For cloth diapering you use many of the same accessories that go with diapering in general. You just have to plan for extra storage (because the diapers are much more bulky), odor control, and there is the laundry factor that everyone who considers cloth diapering freaks out about.
So I’ll start in the nursery and work our way through the life of a cloth diaper.
This is my changing table:
Looks pretty typical, right? That’s because it is. Now if I were using disposables, probably only one or two of those baskets would be used for diaper storage. The rest we’d use for clothes or toys or whatever. Since cloth diapers are so much more bulky than disposables, every single one of those baskets contains diapers.
To ensure that my diapers get even wear and tear I do sort of have a system to the baskets. I work left to right, top to bottom. So I’ll go through the top row from left to right. When those three baskets are empty it is usually time to do a load of laundry. I also move the bottom row of baskets to the top and then work from left to right again. When I finish washing my load, those diapers go back in the bottom row of empty baskets.
Just to the right of the changing pad I have some typical and some not-so-typical items that you might find on a changing table. What you see are: wash cloths which are my cloth wipes, a tube of diaper rash cream with a tube of yeastie cream under it, a pump bottle of Method baby lotion, a pump bottle of hand sanitizer (which is never used, I personally prefer old fashioned hand washing), a bottle of baby oil, and a storage container with liquid in it.
When changing a diaper I pick up one washcloth from the pile, dunk it in the storage container, squeeze it out and then use just like a regular wipe. I also have a system for my wipes to ensure they get even wear and tear. When I’m folding the diaper laundry, I make a pile of my washcloths. I simply stick this pile under the existing pile on top of the changing table.
I must admit I’m a bit addicted to buying washcloths. Every four months or so Circo comes out with new patterns of washcloths. Since a five pack is only $3 I get a new pack if I notice they’ve changed their pattern and I’m at Target.
Just like most moms, I use wipes for everything: cleanup after a meal, quick cleanup of dirty hands and feet and of course, diaper cleanup. If you are going to use cloth wipes you definitely need more of them than diapers because you will use more than one per diaper change and you will probably use them for other stuff like I do. I have no idea how many I have, but it’s a lot.
So what’s in the liquid solution in the storage container, you ask? That is my homemade wipes solution. It is really easy: 1 squirt baby shampoo, 4 drops Tea Tree Oil (a natural antibacterial), and then water filled to the top of the container which I think is probably about 8oz. There are TONS of different solutions that you can find recipes online for though. Just do a Google search for “DIY baby wipes recipe” and you will find them.
So when I am changing a dirty diaper, as I am taking the diaper off I fasten the velcro tabs to the laundry tabs on the back of the diaper. This prevents them from sticking to everything else in the laundry.
I finish cleaning Bean up with some wipes and place them in the middle of the diaper. I pull the diaper out from under her bottom and then fold it in half and toss it in our diaper pail.
My diaper pail is a simplehuman step trashcan. I really like these trash cans and I am a bit fanatical about them. We went through several step cans early on in our marriage before we got one of these as part of the welcoming package for our new home. It was instant love: the lid does a great job of keeping the smells in, the plastic liner is easy to clean and keeps yucky stuff from leaking all over the rest of the trash can, the step mechanism doesn’t break after 10 uses and they look nice. We immediately went out and bought another for our recyclables and then when I got pregnant with Bean I knew I wanted one to use as our diaper pail. They are more pricey than most other trash cans, but we decided it was worth it to have a step can that actually works and continues to work in the long term.
Most diaper pails you can find at a baby store will work with cloth diapers so long as they are not the kind that have a plastic bag in them that twists, separates and seals off each diaper. So if you don’t want to spend $60-$100 on a trashcan you can look into one of those. Just make sure it says that it works with cloth diapers.
Once my diaper pail is full I pull out the liner and cart it over to the laundry room next door to Bean’s room. Then I put on my laundry gloves, which are just a regular pair of rubber kitchen gloves, and begin loading the dryer. I seperate the wipes from the diaper and toss them in and then I remove the inserts from the pocket and toss them in before tossing in the shell.
If the thought of touching soggy or poopy diapers really bothers you, I really recommend getting a pair of rubber kitchen gloves for your laundry room. It has made doing diaper laundry so much easier for me, especially on days when I am feeling particularly squimish.
Since our laundry room is in our guest bathroom, I take care of my poopy diapers all at once. Now that Bean is eating solid foods she has solid poops. So, if I come across a poopy diaper while I am loading the washer I take it over to the toilet, shake off any solids into the toilet and then resume pulling it apart and sticking it in the washer. Sometimes I have to use a little toilet paper to get the solids off, but for the most part they just shake off. Actually, it is technically illegal to dispose of human waste in landfills. So even those of you that use disposables are supposed to do this!
To wash this is what I do: one cold wash with detergent, one hot wash with detergent and one cold wash without detergent to rinse. It is important to use a detergent free of dyes, perfumes, brighteners, and any other additives because these will build up on your diapers and cause them to start repelling the moisture instead of absorbing it.
Even with additive free detergent though you still may get some buildup and you will need to strip them if that is the case. You can tell if you need to strip your diapers if they smell funny even after you’ve washed them or if they suddenly start leaking. I’ve seen a bunch of different ways online to go about doing this, but what I do is just 1 tbsp of regular blue Dawn in place of my detergent.
To dry you can either line dry or sun your diapers or you can dry them in the dryer. I don’t have much space for hang drying so I do it in the dryer, plus the dryer refreshes the velcro (or so I’ve been told). Since the inserts are so absorbant it usually takes two dry cycles for them, but only one for the shells. I will admit that I’m usually lazy though and just restart the dryer without removing the shells.
Another thing that has come up with the solid food/poop is stains. Arg! The perfectionist in me really has a hard time with this. I have tried a lot of things, but was told that sun is best for this. I have to admit I was quite skeptical, but it does help. However, it didn’t completely get rid of all the stains. I think another round in the sun probably would have done the trick though. I did take before and after pictures of my experiment. I am going to assume that most of you reading this are moms and have had to deal with many disgusting things before, including stains. So hopefully you don’t get grossed out by these pictures!
The worst ones prior to drying in the sun:
Same diapers after drying in the sun:
I am so glad I took pictures because I’ll admit when I went out there and still saw some stains I was a bit disappointed, but the pictures really show how much of a difference the sun made!
After the diapers are dry I “fold” them. Basically I just stuff all the inserts back in the diapers and then put them in stacks in the baskets. I also make a stack of the washcloths and put them where they belong.
That about covers the laundry and the life of a diaper. My last installment will talk about the logistics of doing cloth when you are not at home.