Eco-friendly cloth diapering: one load at a time

You chose to cloth diaper because you care about your baby, the environment...and probably your pocketbook too! Congratulations! Reusable cloth diapers are inherently green. Do you want to maximize the eco-friendliness of your cloth diapers? How you launder your diapers can affect the overall environmental impact of diapering your baby. Efficient laundering methods will use less energy and water, and could save you a bundle! If you want all the gritty details, read this life cycle assessment conducted by Environment Agency. Below we summarize and expand upon some of the energy-saving tips suggested in the report. Cherry-pick or use them all, whatever works best for you.

  • Don’t soak your diapers. Save the water and prolong the life of your diapers by not soaking. Using Bioliners or a handheld sprayer will reduce the dirty work.
  • Wash full loads. Full loads will wash clothes more efficiently than a partial ones. Have a larger inventory of diapers so the need to wash is less frequent.
  • Use low temperature settings. Wash diapers on warm or even cold. Up to 90% of the energy used by the washing machine is used to heat water, so switching the temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load's energy use in half. (Note: you may have to use a low-temperature detergent, more on this topic coming soon!). Low temperature dryer settings also use less energy than high-heat, even though the dryer runs longer.

  • Reduce drying time. The most efficient way to reduce energy used by the dryer is by removing moisture at the end of the wash cycle. Run a high speed spin cycle to remove as much moisture as possible before placing diapers in the dryer. Adding a dry bath towel to a dryer load can also reduce drying time.

  • Use energy saving settings. Choose automatic dry or moisture-sensing settings instead of timed dry to avoid over drying and damaging your diapers.
    • Air-dry. Improve your drying efficiency by 100% by air-drying on clothes lines or drying racks. Air drying will reduce your overall energy use more than any other change to your laundering routine. At the least air-dry diaper shells and covers, as they will dry very quickly.

    • Maintenance. Clean the lint filter after every load and periodically clean the outside dryer exhaust vent. Removing lint will improve airflow, reduce drying time and may prevent a fire! A tight-fitting dryer vent hood on the outside of your home will prevent cold air from entering your house through the vent.

    • Buy energy efficient. When purchasing a new washing machine consider a front loader that is ENERGY STAR ® certified. An energy efficient washer will use 20% less energy and 35% less water than a standard top load washer. To identify the most efficient washers, prices and where to buy locally, see TopTen USA listings. ENERGY STAR is in the process of developing criteria for energy efficient dryers, so stay tuned!

    Keep these tips in mind for more than just washing diapers. They may change the way you do laundry!

    For more energy-saving laundry tips, check out ENERGY.GOV and American Council for Energy Efficient Economy.

    1. Environment Agency, 2008. An updated lifecycle assessment of disposable and reusable nappies. Bristol. Science Report SC010018/SR2. Online:


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