Washing Cloth in HE Washing Machines: Part 2

The most economical way I have found to get my cloth diapers clean is to make my own detergent by mixing a few basic ingredients together in a container to use in my HE washing machine.

You should be able to find all these ingredients at local shopping centers, dollar stores, or grocery stores.   The first three ingredients can usually be found in the laundry detergent aisle or the cleaning aisle.  Vinegar is located in the cooking/baking aisle.


  • OxyClean- or another cheaper version.  I use Sun Oxygen from Walmart
  • Washing Soda-  Arm & Hammer seems to be the easiest to find.  Note: Do not use Baking soda!
  • Borax- any brand
  • Vinegar- used as a rinse agent/soaking agent
  • *Optional- Tea Tree Oil- a couple drops in with the vinegar helps eliminate odor and acts as an antiseptic

Apple Cider Vinegar 1

For a quick HE detergent for your diapers, combine 1/4 cup oxygen cleaner, 1/2 cup washing soda, and 1/2 cup borax into a sealable container.  Use 2-3 tablespoons per load and add 1/4 cup vinegar into the bleach receptacle on your machine.  Make sure you select the extra rinse cycle when you start the machine, or run an extra rinse at the end.  If your diapers don’t smell clean after one wash, they may need to be soaked.

Soaking involves a little more time and effort but it makes your diaper inserts and prefolds cleaner and helps them absorb more.  Here is the method I use to soak/wash my diapers:

First, I throw all my diapers into the wash (in my FuzziBunz diaper pail liner– unzipping the bottom) and run a rinse cycle.


Next, I separate the PUL covers and pail liners from the inserts and prefolds.  Anything that has PUL or Fleece on it should not be soaked- set it aside!


Then I use an old trash bucket or pail bucket and put 1/4 cup each of oxyclean and washing soda at the bottom.  Add 1 cup of vinegar.  This mixture will bubble and chemically react so be careful. Now- add your inserts and prefolds.  Then, add hot water until the diapers are just covered- you may have to press them down a bit.

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I let my bucket sit in my shower downstairs while it is soaking.  You could use a tub or the laundry room just make sure it isn’t accessible to your little ones.  I usually do another load of kid laundry while the diapers are soaking or let them set overnight.  I have a broom handle that I use to stir them up a couple times before I dump out the water and throw them right back into my washing machine.  Add your PUL and other diaper accessories back into the wash and run a normal cycle with an extra rinse.  You can add a touch more of your homemade detergent to this wash along with more vinegar.

how to wash cloth diapers in front load machine

Normally I don’t have to rinse the diapers twice but sometimes I find that the soap doesn’t rinse all the way out the first time.  When they are done, they should smell clean and feel clean- not greasy or slimy from soap.

There are several different views to using Borax on cloth diapers.  My personal view is that detergent is going to be chemically based no matter what you use, and adding plant oils and fragrances are only going to cause your diapers to lose their absorbancy.  All detergent has the potential to become a skin irritant if not used properly.

I personally would rather spend my money making sure my detergent rinses clean and is economical.  If you are worried about the Borax in the recipe then it can be eliminated altogether.  Borax has also been said to damage PUL but I have not experienced any problems with my diapers.

Depending on your water and machine, you might need to play around with the ingredients before you find something that works for your situation.  Using vinegar as a rinse should help hard water and HE machines clean your diapers thoroughly.

For all the ingredients listed above (including the tea tree oil) I paid right around $15.  I bought double the amount of oxyclean and washing soda, which were around $2 a box.  This recipe has lasted around 6 months and I just opened my second box of washing soda the other day.  Assuming I wash my cloth diapers once a week with the soaking/washing method, each load costs me around 60 cents.

4 thoughts on “Washing Cloth in HE Washing Machines: Part 2

  1. Great tips for Moms out there. Of course washing our clothes would mo more perfect if we use the perfect washing laundry powder.

  2. How much water is being mixed in? I see ingredients but nothing about how much water to add to the detergent base. Thanks

  3. Great post! Thanks for sharing!This may be an odd question but do you put the detergent in the drawer for detergents or have you tried putting it in the drum before loading the clothes? Just curious if you thought it made a difference.

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