Cloth Diapering

This has been a season of Efficiency for us.

We have learned SO MUCH as life has carried us… and steered us into territory we may not have readily ventured into without a nudge.

Isn’t Life good that way!

We felt it might be helpful to share bits and pieces of what we have stumbled into along the way.  Partly just to feel like we are connecting with you (though in many cases we are separated by miles and a day) and partly because sharing our journey might just give you a bit of encouragement (or maybe just entertainment) as you travel your own.

The first area of Efficiency to be disclosed is…

Cloth Diapering.

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Our little Teddy cheerfully modeling the cuteness of Cloth Diapers.

We started out with 5 cloth diapers that I purchased off of TradeMe on a whim (New Zealand’s equivalent of Craig’s List or Ebay).  I did not know at the time that my “whim” was actually going to be a life-saver for us as our already tight budget was going to have to tighten-up even more.

I had used disposable diapers for SEVEN BABIES; how strange to switch now!

But how cool to know it is possible… AND that I DID IT!!!  (Sometimes old dogs CAN learn new tricks 😉 ).

I am NOT saying that cloth diapering is for everyone…  nor am I going to try to convince you to make the switch yourself.  Each personality and situation will dictate what is best.  You do what is Best for YOU and YOUR FAMILY.  PERIOD.

However, I WILL show-and-tell you about my own experience with shifting from disposable to cloth in the diaper world (“nappy” world if you are from New Zealand or the UK).

Pros and Cons of Cloth Diapering (from my perspective)

Cloth-Diapering Pros

  • I feel so empowered knowing I CAN DO IT!
  • Oh Gosh I think they’re CUTE!
  • FAR LESS WASTE.  Our rubbish is significantly lower without using disposable diapers and pullups.  (In another Efficiency post I will reveal how our family of 10+ inadvertantly shifted from several bags of trash per week to less than one bag a week.)
  • Less overall stink in the house as there is no diaper pail with rancid diapers accumulating in it for days on end.  My cloth diapers are washed at least every other day, usually daily and our diaper changing area is rarely smelly.
  • Saves a BUNDLE!  One year ago we invested $200 into 20 used and 5 new cloth diapers.  Had we purchased disposables, night-time pullups and wipes to meet the same need we would have spent $2240 for the year!!!!  We saved over $2000 in one year by using cloth diapers and wipes!  And this year we’ll save even more as the initial investment has already been made.

Cloth-Diapering Cons

  • Extra steps in the day that CANNOT be missed or there will be a problem!  (Perhaps purchasing a few extra diapers would help with this so I had backup if I need to miss a day of washing here and there.)
  • Occasionally extra stinky children when the diapers need a stripping.  One tiny pee in a diaper that has too much build-up and the stink is disproportionately STRONG.  Not a real problem, just a signal that the diapers need a stripping to be made fresh again… which again involves extra steps in the day that can feel tedious and over-the-top when compared to the ease of disposables and their “change-and-chuck” routine.

The Set-Up

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Our changing-table is in the laundry room for greatest ease and functionality. It is a one-cupboard cabinet with two shelves… the top shelf for wipes, spray and hand sanitizer; the bottom shelf stores clean diapers and clean linens that I use to cover my changing table.

IMG_9383We function on 20 cloth diapers for two full-time diaper-wearers plus two big-kids who wear one at night instead of wearing disposable pull-ups.

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We have also eliminated disposable wipes and replaced them with two old cotton sheets cut into squares and a squirt bottle filled with water. I have tried other solutions in the spray bottle such as adding a little baby soap and baby oil, but have found it unnecessary as far as function goes, although nice if I have them on hand for scent and to act as a lubricant.  About a tablespoon of baby-oil and a tablespoon of baby-soap seems to do the trick.

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Our “diaper pail” is a simple plastic tub that sits inside a curtained closet in our laundry room.  After a change I just chuck the diapers in the tub.  I don’t worry about removing solids until I’m ready to wash… that has been more effective for me as it seems to help the solids become more solid and therefore easier to dump.

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I use a gentle laundry detergent plus a product like OxiClean* to wash my diapers.  (*Here in New Zealand my favorite product for cost and function is the Pams Brand Fabric Whitener and Nappy Treatment that I can purchase at New World supermarkets for under $5.  Unfortunately that is not the Oxi pictured here 🙂 however you will see it pictured below.)

