Troubleshooting, Washing Issues

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

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A few months ago, my family and I moved to a new house. Our new house has a front-loading HE washer, which is much different from the regular top-loader with agitator I had at my old house. It made diaper laundry challenging at first, but I’ve finally perfected my routine. Here are some front loader washing tips for cloth diapers that can hopefully help you find success.

Challenges With A Front Loader


When I used a regular (non-HE) top-loading washing machine, I rarely ever had issues washing my diapers. The top loader allows you to select whatever water level you want, and the agitator helps give the diapers a good scrub. It was pretty straight forward.

My front loader required me to consider things I didn’t worry about before, such as load size. The sensors in the front loader don’t allow me to change the water level–I even tried putting a bucket full of water in the drum of my washer before I loaded it to see what would happen, but the first thing my washer did when I started it was drain it all out!

I looked up the suggested routine for my washing machine on Fluff Love University’s Washing Machine Index, but it did not appear to be working. After a couple of weeks of washing in the front loader, I noticed my diapers had a terrible barnyard stench (if that happens to you, check out this post to see how to solve it!)

It was a disaster. I had to deep clean them all, and then start over with building a wash routine (if you need guidance setting up a wash routine, sign up for my newsletter to receive a free wash routine PDF guide!)

My HE routine in my guide is merely a starting point. I also realized that your washer settings play a huge role, as does the capacity of the washing machine.

Below are my biggest tips for washing with a front loader. At the end of this article, I will share my final wash routine for my Kenmore HE2Plus Front Loading Washing Machine.

Tip #1: Pre-Wash

A pre-rinse or pre-wash is important for all wash routines, but it is critical for a front loader HE machine. Much less water is used while washing, and we must change out the water to new, clean water for the main wash. That is the purpose of this pre-wash.

Use a little detergent (I use line 1 Tide Original Powder) and choose a quick or express wash setting. It’s okay for the pre-wash to be short, we are just trying to get the bulk of the soil out before the deep cleaning main wash.

Tip #2: You NEED A Full Load


Most cloth diaper experts recommend load sizes between 2/3 and 3/4 full for an HE washer. THIS IS ESSENTIAL. It truly does matter, and you likely have to be WAY more precise than you realize. I’ve heard of people using a measuring stick before to gauge…it seems over the top, but adjusting my load size made the biggest difference for me.

I thought I was hitting between 2/3 and 3/4 full…at least it looked good enough to me! But there is no “good enough” with this. Time to be very type A. 😉

With a front loader, especially if it’s one like mine (Kenmore HE2Plus), I recommend 3/4 full, possibly even a little more than that.

My washing machine has an XL capacity, so this has posed some issues because I need to find SO MANY THINGS to add to the wash. I have no choice but to go a week between loads of diaper laundry now, or I don’t have enough diapers. Then I find myself STILL having to bulk the washer with kid clothes after that.

Your load size is very important. If you only have a few days worth of diapers, it might be worth looking into getting some more. If you can’t afford more, that’s okay–you can bulk your load with other things, like kids clothes, hand towels, dish rags, etc. Just make sure the things you’re bulking with aren’t so large that they wrap up diapers and keep them from getting clean (bath towels, sheets, etc).

Tip #3: Consider A Mainstream Detergent


I do think it may be possible to use a plant-based detergent in a front loader and get decent results, but it is more difficult. I only say it is possible because I’m sure some have found a way to do it. I have not found a way that works that well, yet.

I also think you will be extremely limited as to which plant-based detergents will work. While I have used plant-based detergents with success with the past, it was also with a top-loading non-HE washer with an agitator. Certain plant-based detergents (like Biokleen) may not work as well in a front-loading washer. Most plant-based detergents will require you use more detergent to get things adequately clean, and there isn’t enough water used in a front loader to match the amount of detergent you need.

I have not found the plant-based detergents strong enough for my current washer. My water is plenty soft (which is recommended with plant-based detergents), but it still leads to barnyard stink after only a few washes.

Maybe I’ll try again someday, but for now, I’m sticking to Tide. I believe other mainstream detergents would give similar results, too.

Wash Routine for my Kenmore HE2Plus High Capacity Washer


This wash routine may be successful for other front loaders with a high-capacity, too.

  1. Load all dirty diapers into the drum of the washer. Make sure you clean off any solid poop (if not breastfed). Unstuff any inserts.
  2. Add detergent. I use up to Line 1 of Tide Original Powder.
  3. Select the Quick Wash option. Make sure the 2nd Rinse button is not turned on. I use the Warm/Cold temperature selection.
  4. Press start and let the washer run.
  5. When the load is finished, fluff the diapers & add more small pieces of laundry until your drum is at least 75% full. I often aim for a little more full than that.
  6. Add detergent–I use between lines 2-3 of Tide, probably closer to the 3 but not more than that!
  7. Press the Whitest Whites option, but turn off the 2nd rinse (I believe this makes it essentially the same as the Heavy Duty option, which you could also try). But I’m at the point where I don’t want to mess with what is working! I wash on warm/cold.
  8. Press Start and let the load run.

What are your tips and tricks for washing with a front loader? Let me know in the comments!


Holly Lee

I'm Holly and I'm the mom of two awesome young boys. We have been cloth diapering for 5 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 if you have any questions or concerns. I'd love to help!

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