I will start out by saying I have an unhealthy obsession with laundry! i love doing laundry and trying new things. After reading every tip an truck I could find online I have come up with my own method that uses only natural detergent and gets them clean and smelling great!
1- run a rinse only cycle - no soap (on my washer there is a 'rinse+spin' cycle but you can set the washer to 'no spin')
the purpose of this cycle is to get the diapers wet. HE washers use less water than traditional washers and diapers are absorbent... Both good things but not together. This will allow your washer to add the correct amount of water to avoid soap buildup while washing. If you diapers pre soak in a wet pail before washing you can skip this step.
2- Now it's wash time! I use Charlie's Soap Laundry Powder, a natural soda soap with coconut oil. (I bought it on amazon for cheap! You only need a tablespoon maximum and it won't leave buildup that will cause diapers to resist water and leak) My washer has a 'sanitize' cycle that I use for diapers. But use the hottest/longest cycle your machine has. Most HE washers will have a recommended cycle for diapers on their website or in the manual. I add an extra rinse cycle just to be sure all the soap gets washed off but this is less important if you want to skip it.
-soap: most diaper manufacturers will recommend certain soaps and it may void your warranty if you use something else! Compare soaps, look up the ingredients, the commercial "free" soaps often use lard and brighteners which will affect your diapers.
-fabric softener- DO NOT USE traditional fabric softeners!!! This will build up and cause your diapers to wick water and leak! Instead you can use plain white vinegar. Just put a little bit like 1/4 cup or so in the softener dispenser so it will come out in the rinse cycle. Be sure to add an extra rinse cycle if you use vinegar or the smell will be strong.
* they will still have a hint of vinegar smell, I have tried adding it to the first rinse before washing and that helps but I'm not sure it makes them any softer.
-hang dry whenever possible! Outside is the best because the sunlight will help keep them white and soft. But living in Seattle, I know that this is not always possible.
-using the dryer- I put everything in (covers, inserts, liners, wet bags) and set the dryer on extra low and run it for 30 minutes. Then I take out anything with PUL in it (covers, wet bags) and I lay out anything that is not totally dry. The inserts and prefolds I run for a second 30-40 minute cycle on high.
* do not dry your all in ones, pocket diapers, wet bags, covers, or anything with PUL on high because this could melt the plastic coating and cause them to leak.
* do not use dryer sheets this will cause buildup and leakage. If you need to prevent static use a wool dryer ball
-"stripping" your diapers, this term refers to removing any buildup you may have on your diapers. Some people do this once a month, some do it only if they have issues with leaking, some people never need it.
-The best way that I have read to do this does not work in a front load washer, I repeat, DO NOT do this with your front load washer. Maybe you have a friend or mom who still has a traditional washer you can use. Put a table spoon of dawn dish soap in a washer full of water, add diapers, set washer to agitate until all of the bubbles stop, then wash as usual.
- only have access to front loader, no problem there are solutions for you too. Use oxy clean. Put the oxy clean in the drum with the diapers, DO NOT add it with the soap. Wash as normal!
****DO NOT USE BLEACH ON DIAPERS****
- Hard water. I live in an area where we have very soft water and do not get buildup but if you use well water or live in an area with hard water you should add a water softener to avoid yellow stains.
A note about the diapers I use. I mainly use fuzzibunz pocket diapers lined with a microfiber insert and doubled with either thirsties hemp inserts or a cotton prefold. I also use hemp CDI soaker pad for night time. But I also use cloth prefolds with a bummis cover on occasion. I use a hanging dry pail for dirty diapers and wash diapers every 1-2 days
I hope these tips and tricks help!!!