Cloth diapers are addictive.
Many people, mostly people who don’t use cloth or don’t have kids, will stare at you blankly when those words come out of your mouth. For heaven’s sake, they are diapers! It’s easy to understand buying an entire clothing line of baby clothes you think are adorable, or several of the same cute blankie because you know a few will get lost as the years go by. But…diapers? They’re just diapers, right?
No. They are not just diapers. They are diapers made out of mind-controlling, obsessive magical fabric that spurn you to open your wallet the second your favorite cloth diaper company comes out with a new line of prints, sending you running to grab the mail a few days later, throwing the diapers in the wash and the packaging in the recycle bin before your spouse can come home so they don’t realize you’ve bought EVEN MORE DIAPERS. This crazy obsession with cloth diapers has led to people spending hundreds of dollars on a single hard-to-find, highly sought after print (these people make far more money than me, by the way).
If you’re on a budget, or are afraid of getting caught up in the obsessive side of the world of cloth diapers, then a “Plain Jane” stash might be for you. The definition of a plain cloth diaper stash is a little different depending on the person, but it is basically a simple stash without the hundred-dollar prints or dozens of different types of diapers. For many people, it is a stash of flats and prefolds with some white covers. For others, it might be a stash of 25 white all-in-ones. Still others might have 30 tie-dyed prefolds and a couple of wool covers. Plain stashes can cross over with minimalism, so if you don’t have a lot of space or you just hate having “extra” things lying around (no 100-diaper stashes for you!), this might be something to consider.
It will probably happen at some point. In my case, it happened the very first time we cloth diapered my tiny newborn daughter—your child poops, you run the diaper through the wash, and it comes out stained! Many people feel gypped the moment this happens. After all, if you have 12 fancy all-in-one diapers that cost $25 each, you will probably panic a bit—they were SO expensive! The Internet swore they were top of the line diapers, and after one use they look used and gross! What to do? (Unless you’re one of the mysterious minorities of parents online who claim that in their nine years of cloth diapering, they’ve left dirty diapers lying around for days before washing and never had a single stain. In that case, you can go on washing your diapers in your magic washing machine and send the magic our way.)
How do I know we have it? I don’t. It’s what people tell me when I say the dishwasher leaves spots all over my dishes. But now I know the great evil that is hard water because my daughter has a diaper rash. WHAT? How could a cloth diapered, adorable baby have a diaper rash that won’t go away with all-natural creams, healthy diet changes, and teething remedies? Hard water. That’s how.
For all I know, I grew up with hard water. I couldn’t tell you the difference. But I do know that the house we just moved from and the house we now live in have very different water.
As any cloth diaperer discovers, every-so-often the diapers need to be stripped or deep cleaned to get out residues left from detergents, oils, and the ammonia smell that can occur. In our last home, we did it every couple of months with Blue Dawn Original detergent and an Oxyclean soak to knock out that ammonia. It’s always been successful. We use a detergent for everyday use that is made out of equal parts Oxyclean, washing powder, and baking soda that hasn’t given us any trouble. We were careful not to use too much to avoid build up and I was quite proud of our routine. Then we moved.
I don’t regret my decision to use cloth diapers on my child. He has gone from problematic diaper rashes to none at all. He’s happy to come running when it’s time for a diaper change as opposed to crying through a change because it hurts. Instead of bringing me the diaper rash cream he now brings me the inserts when he is helping me get diaper supplies. For my child cloth diapers have been wonderful. That makes them well worth the extra work for me.
There are a few things I didn’t anticipate with the change from disposables to cloth, but I have learned to adjust to the changes that I have needed to make to help my little guy be happy.
When starting out with cloth diapers, you will have more laundry. As you try out different types of diapers, absorbing materials and experiment with the number of inserts you need during a diaper change, you will also increase you amount of wet sheets and soiled clothes.
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:
Eucalan is the delicate wash I see recommended everywhere when people ask, “What should I use to wash my wool diaper covers?” That being said, I didn’t try it until recently, and only bought it on a whim while I getting some cloth diapers from another site, my reason being, “Oh, Eucalan…I guess I should finally try that to make shipping for these other things worth it.” Nothing deep, but then I guess if you have very deep, philosophical reasons for buying soap beyond “I need to clean things,” you probably have other issues beyond the scope of this blog.
So what are the advantages Eucalan supposedly has over other wool/delicate soaps? Let’s see what Eucalan themselves have to say:
- Phosphate free
- Natural lanolin
- Enriched formula
- Recyclable hdpe plastic bottle
Ok, so “enriched formula” is vague marketing speak, but the rest is pretty cool. Non-toxicness and diapers go pretty well together, seeing as baby butts can get pretty toxic themselves without any outside influence. Lanolin is great for wool. What about scents?
