How to wash cloth diapers in an HE top loader washing machine #MaytagMoms

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Wash Cloth Diapers in an HE Top Loader Washing Machine

I’ve heard it said that washing cloth diapers is a science.  Well, it is True! 


Unfortunately, though it is a science, it is not the same science for every person.  Your wash routine might differ from your neighbor who has a different washing machine, it might differ from your sister several states away who has different water hardness.  Though I wholeheartedly love cloth diapering, it must be said that finding the wash routine that works for your washing machine type and your water type can be a bit of a challenge.

Thankfully, I’ve had an amazing washing machine that has really worked with me during my learning process.  Last year I had the opportunity to review the Maytag Bravos XL.  We had never owned an HE washer and dryer before.  In the 1+ years we’ve been using the pair it has been nothing but love.

Let me start off by saying that HE machines are looked on by some in the cloth diapering community with fear and trepidation.  I say phoey! to that.  It is quite possible to find the perfect wash routine.  Our Maytag Bravos XL washing machine cleans our diapers much more thoroughly than either of our other 2 previous standard top loading washing machines.  And, given that you’re going to be washing diapers every 2-3 days, having an HE machine will save lots of water and money in the long run.

How to wash cloth diapers in an HE top loader:

So, let’s take a look at my wash routine, shall we?

Note #1: I have used Rockin’ Green Hard Rock, Tide Ultra (original) powder, and Country Save successfully with this routine.  My absolute favorite is Country Save. The only detergent that didn’t work for us (which doesn’t mean it won’t work for you 😉 ) was Eco Sprout.

Note #2: We have slightly hard water.  

The Maytag Bravos XL has some really cool settings–almost the perfect settings for washing cloth diapers–so if you don’t have a Maytag Bravos, hopefully you can find something similar on your HE top loader.

Step 1: I dump all my diapers into my Bravos XL HE top loader.  I usually have 1-1 1/2 hanging wetbags full.  I set the dial to “Rinse/Drain, Spin“, set the spin speed to “Low“, and press Start.  I’ve heard people recommend doing no spin, but I would prefer to get some of that yucky rinse water out before the actual washing takes place.

Step 2: After the rinse is complete, set the dial to Allergen” orPower Wash” and add your detergent to the detergent dispenser.  You’ll have to experiment with the amount that works best for you.  I use half the recommended amount Country Save for HE machines along with half a capfull of Calgon liquid (optional).  The allergen cycle uses hot water and does a short soak followed by a rinse.

Step 3: You can do your rinses one of two ways: You can 1) press the “Extra Rinse” button when you set your initial Allergen cycle, 2) Add an additional rinse drain spin after your allergen cycle with extra rinse is done.  Make sure you set the spin to “Max Extract“. This will help your diapers to dry faster in the dryer.

Step 4: Generally, I prefer to hang dry my covers so I separate the covers from the inserts, put the covers on my drying rack, and toss the inserts in the dryer.  I set the dryer to “Timed Dry” for 1 hour 15 minutes and set to low (because I usually have some All in Ones in there). If you have no PUL in the dryer feel free to dry on medium.

Quick Review:

  1. “Rinse, Drain, Spin” with just under 1/2 scoop Country Save Detergent
  2. Power Wash with just over 1/2 scoop Country Save Detergent  *optional: Extra Rinse
  3. Hang Dry or Dry on Timed dry, low heat, 75 minutes

Edit 7/12/15: I no longer use the allergen cycle. I noticed that some (a small portion) of the elastics on my son’s diapers were starting to relax faster than I felt was normal.

Pretty easy when you look at it that way.

Our Maytag Bravos XL has revolutionized cloth diapering for us.  Before the Bravos we were constantly battling cloth diaper stink.  It was so bad that we couldn’t cloth diaper at night.  Since having the Maytag Bravos XL we have not had any stink issues!!!

If you have a washing routine that works very well I’d love for you to leave your routine below!  Just make sure to include what type of machine you have (top loading, top loading HE, or front loading HE) and your water hardness.

Feel free to ask any diaper washing questions you might have below.


If you liked this post, make sure to check these out: 

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About Amy @ Oh So Savvy Mom

Amy is mom to three, wife to one, and a sister and aunt to many. Her family is a former military family now settled in Lehi, Utah. Oh So Savvy Mom began as a way for Amy to share parenting and product advice with others. Just as she has evolved, Oh So Savvy Mom has evolved into a resource for Healthy Living for Families, Food, Parenting, and Family Travel.


