Using cloth diapers saves you money and keeps the waste of disposable diapers out of landfills. However, detergent and bodily fluids can build up on your diapers, leaving them stinky and crusty. To make diapers fresh again, strip them of buildup when they begin to smell bad or irritate your baby's skin.
Put up to 12 diapers in a top-loading washing machine. Fill the machine for a large load with the hottest water available -- if possible, turn your water heater up first so the temperature reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If your water isn't hot enough, boil water to fill the machine. The diapers should have room to move around freely.
Run the machine with no detergent. Lift the lid occasionally to check for soap bubbles, which is a sign the water is removing excess soap.
Fill the machine with hot water again. Add gentle, low-sudsing laundry soap free of dye, detergent and fabric softener to the water. Add 1 cup of white vinegar and 1/2 cup of baking soda to the water.
Allow the washer to agitate, but open the lid before it begins to drain. Leave the lid up and allow the diapers to soak overnight.
Close the lid and allow the wash to finish the next morning. Rinse with plain water -- do not add fabric softener.
Hang the diapers to dry in the sunlight if possible. If you put them in the dryer, do not add softener sheets.
To keep diapers soft in the dryer, use the low heat setting.
Do not use chlorine bleach on cloth diapers, as this can break the fibers down. Front-loading washing machines are not as effective as top-loaders, since they use less water. If you only have a front-loader, decrease the number of diapers you put in each load by half or run more cycles without detergent. When you no longer see bubbles in the rinse water, you have run enough cycles.