1 - Scrape solid waste from the diapers and flush it down the toilet. Note that this step only applies if your baby or toddler is already on solid foods and, as a result, also has solid waste. Fluid waste will come out in the wash and does not need to be removed beforehand.
2 - Run your diapers through a cold wash cycle. Cold water is preferable to hot water, since hot water is more likely to set stains into the cloth. Do not add the soap nuts yet, since this is only a pre-wash cycle meant to remove additional waste. Instead, add 1/2 cup baking soda or washing soda to the cold wash to aid in the removal of stains and odors.
3 - Allow the diapers to go through a cold rinse cycle. The rinse cycle will flush away any baking soda and may help in the further removal of solid waste.
4 - Fill a small cotton drawstring bag with four or five whole soap nuts and draw the bag closed. Many soap nut sellers will include a bag with the purchase of your nuts, but if you do not receive a bag, simply choose one made of thin cotton that seals tightly upon being drawn. The bag must allow the saponin to seep through, but it must also prevent the nuts themselves from falling out and bouncing around the washing machine.
- Check the soap nut label for more specific instructions on how to determine the correct number of nuts to use.
5 - Place the bag in the washing machine with the pre-washed, wet cloth diapers. There is no need to dry the diapers before starting this new cycle. Run the machine through a hot washing cycle. Do not use cold water this time. Hot water is needed in order to release the saponin, which acts as the cleaning agent inside the nut.
6 - Alternatively, add 3 tablespoons of soap nut liquid into the wash instead of the bag of whole nuts. Soap nut liquid is made from real soap nuts, contains no chemical additives, and works just as effectively as the actual nuts themselves. Add the liquid directly into the machine’s bucket with the cloth diapers. Do not add it into any of the compartments meant for liquid fabric softener or bleach.
7 - Run the cloth diapers through a cold rinse cycle, but do not remove the soap nuts. The soap nuts will not leave any residue on the diapers as long as you use cold water to rinse them. Moreover, the nuts actually act as a natural fabric softener, and keeping them in for both the wash and rinse cycles improves the softness of your diapers upon removal from the machine.
8 - Dry the diapers as usual. Pin them to a clothesline and allow them to dry in the sun or toss them directly into the dryer. Do not dry the diapers with your cloth nuts, though. The nuts should be removed as soon as the final rinse cycle completes itself and serve no purpose in the drying cycle.
9 - Save your bag of soap nuts after the wash. At minimum, soap nuts can be reused four times without losing effectiveness. Some soap nuts may even be used up to ten times. Check the seller’s label to verify how often your nuts can be safely reused.
- Air drying your diapers can provide natural bleaching, removing or fading any stains that the baking soda and soap nuts failed to lighten. If you do air dry your diapers, however, you may still wish to throw them into the dryer for a few minutes afterward. Otherwise, the diapers may feel stiff.
- While soap nuts are generally considered hypo-allergenic, you should still monitor your baby’s bottom for signs of agitation. If your baby experiences more diaper rash after wearing diapers washed with soap nuts, discontinue use until you can talk with a doctor about possible alternatives.