  1. Jenne Gibson says
    Hi. I do a cold pre rinse with pre wash, then I do a heavy duty cycle with cold water and 1-2 tbl of my homemade detergent with a cold rinse. I also have hard water and an old school top loader washer.
  2. I don't have an HE washing machine, but hope to when we move into our new house. Pinned this for later!
  3. I never thought that different machines would require different steps to washing my cloth diapers, thanks so much for sharing! I have an HE front loader, I've had it for a few years now, so when my 4 year old was in cloth diapers we had a different washer... but I never realized any difference.
  4. This is a lot like my routine now! We had awful problems with our last maching, a HE front loader. There was actually a class action suit against the manufacturer due to mold growth issues. Now we have a HE top loader and no more diaper issues! It can be so hard to get that routine right, so I'm sure a lot of moms will benefit from your sharing! Thank you!
  5. I have this SAME set and I wrote this exact post for our cloth diapers, hahaha. We do the rinse first... but then we do the Bulky cycle because it uses more water and seems to cut out any problems (like if we'd use another cycle first and they might still smell and then we have to wash them again). But hmmmm, I've never used the Allergen cycle on them! Definitely will try that so thanks for teaching me something new!!! :)
    • So, then, I have a question for you. How do you get the Bulky cycle to agitate enough to get the diapers clean? I tried it once, but because the agitator is short, and it fills with so much water, and because the diapers really aren't bulky, it just kind of gently swished the diapers around. I added a towel, but maybe 2 or 3 would have been better??? What do you do with the bulky cycle that works?
      • I'm so glad I found this blog (specifically this post) and thought that same thing about the bulky setting. It makes sense to use it as a rinse because a rinse doesn't need to be as agitated (I assume). We just started cloth diapering our twins full time today and our nearly 2 year old is going back and forth with potty training success so who knows how long we'll have three in cloth?!? After realizing today that the kids used 17 diapers altogether, we have come out of denial and started washing daily from every other day. YIKES! Would you do anything differently because we are washing every day? We have plenty of diapers to rotate so they shouldn't have any more wear and tear than being laundered every other day so that's not a concern for me. I just started using Tide original powder (which now has stupid acti-lift crap added) after reading a ton online and being recommended through Facebook. The diapers have never smelled better or had less ammonia! But should I be worried about damage? because I am! I don't see an allergen setting on our bravos machine but it may be older than yours. I'm thinking warm-warm rapid wash no spin (maybe low like you do). Then a super wash on hot-cold with the detergent and extra rinse setting. Then I will follow up with a bulky rinse and no extra rinse on that one. Any comments or help? How much Tide would you suggest using? I certainly don't want to overdo it! I also read that using the fabric softener setting adds more water... has anyone found that to be true?
        • Brittany, I'm sorry it took me so long to reply to your comment. I actually started a reply and then had to go tend to something and just never got back to it. Wow, three in diapers. You've got your hands full! I don't think i'd do anything differently because you're washing every day. I might line dry them all outside, though, if you're worried about your electric bill. As far as the tide goes, I think the original formula is pretty standard as far as damage goes. However, according to the info I was reading on this page: the tide with acti-lift is a bit harsh on diaper fibers. As far as the wash routine goes, you could probably forgo the rapid wash in favor of a quick rinse if your washer has that setting. The rinse, drain, spin setting is actually pretty effective for the prewash--doing that would also help you save on your water bill. How much tide you use will depend on just how many diapers you are washing--at least it did for me. Some days I'd wash every three days. I found that on those days I needed to use more detergent than on my "every other day" washes. I don't know about the fabric softener setting adding more water. It would make sense because water is how the fabric softener is dispensed and sprayed onto the clothes. Hope all this helps!
  6. Thank you for this tutoarial. I will share it with my cloth diapering moms too!
  7. This article was educational and insightful. Thanks I also really like that tie dyed diaper on the picture :).
  8. I do an initial rinse with no spin, but it think I will spin now after you explained why you do!
  9. Vanessa Coker says
    I just got a Maytag Bravos :) getting ready to try your method for our cloth diapers :)
  10. We just bought the Maytag Bravos XL, and as wonderful as it is with our laundry, I have not been able to figure out how to make it clean our diapers. I will try this tonight! Thanks so much!
  11. Ronda Patrick says
