Cloth diapering does not mean washing diapers constantly.
We can’t wash every diaper as soon as it’s dirtied. It makes much more sense for our modern-day lives, and our modern washing machines, to set them aside until you at least have a small load for your washer.
So then, how the heck do you store soiled cloth diapers between washes? There are four steps you’ll need to follow, they are:
Step One: Remove the Waste
You may have heard that when a baby is exclusively breastfed (EBF) their poop is water-soluble, so it can be thrown right into the washer without a second thought. Sounds crazy, I know, but it’s true! It’s nature’s gift to the breastfeeding, cloth diapering mom!
Pro tip: Meconium is also water-soluble, read more about it here.
Sadly, as soon as even a little formula or food is introduced, baby’s waste is no longer water-soluble and all solids—or at least as much as possible—must be removed before washing.
Most of the time, this means removing the waste right after changing the baby, since that’s when it’s the easiest. However, some busy parents do choose to place dirty diapers aside until the end of the day, especially when they have been out of the house with the baby and putting soiled diapers in travel wet bags to bring home (you can read more about wet bags below).
I cover the many ways you can remove the poop from your cloth diapers in this post, and list out many of the accessories that can make it easy, so I won’t cover it again here, but just know it’s not so bad and it’s rare to get poop on you!
Step Two: Ensure Inserts Are Separated
Aside from removing the waste, some diapers need some extra work to make sure all of their parts get clean in the wash.
Specifically, any inserts inside pocket diapers with only one pocket opening, or with inserts that are snapped into the shell need to be removed before washing.
Likewise, All-in-two diapers with inserts that are snapped into the cover must be unsnapped before being washed.
Pocket diapers with two openings and no insert snaps do not need this extra step as the insert can agitate itself out of the diaper thanks to the added opening.
Step Three: Unsnap Wings from the Diaper and Secure any Velcro
Finally, the last thing to do before wash day is to make sure that the wings are not snapped together (as we sometimes do when we’re bringing dirty diapers home and want their mess contained), and that any hook and loop (Velcro) closures are secured so that they don’t catch on all of the rest of the diapers being washed.
Step Four: Throw It into Your Storage Container
With all that done, we’re ready to stash those diapers away in some sort of dirty diaper storage container until wash day.
But what storage container should you use? Let’s figure that out right now by looking more closely at your needs.
What’s the Best Cloth Diaper Storage Bin, Bag, or Container?
You may have a parent, grandparent, or great-auntie who has told you horror stories about needing to soak your diapers in a pail of blue, foul-smelling liquid.
It’s ok. Nobody does that anymore.
Not only is a pail of liquid around climbing babies a bad idea for safety, but cloth diapers today are very different from the cloth diapers of yesterday, as are washing machines. But let’s not dwell on the past, let’s get to your options today, which are:
1) Your Washing Machine.
- High-to-moderate airflow
- No expense
- Max storage time of 3-4 days
If you have a washing machine that’s in a convenient location in your home (like in a bathroom), throwing diapers directly in there as they’re soiled is an option. Just note that, should something happen where you need to wash a load of non-diaper laundry, you’ll either have to wash your diapers first, or find somewhere else to put them temporarily.
If your washer is nice and large, and you leave the lid open, lots of air will be allowed to circulate around the dirty diapers before wash day.
This is very important because airflow helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria and mildew. This means you could go three to four days before washing your diapers, which is the maximum length of time I recommend, again due to the risk of mildew and bacteria growth becoming a problem at that point, even with lots of airflow slowing it down.
This storage option may not always be the most practical, but it certainly is the most cost effective, costing you nothing.
2) A Wet Bag or Hanging Diaper Pail
- Moderate airflow
- Low expense
- Max storage time of 2-4 days
The second most economical choice for dirty cloth diaper storage is a wet bag or a hanging diaper pail.
There is not much difference between a large wet bag and a hanging diaper pail, so don’t get caught up in the label the maker gives it. For my favorite options, and some buying guidelines, click here.
Large wet bags and hanging pails are essentially large water-resistant bags, perfect for storing your soiled diapers in until you’re ready to wash them.
The bags will often have one or two straps or hooks so you can hang them anywhere, making them great space savers and a good option if you have to keep soiled diapers off the floor away from pets or kids.
