Can You Clean Cloth Diapers in the Dishwasher?

As parents we’re all looking to make things easier. Come on: tell me you don’t wish that you could snap your fingers and your house would clean itself, dinner would be ready, and you could have five minutes just to pee and maybe pin a bunch of crafts and recipes on Pinterest you say you’re going to make someday.

So imagine how I felt when I had read that there were other parents out there cleaning their cloth diapers in the dishwasher (or on the stove, or in the microwave). Could it be true? Could I skip the trips down into my dingy, dark, cold, spider-ridden basement? Could I get my diaper laundry done in the time it took me to make dinner?

Cloth diapers in dishwasher

Photo Credit: Between the Kids

Just do a quick search on Google and you can verify that I’m not making this up. A lot of moms are taking their kitchen appliances to the next level, stripping cloth diapers in the dishwasher or sanitizing them in the microwave using steam (similar to those bags for cleaning breast pump parts).

And of course there’s the old standby: boiling cloth diapers, which was a lot more prevalent back when cloth diapers were just basic flats that could stand up to rough treatment.

Listen, folks. Putting cloth diapers in the dishwasher is a huge fire hazard – if a fabric piece falls through and lands on the heating element, that spells trouble.

Effect of dishwasher heating element

This spatula fell onto the heating element of a dishwasher. Imagine if that had been a cloth diaper.

And what about boiling? First of all, don’t boil anything with snaps or PUL – you may just cause some melting of parts that are not meant to be melted. And while you can technically boil flats and prefolds without causing harm to the fabric, just think about the last time you tried multi-tasking in your sleep-deprived “mombie” state, got distracted, and completely abandoned whatever you were doing in the first place. Do you really want your sleeping angel woken up from his nap by the blaring beeps of your smoke detector after your prefolds start smoking in a dried-up pot? I didn’t think so.

boiling cloth diapers

Photo Credit: wikiHow

So why are people so obsessed with using kitchen appliances to clean their cloth diapers?

I blame Pinterest, where everyone celebrates life hacks and anything that’s repurposed. Make ice cream in your food processor! Make hash browns in your waffle iron! Toast nuts in your popcorn popper! Bake bread in your crockpot!

But you know what all the above “hacks” have in common? They use things that are meant for food to make other kids of food.

So I beg you, stick to using your washing machine for cloth diapers and leave your kitchen for its original purpose: cooking food.

Make Your Own Diaper Doublers

Few commercial cloth diapers stand on their own through potty training without a booster of some sort. Out of the box, some diapers don’t even include any sort of absorbency – pockets and covers often come with nothing. All-in-ones are well known for babies outgrowing their absorbency long before their size. Even if they make it through the day, overnight has been the downfall of many a diaper. I know too many parents that use disposables at night so they don’t have to deal with a soaking wet toddler at 2 AM.

I got into cloth diapering because I’m cheap and my son has sensitive skin. However, I had sticker shock before I even saw my first pair of Crankypants being auctioned off for triple digits on hyenacart.

how-much-for-one-cloth-diaper

Decent hemp inserts are expensive and you might find yourself in need of a lot of them to cloth diaper while only washing every 2-3 days. I ordered a few and found them to be nothing fancier than a few layers of fabric with some nice stitching around the sides. My inner cheapskate started plotting.

I found a place to buy hemp and bamboo fleece by the yard online, purchased a couple of yards of each, chopped it into pieces and had a friend with a machine help me sew it, and viola – I had my own cheap stash of inserts. In the end, I used them heavily with gDiaper covers and to boost my bumGenius Elemental organics for a couple of years and then gave them away to a friend that wanted to cloth diaper, along with most of my diapers.

Which bring us here, now. Cheap inserts are getting more prevalent, layering microfiber with hemp or bamboo fleece, but I was never a fan of microfiber and I’m not sold on the odd charcoal bamboo fleece coming from overseas. I also have my own sewing machine now, so I have no excuses.

I work in IT, and we have a saying – “Cheap, fast, and right. Pick two.” Sewing your own cloth diaper inserts follows the same principles. This method will give you cheap inserts, as fast as they can be sewn, but they will not be neat and tidy and serged like purchased inserts. Does it make them any less absorbent? Hell no! Will your kid know the difference? Absolutely not. Will you earn extra crunchy points for having made your own inserts? Of course!

How to make your own diaper doublers

How to Make Your Own Diaper Doublers

So what do you need?

  1. A sewing machine that can sew a zig zag stitch and basic sewing machine knowledge.
  2. A ruler. The longer the better.
  3. Sharp scissors.
  4. A marker of some sort (such as a disappearing ink pen).
  5. Thread. Lots of thread! Have at least 250-500 yards on hand. If you hate stopping to wind bobbins, pre-wind a bunch in advance if you can.
  6. Your fabric of choice. (I ordered two yards of hemp/bamboo fleece online – 40% hemp, 30% bamboo, 30% organic cotton. It’s a good mix. Bamboo fleece isn’t quite as absorbent as hemp, but it’s softer, so a mix of the two should make for comfortable inserts without compromising much on the absorbency.)

