I recently purchased a new washing machine, and I love it so far! It is a GE top loader HE with an agitator. Here I will share my cloth diaper wash routine I use with great success in my new washer. If you are looking for washing tips for an HE top loader, I hope this post helps.
There are no “one size fit all” cloth diaper wash routines. There are many groups on Facebook dedicated to helping people get a good wash routine, and while they can be super helpful, much of the time they apply blanket rules and guidelines. Then they say that anyone who doesn’t follow their rules WILL have problems.
However, there are tons of people who wash their cloth diapers every day without the help of any Facebook groups.
So just keep that in mind as you read about wash routines and try to decide what it is you want to do for your own cloth diaper wash routine. It’s great to get knowledge and find a framework to follow, but everyone’s washing situation is different.
Different washing machines operate differently. Different water reacts with detergent differently, and different detergents work better or worse in different types of water. There are a lot of variables, so you will probably find yourself doing some trial and error and that is perfectly fine. You don’t have to have everything figured out exactly on day 1 of using your diapers.
If you are a very type-A person like me, that may be hard to accept. 🙂 But it won’t be long until you’ve figured out exactly what works for your situation.
All that said, here is what I’m finding works really well for me with my HE top loader with agitator.
Wash Routine Video
Here is a video where I describe my wash routine and show which options I use on the control panel. If you can’t watch, look below for my routine in writing.
Don’t have a HE top loader? Check out these articles instead:
- Front Loader Washing Tips For Cloth Diapers- Get Them Clean!
- Cloth Diaper Washing Instructions -A How-To Video for Old-School Agitator Washers
1. Fill Washer Half Full
Even though my machine has an agitator, the agitator does not operate exactly as “old school” agitators do. While I didn’t have to pay a ton of attention to load size in my old non-HE top loader, you do need to make sure you have a good load size in a HE machine.
For a top loader, you usually need to aim between 1/2 full to 2/3 full. My machine has a fairly large capacity (4.8 cu ft) so getting it full enough can be hard with only diapers on their own. I add a bunch of dish rags, hand towels, and kids’ clothes to get the load to at least 1/2 full or a bit more.
Update April 2020: I have been doing some experimenting with the machine, and the way it works with setting the water levels is it goes by weight. It is pretty generous with the water level, and for my first wash on “whites”, it fills to the perfect water level. I noticed that for the second wash, it tends to go a little heavy on the water since the clothes are heavier when they’re wet. To fix this issue, I stopped bulking my first load and now only bulk my second load. This will be contrary to some advice you may find in certain wash group communities online that say bulking is important for both washes. You need to do what is best for your machine.
So to clarify, my first wash is diapers only and I don’t worry a ton about how full the machine is. I wash with either the “whites” or “athletic wear” cycle. The second wash I bulk to between 1/2-2/3 full and use either whites or deep clean.
2. Add Detergent
Add detergent to the detergent tray or directly to your drum (depends on your machine). For the first wash, I use 1/2 of line 1 of powder detergent. You may need more or less depending on several factors. Most people use line 1, but I have very soft water. Line 1 is an average starting point.
3. Set Pre-Wash Controls
The purpose of your first wash cycle (often called the “pre-wash” in the cloth diapering world) is to get the bulk of poop & pee out of your diapers so that they can get truly clean in the second wash.
Many people are annoyed by the idea of washing diapers twice. Some people don’t wash their diapers twice. I didn’t always do it. With my first child, I just did a rinse cycle with no detergent before running my main wash. With my second child, a rinse without detergent didn’t seem to be cutting it anymore.
However, with HE machines, I would always err on the side of doing a full wash as your pre-wash. HE machines are less aggressive in their agitation and use less water than a non-HE machine. I would feel more comfortable taking the risk of using no detergent in an old school machine than I would in a HE.
That said, here are the control settings I use:
1st Wash (aka pre-wash):
- Cycle: Whites or athletic wear
- Temp: Warm
- Soil: Heavy
4. Fluff Diapers & Add Main Wash Detergent
After the pre-wash, fluff up the diapers and add clothes or other things to the drum to bulk the load. This will help them agitate better in the second wash.
I usually use line 1-1.5 of my powdered detergent for the main wash. Add it to your detergent tray or directly to the drum per your machine’s instructions.
(Note: I do have very soft water- 0 ppm- which is notorious for making detergent hard to rinse out, but I find that this washer uses much more water than most HEs, which means I haven’t had significant issues with build-up. I think it’s important to choose a detergent amount that is relative to your unique situation–not all washers use the same amount of water, so having a blanket “use X amount of detergent” isn’t always helpful because some washers will struggle to rinse that amount out completely in soft water due to a lack of water usage and maybe some other factors, while in other machines/water hardness, the detergent would be too diluted in that water level and things don’t get as clean. You will need to experiment, learn, and tweak things relative to your exact machine).
5. Run Main Wash
My main wash is very similar to my prewash, but I just make a couple of changes.
- Cycle: Whites or Deep Clean
- Temp: Hot
- Soil: Extra Heavy
- Deep Rinse: On
- Optional: Extra Rinse (I do this with my super soft water–not necessary for everyone).
During your main wash, you can experiment with some “boosters” if you want. One common booster people add is Oxi Clean to help with staining. Boosters aren’t necessary, and it’s up to you if you want to try them out of not.
6. Dry Your Diapers
You can throw your diapers in the dryer on low or medium heat. You can also line dry your diapers. I like using the dryer because they get softer.
Nothing Better than Clean Diapers!
A fresh load of clean diapers is my favorite kind of laundry. I hope this guide helped you with a cloth diaper wash routine for your HE top loader.
Any questions or other top-loading washer tips? Let me know in the comments!