My Washer Ate a Diaper: 10 Steps for Cleanup

My washing machine gets fed on a regular basis. It is in no way deprived of any cotton-fibered nutrients. We give it a well-balanced diet of dirty underwear, mismatched socks, tutus, soccer shorts, bro tanks, and blouses. My greedy garment guzzler must think this is not sufficient, because so many of those socks are never returned. This beast even decided to eat a disposable diaper.


In all fairness, it was my fault. I should make it clear that it was a Pull-Up, not a basic diaper. A Thomas the Train variety.  It was clean, not soiled. So why did it even make its way to the mouth of our High Efficiency soaper? My son is very much potty-trained. It is a rarity for him to wet the bed, but I like to count on a trusty Pull-Up as back up. No harm in taking preventative measures, right?

On the morning of the incident, my son awoke, leaving his pajama pants and clean Pull-Up in a balled-up mess in the corner of his room. Right next to the laundry hamper. Later that night, I grabbed things to stuff into the washer, that mess included.

Fast forward to the end of that 30-minute wash cycle and you will find me mumbling words I cannot repeat. It was comparable to the feeling one gets with an infant’s inevitable blowout. You stand frozen, not knowing how to begin the cleanup. Cue the inner monologue:

What the…?

How could it have snowed inside the machine?

What is this sticky, gelled substance?  

Ummm…Did it upchuck all those socks it’s been stealing?

How will I ever clean this up?

The anatomy of a diaper.
The anatomy of a diaper.

Once I found the culprit and disposed of it, I thought I should channel my inner Thomas the Train. “I think I can, I think I can” became my fight song.

Let my slip up with the Pull-Up be a warning to mothers everywhere: Dump those diapers properly and carefully place items into your washer. Tell your friends! Tell their friends!

The aftermath consisted of a detailed cleanup. Here are 10 steps to take if you find yourself in this unfortunate gel storm.

How to remove diaper residue from your washer:

  1. Take the clothes out gently and put them into a garbage bag. Dispose of the diaper.
  2. Wipe down the inside of the washer with paper towels. No, you will not be able to get it all.
  3. Salt! Add ½ cup of table salt (all my sources swear by this ingredient).
  4. Run a regular cycle (no clothes included). An extra rinse cycle won’t hurt.
  5. Return clothes to the washer.
  6. Run a typical cycle, suitable for the clothing (you may include detergent this time). An extra rinse helps.
  7. Repeat step #6 (detergent is optional this time).
  8. Dry the clothes as you normally would.
  9. Wipe the inside of the washer with a paper towel again.
  10. Your life and your laundry room have returned to normal.

Perhaps this is another reason to consider cloth diapering or risk the occasional 3:00 AM wet-bed-clean-up song and dance.


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