Before I jump in to this post, let me offer full disclosure: we used disposables on our two week mission trip to Bathurst, New Brunswick, and it was almost the undoing of us and cloth diapers. Disposables are amazingly convenient – no rinsing, washing, or hanging to dry; they take up hardly any space in the diaper bag; it is easy to know when to change them because you can see when they’re full. They’re not even that expensive. Truth be told, I changed fewer diapers throughout the day when Torre was in disposables compared to cloth as well because they could absorb so much more.
Now that we’ve been home for a few weeks, I am happily back in the swing of cloth diapering, even having just completed a week of day camp at our church. I have been meaning to write this post for a while because our apartment-dweller status was one of the biggest concerns I had researching whether cloth diapers would be a good choice for our family. Would we really save money if we have to pay per load of laundry? Would the diapers really come clean with only limited washer settings to choose from?
This is not meant to be a comprehensive post on cloth diapers, but a peek at the system I’ve developed that works for me. Cloth diapering is not for every family, but I don’t think that living in an apartment is a reason to give up on it, so here’s what works for us.
We have two different kids of cloth diapers. On the left you can see a one-size pocket diaper, we have 7 of those. On the right is laid out a prefold, flanked by cover and fleece liner; we have 21 prefolds and liners, and 7 covers. We were very blessed to find our prefolds and covers second hand for the extraordinarily reasonable price of $70. I cut the fleece liners myself from a yard of fleece I bought for like $4. The pocket diapers were given to me by a friend who gave up on cloth diapers, so they were free.
However, if I had to start over or didn’t have this amazing luck in finding cheap cloth diapers, I would totally follow this advice and buy 24 one-size pocket diapers. Truly. The (moderate) complexity of layering fleece/prefold/cover makes it hard for anyone to jump in and help (since it is NOT like most people’s diaper experience), and now that Torre is stronger and squirmier, I have sometimes been really frustrated trying to keep everything lined up long enough to get the cover on. Putting on a pocket diaper is much more like a disposable, and the one-size option means the same diapers will work from the baby being 10lbs to… 35? We’ll see. For the prefolds I am currently procrastinating buying the next size up of diaper covers because I can’t find any second hand.
One of the most common complaints about cloth diapers is that they retain a smell. There are lots of tips on the internet for how to “strip” your diapers every month or so to remove detergent residue that can build up and hold odour. Six months into cloth diapering, I have not needed to strip my diapers, and I think the main reason is that I use soap nuts which rinse out completely. I received some cloth diapers from a friend who gave up on them and they came with that particular stale diaper smell, but one regular wash with soap nuts left them fresh! No multi-step stripping process necessary
One down side to using soap nuts is the upfront cost, but the site I ordered from has free shipping over a certain amount, so I split the order with some friends, and my half-pound bag is still going strong!
- Wet diapers get rinsed out when they’re changed (I have adapted this recently – wet diapers get thrown in a bucket of water I keep in my bathtub and rinsed out when I have the time or at the end of the day). I don’t sort our laundry, and our machines don’t have the option for a pre-rinse, so I do it by hand. Plus, a heads-up, wet diapers that have sat wet…. they ferment or something, and the smell is probably strong enough to liquefy your brain. I don’t want a pail of that smell anywhere in my house.
- Rinsed diapers chill in the diaper pail until laundry time. I usually do laundry every other day, but sometimes stretch it by a day with a disposable or two overnight or while the diapers dry.
- On laundry days, I cart the diaper pail and our hamper down to the basement. Sometimes I will fill the diaper pail with hot water and a scoop of oxy-clean to soak before I take everything down, especially if I have waited an extra day to do the wash. I do not wait downstairs for the laundry to be done and have never had problems in our building of laundry going missing, even if it sits in the machine for a few hours.
- I hang the diapers to dry on a rack in the apartment because it’s not worth $2 to me to use the dryer. Doubling the cost of each laundry load would seriously reduce our savings by using cloth, and it’s not even convenient for me – our dryers aren’t always reliable, and it means another trip to the basement to pick up dry stuff. Hung to dry with a fan blowing on them, the diapers are usually dry in half a day or overnight. Both styles of diaper that I use wash and dry well because the prefolds open up (they are square-shaped) and there is plenty of surface area, and the pocket diapers dry in two pieces, so again extra surface area=better clean and faster drying.
- I fold my prefolds and put the inserts in my pocket diapers before they go in the diaper drawer, so they are ready to go when I need them. The fleece liners go in an empty wipes container on the right. I am dabbling in reusable wipes – baby washcloths I moisten from a hand soap dispenser and throw in the diaper pail to wash.
There you have it! It’s not glamorous, but it’s cheap, and that’s important to me right now. Of course, the up side of doing laundry three times a week means our clothes/towels/sheets don’t build up over weeks and result in soul-crushing laundry days. When the diaper pail gets full, I fill up the laundry hamper with whatever I can find to wash and that’s that.
Do you have any questions or suggestions? I’d love to hear them!