Tag Archives: Natural Living

I love cloth diapering, part 1: Why consider cloth?

Cloth diapering does not work for everyone or every family. I completely understand this. There are many situations in which cloth diapering would not be an ideal choice. I know plenty of people who are very sensitive to the environment in many other ways but still choose to use disposables. That is completely fine. Every family has to do what works for them; I can respect that.

You may feel like this post is a bit redundant since I’ve already done a couple vlogs on the subject. Well, in the past month I have had three different friends inquire about cloth diapering and either seriously consider the switch or actually take the plunge (Woohoo Kourtni!!). I realized when they came to me with their questions that 1) there was quite a bit my videos did not cover and 2) the videos are a bit long and tend to ramble into tangents because of my camera shyness.

So, I wound up going back to long, drawn-out e-mails trying to think of every possible question I had when I started, as well as answering the questions they had specifically asked me and covering anything I found that came up after I was already well into the adventure. In an effort to simplify the process of responding to future inquiries, I decided that a well thought out and organized blog series on the topic was in order.

Plus, since “green is the new black,” I’ve been seeing cloth diapers and supplies even pop up in some of the larger baby retail stores. Yesterday when I was in Babies R Us they had three different kinds of cloth diapers plus the gDiapers physically in the store (they’ve had them online for some time now). I also saw a wipes warmer specifically designed for cloth wipes with organic bamboo wipes included and extras sold right alongside it. The Target here also has BumGenius diapers from time to time. For these products to actually make it into the store and not just be available online, means that people are requesting them and using them. That means more and more people are going cloth, which is really exciting to me.

So in this first installment, I wanted to talk about why parents should consider cloth diapering.

1. It is environmentally friendly.
Disposable diapers make up one third of consumer waste in landfills today. We don’t know how long it takes them to decompose because no one has lived that long yet  some estimates are around 500 years. One baby in disposable diapers will contribute at least one ton of waste to your local landfill.

2. It is healthier for your baby.
Disposable diapers consist of a plastic exterior, an inner super-absorbent layer treated with chemicals and a liner. These chemicals include dioxin, a chemical by-product of industrial processes, including the paper-bleaching process. Its toxicity is second only to radioactive waste. Disposable diapers also have been found to contain TBT, one of the most poisonous substances known to man. TBT can severely affect one’s immune and hormonal system. And then there’s sodium polyacrylate, the substance that turns urine into gel. This material was in tampons until around 1985, when its link to Toxic Shock Syndrome caused it to be removed. Furthermore, females involved in the manufacturing of sodium polyacrylate have suffered from reproductive organ problems, weight loss, fatigue, and slow-healing wounds. Which begs the question, if it isn’t safe for this chemical to be in contact with the reproductive organs of grown women, why is it safe for it to be in contact with the reproductive organs of our little babies? Could this chemical be why infertility problems are on the rise?

A study conducted by Anderson Laboratories in 1999 and published in the Archives of Environmental Health found that disposable diapers release volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), including toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and dipentene. All of these VOCs have been shown to have toxic health effects, such as cancer and brain damage, with long-term or high level exposure.

The researchers also discovered that mice exposed to the chemicals released by disposable diapers were more likely to experience irritated airways than mice exposed to emissions from cloth diapers. These effects were increased during repeat exposures. The authors suggested that disposable diapers may cause “asthma-like” reactions and urged more study into a possible link between diaper emissions and asthma.

With the toxic chemical exposure of disposable diapers, it is no shock that a study by a major disposable diaper manufacturer shows that the incidence of diaper rash rose from 7.1% to 61% between 1970 and 1995, coinciding with the increase in disposable diaper use. However, no studies have ever been conducted on the long-term effects of these substances being in contact with a child’s reproductive organs for 24 hours a day and upwards of two or three years.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again  every single time I put Bean in disposables she gets a rash. When we first set out to cloth diaper, our plan was to use cloth at home and disposables for out-of-town trips and days when I would be out of the house for most of the day. At the time, it seemed to us that this plan would be easier than carting around dirty diapers everywhere. When Bean started getting rashes because of the disposable diapers, that changed our plans.

We knew that these rashes were specifically from the disposable diapers and/or wipes because we could usually clear this rash up without creams by putting her back in cloth diapers for a day. On one particular extended trip out of town, the rash got so bad she blistered and peeled. It didn’t seem fair to subject Bean to a painful rash just for our convenience. So now we cart around dirty diapers in a wet bag (Lisa notes: Stephen thinks this term sounds disgusting and will turn people off to cloth diapering. He would have preferred I used “plastic bag,” but they really are called “wet bags” and I know plenty of moms that use them and don’t cloth diaper so I’m leaving the term. Plus, click on the link and you will see tons of really cute ones!) and when we go out of town we make arrangements to wash them if we are staying for an extended period of time.

