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Switching to cloth diapers: Confessions of a laundry-a-phobe

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Laundry. I’m not a fan.

I couldn’t believe the increase of laundry when I got married. You’d think two people would equate to twice as much laundry. But no… make that four times as much.

For starters, my husband’s clothes are much bigger than mine. You could say at least double the mass of clothes. And secondly, my husband sweats much more than I do. More sweat means more dirty clothes. Nothing gets to be worn twice

I knew that becoming a mom would mean an even bigger laundry assignment, because not only would there be all the baby clothes, there would be the extra towels, the burp clothes, the peed-on sheets, the blankets, etc. So even though I really wanted to be a cloth-diapering mama, I decided to give myself six months of disposable ease before making the switch. (Although I actually started at five months.)

I called it my laundry grace period

My reasoning for the delay had everything to do with my fear of insurmountable laundry. I figured that it would give me time to get used to being a mom, the new routines, the increased laundry… and then a few months after giving birth I’d be ready for the next challenge:

…the cloth diaper challenge.

Imagine my surprise when cloth diapering turned out to be so much easier than I had anticipated.

Yes, there is a bit more laundry. Yes, there is some extra time involved with stuffing and folding them and stacking them, but even still it’s not been nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.

Here’s my cloth diaper routine:

1. I use “nappy liners” inside the cloth diaper. (These look like a dryer sheet but are made for this so have no perfumes or chemicals that would irritate bubby’s skin.) When there’s a poo, the liner (with most of the poo caught in it) goes straight into the rubbish bin. Makes for very easy clean-up!

2. Then I use a cloth wipe (folded and stored in an empty regular disposable wipes container) and a spray bottle to clean baby’s tooshie.

3. The cloth diaper and insert and cloth wipe all go straight into another small bin. (Yes, I have two small bins near the change table, but it’s much less invasive than you’d think and doesn’t look like a garbage processing center.)

4. If it was a massive poo that needs some extra attention, I take it to the toilet and do a quick rinse off with the diaper sprayer that my clever husband made with some plumbing tube and a garden hose gun. (I actually need to use this much less than I originally thought – maybe only once every other week or so.) After the rinse it goes straight into the bin with the others. (If you don’t have a sprayer you can always do the “dunk and swish” if you need to.)

5. Once the bin is full I dump it straight into the washing machine. This usually works out to be every-other day.

6. First I rinse the diapers in a cold rinse to get all the poo and muck off.

7. After that I wash the diapers with 1/4 scoop of chemical free detergent in a warm cycle with an extra rinse. (For cleaning and stain removal.) Even though it is a small load, I use the water on the large load setting since it’s important to make sure there’s plenty of water to remove the detergent residue. (And thankfully I’m from the tropics where there will never, ever be a shortage of water… so water waste is not an issue.)

8. Then I do a double rinse on hot, also using the “large load” setting for maximum water. (For further cleansing and to make sure no soap reside remains – that’s the important part because residue build-up will eventually give bubs a rash if you don’t use extra rinses.)

9. After washing I hang them on the line dry. (I have no dryer folks… but even if I did would probably still use the line for diapers! It keeps them fresh and the sun is a natural bleaching agent.)

10. Finally I stuff the inserts into the liners (usually while watching the news!) and stack them in a storage bin under Levi’s change table.

{helping with the laundry??}

Now obviously this is more work than opening a pack of disposables, but to me it’s worth it. We are saving SO much money this way and I love knowing that we’re not contributing to one of the biggest landfill fillers of all time. (Did you know it’s estimated that disposable diapers take 500 years to decompose? Yikes.) Even our babysitters have said they don’t mind using the cloth – they’re that easy. (We leave them some disposables just in case… but they always use the cloth.)

They also don’t hinder us from being out and about. I just have a small waterproof bag in my purse that the soiled diaper goes in until we get home – it seals in the wetness and smell surprisingly well.

My only regret is that I didn’t start the cloth diapers sooner. Sure, the “laundry grace period” was great (and I genuinely thought I’d need it), but the laundry and process involved isn’t nearly as daunting as I had assumed it would be. With our next child I will start much, much sooner.

And this is coming from a laundry-a-phobe

If I can do it, so can you… if cloth diapering is your thing.

Dear friends, do you use cloth diapers? Any tips you’d like to share? Or maybe you are considering making the switch… what’s the biggest appeal to you or the biggest deterrent?