Eucalan comes in unscented, eucalyptus, lavender, grapefruit, and jasmine (under the “Wrapture” label). And yes, the name “Eucalan” comes from its original scent of eucalyptus, in case you were wondering! I bought the lavender scented version. Usually I only like unscented soaps because if you get one bad scent you are stuck with it until the soap is gone, but I have a terrible weakness for anything lavender (I make killer lavender encrusted pork chops, just so you know). All scents are created using natural essential oils as well, so no worries about chemically cooked up, overpowering fragrances here. Unless you have specific allergies to any of the ingredients, Eucalan is safe for sensitive skin.
Now, why on earth would you want a no-rinse liquid wash? Well, generally you are using Eucalan on delicates, as it’s advertised, and delicates are…delicate. To rinse you have to handle them more, squeezing and so on, so a no-rinse wash means you can skip that, basically putting a little less wear and tear on your items. It does save that extra rinse step too, which is nice when you are washing a large amount of items at the same time. “But won’t that leave a ton of soap on my laundry…?” you might ask. Eucalan is formulated to have minimal suds, so simply squeezing it out without rinsing is good enough. Not rinsing also leaves a bit of lanolin on the laundry items, which keeps them soft and a little water resistant.
“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?
It doesn’t matter what time period you are from. Babies always pull down your shirt at the most inappropriate times, such as while sitting for a formal portrait.
I totally get why some people suspend cloth diapering their kids while traveling. Our closest family, geographically, is a 4-hour drive away, so when we visit them I always have an extra bag full of cloth diapers, covers, extra wetbags, wipes, etc. It’s not a huge deal since it’s only a 4 hour drive and we know we have access to a washing machine, etc, while there, but it is still one more bag to pack and worry about. I can’t blame anyone who says “screw it” and picks up a pack of disposables so they don’t have to deal with cloth on top of all the usual traveling stress.
Who wants to think about cloth diapers when you have this view to look at? Oh, that’s right, me.
However, I have a tendency to never do anything the “easy” way so we do cloth full time, all the time, no matter what. Reasons include:
Ok, so let me say this right off the bat: My usual detergent for cloth diapers is the same as for the rest of our family’s laundry. All Free and Clear.
I’m sure some of you reading this gasped in abject horror, the rest are nodding sagely because that’s what you use too. There’s a ton of conflicting information about what detergents to use with cloth diapers out there. I’m a believer of using what works for you.
Nevertheless, if you’ve ever ordered diapers or diapering products from an online cloth diaper boutique, you have probably ended up receiving a free sample of bumGenius detergent at some point. Really, it’s inevitable. Whenever one falls out of a package I’m opening, I toss it in a little basket on my desk and go on to admiring whatever fluffy diaper I actually bought. The intention has always been to use them while traveling, but I’ve never actually traveled somewhere that didn’t already have All Free and Clear available, so the bumGenius detergent piled up until the cat whacked the basket with his tail and they scattered all over the place, prompting me to grab a pack and actually try it at home to see what the difference is.
The load of diapers I washed included, appropriately, a few bumGenius Elementals, two Flip covers, a couple of Swaddlebees Simplex OS, a number of Green Mountain Diaper organic workhorses, and a couple of Alva suedecloth pockets and bamboo/microfiber blend inserts. This is not a “brag list” of diapers we use, I promise it will be relevant later. I dumped the detergent and diapers into my non-HE top loader, set it to wash on hot with an extra rinse, and then left to see why my daughter was being oddly silent.
After drying I pulled out all the diapers. They smelled clean. They looked fairly clean. It seemed like the cotton workhorses held on to more stains than usual. But, overall, everything was clean, which is the point of laundry detergent, so what I can say is that it did its job just fine. But how did it hold up against my beloved All Free and Clear?
Frankly, when I was buying my first wool cover and scouting around for a good wool wash, a soap bar seemed stupid. “Isn’t it much easier to just get the liquid?” I thought haughtily, imagining a world where only poor peasants leaned over their washbuckets, using rough, ash-stained hands to rub a sad bar of soap over their $80 wool longies (ok, I didn’t say it was a very realistic imaginative world).
Of course, thriftiness prevailed; not knowing if I would even like using wool, I opted for the cheapest wool wash, which happened to be a Sudz n’ Dudz Organic Wool Wash Bar. And what do you know? I have become that poor peasant using rough hands to scrub my wool diaper covers.
Luckily for all, Sudz n’ Dudz is not a “sad bar of soap.” In fact, it’s quite amazing. Each bar is handmade in the U.S.A. with organic oils and essential oil scents. There is an unscented bar as well, and each is enriched with lanolin, so every wash gives your wool a little lanolin boost. The company website indicates that the oils and butters that make up their soap include castor oil, coconut oil, beeswax, olive oil, palm oil, and shea butter. It’s quite an unremarkable list in that you can hop to any local organic store and pick up each ingredient off the shelf, but something about the way Sudz n’ Dudz combines their ingredients turns them into magical soap.