Actually, until Bean was around 5 or 6 months old, the only time she ever got a rash was from disposable diapers. That has since changed. We did have a yeast/thrush problem for awhile that caused a rash. Then there are three other main reasons why she will sometimes get a rash: 1) Reaction to a solid food that she ate, 2) Teething, because I think the teething changes the acidity of her digestive system for some reason and makes her poop burn her bum and 3) Negligence on my part sometimes I forget to change the diapers as often as I should. Still, these rashes are few and far between compared to if she were in disposables all the time.

3. Less blowouts.
I can count on one hand the number of times Bean has had a blowout in her cloth diapers. These blowouts were of such proportion and force that a paper thin disposable would not have been able to contain them either. Actually this is funny to me because one of the main warnings I got when I announced my decision was that everyone who had tried cloth or knew someone that had tried cloth stopped using them because of blowouts. In reality, I had way more problems with blowouts, really gross poop-all-the-way-up-the-back blowouts, than I ever have with my cloth diapers.

One of the first pieces of advice about cloth diapers I got when researching it was that I would see a huge polarization in the reviews of the different brands because every diaper fits every baby differently. As such, I was advised to start out with a stash of diapers with a variety of brands so I could figure out what I liked and what worked best with my baby’s body (I actually ignored this advice, but I’ll address that later in the series).

So, I think this is where friends and others who have tried cloth ran into problems. The diaper they chose, for whatever reason, did not work with their baby’s body type and they had leaks or blowouts. Now, if you were using Pampers, you’d probably just try switching to Huggies or some other brand. I think with cloth though we’re more apt to just say, “Well these ones don’t work, therefore all cloth diapers don’t work for us. I’m going back to disposables because that was easier.” When you’re spending much more for a single diaper (I’ve seen upwards of $35 per diaper for some ritzy brands), I can understand why you might be a little wary of experimentation though.

4. They are super cute.
The diapers I use come in a bunch of really fun colors. So does pretty much every brand I’ve come across. Then, if you want to get into supporting stay at home moms (also known as work at home moms or WAHMies), there are tons of sites where you can buy handmade diapers and covers in a huge variety of fun, beautiful and designer fabrics. Below is just a couple examples of some of the stuff you can find:

5. A lot has changed and it isn’t as hard as it used to be.
As I intend to show you throughout this series, cloth diapering is not as hard as our parents and grandparents made it out to be: gone are the days of stinky buckets of water with dirty diapers soaking in them, the laundry isn’t that bad or that much more than you are probably already doing with your baby and you don’t have to deal with pins and folding cloth diaper inserts if you don’t want to. Modern technology and fashion have really made this a much more fun and simple process.

6. It is cheaper!
This is the point that often wins the economical and practical guys over. Most estimates on the cost of disposable diapers put the figure at $2-3,000 per child, per year. If your child is in diapers for two years, that means you will spend $4-6,000 and if they are in diapers for three years, you will be spending $6-9,000 just on diapers for one child. If you factor in multiple children, that figure skyrockets even more.

I personally have about $800 worth of BumGenius diapers which run between $15-20 each, depending on where you get them from and whether you buy in bulk or not. Of that $800, my husband and I only invested $400 into them, the rest were very gratefully received shower gifts.

For those of you that, like me, hate doing math, I will do the calculations for you. We personally will save up to $5,600-8,600 just on Bean alone. We will likely use these diapers with our next child as well, provided they hold up that long and I can keep up with two kids and laundry. So, that means up to an additional $6-9000 worth of savings for a total of up to $11,600-17,600 for both kids! And that doesn’t even include the amount of money we aren’t constantly spending on diaper rash creams or wipes (since with use cloth wipes as well).

**Edit: After some of your comments I think the above figures are definitely a little high. I originally saw the $2-3K figure as a per child figure some time ago, not per child per year. I couldn’t remember what the actual figure was when I went to put together this post so I did a really quick search and a couple sites said the the per child, per year number so I went with that because the $2-3K part of it seemed familiar to me. Anyhow, check the comments section below to hear from actual disposable users that know what the real cost is. Sorry about that! In any case, over the long term cloth diapers are still cheaper than using disposables.

So that about covers the main reasons to go cloth. I hope you will seriously consider it if you haven’t before. For me personally, the biggest factors that swung me into the cloth diaper camp were the economic savings and the health of my child. I think those two things alone are worth condsideration.

16 Comments

Filed under Family, Natural Living, Parenting

Adventures in DIY Cleaners Part 2: Soft Scrub

I loved the stainless steel appliances when we moved into our house for all of 5 minutes. And then they looked like crap. Fingerprints showed up everywhere and no matter what I used they came out streaky. I tried everything: those stainless steel wipes, Windex, all purpose cleaners, etc.

So I was pretty glad that the appliances in the apartment kitchen were not stainless steel. I still have our matching trash cans though. I figured that they are trash cans and not artwork so they can look a little gross.

Well, that all changed tonight.

I made up a batch of Tiffany’s soft scrub recipe and wow!

I used it on the countertops first and then decided to try it on the trash cans.


The left one is clean, the right one obviously isn’t.

It made the whole kitchen sparkle and smell like delicious peppermint.