    After MANY MANY years of handwashing cloth diapers, this would have been so nice! I was glad to read the review, as I am hoping that when I become a grandma, my children will also use cloth diapers. It will be great to see how the washers evolve and hopefully they consider those of us that use cloth diapers as a development for washers. I know that the only reason I hand washed mine were because the diapers just weren't clean enough in the washer! Thanks for the review! :)
  12. Sandy Cain says
    A rinse and spin first makes a lot of sense (though it didn't before I read this). I sure wish I had these Maytag Bravos XL - it would make life so much easier! I wish we had a "Max Extract" setting, everything takes so long to dry!
  13. Meghan Grahe says
    Just wondering how much tide powder you used? We are planning on purchasing this washing machine and I thought I was going to have to get rid of my regular tide, but it worked ok for you? I don't want to mess up my new machine :-)
    • Meghan, I'm so sorry, I am just now seeing your comment. I would start out using about half the recommended amount of tide to start with--I wouldn't use any less than that. Make sure your are using HE detergent. Smell the diapers when you take them out of the washer before you put them in the dryer. If they still have a lingering smell you'll need to add a bit more detergent. If you find you diapers build up ammonia add a capful of calgon in each load. (You can also strip with calgon by doing a wash cycle with 2 capfuls of calgon, rinsing until there are no bubbles left.) Hope this helps! Good luck!
  14. I'm glad I found this, because we just bought a maytag bravos xl and I am having a hard time getting my diapers clean. I've been doing the pre-rinse just like you, but doing the power wash cycle. I use original tide and some washing soda. They have been coming out with stains which never happened with my HE front loader. I'm so disappointed because I thought switching from FL to TL would make washing cloth diapers a breeze!
    • We recently bought the mayrag bravos x and I'm trying to ring the right method. I'm doing a rinse&spin, then using bulky... Or normal... Or powerwash... Or deep clean. Haven't figured out the best one yet.
    • Hi Janell! So your diapers are staining. My cotton diapers always stain, but my hemp, bamboo, and fleece never stains in our Bravos XL. I've done the power wash cycle before with the diapers but switched because the allergen cycle is supposed to add more water and make the water just a bit hotter. Just to be clear your doing the "rinse drain & spin" for your pre-rinse cycle. Is that correct? Aside from stains, how do they smell straight out of the washer? How do they come out when you don't use the washing soda? Have you tried washing without washing soda? I'm very happy to help you troubleshoot. :)
  15. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!! I did a search for the bravos xl and cloth diaper laundry and your blog post popped right up! My youngest right now is 4 and we just bought this washer. She's been out of diapers for a couple years now and we didn't think we were having any more babies. Well, surprise! We are. When I picked out this washer, I didn't consider how it would work with cloth diapers. I was a little nervous when I found out we were going to be using cloth again, then I found your post! I plan on taking your recommendations into consideration. Though we don't' have the allergen cycle, so I may just use the power wash cycle. Do you think this would work?
    • Yep, powerwash cycle will work just fine as well. I've found that I also have to strip my diapers with RLR about every 3 months or so. It is super easy and isn't hard on the diapers or your machine. If you're not familiar with RLR here is a link to the product:
  16. What exactly is the allergen and power wash cycles and how do they differ? What is the reasoning for using these cycles? Would pocket diapers and diaper covers be able to be washed in the high temperatures that these use?
    • Hi Erin, Sorry it took me so long to respond. The allergen cycle washes on HOT (only as hot as your water heater is set to though--ours doesn't get scalding) and it also adds a bit more water to rinse out the allergens. The power wash cycle the default settings are hot, Max Extract (spin speed), Extra Heavy (soil level). Power wash "combines high-speed wash action, medium-speed spin, and a deep rinse." I generally use the power wash setting now, and my diapers seem to be doing okay. I have 2 diapers (different brands) that have lost their elastic. Both have been in constant use for 2 years though. The PUL on all my diapers is excellent. I use mostly pockets and AIOs. As long as your water heater isn't set so hot that it would burn your kids, it should be fine.
  17. I have been doing the same routine as you except using the heavy duty cycle as my wash instead of power wash, do you find that the power wash and/or allergen cycles work better than heavy duty?
    • Allergen is supposed to add more water, but depending on what your water heater is set at, it may get a little too hot. We generally don't have our water heater set very high, but for the sake of your elastics I might not do the allergen all the time. I haven't really noticed that much of a difference though. Also, I need to update this. I began using just under a half scoop of country save in my pre-rinse and then washing regular with detergent and it made a world of difference. Before doing that, sometimes the diapers would come out smelling a little off. After I started adding the bit of detergent in the pre-rinse, they never come out smelling off.
