I’ve blogged before about cloth diapering in an apartment. The article gives advice assuming you have access to a washer and dryer, whether that be the laundromat down the street or a shared laundry room. But what if you have neither, no washing machine in your unit, and you are so hardcore about cloth diapering you insist on using them anyway?
Never fear. You can fully handwash and air-dry your diapers in your bathroom and get some killer biceps as a side effect.
Again, this is something I have personally done, in order to save some weekly quarters. I think I handwashed 2 out of 3 loads of diaper laundry a week for a few months before I got pregnant again and was way too tired to continue (pregnancy and I will never get along very well). It’s far more time consuming than using a machine—but not as much as you think—and once you master handwashing, you can bring cloth diapers anywhere. Wash them in a hotel room sink. Wash them while camping. I don’t blame anyone for switching to disposables while traveling as it is much easier and one last thing to worry about (do I have space in my suitcase for enough diapers? What if the washing machine is broken in the place we are going?); however, if you are as extraordinarily stubborn as I am you may wish to cloth diaper even when circumstances are not ideal.
The easiest diapers to handwash are birdseye flats. They are cotton, so they don’t hold onto stink, and they are thin, so they dry extremely fast. If you need a flat to dry extremely quickly and have access to an iron but no dryer, you can iron a flat dry in short time. That being said, I have successfully handwashed flats, prefolds, cloth wipes, pocket shells, pocket inserts, and a couple of AIOs, although AIOs are the hardest and I don’t recommend it (but you can if you have to).
Items you’ll need to handwash using the method below are:
- A large plastic bucket. A lid is not necessary, but it will make things a lot easier.
- Either a camp style washer, or buy a cheap toilet plunger from your local big box store and drill a few holes in it, to help with water flow, although some people have reported that drilling holes didn’t make a difference for them.
- Dirty Diapers, or other soiled clothing
This video here shows how to wash the diapers, step by step. I’ll summarize below:
- Put the dirty diapers in the bucket along with a little soap (unfortunately you’ll just have to learn how much soap works for you by trial and error based on the amount of diapers you are washing and the size of your bucket, but it shouldn’t be more than a tablespoon or so). You needn’t use laundry detergent since that stuff is specifically formulated for, well, the power of washing machines, but if you do use it, use a TINY bit. That stuff bubbles up while handwashing like no one’s business and is a pain to rinse out if you use too much. Yes, I know this from experience. Fill the bucket with water a little over the height of your diapers. If there’s too much water in the bucket, your diapers will float and not agitate against each other to get the dirt out, so don’t fill it all the way.
- You can have your diapers soak for a bit if you want. I don’t think it made a difference for me, but it doesn’t hurt. Once you begin, put the plunger handle through the hole in the lid (if you are using one), put the lid on, and plunge away for about 4-5 minutes. You probably don’t want to have more than 10 items in the bucket or else plunging will be incredibly hard. Your arms will look pretty awesome after a few days though!
- Dump the water and fill it again. Plunge again; I’d go about 10 minutes for this “cycle.”
- Dump the water and fill it again. This is the rinse cycle! Plunge again for a couple of minutes and make sure the water is looking clear and not bubbly. If it still seems dirty, repeat this cycle until the water runs clean.
That’s all! I could wash 8-9 diapers in about 20 minutes. Now you just have to wring them out and hang them to dry. In the dead of winter in my poorly ventilated bathroom, flats, pocket shells, and wipes would dry overnight. If you have access to the sunny outdoors everything should dry faster. Now you can wash diapers even after the apocalypse happens!