash them on a high heat cycle, and use a detergent. By following the steps in this article, your washing machine and diapers should stay squeaky clean. 


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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