      • That's good to know, I switched to the power wash and it seems to be less soapy now. So far I haven't added anything to my pre-rinse but everywhere I read lately seems to suggest that so I think I will start. I've been using regular Tide powder (HE) and so far haven't had any issues but I'm new to this and don't want to develop stink issues later on. Do you make sure to have the washer filled to a certain level? I sometimes only have handful (7-8 pockets with inserts) because my son goes to daycare every other day and we haven't started sending him in cloth yet. I want to wash every other day to avoid stink issues, so I end up with less than super full loads. So far I haven't had an issue but I'm worried I might. The simple solution would be to send him in cloth to daycare, but I'm still pumping myself up for that while we use up disposables we already have. Thanks for your help!
        • Hey Jessica, way to go for cloth diapering! Regular (HE) Tide powder is supposed to be great for cloth diapers. I just couldn't use it because my little guy was sensitive to it. It got the diapers so clean though! I wouldn't worry about making sure that your washer fills to a certain level. HE machines fill based on weight so it should fill enough. If you really think you need more water you could throw a wet towel in with the diapers. That will add a bit more weight for the machine. I almost always washed every 3 days and we were just fine. No stink issues.
  18. Hi! We are planning to get the Samsung Activewash HE toploader. I use Country Save detergent. Is your Power Wash cycle like a heavy duty Wash? Have you had any issues using less than 1/2 scoop in prewash cycle and just a little more than 1/2 scoop in main Wash? I currently do 1 scoop in prewash and 2 scoops in main Wash with extra rinse (soft water in Iowa) in a regular top loader but our machine is leaking oil so time for a new one! It was bought used 5 years ago.
    • Hi Kathryn! Yes, the Power Wash cycle is a heavy duty wash. It uses a bit more water, washes on heavy soil with hot water, spins on "max extract", and does an extra rinse. Previously I used no Country Save in the prewash, and just over 1/2 scoop in the main wash. I occasionally had stink problems after a load so I changed it up to what I have written in this post. It really is trial and error though. Different geographical locations will require different amounts of detergent and different washing machines may as well. I'd start out with 1/2 scoop in the prewash, and just under a scoop in the main wash and then make adjustments from there if you find it necessary.
  19. Hi! This has been really helpful. I just inherited the same set. I looked on the fluff love science page and they suggest hitting the fabric softener button but not adding actual fabric softener on heavy duty wash. Something about adding extra water?
    • Interesting. I tried this a couple times, but stopped because my diapers were getting clean enough without the extra water from the fabric softener setting. It would definitely be something to try if you're having difficulty getting your diapers rinsed enough though.
  20. So excited to see I have the same washer! I was using nature clean detergent for the longest time with a rinse, rinse, bulky cycle(15ml detergent), white cycle(15ml detergent), and another rinse. The routine was getting the diapers clean but my clothes didn't always get clean with that detergent so decided to try different detergents with terrible results until I heard of rockin green hard core for hard water. I'll typically wait 3 days to wash so they're really stinky after sitting in the dry pail. I tried a rinse with funk rock added. Then a bulky cycle on hot with extra rinse with 3 scoops rockin green. some of the diapers had a slight smell to them. I think I will try the power wash cycle next time. I'm surprised the 3 scoops didn't work but perhaps it had to do with the bulky cycle? Too much water and not enough agitation? (my load had 30 liners (mostly cotton a few microfiber), 12 diaper covers). I would love to know how much rockin green you use?
  21. An update: I tried you're routine but missed the part about adding a little amount of detergent in the pre rinse ( I added funk rock instead). I used 3 scoops of rockin green and that seemed to be too much. I could see bubbles in the last rinse of the main wash. so I did an extra rinse. Some of the diapers that were poopy still have a slight smell. Do you think I should soak them in borax before washing or will adding a bit of detergent in the pre rinse do the job?
    • I'd first try adding a bit of detergent to your prerinse. They definitely should not smell like anything when they come out of the washer. If that doesn't work you can try the borax, but you may just need to go with a stronger detergent than rockin' green.
  22. Celeste Anderson says
    I have the Bravos XL (without the allergen setting) and went through about 6 months of hating it and almost giving up on cloth diapering (after 4 years at that point) then found the right routine. Hallelujah! 1. Bulky/cool water/medium spin/heavy (I throw in a set of cheap bathtub grippies to help with the agitation) 2. Power Wash/hot/high spin/heavy/fabric softener (for extra rinse water)/extra rinse We do not have hard water and I've always used Ecos detergent. Loved it! Hasn't failed me yet after 2 years now. If I dry in dryer them I set to Bulky on the third longest time. Perfectly done :)