Is it necessary to pre-rinse your cloth diapers?

We had a flurry of emails after last week’s detergent discussion, many of which were excited to have beaten the stink out of their diapers. I did field a few of “no prerinse, are you crazy?” when I suggested that if you only have the option of a cold prerinse to your diapers that you skip it and go straight to the hot wash cycle. The confusion is along the lines of “when you look in the machine and see what is in that prerinse, do you really want it being washed with your diapers?” The long and short of it is “sure, it won’t hurt ’em” 😉

Truly, before you hit your diapers with hot water and detergent in a long agitation cycle, it isn’t going to matter if you hit them with 1 prerinse or 15 prerinses. You will keep getting nastiness out of them until you really wash them. Kind of like how your kids will stay pretty oily and grimy from sunscreen no matter how long they stay in the pool, until you wash them down with soap in the bathtub that night. The cold water will work against you most times, so if you only have cold and are battling stink, consider taking it out if you can’t replace it with a warm or hot prerinse or presoak.

Now, for rinsing after your wash cycle, the temperature won’t matter. Cold or warm will have mostly the same effect, you can add a second rinse if you like.
A couple of hints for after the wash and dry cycle:

-Let your diapers with elastic cool before stuffing/stretching them, warm or hot elastic will lose its form quickly if pulled around, so let them cool to prolong the life of them.
-Linty laundry tabs? Use a snappi to clean them out
-Did you wash your flushable liners by accident? If they survived, use them again, they will work 🙂


February 2, 2011. cloth diapers, FAQ, Q & A, Wash routines.


  1. Sherry W replied:

    Question: When you hot wash without a pre-rinse how does this affect staining in the diaper?

  2. Jill replied:

    I’ve been wondering this myself lately, if the rinsing really does anything. I may give this a shot. I used to not do it because of breast milk poop, but that’s been a long time ago.

  3. Dorsha replied:

    I have to rinse his over nights when I take em off.. or it seems the smell lingers sometimes

  4. Rachel S. replied:

    I’ve been doing a cold or warm wash with rinse, then a hot wash with rinse, and there was always a smell. But I just tried this, and switched them–hot wash first, then warm wash–and it seems to have worked!! 😮

  5. Amanda Stallman replied:

    This is so helpful to newbies Thank you!

  6. Kelly replied:

    OK, so my machine doesn’t have a pre-wash or pre-rinse cycle. Is this post suggesting that I just simply wash my diapers one time in hot water with detergent? (my machine does have an extra rinse cycle which is in cold that I use). Or am I to wash them two times with detergent on hot? Or one time hot without detergent, one time hot with detergent? Thanks to anyone who gives me some insight!

    • Sherry W replied:

      Kelly, they are suggesting go directly to a hot wash with detergent and follow with a cold rise. It is being said that the pre-rinse with cold is not helping clean the diapers

  7. Lakeisha replied:

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  8. Angie replied:

    I skip the cold pre-rinse. Waste of resources because: a.) I rinse the poop off my diapers with a diaper sprayer before throwing them in the diaper pail, hence this is my cold water pre-rinse. My baby is exclusively breast fed but I still rinse his poop off into the toilet. I know some moms don’t. I’ve been contemplating rinsing his pee pee diapers too, not to prevent staining, but stink problems, especially the hemp inserts I use for overnights. They have gotten barnyard/fish stink before and I had to strip them. I do not find the cold water pre-rinse to help at all with staining. The water temperature needs to be the same temperature as the bodily fluid according to the Rockin’ Green website. So you really would be better with a warm water pre-rinse or pre-soak. I just sun my diapers. That removes stains better than anything else I have tried. I now just wash my diapers on the sanitary cycle of my HE front loader which has an extra cold water rinse programmed into it at the end of the cycle. I have no stink issues when I do this or any more staining than I did when I used to do a cold water pre-rinse.

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