You may have noticed that I said, “water resistant” and not “waterproof,” that’s because most hanging diaper pails and large wet bags are made from polyester PUL (polyester laminated with polyurethane) material. This material isn’t waterproof, but instead allows for some air flow.
This is super important as that airflow, however slight, can help slow the growth of bacteria and mildew to the point that you can safely store wet, soiled diapers in a bag like this for about two to three days for a zippered bag, or even up to four days for an open bag.
Lastly, you can’t talk about hanging wet bag storage without mentioning that they come in every print imaginable, so they are a dream for any room decor, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Do make sure to note that these will need to be washed with your diapers on wash day, so you’ll want at least two, so you have one to use while the other is being washed and dried.
Pro tip: Travel wet bags are just smaller versions of hanging wet bags. They sometimes have two pockets, one for wet things and one for dry, and often have one small loop, so that you can attach them to strollers, diaper bags, etc.
Just like hanging wet bags, you use travel wet bags by just popping your dirty diapers inside (making sure if it’s a two-pocket bag the pocket you put them in is the waterproof one), and empty the diapers into the washer on laundry day, throwing the bag in too.
The storage length for a travel wet bag is the same as a hanging wet bag as long as it’s not crammed inside of a diaper bag and air can get to it.
3) A Garbage Pail or Laundry Hamper with a Pail Liner
- Moderate-to-high airflow
- Low-to-moderate expense
- Max storage time of 2-4 days
Another method for storing cloth diapers is to use a garbage pail or a laundry hamper. You can use these containers on their own, or with a pail liner to make clean up easier.
A pail liner is essentially a wet bag, but with an elastic band at the top instead of a zipper or closure. That elastic band keeps the liner in place inside a hamper or pail when folded over the side, just like you would fold a garbage bag over the side. Cleaning up can be easier with a pail liner because just like a wet bag or hanging diaper pail, it can be thrown right into the wash, making regular cleaning of the pail or trash can unnecessary.
Depending on what type of garbage pail or laundry hamper you choose — open top vs. step lid, solid plastic vs. one with holes — the air flow can be a little or a lot.
A laundry hamper with holes in it for instance will let air flow freely around the diapers, meaning that four days between washing is just fine. A closed lid garbage pail with a liner however may have limited airflow and washing every two days might be ideal.
Use judgement here to think about how much air your setup is letting in, and go from there.
The more airflow, the longer you can wait before washing, again because airflow helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria and mildew.
Again, make sure to note that pail liners will need to be washed with your diapers on wash day, so you’ll want at least two, so you have one to use while the other is being washed and dried.
4) Airtight Storage Containers Made for Disposables
- Low airflow
- High expense
- Max storage time of about 1-2 days
Another option is an airtight diaper pail that’s made for disposable diapers but can be converted into cloth diaper storage by switching out the plastic bag liners for a reusable liner.
Ubbi and Diaper Dekor with reusable liners are good examples of this. Diaper Genies are another example of this type of pail, but that brand does not sell reusable pail liners, and their pails are so narrow in construction it is hard to put cloth diapers inside it.
If you want to choose an airtight container to completely eliminate the possibility of smells, choose one with a wide body so that reusable pail liners are an option. Reusable bags are really necessary for these pails as cleaning all their parts properly can be challenging. Also always opt for the largest capacity model available, as cloth diapers are much larger than disposables.
And just like wet bags and make sure to note that the liners for these will need to be washed with your diapers on wash day, so you’ll want at least two, so you have one to use while the other is being washed and dried.
Don’t forget to Consider How Many Diapers you Own
In all of the options for dirty cloth diaper storage I outline above, I mention price nad the length of time between washes, but something I left out is how much they can hold.
This is because washing machines, wet bags, pails, and even airtight diaper storage containers come in a ton of different sizes.
After you’ve chosen what type of storage you’re going to go with, don’t forget to factor in how many diapers you’re going to need to store before wash day. This is especially the case with wet bags and open pail / liner combos where you have the ability to go several days between washing because of the high airflow.
It may be that you’ll need two hanging diaper pails, or two pail liners to hold it all before washing, so factor that in.
If baby’s not here yet and you need a little help with how many diapers you can expect to use per day, click here.
When Wash Day Arrives
Now that you’ve picked the perfect dirty cloth diaper storage for your needs, you’ll want to know what to do when wash day arrives.