Ask N&G: I have a HE Washer. Will this work with Cloth Diapers?

hewashingmachineIn the grand discussion of concern for the environment, cloth diapers and high-efficiency washers are two topics that come up often. Yet many wonder if these two – while each a great action to save the environment on its own – are mutually exclusive. Since HE washers run their cycles with very little water, is it possible to use cloth diapers and actually get them clean?

Cloth diapering is certainly do-able with an HE washer – you just need a little creativity. Ironically, washing cloth diapers in an HE washer doesn’t run the washer at its most efficient.

The key to getting your diapers clean, regardless of the type of washer, is water, water, water. Water is the only way to rid them of urine, residues, and odors. Thus, with an HE washer, you want to make sure there’s enough water in the wash cycle to ensure the diapers aren’t just flopping around!

For example, if you look into your wash window when you’re washing a load of clothes, you’ll likely see a couple of inches of water at the bottom of the wash tub. However, if you look in while you’re washing diapers, there’s typically no or very little extra water to see. This is because your lovely diapers are so absorbent that they soak up all the wash water provided. Thus, you need to figure out how to get extra water in the tub. There are a few ways to do this:

Use a no-spin pre-rinse. If your machine can do a rinse cycle without draining out the water at the end, run that cycle right before the wash cycle.

Know how to “trick” your machine. You can also trick your machine into thinking there’s more to wash than there actually is. Add in a pair of jeans or a towel to the wash cycle to get more water added to the cycle – jeans work especially well since they don’t absorb as much as a towel does.

Run multiple cycles. We find that it often works best to run two cold rinse cycles, one extra-long hot wash with Country Save or Rockin’ Green detergent, then two final cold rinse cycles. The first pre-rinse gets rid of urine and gunk, the second pre-rinse preps the diapers for the wash, the wash gets the diapers clean, then the two final rinses ensures there is no detergent or other build-up left on the diapers to keep them as absorbent as possible.

Use diapers that fit your wash routine. Traditional pockets and all-in-ones are the most difficult to keep clean in an HE washer. Pockets like FuzziBunz can be problematic because they’re so light they trigger very little water into the drum. Traditional AIO’s like the Blueberry One-Size Simplex Cloth Diaper are difficult because they require lots of agitation to get sufficient water through them to actually get them spankin’ clean. Diapers that work especially WELL in an HE washer are Tots Bots Easy Fit All in One Cloth Diaper, Thirsites hemp and Bummi’s organic cotton prefolds, as well as many of the newer AIO’s.

Wash often. Most people who use HE washers report that their diapers get the cleanest when they run small loads and wash every day or two. However, in the effort to keep things as efficient as possible, we still recommend washing every two to three days if you can. That way you don’t have to run your machine as often and you don’t have to keep as many diapers on hand.

As you can see, creativity is the name of the game to being successful with an high-efficiency washer – and you cloth diapering mamas are some of the most resourceful, creative people we know! Our hats are off to you!

2 comments on “Ask N&G: I have a HE Washer. Will this work with Cloth Diapers?

  1. Another trick is to wait until the water has finished filling in the machine, then stop the cycle and add more. I add a gallon extra with both the cold and hot washes I do and never have a problem.

  2. Also, make sure you have the right detergent and in the right amount. You should actually use LESS detergent than you would normally use and no fabric softeners either.

    Also, there are detergents made specifically for cloth diapers. Rockin Green comes to mind first.

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