A little while ago, I promised Animal in comments that I would do a diaper post, and while I've been thinking about a lot of other things to write about, they're all topics that take some work and organization and I just...don't feel like it right now. Call it spring fever or blogging ennui or what-have-you.

So instead, you're getting my diaper spiel, like it or not.

We use cloth diapers in our house. The primary reason for this is environmental: manufacturing and washing cloth diapers has far, far less negative environmental impact than using disposables. As a committed environmentalist, I simply can not fill up multiple trash bags with human waste on a weekly basis for 4 years (or more) running. It's just not right. Plus, cloth diapers are cheaper in the long run and there's a small chance that our kids will potty train earlier (though I'm sorry to say Daniel's interest in the potty is waning a bit these days).

Some towns have diaper services for people who want to use cloth diapers but don't want to go to the work of washing them themselves. Unfortunately, diaper services are rare; I guess there aren't a whole lot of entrepreneurs out there who think "Okay, I want to start my own business, but in what? I know! I'll wash poop-filled diapers for strangers!" You might say it's a niche.

We used a diaper service the first three months after Daniel was born. Getting used to having a new baby at home and washing diapers ourselves just seemed too much to handle at once. But it cost 70 bucks a month, plus we had to buy the covers, and sometime in that first spring, we started to wash our own. I was afraid it would be tons of extra work, but as it turns out, having a baby means you're constantly doing laundry anyway, so what's an extra load every few days?

Now that we have two kids in diapers, of course, changing and washing those diapers occupies a significant portion of my time, but that's all right. Daniel will be fully potty trained sometime in the next year (I hope), and then I'll be able to go back to washing diapers every three days instead of every 36 hours. Yes, that's pretty much every day, but at least I'm getting my exercise running up and down the stairs (our laundry is in the basement).

So, here's how we do it:

1. Diapers that are only wet go right in the diaper pail, which is really just a trash can with a lid. A sprinkle of baking soda keeps the smell from getting too overpowering.

2. Messy diapers get a special rinse in the poop bucket with poop gloves (even after two years, I can't wash them out with my bare hands because it grosses me out too much). Then they're put in the diaper pail.

3. Until they get soaking wet or poopy, the covers can be used through several diaper changes before they, too, get chucked in the pail.

4. When it's time to wash, I dump the diapers and covers into the washing machine. We have an old top-loader that is not especially water-saving, but this is a good thing for washing diapers because of all the rinsing required. Anyway, I set the water level on full and do a cold/cold cycle to rinse everything out.

5. Then I set the temp to hot/cold and do another full wash cycle with about 1 tablespoon of perfume-free detergent (All Free and Clear is good, or Arm and Hammer scent-free detergent) and 1/2 cup of washing soda made by Arm and Hammer.

6. The third and final cycle is another hot/cold, again with 1 tablespoon of detergent and 1/2 cup of washing soda. I also put a few tablespoons of white vinegar in a Downy ball. The Downy ball is made for fabric softener and designed to open up during the rinse cycle. The whole purpose of putting vinegar in there is because it strips the diapers clean of any detergent still lingering in the fibers. Too much detergent can make the diapers smell and cause diaper rash if you're not careful.

7. In summer (will we ever have warm weather or see the green grass again ????), I hang the diapers outside to dry on the clothesline. Unfortunately, this time of year, I have to use the dryer, which takes forever and wears out the diapers much faster, but I don't have a choice. Line-drying is ideal (if time-consuming) because the sun naturally bleaches out any stains. If the diapers are stiff coming off the line, they just need a 10-minute tumble in the dryer to get nice and fluffy.

And that's it! I know it seems like a lot, but it's just part of the routine here. It's worth the extra effort knowing we're not contributing to the landfill problem. Plus, I figure there are a lot of things we - mostly I, since I'm the, er, housewife (did-I-really-write-that-out-loud?) - take the extra time to do for the sake of living a quality life. Things like making our own bread and cooking from scratch and buying foods grown and produced locally and using our clothesline when we can and commuting by bike. We're just not willing to compromise on those things. Not yet.


Anonymous said…
Hi Susan- I'm a longtime reader of your blog and this is a pretty funny occasion to add my first comment (esp. since I've never had children), but I just recently read a related tip from a frugal-living site. The mother there told of even stopping using disposable wipes. She bought a big old beach towel at a thrift store and cut it into washcloth-sized pieces. She sewed a zigzag stitch around the edges. (I imagine this could probably be skipped if one didn't have a sewing machine; the edges may fray sooner, but it wouldn't be so bad to get a new used towel and make another batch some day. Alternately, I imagine a more substantial stitch would make the pieces last longer than ones zigzagged.) She uses them like baby wipes and then throws them into the diaper pail to be laundered the next time the cloth diapers are.
That's pretty hard-core environmental and/or frugal, so I do want to add that people shouldn't feel bad for not always doing the very most. Even someone moving from all disposable diapers to sometimes cloth is commendable.
-Sarah in Topeka
katie said…
I am glad for this post. For our third, we're thinking of going cloth. The reason we didn't for the others is we never lived in a house with our own laundry facilities. We always had to go out of the house to do laundry, and it was just too overwhelming. Now I'm excited about it, because we have a nice front loader in our house!
Animal said…
Thank you, Suze, and I'm sorry I took so long to read (and respond to!) this post. Our Bum Genius diapers don't have the conventional "covers" as they're more or less set up like throw-aways, but I was glad to read about how you used the vinegar. The line-drying is good, too: I hesitated to do that with ours for fear of scratchiness, but of COURSE the 10-min. "fluff dry" would take that out! (Der.) And yeah: I like environmental goodness too, but frankly it really did come down to savings. The way we calculated it, we'd end up saving (literally) a couple grand by buying 2 dozen disposables right away. Rozzle still uses throw-aways at daycare & while traveling, but mostly it's the regular diapers, with a good wash.

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