Can I wash cloth diapers at the Laundromat?
Of course! Whether you are using a laundromat because you are taking cloth diapers on vacation or because you don't have your own washer and dryer at home, there is really little difference between how you would wash there from how you would wash at home.
When washing diapers at the Laundromat - if available, choose the large, frontloading machines which can wash up to fifty cloth diapers at a time, making it extremely easy and convenient. If this is not just a vacation or short-term situation, plan on building a large enough cloth diaper supply to last between trips. Once or twice a week will probably be as often as you can reasonably make it to the Laundromat, so be prepared.
There are various ways to prepare the cloth diapers before you go. It is important to rinse and store the soiled cloth diapers properly as they will be sitting longer between diaper washes. You might also consider sprinkling a bit of baking soda inside the cloth diaper pail to help break down stains and control odor. If you want to take things another step, you can heavily soak and rinse the diapers at home and then line dry them to help eliminate odors and stains. This can eliminate the first rinsing run on wash day.
When wash day comes, take your rinsed cloth diapers to the Laundromat. You can run the diaper covers and cloth diapers together or keep them in separate loads for washing. After the wash cycle is complete, check the manufacturer recommendations for how they should be dried. If not line-dryed, most likely they can be tossed in together to tumble dry.
The first wash should be on Cold/Cold. This wash is more of a rinse, and you don't need to add any detergent. Think of it as preparation for the cleaning to come. This intensive rinse also helps remove remaining poop before the real washing begins.
The second wash should be on Hot/Cold with 1/4 to 1/2 of the normal amount of detergent. The hot water sterilizes the cloth diapers (and the washer) and gets the fabric clean.
After the second wash, take a quick whiff to be sure the cloth diapers and diaper covers are fresh and clean. If they aren't, repeat the step. Once the diapers smell clean, throw the load into the dryer, taking care to remove the diaper covers and any cloth diapers that need to air dry. Dry the cloth diapers and covers on the hottest setting, or as recommended by the manufacturer, and you should be good to go for another week.
Don't Forget: Whether you are taking cloth diapers on vacation or are at the Laundromat because you do not have your own machine, you need to wash and dry your diaper tote. Not only does this give you fresh totes for the diaper bag and/or diaper pail, but it also gives you a convenient way to haul your clean cloth diapers home.