Some people cloth diaper because they’re highly passionate about saving the earth, or they want to avoid harsh chemicals and advocate a “natural” livelihood (“natural” is in quotes because it means something different to every person).
I cloth diaper because I’m lazy and a pansy.
Um, okay, you may be thinking, aren’t cloth diapers MORE work than disposables? And what does the plant species viola x wittrockiana have to do with anything?
Surely there is a cloth diaper color called “Pansy” by now.
I am lazy in that I hate going to the store for only one or two things. Since I live in an urban area, “running to the store” for me involves getting the kids ready, then dragging them down the hall, down the elevator hoping I don’t lose my toddler to the stairwell along the way since she actually thinks hiking down seven flights of stairs is fun, through the parking garage hoping I don’t lose my toddler to the stairwell along the way since she actually thinks hiking UP seven flights of stairs is fun, cursing the person with the giant SUV who has the parking space next to us and thinks that she is supposed to park one inch away from our car so I can’t open the side door and have to crawl through the trunk to snap in the infant carseat, and then fight the traffic that turns what should be a five minute drive into a fifteen minute one. If I’m going anywhere it needs to be worth my time, none of this “let me just go pick up a bag of flour real quick” stuff. My experience with other disposable items in our home is that rather than “run to the store,” I was ending up substituting reusable items when we ran out of the disposable ones anyway. Out of napkins? Use a dishcloth. Out of paper towels? Use a dishcloth. If we ran out of disposable diapers in the middle of the day, I knew there was no way I’d want to run to the store and grab more real quick, and would have said, “Out of diapers? Use a dishcloth (really!)” anyway. I had briefly considered using disposable diapers with my second child, but knew there was no way I’d want to go through all of the above whenever we were out of disposables, so cloth it was.
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.
No drying rack? No problem. Get creative with hangers and hooks!
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:
Q: “I have stains on my diapers, how do I get them out?”
A: “Oh, just put them outside in the sun for a while. It will bleach them to white again!”
This is great advice, unless you don’t have a yard and “putting them outside” will result in them being stolen, eaten by a stray dog passing by, or run over by a city bus three minutes later. What are us apartment dwellers to do?
The city bus: Not a friend of cloth diapers
Thankfully, the sun is pretty much everywhere. I suppose if you are trying to cloth diaper a child in Antarctica, sunning may be impossible for several months of the year, but then your kid is probably out frolicking with penguins as you read this, so I’m actually jealous.
The most common response to “How do I sun my diapers indoors?” is simply, “Put them in a window!” I wish it were that easy. We’re about to get a little scientific here, so bear with me a moment. Sun bleaching works because the sun’s ultraviolet rays disrupt and break down/change the chemical bonds that the ultraviolet rays hit (remember from 5th grade science class, all color we see is just our brain’s interpretation of light being absorbed or reflected off objects). This is also why your plastic outdoor toys fade in the sun; the chemical components that make a plastic slide red are slowly destroyed by ultraviolet rays over time and the bright red slide fades to a weird light red-orange color. Of course, those powerful rays also lead to sunburn, skin cancer, and a host of other issues for humans over time, so in the interest of public health, companies have tried to develop ways to reduce our UV exposure in our daily lives.
To a newbie, some articles on cloth diapering make it seem like an insurmountable task. Only use a teaspoon of specially formulated diaper-safe detergent! Wash on cold then warm then cold and two extra rinses on cold, exactly 48 hours apart per load! Line dry ONLY because if you put your diapers in the dryer the disintegration of the PUL will cause time and space to warp and create a black hole in your laundry room!
Beware the black hole in your dryer. It’s where all your socks disappear.
To a newbie who lives in an apartment, these exaggerations can scare them off of cloth diapering before they get very far into their search. I know, because I once was a newbie who lived in an apartment. But now, as a cloth diapering veteran who still lives in an apartment, I can safely say that NONE of the above is true (though in fairness to all you physicists out there, I will not entirely discount the existence of quantum mechanical black holes).