My setup is a tad more elaborate – I’ve got a giant cutting mat, a wide clear plastic ruler to use with it and my rotary cutter. It’s a lot easier to cut straight lines with a rotary cutter, large mat, and ruler, so if you’ve got one you use for quilting or other projects, by all means, bust that bad boy out.

To start I pre-washed my fleece with hot water and dried it on high. That’ll take care of the initial bout of shrinkage, though they will continue to shrink slightly for a few washes afterwards. You want to prewash – if you don’t, that shrinkage will happen to your freshly sewn inserts, which depending on how accurate your cutting job was, may cause your inserts to twist or bunch or do any number of unsightly things. A little shrinkage won’t be too bad, but a lot (especially if your lines aren’t very straight) can be pretty awful.

Lay out your fabric on your cutting surface, taking care to shake it out good, fluff it, and pat it down gently. I folded mine in half so it’d all fit on my table at once. Depending on the size of your fabric cut, you may or may not need to do this. Folding your fabric does have advantages – you’ll make fewer cuts, and it’s overall easier to work with the fabric when it’s not stretching beyond the edges of your work space. But the more layers there are, the harder it is to cut.

Knit is an evil mistress. Don’t tug it in different directions to get it to lay evenly. Any stretch you put into the fabric will bounce back once it’s washed and dried, so try to keep it as flat and straight as possible. Look closely at the flat knit side. The rows and columns of knit can be used as a guide to try to keep your edges straight. The inserts won’t be perfect regardless of what you do, but the less fidgeting you do with the fabric the more likely the inserts will lay flat after washing.

It's easy to make your own diaper doublers! Start by cutting them carefully.

Measure the fabric. Most inserts are sized between 4-5” wide and 10-14” long. When you’re making your own diaper doublers, you have two options for sizing:

  1. If you already have inserts you like the size of, you can measure those and use them as a model.
  2. Measure your fabric and figure out how wide to make each insert to maximize the amount of inserts you make.

I went with option #2 to maximize the number of inserts I could make, so mine were about 4″ wide. Folded in half, my fabric was 29” long, so I really had about 58”.

(Remember when I said I bought two yards of fabric? Yes, it shrank a lot. This is why you pre-washed your fabric, right? Right? Go ahead and do it – I’ll wait.)

I made marks at 11.5” and 23” down on each side of my fabric — remember, the bottom part is folded in half. That should put my inserts all between 11 and 12 inches long, which will fit flat in any diaper I have without requiring folding.

You can either trim off the funky cut edge now, or do it later once you’ve matched all your insert layers. It’s your call.

Now, line up your ruler, mark, and cut.

Sewing your own diaper doublers is easy! Here we stack them before stitching.

Once all your cuts are made it’s time to start stacking. Despite your best efforts, the pieces are likely to all be slightly different size. Just roll with it. Find three pieces that are as close to the same size as possible and stack them together. Fuzzy or smooth side out? I prefer smooth knit side out over fleece side out because it sheds less in the dryer and looks tidier over time.

Once the fleece is all stacked up, clip or pin the layers together. Remember what I said about knit being an evil mistress? Because of how it stretches, sewing several layers together will result in all sorts of tears and frustration if they’re not fastened. Even better, if you have a walking foot, put it on your machine, it’ll help minimize the stretching.

Thread your machine (I prefer polyester thread, which won’t shrink in the wash) and set your stitch to zig zag. Knit does not unravel the way woven fabric does, so it’s not necessary to encase the ends of the fabric completely as the inserts are sewn. You *can* but it’s not necessary. So why sew it at all? Sewing the edges keeps the fabric from rolling and makes everything lie much flatter. Set your zig zag wide, but the stitches don’t need to be too close together. (Initially I had mine set to 1.2mm long and 6mm wide, and adjusted it to 1.4mm long after a few inserts because the stitches just didn’t need to be that close.)

Sewing your own cloth diaper doublers is easy and cheap!

Lay the unsewn insert down and start sewing. You may need to fiddle the fabric right or left a bit to get the edges sewn exactly the way you want. Resist the temptation to pull the fabric towards you as you sew. Pulling will distort the edge and make the fabric ruffle a lot worse, which will keep it from laying flat. It will wave a bit as you sew it; this is normal and will mostly shrink back out after the inserts are washed and dried again. Because your inserts aren’t cut perfectly, you may have to lift and lower your foot and adjust the fabric as you sew to make sure everything stays flat and the top layer isn’t getting curled under the stitching. You may have to adjust your thread tension as well.