Soft Scrub
Mix equal parts Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile soap and Borax. Use small dabs at a time with a damp sponge.

4 Comments

Filed under Homemade, Natural Living

Adventures in DIY Cleaners Part 1: Laundry Soap

So even though I now live far away and didn’t get to go to the green clean party, I was still inspired by my friends making their own cleaning products that are more environmentally friendly and nicer on the budget.

Everyone that knows her, knows that Tiffany is the master of this stuff. Every time she posts a new recipe for cleaning products on her blog I really want to try it, but I’ve been too chicken and it seems like it is so much more convenient to buy the overpriced “green” stuff at the store. Another one of my friends, Grace, really inspired me too with her step by step photos on Facebook one evening during her laundry soap making process.

I have had it with laundry soap. Every time I find one that doesn’t have any stuff in it, they go and change the formula. And some soaps don’t even have ingredient lists which I find disturbing. I have changed laundry soaps 4 or 5 times in the last 6 months alone. I thought I had finally found a good one, Arm & Hammer’s free dermatologist tested blah blah blah stuff, but ever since we have been using that Bean has been getting diaper rash.

So I was determined to make my own this week and not buy more laundry soap.

But let me tell you, finding the ingredients in this city was quite the adventure in and of itself. Yesterday I went to Target, Home Depot, Smart & Final, Trader Joe’s, Albertsons, Vons, and Ralphs in search of my ingredients. I did manage to procure a box of 20 Mule Team Borax, but was still needing two other ingredients.

My search took me to Oxnard today where I graced both Food4Less and WalMart with my presence. I wandered around like a lost little lamb in the biggest WalMart I’ve ever seen and still could not find what I needed. Desperate, I called both my friends for their advice. They let me know that for future reference I could get one of the ingredients at a pool supply store and I could use an alternative that I saw at Trader Joe’s the day before for the third ingredient.

Determined to not leave Oxnard empty handed I walked out of WalMart with an 89 cent bar of Pink Zote laundry soap and a container of Sodium Carbonate. I skipped lunch and hurried home eager to put my ingredients to use.

I cut up my bar of Pink Zote and then placed it in my food processor to grate.

At this point I noticed that the Pink Zote was quite fragrant, but figured that the smell would get dilluted when I added it to the water.

I was wrong. The smell got stronger and stronger until my house started smelling like the perfume counter in Macy’s. Ugh! I was getting a headache. Then, while I was waiting for the stuff to dissolve I started looking over the wrapper and I saw a big red flag in the ingredients list: optical brightner.

NOOOOO!!!!

This was the whole reason I was making my own laundry soap. I didn’t want perfume-y laundry, brighters or any other additives. I was pissed.

I dumped the whole pot down the drain. I packed up Bean and headed to Trader Joe’s.

I quickly grabbed a bar of Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap. They only had peppermint, but it was from actual peppermint oil and was way better smelling than that Pink Zote stuff for sure.

So I was back to the beginning.

I grated the bar of soap in my food processor and added it to the fresh water on my stove.

The first thing I noticed was that this stuff dissolved way quicker. It also didn’t give me a headache from all the perfume.

Once it was dissolved I started adding in the other ingredients. This is where it got particularly interesting. In Grace’s photos she did this part on her stove top. So I assumed that was because she was heating the water and the ingredients. First I added the Borax. No problems went right in and dissolved just fine.

Then I added the Sodium Carbonate. The pot quickly foamed up so much that it spilled over the top. I shut off the flame immediately. Stirred everything and then added the rest of the chemical with no problems. It was kind of scary though when it bubbled up so much.

Then I followed the rest of the recipe, adding water at various temperatures until I had this:

Several gallons of liquid laundry soap that smells lightly of peppermint.

Oh, and a wreck of a kitchen to clean up.

Well, at least it isn’t like I have to make this stuff every week or something. I’m thinking all that laundry soap should last me quite awhile. Grace said her formula lasts her 4 months and she has twin boys. I think this stuff should last me even longer because I don’t have twin boy toddlers making messes all the time and I have a front load washing machine now which uses way less detergent.

I didn’t keep any of my reciepts, but the ingredients were all really cheap. I do know that the bar of soap was $3 and that’s the only ingredient I’ll have to buy again for making another batch. I still have tons of Borax and Sodium Carbonate leftover.

Anyway, here’s Grace’s/My recipe for laundry soap in case you want to be adventurous too.

Liquid Laundry Detergent
Ingredients
• 1 bar Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap, grated
• 1 1/2 cup Borax
• 1 1/2 cup Sodium Carbonate
• water

Directions
Place grated soap in 8 cups boiling water until it melts/dissolves. Turn off heat. Stir in Borax and Sodium Carbonate.

Add 8 cups hot water to a 5 gallon bucket. Stir in soap mixture.

Add in 2 gallons and 12 cups cold water and stir. Let sit 24 hours.

For a regular washing machine she says she uses about 1/4 cup per load. I’m probably going to use 1-2 tbsp for my front loader.

8 Comments

Filed under Homemade, Natural Living