Diaper Accessories, Washing Issues

Best Washing Machine for Cloth Diapers

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Sometimes people wonder if they have the right kind of set up for washing cloth diapers. The truth is that almost any washing machine can be used to wash diapers! The best washing machine for cloth diapers is relative to your own situation, and what is more important than the type of machine you have is your wash routine. However, there are some types of machines that are more straight-forward than others for diaper washing. Regardless of your machine, you can find a way to tweak your wash routine to get your diapers adequately clean.

If you want a specific recommendation on the machine I would recommend, check out this post: GE Top Load Washer Review. For more general information on choosing a model for yourself, keep reading.

Traditional Top Loader

top-loader-washerThe traditional top loader (non-HE) with an agitator is thought to be one of the easiest to use to get diapers squeaky clean. Being that it’s not a HE machine, you can set your own water level to make sure it has the right water to diaper ratio.

One analogy for making sure you have the right amount of water is to think of it in terms of soup, stew, and chili: think about one of your favorite soups and the ratio of broth to other ingredients–it has quite a bit of liquid, doesn’t it? Diaper soup would be far too much liquid.

Next, think about chili– while chili varies on the recipe, it tends to be pretty thick and not a lot of extra liquid. Diaper chili would not have enough water.

Finally, we have stew–most stew has many ingredients with broth, but definitely less broth than soup. That is what we want to aim for–diaper stew!

It is sometimes easier to get the correct ratio with a traditional top loader. Another perk to the traditional top loader is that you do not have to touch the diapers to get them in the washer like you might have to with a front loader. Grabbing soiled diapers isn’t always fun. 🙂

Agitation is the most important factor in getting diapers clean. Having an agitator is helpful for this, though some believe it can be hard on diapers over time. However, I’ve washed diapers in a machine with an agitator for 5 years without any problems.

I loved my old Whirlpool top loader when I lived at my old house. It’s never had a single issue getting my diapers clean ever! I now have an old HE front loader at my new house. See my new routine here.

HE Machine (top or front loader)

Despite what some people may think, you can successfully cloth diaper with a HE machine. It just might require some (potentially significant) changes in the wash routine.

First of all, the point of a HE machine is to save water and energy. Saving water is great, but it’s extremely important that you have the correct water to diaper ratio. It’s quite likely your HE machine is going to want to use less water than what your diapers really need–diapers are not the type of laundry in which you can be stingy with water!

There is also a potential issue with the “saving energy” piece–the water temperature may not get as hot as many people would like to wash diapers. However, I wouldn’t dwell on your water temperature too much–many people have had successful wash routines at various temperatures of water. Hot certainly does a better job activating most detergents, though!

Every HE machine is different, and it may require some trial and error to find your perfect routine. However, you WILL figure it out–there is definitely a solution out there for your particular machine! Here are some tips that may apply to your specific machine to consider:

  • Agitation is THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT of successfully washing cloth diapers, and this becomes even more important in HE machines. Proper load bulking will give you the best possible agitation. (Optimal bulking level varies between machines: could be anywhere between 1/2 full to 3/4 full, with 2/3 often being the most common. You’ll need to experiment). You can either buy enough diapers that you have enough for a full load, or you will need to add other small to medium-sized laundry items to your diaper laundry to get a good level.
  • Most HE machines have sensors that determine the water level. It might be wise to play around with different cycle settings to see what gives optimal water and agitation. Check your manual to see the differences between different cycle options.
  • I’ve even heard of someone attaching a little hose to the faucet in the laundry room sink and using the hose to add more water after it has filled up. If it is a front loader, that can be tricky, but you might be able to do it through the detergent area (try at your own risk! I have never done this and instead chose to experiment with cycle settings. I do know some people successfully do).

High Capacity or Extra Large Machines

Extra-large washing machines may also pose an issue for getting the right amount of water. These machines may use too much water or have large drums that mess with proper agitation. Too much water won’t allow your diapers to agitate properly. These machines may have a wide array of options, maybe HE or not, etc. so I won’t go into them too in-depth, but here are some things to consider with high capacity machines to help you tweak your routine:

  • Do larger loads of diapers–maybe every 5-6 day washing instead of 2-3 days.
  • Throw in hand or dishtowels with your load of diapers.
  • Read your manual to see if they have cycle recommendations for soiled laundry items.

Portable Washing Machine

If you live somewhere you don’t have access to a washer and dryer and rely on a laundromat, a portable washing machine may be something you want to consider. Some people also consider one of these because they get so turned off by the thought of diapers being washed in the same machine that washes their clothes that they decide to buy a separate washing machine.

There are several portable washing machines available on the market and they range from being manually powered to using electricity. Their prices range from anywhere between $50 and $300.

Portable washers are an awesome solution for those living in rentals or without their own washing machine. If it’s a path you need to go, you can certainly clean your diapers this way. However, you can usually only wash a very small load (5 to 10 diapers) at a time and it may not be the easiest way to wash them.