I’m a survivor,
Adriel x

10 Comments

  • Reply Ana 26 October 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Being students, we are on a limited budget, and I have toyed with the idea of going to cloth diapers (but still using regular wipes because we grab the Costco Kirkland bulk box, and those wipes are awesome). But here's the thing for me:

    *We have a 600 sq ft apartment. Any addition of laundry baskets takes up quite a bit of space.

    *Shared laundry facilities with a $1.00 per load makes it difficult to do that extra cycle (also the detergents used by others is a bit questionable at times)

    Okay, those are my two weenie reasons that once I write them down seem trivial and, well, weenie! I should look into cloth diapering again to save those dollars.

    Where do you get the nappy liners, etc Adriel?

  • Reply Greta: From Transparencies of Motherhood 26 October 2010 at 3:40 pm

    How much did start-up cost?

  • Reply cooperl788 26 October 2010 at 4:44 pm

    We put some real thought into cloth diapers when I was pregnant, but in the end we decided to go disposable because my husband wasn't on board. I couldn't convince him for anything that it was going to be easy! It makes me a little sad; I feel horrible using disposables, but we try to use the environmentally friendly kind to reduce our footprint. It's not as good as cloth, but it's something, right?

  • Reply Tamara Hutchison 26 October 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Hey Adriel, loved your article…again!!

    I have contemplated going cloth for this 3rd bubba of ours. I can't do the math work though to work out how much cheaper it really will or won't be. I think each place varies in cost effectiveness based on a few things and that, I just can't work out.

    Some location have hard water which means quite a few rinses to get the detergent out. I know for a fact Calgary charges a LOT for water and not renting over here means we take the cost full force, and with snow and cold weather for a good chunk of time we are forced to have to use the dryer for most of our clothes…which hikes up the cost. I guess I need to find some cloth diapering Mums/Moms in such an environment as this to work out the cost maybe.

    How did you guys work out your costs to know you were saving more? I guess that may have been a no brainer though since there is no dryer to factor in and with renting you pay differently for water AND Townsville is a whole lot cheaper on the water front even with their restrictions.

    Lots to think about…but thanks for getting the ball rolling with your article. 🙂

  • Reply Thru a Tori-lens 27 October 2010 at 3:46 am

    Hi Adriel! Love your blog- I'm a follower via Westside in Bend- anyway- Good for you! We cloth diaper and love it! Especially the first couple weeks when baby goes through 10 diapers a day- whew! We had cheap start-up because we just use whatever anyone can give us. Most of our diapers and covers are pretty old, but they work fine. We do use disposable when traveling, of course (who doesn't?). OH- and you can FLUSH the liners, too. Less messy. 🙂

  • Reply Mellisa Rock 27 October 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I used disposable for all of my kids – but you make it sound so easy I want a do-over. That makes total sense with the spray bottle, cloth to wipe and liners. I have always wondered how this process would be put into place – thanks for clearing that up!

  • Reply Brandy 29 October 2010 at 3:06 am

    This is great!
    I have wanted to do cloth diapers since the beginning. Looked into it and had it all planned out before my son was born. Then I remembered we share a washer and a dryer, and I thought out of kindness to my neighbours it might be best if I don't wash our kids stinky diapers in the shared washer.
    But I'm starting to think maybe I'm being too nice?

  • Reply Emily 1 November 2010 at 7:26 am

    Good for you!! I just did a guest post about why I use a service to do our cloth diapers if you are interested I would love for you to take a look.
    http://greeningsamandavery.typepad.com/greening-sam-and-avery/2010/10/day-120-guest-post-why-i-use-a-cloth-diaper-service.html

  • Reply Emily 1 November 2010 at 7:26 am

    PS – Sorry I haven't been leaving some comment love I have been reading mostly through RSS life has been busy!!

  • Reply Janice and Terry 9 January 2011 at 5:33 am

    Thanks Adriel, I found this very helpful. I was hoping you had something about cloth nappies! We have starting using cloth ones but only really when we are around home and on the weekends.

    We waited for 2 months due to the work of them as well as the size of them on our little girl. They still seem to overtake her little body when we put them on her, but even using them on weekends has helped with the amount of nappies we go through.

    I am wondering how it works when you are out all day. Would it be gross to keep dirty nappies in the waterproof bag all day? Do you switch to disposables at all for that? I'm just hesitant about taking them out and about as they are pretty bulky for packing as well (both them clean or dirty)
    One other thing, how many nappies do you have and how many do you need to keep you going full-time? What kind of detergent do you use over here, and where did you get the liners? I think the liners would make it all much nicer…
    Thanks! Love you guys, Janice

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