Dad holding baby, doing laundry; what to do if you run a disposable diaper in the wash
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Troubleshooting: When A Disposable Diaper Explodes In The Washing Machine

Don’t freak out.

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You’re on your tippy toes or knees, transferring a just-washed laundry from the washing machine to its neighboring dryer. But when you stick your hand in the washer to retrieve the wet garments, you feel something gel-like that definitely doesn’t feel like clothes. Is that slime? Food? A disintegrated face mask? No, it’s the remnants of a used diaper that once was — specifically, the absorbent gel that lines them and holds your child’s pee. Accidentally running a disposable diaper through the washing machine happens to the best of us, but it doesn’t have to be panic-inducing at all, really. Here’s how to clean your clothes and your machine if your baby or toddler’s diapers make an unexpected trip through the washer.

Will it damage your machine?

First off, you don’t need to hire a washing machine repair person or replace your appliance if you accidentally launder a disposable diaper. “The good news is that washing a disposable diaper is unlikely to harm your clothes washer,” says Chris Doscher with the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. “It could create an additional clean-up job, though. If the diaper bursts while in the wash cycle, it may spread its materials to the inside of your clothes washer and onto the rest of your laundry.” That material will look like clumps or beads of clear gel. But really, the clean-up process is not a big deal at all.

What to do: Cleaning steps if a disposable diaper explodes in the washing machine

Doscher breaks down how to address a ruptured disposable diaper in the washing machine:

  1. Remove the laundry from the machine and shake out as much of the debris as possible.
  2. Wipe down the inside of the machine. Now’s a good time to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning in your manual (if you have it around).
  3. Run a self-clean cycle with the clothes washer empty to remove debris and other residue from the machine.
  4. Wash the laundry again on a regular wash cycle.

At this point, your machine and load should be free of foreign and uninvited debris.

I will say, I personally have run a disposable diaper through the washing machine on two separate occasions. The first time I was concerned it would damage or clog the machine, but it didn’t. I even drained the machine and the machine filter following and didn’t notice anything trapped in the filter or drain hose.

The point is, it’s not a big deal. Washing machines are not as delicate as you might think (ours has seen its fair share of coins, rocks, and more). After a self-clean, your washing machine should run as normal.

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