The Routine

After much trial and error, and MANY google searches for advice I have finally settled on a routine that I am happy with.  This may all seem a bit fussy, and is not likely very interesting to read unless you are doing a bit of research yourself… or are perhaps just curious.  I will break the routine down into two sections… Daily Diaper Routine and Monthly Diaper Cleansing:

DAILY DIAPER ROUTINE

I wash one load of cloth diapers a day to maintain a constant supply of fresh, clean diapers and to avoid an extra stinky diaper pail and laundry room.  This seems to do the trick and rarely do we notice odors from that room (except following a particularly stinky poo… but that would be true for disposable diapering as well.)

In order to get my diapers as clean as I like them I send them through three cycles.  Yes THREE!  And sometimes more if I really feel it’s needed.  But it is totally worth it for a fresh result.  There is nothing worse than stench on stench if cloth diapers are not thoroughly cleansed.

  • 1- Remove Excess Poo in toilet… I am not too fussy over this step.  If I can’t get it off easily I leave it for the rinse cycle.  Also… although I have not used one, I hear a spray hose attached to the toilet water supply is a super aid to this step.  I have not been able to find one down here, plus our water pressure is very low, so I am not sure it would benefit me anyway.
  • 2- First Wash Cycle: Rinse

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This removes the remaining solids and gives the wet diapers an initial rinse to prepare for the washing that will follow.

  • 3- Second Wash Cycle: Hot Wash with Detergent
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*My washing machine has a default High Efficiency setting, which uses less water per load for environmental purposes. I have the option of turning this setting OFF, which I DO when I am washing diapers.  Mentally it seems better to get more water than less moving through my diapers. This is purely my preference. But worth mentioning, as on some cloth diapering sites I have found that people with HE machines sometime struggle to get their diapers clean because of the reduced amount of water moving through.

I have my “Heavy Cycle” programmed to HOT wash and WARM rinse.

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To this cycle add a HALF scoop of gentle detergent.  The reason for a HALF scoop is that too much detergent will eventually saturate the fibers of your diapers making them less absorbent… not a good thing… we do not like leaky diapers!  Also, you may have to experiment with your choice of detergent as some will be more irritating than others to your baby’s skin.  I often use the Earthwise Brand pictured above, but have also found other brands in the “Sensitive” variety to work fine also.

  • 4- Third Wash Cycle: Hot Wash with OxiClean*(or the like)
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*As noted above, I turn my HE setting to OFF.

Again I use a HALF scoop of an Oxi-product*.  You really don’t need very much.  (The one pictured here is my favorite in New Zealand).

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This is a debatable step.  Especially when used on a regular basis.  Some do not agree with using products like these regularly on cloth diapers as they can wear-out the fibers and liners of your diapers sooner than later.

I have settled on using it in small amounts in each load as, in my opinion, it really helps to freshen the diapers that much more.  I have been using my 20 used diapers for a year now and they are still functioning just as well now as when I first got them.  (Ironically, the 5 new diapers I purchased originally have all but one been chucked as the brand was apparently not as durable and the liners ripped.  Perhaps more on Brands in another post.)

  • 5- Optional Fourth Wash:

Only occasionally do I feel the diapers still carry a bit of an odor and then I will run them through one more Hot Wash Cycle with NO DETERGENT and NO OXI.  Just the Hot Water alone seems to do the trick.

  • 6- Air Dry in the Sun:

We do not have a clothes dryer, so I have no choice but to air dry my diapers.  However, I would likely do the same even if I did have a dryer… First because the thought of diapers with even the tiniest bit of potty residue left on them floating around in a HOT Dryer is not appealing to me… Second because the Sun’s antibacterial qualities are so phenomenal that I don’t know why I wouldn’t take advantage of such a magnificent (and FREE) resource.

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Image courtesy of tungphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

And even in the winter months when drying outdoors isn’t viable, sunlight through the windows will also do the trick.

MONTHLY DIAPER CLEANSING

About once a month I find that my diapers start to get a little less absorbent and might begin to leak.  I also notice (even more than any leakage) that they STINK!!!  Even after just one little pee the odor is YUCK (stench on stench as mentioned above).  This is when I know I need to do a heavier cleaning/stripping.

