I am so thrilled to have Dave from Folkabout Baby guest post here at Mama’s. Dave writes a unique blog and I just love its premise: your baby knows best so learn to listen to him or her. Folkabout Baby is about “saving the world by changing the way we raise our children.” Love it.
Cloth diapers are great. They’re cheaper than disposables, especially if you use them for more than one baby. They make potty training easier, since your child will be able to tell more easily if their diaper is wet. Perhaps best of all, they’re better for the environment, diverting huge amounts of waste from landfills.
What’s not to love?
Well, let’s be polite and call it the “ick factor.” As in, “Ick, what am I supposed to do with this poop-filled diaper?”
This problem is made even worse when you don’t have your own washer and dryer. If you have to schlep your dirty diapers four blocks away to the laundromat, it’s simply not convenient to do a load of laundry every other day.
There are three concerns that you have to address to use cloth diapers when you rely on outside laundry facilities. The first is the smell, since you have to go longer in between laundry loads. Next, you need to figure out how to transport your loads of diapers to the laundromat. Finally, you need to be prepared for the poor performance of public washing machines, since these machines are often old, and were probably never very high quality to begin with.
Putting a Lid on Smell
The best way I’ve found to deal with the smell of a bin of used cloth diapers is one that ramps up the ick factor a few notches, but it’s worth it. If you’re squeamish, it might not be for you, but it yields huge dividends when combating smell, as well as dealing with poor-quality washing machines, as I’ll discuss below.
Quite simply, I pre-wash poop-filled diapers by hand before putting them into the diaper pail. You can use rubber gloves if you want, but I just wash my hands thoroughly afterwards. This pre-wash eliminates most, if not all, of the cause of nasty odors.
Storing the used diapers properly will eliminate any remaining odor the diapers might still have. I use a wet-bag specifically designed for cloth diapers, available at Ottawa Cloth Diapers (not an affiliate link, just a great product).
For a bin, I use a green-waste bin with a hinged lid. These bins are available at most hardware stores, and they’re designed to prevent any odors from escaping. The lid seals quite snugly, and no smell gets out. Trust me, I’m a chef with a very sensitive nose, and I don’t notice a thing when I walk into my baby’s room.
Getting to the Laundromat
The storage method you choose for your diapers should also take ease of transportation into account.
A waterproof bag is a must; without one, you can’t transport the diapers without running the risk of baby poop getting everywhere. Even still, you probably don’t want to risk the bag developing a hole in transit.
Having a system that lets you keep the diaper bag in the bin is best. For instance, the green-waste bin that I use has wheels built-in, which makes it a breeze to bring down to my building’s laundry room.
Keep in mind that you have no choice but to use the dry pail method. Does lugging an extra twenty kilos of nasty water down to the laundromat with you sound appealing? I didn’t think so.
Dealing with Poor Quality Washing Machines
If you’re doing laundry in the laundry room of your building or at a laundromat, you’re stuck using whatever machines are available. As a rule, these machines are rather old, and they’re probably not too efficient. They simply don’t have the options that a high-end washer does, which means you’ll only be able to take advantage of a few of the different tips found here.
This is where pre-washing shines. By dealing with most of the waste matter before the diapers even end up the pail, you put much less of a demand on the washing capabilities of the machine you’re using. Before I started pre-washing, I’d have to run loads two or three times in order to get them clean, but this is no longer an issue for me.
Even if you’re using an ancient clunker of a washing machine, you probably still have a few options open to you. Select the cycle that runs for the longest, which is usually also the hottest temperature setting. This gives your diapers the best chance to get clean. As well, consider using an in-wash booster, such as oxygen bleach, and use a high-quality detergent. This will maximize your chances of getting the diapers clean in one load.
Is It All Worth It?
Washing cloth diapers when you don’t have your own washer and dryer is certainly more inconvenient, but it still offers you huge benefits over disposable diapers. You’re saving money, you’re preparing your child for potty training, and you’re greatly lightening your impact on the environment.
By pre-washing your diapers and storing them in a bin with a tight-fitting lid, you don’t need to worry about the smell. When you choose a storage system that makes it easy to get your diapers to the laundromat, you don’t have to struggle on laundry day. Finally, by taking into account the limits of the machines you’re using, you can make sure that you get clean diapers every time.
If you’ve been reluctant to switch to cloth diapers because you don’t have your own laundry machines, keep these suggestions in mind, and know that it’s easier than you think. When you decide to make the switch, your wallet will thank you, and you’ll be creating a better future for your child.
Trust me, it’s worth it!
Dave Higgs-Vis is a father, a husband, a blogger, and a chef. He writes Folkabout Baby, a blog dedicated to saving the world by changing the way we raise our children. He believes that listening to your baby is the best thing that you can do to improve as a parent.