This Kuppet Portable Washer is a very popular option for cloth diaper families that go the portable washer route. What is nice about this one is it has a spin dryer to help wring the diapers out well before you dry them. Click here to see it on Amazon.

The Best Washing Machine for Cloth Diapers

best-washing-machine-for-cloth-diapersAs you can see, a traditional top loader tends to be the easiest and most convenient way to wash cloth diapers. But more important than your type of machine is your wash routine.

You can get your diapers adequately clean with any washing machine, you will just need to find the best wash routine for you. There is no need to purchase a brand new washing machine for cloth diapers, that is unless you do not have a washing machine already and would like one. I am fully confident that you will make your current washing machine work well for your diapers!

Here are some posts that can help you find the best wash routine for you:

Cloth Diaper Washing Instructions -A How-To Video

Cloth Diaper Wash Routine – HE Top Loader

Front Loader Washing Tips For Cloth Diapers- Get Them Clean!

Cleaning Cloth Diapers at Home Part 2 – Washing Instructions

Are you washing diapers already or still in the planning stage? If you are doing diaper laundry, what type of machine do you have and what’s your washing routine? How does it work? Let me know in the comments!

best washer for cloth diapers

Holly Lee

I'm Holly and I'm the mom of two awesome young boys with a girl due summer 2020. We have been cloth diapering for 6 years. My family and I live in Minnesota with our dog, Ruby, and cat, Gherkin. Outside of Rocking the Cloth, I am also a middle school teacher. Thank you for visiting Rocking the Cloth--feel free to email me at holly@rockingthecloth.com if you have any questions or concerns. I'd love to help!

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8 Comments

  1. Rachel says:

    A top loader wash machine can also be used to soak the diapers if they need to be slightly bleached or needs a good cleaning! Front loaders don’t have that ability to soak any clothes which can be a pain. If you are short then a front loader might be easier for you get to clothes out though. Haha. Do you know which would be the most inexpensive for a younger couple that can’t afford a great washer machine but still needs to clean diapers?

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Great point about soaking the clothes! Definitely something I take for granted with my top loader! As for an inexpensive washer, if it were me, I would just get a very standard plain-Jane top loader from Home Depot/Best Buy/Sears, whereever. You can get a decent one for $300-400, which isn’t chump change but can usually be saved up for within a few months even on the strictest of budgets. My washer is a pretty standard one and is probably 20+ years old and still going strong!

  2. Glenys says:

    Thank you for this great review about the best washing machine for cloth diapers.  When both my kids were small, I invested in cloth nappies for them. I really liked the environmental aspect of it.  I brought a full “set” over 500 worth in one go.  Unfortunately I also went back to work and I just got so, so, so tired that I revered back to disposable ones due to fatigue.

    I am glad that you spoke about the amount of water that you need to properly clean the diapers. That is very important. We have a “super environmental” washing machine and as you correctly pointed out low water levels has a negative impact on your clean diaper – like you said “now is not the time to be stingy with water!”.

    I was just wondering if you recommended a pre-soak chemical at all and where I could buy it?

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Hi Glenys! I totally get it—sometimes our plate gets too full and we need to find convenience where we can. As for a pre-soak chemical, there are some special things made by cloth diaper manufacturers, but you can also use a small amount (1/4 cup) of bleach if you feel you need it. Some of the gentler odor aids might be like Allen’s Naturally Stink Out or Biokleen Bac Out (both found on amazon). I don’t usually do a presoak, but rather I do a light wash with a little detergent before doing my full wash.

  3. Evette says:

    I love your soup analogy. It was cute and gets the point across. I personally like top load washing machines. I feel like the agitator does a better job washing and its easier to set the water level. Thanks for clarifying that cloth diapers really need the extra water when washing no matter which machine is used. I never thought about the importance of water level when washing.

    I live in an apartment so access to the washing machine isn’t always convenient and I would be afraid to use a portable washing machine for fear of some kind of leak damaging the apartment. 

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Yes, cloth diapering is much easier when you have direct access to a washer and dryer, no doubt! There are some portable washer units meant to be used in the bathtub if you’re ever interested in looking into it more–that might help ease your fear of a leak.

  4. Garen says:

    I have to mention that in the past years I used to buy disposable diapers.  But, I quickly realized that it can get super costly, quick.  And I mean real quick!

    So, I started washing them in my Whirlpool washer.  What is sad is it completely destroyed them.  After 1-2 washes the diapers would come apart. 

    Personally, I do like top loaders better, though.  I never really considered getting a top loader verses a front loader.  

    But then again I never knew a portable watering machine was even available.  However, what brands of portable washing machines do you recommend, though?  There are so many to choose from!

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Hi Garen! Yeah, I would never recommend you wash a disposable. That is a mess waiting to happen and they’re just not meant for that. 🙂

      I’ve never personally used a portable washer because I’ve never really had a need to, but if I were to purchase one I would get an electric one so I wouldn’t have to hand crank. There are several with good reviews on Amazon. I will have to do more research sometime to determine the best option.

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