  • STEP ONE Wash:

I put my diapers through steps one and two of the wash regime… rinse and first wash with detergent.

  • STEP TWO Long Soak:

I fill my laundry sink with diapers, hot water and about two capfuls of an Oxi-type cleanser.   (You may have to try different brands as I have found some brands to be too harsh and my babies have been more prone to diaper rash after using them.)

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I let these soak as long as I am able… at least 2 hours, usually more.

  • STEP THREE FOUR ETC. Hot Wash:

NO detergent and NO Oxi.  Almost every site I visited for advise on cloth diapers gave instructions on “stripping diapers” (i.e. ‘stripping’ them of buildup that accumulates from pee/poo and detergents over time, therefore creating a place for bacteria to hang out and breed).  And nearly every site recommended repeated Hot Washes until cleansed.

After soaking my diapers in Oxi* for several hours I put them through at least two hot washes.  Sometimes more depending on how much time is available to me and how deeply my diapers need stripping.

  • DONE!  Diapers are fresh and clean again and ready for another round of use.

FINALLY!!!

For today that is all I have to say on this subject :).  (Whew!)

For those who might be reading this and have more questions, I am happy to oblige… ask away in the comments section below, or email or facebook me.

For those of you who endured this cloth diapering lesson to the end and have no particular interest in cloth diapering… Good on ya!  Don’t worry, there will be more Efficiency posts to come that may be of more interest to you than this one.

This is Mama of the Pod signing off for today and leaving you with a couple more photos of cloth-diaper-cuteness …

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8 thoughts on “Cloth Diapering

  1. That is a great system. Glad you have it down with number nine coming soon. I may have told you , but your Auntie Kristy did not have a washing machine in the early days of her marriage. They lived in the country so laundry mat was not an option. They used clothe diapers for the economy purpose and cloth diapers were not that great at the time. Any way….she used to wash them in the bath tub and hang them out to dry.
    We also used cloth diapers for a time….multiple reasons. At one point our washing machine was not working well. Sometimes I had to use a long stick to get it to agitate. Aunt Kristy remembers visiting and some how had to do the laundry while I was at work. Apparently the last diaper changer( not me) did not rinse the diapers of the poo……so when Kris went to hang them on the line ….poo droplets came out…ooops
    Lots of fun
    Love you much , MOM

    • To this day, I have an aversion to cloth diapers! I NEVER got used to rinsing poopy ones til poop free in the toilet. I had flannel squares that I folded. We had hard water, so. My diapers had the orange hue of rust! 🙂

      • I don’t blame you Kristy!!! The stories Mom told above are enough to make anyone put off by cloth-nappies!!! THANKFULLY I have some really nice new-fangled cloth-ies and a really good washing machine that does most of the work for me. There will be no complaining from me after hearing your stories with cloth!
        And Kristy, if you ever have another baby ( 🙂 ) you should DEFINITELY use disposables… I’ll help you pay for them 😉

    • I know! It’s a tough one!
      I had ventured the thought of switching shortly before we decided to move to New Zealand, and a friend of mine in the States was willing to let me use a few of her clothies to give it a try. You might find someone who would be willing to do the same before you jump into investing.
      I know that may sound a little weird to ‘share’ diapers, but because of our great washing machines and super-sanitizing products its really not a big thing. That is another reason cloth is nice… they last beyond just one child. (I never did get to try hers out, as we shortly thereafter decided to move, and that was NOT the time to make a shift to cloth!)
      I think I mentioned in the post that most of the diapers I currently use are second-hand… in fact all of my favorites are the ‘used’ ones I purchased online. I may do another post about the specific types of diapers I am using just as a starting point for those who are curious.
      I admit it was daunting as I first stepped into the World of Cloth Diapering! And, as I stated before, I wasn’t actually brave enough to take the leap until I was literally forced.
      If I was in a position to afford disposables again would I rejoin the disposable world? I think I would, but only as a convenience for times when I am traveling or out and about. But now that I have a rhythm down with the Cloth-Nappies on a day to day basis, I am happy to stick to it for the bulk of days.
      As for YOU my dear… DO WHAT SEEMS BEST FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY!!! No guilt or pressure on either side! What will allow you to be the best Mama and Woman you can be at this point in time?? Do it. Be it.
      Carry on you Awesome Mama!

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