No matter what brand of cloth pad you use, they'll need washing so you can use them over and over again. Before you start washing your cloth pad, start by checking the directions provided by the manufacturer on the label or packaging. Some require special handling, like new cloth pads should be washed at least once before using, to increase their absorbency. Special instructions aside here's how to wash most cloth pads.
Preparing cloth pads for washing
Generally speaking, you can put cloth pads in your mesh laundry bag straight into the wash.
Alternatively, soak stained cloth pads for several minutes before washing them, to help with stain removal, which means the pail is filled with water (and possibly a little baking soda to fight odors).
Washing cloth pads
Wash cloth pads, consult the washing instructions from the manufacturer. You can wash cloth pads together with your other laundries but don’t overload the washing machine, or the cloth pads will not get as clean with the friction between the fabric.
Start with a cold pre-wash cycle, then a regular wash in hot water (unless your directions say otherwise). Follow with a rinse. Make sure the cloth pads are very well rinsed. The rinse water should be completely soap-free by the last cycle. If necessary, re-rinse the cloth pads. When you take the cloth pads out of the washing machine, they should smell fresh and clean. If they still smell of dirty cloth pads, even faintly, then rewash. (Odors can mean that the cloth pads contain lingering bacteria, which can irritate your skin or cause a rush.)
Handwashing the pads are also an option. In this case, you’ll probably want to pre-soak the pads to make washing easier. If you choose to soak the pads, be sure to change out the soak water on a daily basis. When the time comes to wash them, rinse the pads in cold water until the water runs clear and then gently scrub them to get them clean.
Products to use – and avoid
Use detergent (not soap) that is free of fragrances, enzymes, and other additives, such as whitening and brightening ingredients.
Avoid fabric softeners and antistatic products, as they can irritate your sensitive skin and make cloth pads less absorbent.
You may need to use bleach when fighting an infection, such as a yeast rash, but don't rely on it regularly. Bleach breaks down the fibers in cloth pads, causing them to deteriorate. It can also ruin some cloth materials.
To help eliminate odor, some like to add a little baking soda (about half a cup per load) to the wash. Another option is to add white vinegar (about one cup per load) to the rinse water, but some manufacturers don't recommend it, so check the directions. In addition to helping with odors, vinegar helps to soften the cloth pads.
Drying cloth pads
Keep the cloth pads in a mesh laundry bag in the dryer, to prevent them from mixing together or damaging the cloth pads with other laundries. While drying in the dryer is fine for most cloth pads, some cloth pads may not withstand high drying temperatures. It is best to check the manufacturer's directions for using a dryer when drying cloth pads.
Air drying cloth pads is another way of drying cloth pads, and it is cheap, environmentally friendly option.
How often you'll need to wash cloth pads
While you'll no doubt come up with a laundry schedule that works for you, most find that washing cloth pads every other day works well. This way you don't have to wash daily, but you'll still wash often enough that you won't need to own an enormous number of cloth pads. It also helps keep odors under control, since cloth pads often become especially smelly after a couple of days.