How to Wash Cloth Diapers Using Charlie’s Soap

When considering cloth diapers, the big question in people’s minds is: What about all that poopy diaper laundry??  They worry about the time, the extra expense of water and laundry detergent, and the general ick factor they associate with diaper laundry.  My husband worries about the diaper pail smell and tries to convince me that I should launder every day instead of every other day as is my plan- haha!  I’m thinking every other day will be ambitious enough, especially with a newborn baby.  Before I digress, however, let me tell you about my plan for cleaning diapers.  This is based on what I have read from multiple sources and the advice given by other moms before me.  I’m sure it’s not perfect and that I’ll have to make adjustments, but you’ll get to discover along with me whether or not it works out!  I’ve tried to make my explanations as simple and easy-to-follow as possible so that if my plan works flawlessly you could totally copy what I’ve done 🙂

Ok, from the beginning.  I’ve already talked about the kind of cloth diapers I’m using.  I plan  to fold a prefold in thirds (no snappis or pins), set that inside a diaper cover, and put the whole thing on.  That’s it.  Pretty straightforward.  When the diaper needs changing, I’ll throw the prefold into a wet bag-lined, lidded trash can and there it will stay until I do diaper laundry later that day or the next.  I will use the dry pail method, which basically means that I won’t fill the diaper pail with water. (The image of lifting, carrying, and pouring “diaper soup” into the washer was enough to convince me that dry pail is where it’s at.  Also, I’ve seen it recommended over wet pail numerous times.)  Now, we plan to get one of those diaper sprayers that attaches to your toilet and we could rinse the poopies off each time if we choose, but I have heard from many moms that breastfed poos really don’t stink so badly and don’t require rinsing at all.  We’ll see.  If that’s true, we probably won’t have to rinse poopies until Baby is eating some solids (at 6+ months).  If the diaper cover is clean, I’ll simply reuse it.  If it’s dirty, I could wipe in clean, let it dry, and then reuse it, or I could toss it in the pail and wash it with the rest of the diapers.

I just got my kangaroo print pail liner today and I’m in love with it- who doesn’t love little kangaroos in diapers?? 😀

When it comes time to do diaper laundry, I made a little protocol for myself.  Here’s the first draft that I made a couple months ago (I actually framed this and hung it in my laundry room 🙂 ):

NO bleach  •  NO fabric softener  •  1 T Charlie’s Soap per load  •  12-18 Diapers

1.                      Cold Pre-rinse or overnight soak
2.                      Hot Wash Cycle with detergent
3.                      1st Cold Rinse
4.                      2nd Cold Rinse
5.                      Dryer or Sunshine

Removing Odors = ½ cup baking soda in pre-rinse,

½ cup vinegar in 1st rinse- prefolds only!

Removing Stains = lemon juice + sun!

Don’t run to copy this down just yet, however, because I’ve tweaked it a little since then, and I’ll explain why later.  First, though, I put at the top some cloth-diaper no-nos: no bleaching or using fabric softener, or you’ll end up with residue substances on your diapers that will decrease absorbency and potentially irritate your baby’s bum.  I also put the amount of detergent that I’d need to use per load and the max number of diapers per load, as well as some reminders at the bottom of what to do if I needed extra help removing stains and odors.

After reading about different baby-safe detergents, I discovered Charlie’s Soap (and it’s actually a detergent, not a soap, despite the name).  It contains zero additives or ingredients that will bind to fabrics and leave a residue behind.  This also means that it doesn’t contain added antibacterial agents (I guess some detergents do?), which means that you will have to disinfect your diapers using something like hydrogen peroxide or vinegar added to your rinse.

I took it out of the original package and put it in a cute little container 🙂

Now, if you do a basic internet study on Charlie’s Soap, you will find mixed information- some people love it and some report some very bad experiences with it involving burn-like rashes.  So what’s the real deal?  Is it a wonderful, cleaning-rinsing detergent or a dangerous, rash-causing toxin?………..

Here’s the information that can be found on the Charlie’s Soap website under frequently asked questions:


Can Charlie’s Soap be safely used to clean a baby’s diaper?
We believe that clean, dry, residue free and sanitized (frequently changed and disinfected) diapers are best for babies and babies’ bottoms. (See: Mayo Clinic)

Our detergents contain no ingredients or additives that are designed to bind to fabrics; and they contain no antibacterial agents, either. Subsequently, Charlie’s Soap is residue free. Since your results using Charlie’s Soap may vary due to your particular water conditions, your washer and your baby’s sensitivity to bacteria, we suggest you follow a successful procedure like the one listed here.

Our own recommended instructions are available here.

Charlie’s Soap is not a disinfectant. Follow care instructions on your child’s diapers, but make sure to kill bacteria that might have survived the washing process: boiling, sunning, ¼ cup vinger (rinse), ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide (rinse) or 1 tablespoon bleach (wash), etc. Left alone, such bacteria can cause severe, burn-like reactions.

Based on that information, I believe that people who have had problems with Charlie’s Soap had a build-up of bacteria on their baby’s diapers and needed to use a disinfectant to make sure all bacteria was eliminated.  I love knowing that I’m using a detergent without additives that is non-toxic and environmentally friendly, so I’m absolutely willing to add a disinfectant.

Note: 1 tablespoon of bleach to disinfect is not the same as using a whole bunch of bleach to whiten.  The latter will probably leave some bleach residue on your diapers, in which case you’d just need to run another load with Charlie’s soap to get all of the bleach out.  I was confused about that at first.

I’ve also begun to use Charlie’s Soap on all our regular laundry so I won’t have to worry about any residues being left in our washer between diaper loads.  Per instructions, the first thing I did was to run a hot load of old rags with 2 doses of Charlie’s Soap just to clean everything out, and then I began doing my regular loads.

Anyway, now that we have that stuff out of the way, here’s my new diaper washing protocol (added steps in bold):

NO bleach  •  NO fabric softener  •  1 T Charlie’s Soap per load  •  12-18 Diapers

1.                      Cold Pre-rinse or overnight soak
2.                      Hot Wash Cycle with detergent and disinfectant
3.                      Cold Wash Cycle with detergent
4.                      2 Cold Rinses
5.                      Dryer or Sunshine

Disinfecting = ¼ cup peroxide- prefolds only!

Removing Odors = ½ cup baking soda in pre-rinse,

½ cup vinegar in 1st rinse- prefolds only!

Removing Stains = lemon juice + sun!

The one thing I haven’t decided is whether or not I’m going to disinfect every load and, in that case, whether or not I truly cannot use peroxide or vinegar on the diaper covers and wet bags.  That would be a pain because I don’t want to have to separate that stuff.  I also don’t know if that second cold wash with detergent will really be necessary, but it’s what the Charlie’s site recommended, I think to make sure all the disinfecting agent is removed. 

I’ll have to do an update when I’ve figured those two things out, but for now this my plan!  I hope this wasn’t all too confusing for anyone.  I’m sure there are other great diaper-washing detergents out there, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned regarding the one I’m planning to try.  

I would love to get advice from anyone who has successfully used Charlie’s Soap or something similar and has come up with a no-fail washing regime!


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. vaikuntha
    Mar 20, 2013 @ 09:52:17

    Thanks for this. Loking for the same answers you are about the second wash with charlie’s and the separating the covers. Any updates yet?


    • travelnole
      Mar 21, 2013 @ 21:31:41

      We wash them all together, and no problems so far! We do air dry the covers, though. I should be doing an updated cloth diaper post soon now that I have actual experience. 🙂


  2. Katrina
    Apr 30, 2013 @ 15:23:51

    This site was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something
    which helped me. Appreciate it!


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