“But what do you do with the poop?”
This question is often asked by new cloth diapering parents, or by non-cloth diapering people who regard cloth diapering as sort of an anachronism, like dressing in Renaissance fair clothing except cloth diapers are worn every day and have more poop involved. It’s not a bad question, because disposable diaper poop goes into the trash most of the time and the rest of us use toilets and merrily flush our excrement away without much thought. So what DO you do with a cloth diaper full of poop?
Newborn poop is not an issue. It is water soluble, a fancy phrase for “chuck it in the washing machine and it’ll all rinse out just fine because it is so thin and watery anyway.” Until your baby starts eating solids, there are no extra steps to take between pulling a diaper off your child and tossing it in the diaper pail. However, once eating solids begins, Having To Deal With Real, Actual Poop also begins. There are a few ways people tackle this challenge:
The “Dunk and Swish”: This time-honored tradition is fairly self-explanatory. You take the diaper, dunk it in the toilet, and swish it around so all the solids come off. Of course, the problem is that sometimes things are, well, sticky, and don’t swish off. However, it’s a no-cost method that involves using exactly what you have on hand: a toilet. Some people still use this method but others are horrified at the suggestion.
The “A Diaper Sprayer Costs HOW Much?”: Diaper sprayers look like kitchen sink sprayer attachments, except they attach to your toilet’s water line and usually hang off of a little hook installed on the toilet or the wall so they are within easy reach. You hold the diaper over the toilet and use the sprayer to blast off the poop. It is generally quicker and easier than dunking and swishing, but blasting too hard can make poop fly everywhere, I do mean EVERYWHERE, and there is always the chance that your toddling child will discover it and decide to try it out on his or her own, with various headache-inducing outcomes.
And finally, we come to “Flushable Liners: Huh?”: Flushable liners are thin diaper liners made with paper pulp, similar in size and texture to a fabric softener sheet. They are biodegradable and should not clog a normal, urban sewer system or septic tanks (if you are very rural this may vary). You place the liner in the diaper and when it is pooped in, you simply dump the poopy liner in the toilet and flush it away. This sounds like a magical, easy way of dealing with The Solid Poop Problem and if you are new to cloth diapers you may wonder why anyone would use any other method to clean poop off of cloth diapers.
As with anything, they come with pros and cons. Liners may make cleaning poop easier, but it is another expense to add to your budget. While they aren’t too expensive—generally around $8 for 100 liners—the cost can add up if you have a very poopy baby, are diapering multiples, or if you end up using a liner with every diaper change because your baby does not poop on a nice, predictable schedule. Liners are also fairly ineffective if your baby’s poop is on the, shall we say, less-than-solid side. Watery stools will simply seep through the liner and poop will end up on the diaper anyway, necessitating another cleaning method. Liners are also made by most major cloth diaper manufactures, with great differences between each brand. Some may be too large or too small for your child. Some are soft but bunch up out of place easily, while others are thicker but feel scratchy and uncomfortable. If you have spent a fair amount of time and money figuring out what system and brand of cloth diapers works for your child, you may not want to start that process all over again for flushable liners.
I do think that flushable liners are generally the easiest way to deal with solid poop. They flush away quickly and aren’t messy when the poop is the right consistency, and I think this is a great option for families who would cloth diaper but are otherwise turned off by the thought of actually washing poop off a diaper before it goes into the diaper pail. The idea certainly appealed to me when I was a newbie cloth diapering my first child. If you are frustrated with cleaning poop off diapers, give flushable liners a try—just be aware that they, unfortunately, will not stop your child from having the most horribly explosive poop in their nicest clothing five minutes before [Insert Once In A Lifetime Special Event Here]. But they may make cleaning up the resulting mess just a little bit easier!