As you get to the end of the first insert you’ll notice the top layer is probably starting to stretch past the bottom layers, making it stick out. As I mentioned, this happens… the walking foot will help prevent it some but only time and practice will work to really minimize it. It won’t affect the performance of the insert at all, the edges just won’t lie perfectly flat. When you’ve reached the end of the insert, lift your foot and needle, turn the fabric 90 degrees, put the foot back down, and keep sewing. Do this all the way around, backstitch at the end, cut your threads and bam – you’ve sewn your first diaper insert!

Finished diaper doubler - making your own is easy!

Okay, it’s not pretty. Probably way not pretty, but your kid’s rear end won’t know the difference. After a few, it’ll get easier. You’ll get a better feel for it, you’ll relax and tug at the fabric less, and overall things will look nicer.

Once all the inserts are sewn, trim the loose threads off and throw them in the washer on hot. Then do the math. In my case, two yards of fabric cost about $30, the thread was maybe about $5, and I made about 24 inserts. That’s about $1.50 an insert for hemp/bamboo fleece inserts, plus my time which would have otherwise been spent sitting on the couch watching my ankles swell.

Using hemp or bamboo fleece isn’t even a requirement – you don’t have to buy fabric to make inserts! You can cut up old receiving blankets, cotton towels, microfiber, whatever you want to make inserts with. The same basic principles (measure, cut, stack, and sew) still apply. As long as you can cut a straight line and sew a zig zag, you’re gold.

Easy instructions on how to make your own diaper doublers via Diaper Wrecker

Diaper Wrecker is Hiring!

I’ve got good news and bad news for you. The good news is that I’ve recently started working again and I’m really excited about it! The bad news is that I won’t have as much time for blogging as I’d like.

I’m looking for a few talented writers to become regular contributors to this blog. My requirements are that you must be knowledgeable about cloth diapers and have a fun personality that comes across through your writing. If you’re interested, use the form below to apply!

Bummis Duo-Brite All-In-Two Review

All-in-twos (AI2s) are my personal favorite type of cloth diaper. Two-piece systems are less expensive overall, create lighter loads of laundry, and are easier to keep clean since you can strip the inserts separately from the covers if need be. (Inserts can take a beating more easily than covers can.)

The Bummis Duo Brite debuted last spring, and I’ve been using it on my little one since the summer. We’ve moved from the size 1 into the size 2, and it’s a diaper I highly recommend.

Bummis Duo Brite review

What I Love About the Bummis Duo-Brite AI2

Double Leg Gussets: An extra leg gusset can help seal the cover securely around those adorable baby thighs without squeezing too tight. I hate seeing red marks on my little one’s legs, and that doesn’t happen with the Duo-Brite.

Double Row of Waist Snaps: It’s my strong preference to have two rows of snaps at the waist to prevent sagging and shifting.

Two Sizes: Although other brands are consolidating their multiple-size systems into one size, the two-size system is more realistic if you want to cloth diaper from birth to potty training. Whereas “one-size” diapers typically suggest a weight range of 8 to 35 lbs, I’ve found this to be a stretch on both ends of the spectrum. Bummis suggests a weight range of 8 to 20 lbs for size 1 and 20-35 lbs for size 2, and this is actually accurate.

Bummis Duo Brite in size 1 and size 2

What I Would Change

The only thing I don’t loooooooove about the Bummis Duo-Brite AI2 system is the way the insert snaps in. The insert itself is pretty cool – organic cotton on one side or stay-dry polyester on the other, so you can choose which material you want touching baby’s skin. The insert snaps into the front flap of the cover. The problem with this design is that half the insert is tucked under the flap of the cover when snapped into place. For little boys, this may result in wetness seeping through the top portion of the insert and then soaking the material on the inside part of the cover. For girls, it probably isn’t be an issue.

How to use a Bummis Duo Brite insert

Finally, the price point of this AI2 is a bit higher than others, so if you love them as much as I do, you’re probably wishing they were a tad less expensive. The US MSRP on the Bummis Duo Brite Deluxe Pack is $56.95 – which includes one cover and three inserts. This averages out to about $19 per change, which of course is right in line with most pocket diapers and AIOs, but still quite a bit higher than other AI2s. (But never fear – just check my weekly sale list of cloth diaper sales and you might snag a deal… at the time of this writing they are 15% off at Mom’s Milk Boutique!)


Have you tried the Bummis Duo-Brite AI2? How does it work for you? 

TIL: There Is a Thing Called “Pringles Man Bum Placement”

Ok, y’all.

The “bum placement” obsession has always made me laugh, but this takes it to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL.

Today I learned that people are calling this the “Pringles Man Bum Placement” on a bumGenius Martin diaper….

"Pringles Man Bum Placement"... lol

…and referencing it as such in eBay auctions. Does a vague resemblance to a character on a can of stacking chips actually increase the market value of a cloth diaper? Apparently so.

Pringles-man-bum-placement-bumGenius


If you absolutely must get yourself a Pringles man bum placement Martin diaper, check out these stores. At the time I posted this, they still had Martins in stock: