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What is the Best Washing Machine for Cloth Diapers?

Shopping for a washer for #clothdiapers via @chgdiapers

When we traveled with cloth diapers, I felt like my mother-in-law’s 25+ year old top loader did a better job washing cloth diapers than my expensive HE machine. I thought it would be nice to have a top loader to wash diapers in…well be careful what you wish for.

Long story short, the pump on my (less than 3-year old), $1000 HE washing machine went bad. We ordered the part, but it would be a while before we received the part and my hubby was able to fix it (not fixed yet.) We have had issues with the washer & debated getting rid of it all together. We decided to shop for the cheapest washer we could find, with the plan of moving it to the basement when our short-term need was over. That way I could use it for things that don’t seem to come clean in the HE machine, like diapers, dish cloths and greasy or heavily soiled items.

As we shopped, I found myself thinking about cloth diapers as I compared washing machine features. We ended up with a machine that was $20 more than the cheapest one (after sale and 2 rebates) but had all the features I was looking for, and I thought I’d share what those features were.

First, what I like about my HE washing machine:

HUGE capacity means I can wash a whole basket of laundry at once
Top loading HE machine doesn’t lock, allowing me to add items after the cycle begins
Washer spins items so well, my dry time is dramatically cut down
Has a warm rinse option

What I don’t like:

Simply does not use enough water. For things like my dish cloths, I end up having to wash/rinse them 4 or more times to get them clean. I find myself “babysitting” the laundry to add water manually, check the rinse cycle for bubbles/residue and sniffing supposedly clean laundry. I have to be careful not to add too much water either, since no center agitator means items need to rub against each other to get clean.

Interestingly enough, the washer we bought is extremely similar to the machine we bought in 2002, moved to a new house in 2004, then left when we moved here in 2008.

Features I liked about the GE 5250 washer we bought:

It is a standard top loader
Has a fairly large capacity
Has 4 load sizes, including Super, and also has a precise-fill option
Auto soak option
Drain & spin option means you can soak, then remove items without rinsing
2nd rinse option
Power rinse option
Spins more quickly than some other washers, to get items more dry
Extended spin option
If you open the lid, closing it continues the cycle (you have to then press start on my HE)
3 signal volumes

I was amazed at how clean my diapers were the first time I used the new machine. I would like it a little better if it wasn’t white, and if my dryer matched. 😉 The machine doesn’t have a separate rinse temp selection, but the cycle options do a great job. It even has towel and jeans cycles, but I’ve only used the whites, colors, speed wash & rinse & spin cycles so far. I keep forgetting that I need to put detergent in first (my HE has a dispenser) and that it will begin to fill with the lid up!

Since we have well water, we don’t have a water bill, and having to do multiple washes means we’re not saving anything on electricity for hot water with an HE.

If you were shopping for a new washing machine, would you do it with cloth in mind?

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Maria is an aspiring "fit mom" of 3 children, writing about cloth diapers, going green, and her life as a single mom. Maria works with many companies within the cloth diaper industry and beyond, providing social media management, product development, and other services.
  • AJ
    August 25, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Am I completely missing it? What washer did you buy that you like so much?

    • August 26, 2016 at 6:43 am

      It’s a GE 5250. If you see the comments below, someone said it’s no longer available, but there is a similar replacement model.

  • Tiffany
    April 15, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    What if I just didn’t do a prerinse? Think they’d still get clean?

  • Tiffany
    April 15, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    Thanks, Maria! Anybody know of any washers that only take one trip to the laundry room?

    • April 15, 2015 at 10:12 pm

      I don’t know of any that has a prewash but perhaps if you did a soak first?

  • Tiffany
    April 15, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    Continuing on the previous question: does the 5650 have a detergent dispenser in it?

    • April 15, 2015 at 9:22 pm

      It has an “extra rinse” option as well as a “power rinse.” If you want to do a pre-rinse that does have to be a separate setting. Like most top load standard washers you put the detergent in the drum. Hope that helps!

  • Tiffany
    April 15, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    These comments have been really helpful. I’m now considering the GE 5650 suggested here. But before I buy, I want to know, can you set it and forget it? Or do you have to go to the laundry room twice? What settings do you use to get it all done in one trip (cold rinse, regular hot wash, and second cold rinse)?

  • Heather
    March 23, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Just wanted to let you know that GE is no longer making the GE 5250.

    • March 23, 2014 at 8:26 pm

      That’s a shame, it’s a great machine! Wonder if there’s a similar replacement?

      • Megan
        December 27, 2014 at 11:55 am

        There is a replacement model: GTWN5650FWS. The only difference from the 5250 is that it has 20 options for wash cycles instead of the 5250’s 10. 🙂

        • December 27, 2014 at 2:14 pm

          Wow 20 cycle options! I’m glad they’re still making it, it’s a great washer!

  • Tiffany
    January 29, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    So almost a year later, do you still feel the same about this washer? We are looking at the same one for cloth diapers. Have you ever had stink issues or had to strip your diapers while using this one?

    • January 30, 2014 at 9:04 am

      Hi Tiffany, I am not using it only because we got our old washer fixed. I really liked using it for diapers and had no issues whatsoever. The plan was to install this one in the basement for diapers, but we haven’t gathered the funds to get it done. Without a doubt, it cleaned my diapers better than the pricey HE. I didn’t want to give up on my HE totally after we spent the $ on parts. It sounds dumb but the only reason I didn’t just keep using this washer is that it didn’t match my dryer and it really bugged me to have the white washer sticking out like a sore thumb, LOL.

  • Charlotte
    December 16, 2013 at 9:25 am

    We are in the market for a new washer… Care to share what brand/model your washer is?! Please 🙂 Sounds like it has all the features I’m looking for!

  • Brigitte
    September 13, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Thank you Maria! Your post has been really helpful to me. I am really excited about getting this new washer now! Seems like the perfect washing machine – except for no warm rinse option. And thank you for reminding me that too much water isn’t ideal either. I am so used to “not enough water” that too much just seems impossible, but you’re right!! Again, thank you.

  • Brigitte
    September 12, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    Hi! I am thinking of buying this washer to replace my front loader, which I absolutely hate for cloth diapering. Fortunately, my parents’ washer just broke down and they want mine. Yay!
    The salesman told me this GE washer uses less water than a regular top load washer, but more than the new HE top loaders. So I’m wondering: are you still satisfied with your washer? Any residue issues with your diapers? Do you think this washer would be a good option for cloth diapering with 2 babies? How many diapers max would you say you can put in? Does the “super” level fill up the washer completely? Thank you so much for your input!

    • September 13, 2013 at 8:32 am

      Hi Brigitte. This washer is extremely similar to the one I had 10+ years ago. The “precise fill” option uses less water than a standard washer, but the regular load sizes are exactly the same as a normal washer. When I had 2 in diapers, I preferred to wash every other day (even with my huge capacity HE.) I’m not sure how many diapers fit in it. Hmm…I generally am washing max 20 at this point. It had a much larger capacity than the “entry level” washers I looked at first. When I had two in diapers I was doing smaller, newborn diapers at first, and as he got older I was washing fewer diapers for my older son. No residue issues. Super fills it all the way up when there’s an appropriate size load in it! Remember that too much water can be a bad thing for diapers too, since they need to be able to agitate against the agitator and each other vs. just floating in water. 🙂

  • Jen
    March 7, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Thank you!! I’ll start looking around. I’ve got some time to look for a good deal. It’s great to hear about one that someone actually likes and uses for cloth diapers. Most reviews online don’t address “does it use enough water”. So wanting a soak option! I tried soaking in my current washer by pausing it and it drained itself at some point!

    • March 7, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      I say top loader with a soak option, heavy duty cycle, extra rinse (warm rinse if possible) and compare the cubic feet each washer has!

  • Jen
    March 7, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Could you possibly share the brand and model number you chose? I am pregnant with #2 and have been wanting a new washer for over a year now. We have a 2009 front loader that was “top of the line” and I hate it. I always add water, now to even most of our clothes loads so it’s costing me a lot of babysitting time. I don’t see ANY bubbles until I add 3-5 gallons, then there are tons. When I do the basket clean it has tons of bubbles. Basket clean is the only cycle that seems to actually use water and you aren’t supposed to use clothes in that cycle because of the high heat. Anyway I am hoping to get a new or used washer at a good deal before number 2 arrives because I am so sick of adding water and wondering if things are really clean with this HE washer.

    • March 7, 2013 at 5:30 pm

      I looked at the model # under the lid and it looks like it’s GE 5250. We got it for a good $200 off MSRP! Check with the store/your power company to see if there are rebates too since it is energy efficient!

  • Julie
    February 17, 2013 at 4:08 am

    I have the same problem. I can’t remember exactly what year it was I got my HE front loader. I think it may have been in 2004 or 2005. Thing is I was having problems with my top loader before that but I think it may have been because we had extremely hard water where we lived at the time so my diaper weren’t getting clean there either. When our top loader died we were excited to get a front loader because I’d heard rave reviews about them. Those people lied. My laundry does not smell good most of the time and my diapers don’t get clean. If I want to be sure they get clean I have to do a quick wash with warm water and no detergent for the initial rinse, then a heavy wash with hot water and twice the detergent recommended, then two quick washes to rinse them clean. I’m just glad I’ve been enlarging my stash because all this washing is probably putting a lot of wear and tear on my diapers.

  • kristina coffey
    February 15, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    My sister in law just got a new front loading HE Machine and what checking out all the gadgets. She didn’t know what one of the buttons was for so she looked it up and in the handbook it said it was a great washing options for cloth diapers! I will have to ask her again what machine it was

    • February 15, 2013 at 2:19 pm

      That’s awesome! I wonder what they mean by cloth diapers though, kwim? Maybe it’s a sanitize cycle…good for prefolds, not for PUL. I’m so curious!

  • February 13, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    I thought I would love the HE machine too, but you are right! I had to babysit it and add tons of water and it took multiple cycles to wash cloth diapers, so annoying. We moved and the new place had a top loader and I love it! It’s sturdy, reliable, and gets the job done. I love the environment and I try to save where I can, but like the other commenter said, what is the point if the job isn’t getting done!?

  • February 13, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Since starting cloth diapers (VERY recently), I’ve thought about a top loading washer of any kind. I have a he side loading washer. So far it’s done rather well, the only issue I have is that it’s side loading. 😉 I put all my cloth in a mesh bag in a diaper pail throughout the day and put that in the wash, and it’s ok. Just a little harder then a top loading in my opinion. 🙂

    Glad you are enjoying your washer! 🙂

  • kelly t
    February 13, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Sounds like you bought the exact same washer I did (5 months after getting a brand new front loader!) And I LOVE the top loader so much more!

  • Sarah G.
    February 13, 2013 at 9:24 am

    I wish we had a regular machine again! We have a top-loading HE, and we have found so many things still dirty after being “washed.” What good is saving water when it doesn’t do the job?

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