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My Simple Cloth Diaper Routine
Homemade Diapers; No Fancy Equipment & No Fuss
Long before I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to cloth diapers my babies.
I was largely motivated by the financial savings of cloth diapers versus disposables, especially if I would be using my stash for multiple kids. I knew that using disposable diapers would also require more trips to the grocery store, and would be a lot of waste going to the landfill. Better to avoid both.
After a year of trying, we finally got that positive pregnancy test. I joined a bunch of cloth diapering groups on Facebook and reddit, and then scrolled deep into Google looking for sewing patterns. By the end of the first trimester, I was totally done sewing all of the cloth diaper covers we’d need. I sewed the inserts and preflats over the course of the second and third trimesters, and was ready to go before baby arrived. After baby was born, we were also gifted a few “BabyGoal” brand pocket diapers too, which would be a good option if you don’t have the time to DIY your own. (You can get a starter kit with 6 diapers and 10 inserts, here, for $36.99)
The total cost of my newborn and OS (“one size”- for babies up to 30lbs) cloth diaper stash was less than $200. Baby’s 16 months old and the diapers are still going strong. I haven’t run the numbers on the cost versus disposables, but I know that we’re coming out ahead. I also know that cloth diapers have allowed us to avoid the shortages and price hikes of the pandemic and other supply chain issues.
In a future post, I’ll detail how I made the cloth diapers- both what I love and what I’d do differently- but today I want to focus on my cloth diaper routine.
Before beginning to cloth diaper, and as I was searching for sewing patterns, I was reading about how other people washed their cloth diapers. It seemed like most Moms swear by having a bidet, and/or a deep sink. We don’t have either. Right from the start it seemed like I was going to have to do things my own way.
My current routine is to wash diapers every other day, or every third day, depending on how many she’s used. Between washings, the diapers are stacked up in our spare bathroom. (They could go in our bathroom, but since I change her in the living room, the spare bathroom is closest. When we have guests over, all the diapers go in a small laundry basket in our bathroom.)
On washing day, I use the wipes (kept with each diaper, just like you would when throwing out a disposable) to scrape the solid off the diaper insert and into the toilet. After all of the scraping is done, I give each cover and insert a thorough rinse and wring out in the sink. Run the whole load through the washing machine. And then hang to dry. It’s not a very fussy or drawn out process at all.
My Cloth Diaper Routine
Step 1: Scrape the Solids. With a few dirty diapers stored up, you’re ready to begin washing. Start by opening up the diaper, and scraping the solids off into the toilet bowl. I use the same disposable wipe I used when changing the baby. These aren’t flushable, so after scraping off the solids, I throw them into the trash. If there’s something stuff solidly, I get a bit of toilet paper to finish scraping.
Step 2: Rinse & Wring. When all of the diapers/inserts have been thoroughly scraped clean, it’s time to do a preliminary rinse. I’ve found that this step really cuts down on how often I need to strip the diapers.
To rinse, run the hottest water you can out of the bathroom sink. Take each diaper cover or insert individually and scrub the dirty area with a scrub brush. (I have a specific tub-scrubbing brush set aside just for diapers) After the staining is gone, we’re going to wring out and rinse each diaper component a few times- just like wringing out a wash cloth. For pee-only diapers, I skip the scrub brush and simply wring them out a few times. Once the water from the diapers is running clear, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
Step 3: Wash. Once all of the diapers have been rinsed and wrung out, I take them to the washing machine. I wash on cold, with the same detergent I use for our laundry- plus borax and a splash of vinegar. I don’t wash diapers with anything except baby clothes or towels.
Some people are grossed out or concerned with the idea of washing diapers in the same machine you’re washing clothes in. I’ve found that being very thorough about your rinsing and wringing will eliminate most of the dirtiness anyway. I’ve never had any issues to date.
You could very easily wash the diapers totally by hand instead and skip the washing machine. I’m inclined to do this in the summer time, when I can wash outdoors. There are a number of manual washing machines, washing plungers, and the like available online. Amazon carries several different small or RV washing machines, like this one. Lehman’s Hardware also carries washing supplies, including this wringer. I can’t personally vouch for these tools, but I know that many in the cloth diapering world use them.
Step 4: Dry. After the diapers have finished in the washing machine, I hang them up to dry. Using a laundry line is the cheapest and least energy-intense way to dry diapers. My laundry line consists of a purpose-made rope from Walmart and a pack of clothespins. It’s strung up behind the house between a pole and our back porch. The back of the house is south-facing, and in the summer time the temperature easily reaches 100*F. This makes for very quick clothes-drying.
In the winter time, I’ll usually still hang the diapers up outside. If there’s snow or rain on the forecast though, all of the diaper covers get hung to dry in the bathroom, and I’ll dry the inserts in the dryer.
A Few More Suggestions for Your Cloth Diaper Routine
It gets talked about a lot online, but I’ve found that I’ve only needed to strip our cloth diapers a few times. I credit this to a thorough wringing and rinsing before they go to the washing machine. If you need to strip your cloth diapers, or there’s a particularly stubborn something stuck to them, it’s pretty easy. I fill up a 5 gallon bucket with hot water, then add a generous amount of vinegar, borax, and fels naptha soap. Slosh the diapers around in the solution, making sure they’re totally saturated and submerged. I let them sit until the water cools off or over night. Then proceed with the rinsing/wringing and the rest of the cloth diaper routine.
As far as detergents go, I’m on a bit of a journey with that. I’ve used powdered store bought detergent, store bought liquid detergent, homemade detergent of all varieties, and even went no detergent/vinegar + borax only… the homemade detergents were by far the worst. I spent a month washing all of my laundry by hand before running it through through the machine, and had to strip the diapers after a few weeks of DIY detergents. Right now I’m finishing up a bulk-sized jug of store bought laundry soap, and I have no idea what I’ll be buying next. No matter what I’m washing with, I’ve found that adding a bit of vinegar helps.
If you make your own cloth diaper covers, you’ll definitely want to hang dry them exclusively. I’ve found that my GoalBaby covers can handle being thrown in the dryer, but the homemade covers cannot. Hanging to dry is my preferred routine anyway- the sunlight is both free and great for reducing stains.
I hope that you’ve found this cloth diaper routine to be clarifying and useful. When I was reading about cloth diapering a few years ago, I was overwhelmed by the amount of information and the unending lists of do’s and don’t’s. I’ve found that cloth diapering doesn’t need to be complicated and doesn’t require any fancy tools or supplies. Cloth diapering has become just a normal part of my routine, I don’t have to think about it anymore- it just gets done. I hope that you too will consider giving cloth diapering a try.
Thanks for reading and happy homesteading!
PS Cloth diapering has been a great way that we’ve saved money while raising our little one. Check out this post for even more ideas on how you can save money as a stay at home mom.