Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hand Washing Cloth Diapers



In general, cloth diapering isn't for the faint of heart. I thought I came in contact with a lot of bodily fluids when we used disposables but it doesn't even compare to cloth diapering. The benefits of cloth diapering totally outweigh the gross-factor, though.

I first heard of modern cloth diapering a few years ago. I didn't understand it at the time and never thought I'd be a cloth diapering parent. When I got pregnant and joined an online moms group I started hearing more and more about it and did a little research. Once I saw that cloth diapers couldn't be laundered with other clothes I stopped looking in to it because we don't have a washer and dryer.

A few of the moms in my Facebook group cloth diaper their babies with no in-unit laundry so I had no excuse not to seriously consider it. The basics of washing cloth diapers are cold rinse, hot wash, cold rinse. The washers in our building don't have an option for an extra rinse so to do everything in the machine I'd have to run three separate cycles at $1.50 each. Add in the dryer cycle and we're looking at a total of  $6 per load. That adds up quickly since cloth diapers need to be washed two to three times per week. At that rate we'd be spending more on the cloth diapers than we would with disposables. 

When we started our cloth diaper stash we knew we would be hand washing them a majority of the time. It's not ideal, but it gets the job done and is very cost effective. Here's how we do it (more info can be found in this post).

The supplies you'll need include: a large bucket, plunger, cloth diaper-safe detergent, rubber gloves (optional), salad spinner (optional) and a drying rack or clothes line.

The first step in washing cloth diapers is to fill up a large bucket with cold water. Drop up to five cloth diapers and inserts in the water. Sometimes I'll add a tablespoon of vinegar (this can void some cloth diaper warranties, so add vinegar at your own risk).

Please don't mind the grimy tile, it's just stained. I cleaned it last week and we don't use this shower!


Then take the plunger and agitate the diapers for a good five minutes.


Dump out the water and refill the bucket with hot water.



Add up to one tablespoon of cloth diaper-safe detergent. You'll have to play around with the amount that works best for you. I started out using a free sample of Rockin' Green detergent that worked okay. Now we use regular Tide, which is not a traditional cloth diaper detergent but gets rave reviews from long-time cloth diapering moms.


HE detergent is low-susding.

Agitate for at least five minutes, I usually do ten. Make sure to get all the diapers and inserts underneath the plunger, as they tend to wrap around the handle.


Pour out the sudsy water and refill the bucket for the third time with cold water. Agitate with the plunger for another few minutes.




You could technically be done at this point. But, I'm paranoid that there's still detergent on the diapers so I take the bucket to the kitchen and rinse each diaper once more in the sink.


You can wring the excess water out by hand or use a salad spinner.


Now for the last step- drying! I hang everything up and if it's nice out I put the clothes rack outside. Even if you don't hand wash your cloth diapers it is recommended you don't put any PUL in the dryer because it will wear out faster (occasionally on low heat it's okay). Putting the diapers in the sun is a great way to get rid of any staining, too. Lately it's been in the 70s-80s and my diapers and inserts will be dry in about six hours.

I put ankle weights on the rack to prevent it from blowing over when it's windy.

I can't say that I love hand washing cloth diapers, but I enjoy cloth diapering enough to do it for now. Ant and I have talked a little about getting a portable washing machine, which would be ahhh-mazing! We could use it for more than just our cloth diapers so investing in one could potentially save us quite a bit of money and trips to the bank for rolls of quarters. 

Also, I have to thank my model for helping me out with all the photos for this post.

Nerd.

LOL! I doubt I'll ever get him to wash diapers again. Ant's still a little skeptical about cloth diapering but is slowly warming up to it. I plan on doing a cloth diapering Q&A post with him soon, so look out for that.

A few more things to note:
- From start to finish the hand washing process takes me about 40 minutes.
- I've been hand washing my cloth diapers about every 36 hours.
- Hand washing isn't all or nothing. If I'm running short on time I might do the cold rinse in the bucket, throw the diapers in the washing machine and then finish by hand rinsing again.
- Hand washing isn't just for cloth diapering! Now that I know how to do it I might start doing other items as well. For regular clothes you could probably get away without doing the first cold rinse.

My handsome Harry in a Thirsties Duo All In One diaper

Happy washing!

11 comments:

  1. One thing I read to help with the bucket washer is to drill holes in the plunger so the water moves through it. But it's good to know it works just fine without! :)

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    1. I thought drilling holes was just to make it easier! I have just been too lazy to do it :)

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  2. You might want to try this rather than a regular plunger. It's probably the same principle as drilling holes in the plunger, but it should help the water move through the cloth better. http://beprepared.com/product.asp_Q_pn_E_MC%20W050

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  3. Would you mind if I pin this?

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  4. omg I love this I'm just gathering all my things to start cloth diapering and this post is perfect :D yay thanks mind if I mention you on Youtube I'm trying to vlog about my cloth diapering journey

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  5. Girl I conmmend you for your dedication to cloth while hand washing!!

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  6. I refuse to use Drymax diapers because my baby has such sensitive skin so I love that they still have a product without Drymax features. Simply the best kind of diapers on the market.

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  7. I just started cloth diapers about a month ago. This really really helped me learn how to wash them, so thank you! I have coin laundry so hand washing was my best option. A couple things that have helped me: the plunger I use is from Walmart, it's plastic and has kind of an accordion type of plunge. It's worked so well! And another, instead of having an extra bucket for washing diapers, I use the pail that I put the dirty ones in. It's just a plastic trash can with a pop up lid. When it's time to clean, I take it into the shower and start cleaning ;) This helps if you don't have space to store an extra bucket!

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  8. I just started cloth diapers about a month ago. This really really helped me learn how to wash them, so thank you! I have coin laundry so hand washing was my best option. A couple things that have helped me: the plunger I use is from Walmart, it's plastic and has kind of an accordion type of plunge. It's worked so well! And another, instead of having an extra bucket for washing diapers, I use the pail that I put the dirty ones in. It's just a plastic trash can with a pop up lid. When it's time to clean, I take it into the shower and start cleaning ;) This helps if you don't have space to store an extra bucket!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Such a lovely post. I have learn all the things you have shown in your post. I have used cloth diapers exclusively with my kid. I have never hand washed the inserts, but I have hand washed the covers.
    Baby cloth diapers

    ReplyDelete

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