Cloth Diapering is so much EASIER than most people think, and what I hear expressed about the routine. In the community I live in, cloth diapering was a ‘normal’ culture when I had my first baby. After we registered, my mom talked about how we were diapered when we were kids, and that it was a typical routine to use cloth (though of course everything was “they didn’t have that fancy ______ when you were little”). I didn’t realize until I was really immersed in the life of motherhood, that cloth felt like an effort most mamas didn’t find “worth it,” for many reasons.
We chose to try cloth diapering out in our family, committed to our registry, supported by our community, and with baby number two I still feel like it’s still so worth the initial investment for us to use cloth diapers. The persuasion behind cloth diapering is a post in itself, but to give you a short list from my home, here’s why we’ve ‘stuck with it:’
- Budget (The biggest factor by far, which for us is a HUGE cost saver. You’d have to do your own analysis on utilities, time, etc. for your own reference with this bullet point. There are a lot of factors that play into cost saving or not!)
- “Green Living” and desiring to live with more natural products in our home
- Diaper bottom factors – we have had no problem with diaper rash or other common diapering symptoms, and I love that I have to use minimal creams, etc. on those little bums.
- It’s really not that hard!! And why I wanted to share my process with you. I’m already doing laundry as often as I need to for cloth diapers – so when I start to question whether it’s worth it, when opening a pack of diapers is still easier for sure, these are the reminders I give myself!
My Easy Cloth Process:
Before you start: Get your ‘stations’ set up for ease of your lifestyle and the process you want to incorporate into your everyday routine. When I did this initially, I was trying to figure out how everyone else processed, washed, dried, folded, stored…everything! I’ve realized I just needed to set myself up for what felt most natural, and where things are convenient, and after some shuffle in products, storage, etc. the system just feels normal. Pictured here is my bathroom set up, and everything I need to get my diapers prepped for the wash: cloth diaper pail, diaper sprayer and spray shield, stain spray, and garbage with foot pedal. These items pictured are linked for a reference (see my disclosure page for details on my links!).
I have three main “stations” where I process or store my cloth diapers. The bathroom is the biggest part of this system, and really how I feel I’ve made this process work, which is why I detailed it above. The second station is in my laundry room, where I keep more spray, another diaper pail for downstairs changing and my drying system. My boy’s room is the third. His changing table has everything to change, clean, lotion, and redress him – for cloth and disposable changes. Baskets and drawers are my key to organization! If you have any specific questions about these areas, shoot me a message and I’d be happy to give you more! But here I wanted to talk more about the process:
Step One: Change the baby! The diaper process starts with soiled diapers. There are so many varieties of diapers to choose from, and I feel like there’s a lot out there on how to choose what’s right for you. We went with the BumGenius 4.0 style in 2014 when my first was born. These are what you see pictured, and what I’ll use to describe my process. They’re all insert style diapers, and if the recommendation is helpful, they’re still in great condition as we’re using them for baby #2 rounding into 2018. I expect we won’t need to replace any of our set to get through two kiddos. (Not sponsored, just a diaper I picked, liked, and stuck with!) All that to say, there are many great variations and companies out there, and even an updated bumGenius diaper.
My biggest suggestion with diaper changes and cloth diapering is to have cloth wipes stored ready to use in a wipe warmer at your changing station. I found that as I process diapers, having ONE bin to put all the stuff I use to change the baby even makes a difference in my process. My bathroom is set up with a foot pedal trash can for those instances I need to separate disposable wipes and my diapers to go into the wash, but when I can rinse it all and put it into the diaper pail together, or simply throw a wet diaper in one place with one hand, I feel more efficient. And the cloth wipe process is easy! You can see how I get them ready to go into the warmer in my sink picture. It takes all of 3 minutes – so easy and a total Mom hack (see my page on #mondaymamahacks) to have these babies around for lots of other uses too! One you get your dirty diaper off and baby clean, bring it to your bathroom!
Step Two: Process the diapers. I always get my diapers ready to throw into the wash as I get them off my baby. That way I don’t have to go back to sorting them after they’ve been sitting. This is where the bathroom set up is key for me. I imagined that the diaper sprayer and spray guard were necessary items for me to be successful at cloth diapering. We invested during our registry process, and I’m so glad I did – we still use them, and I personally think it helps keep my diapers cleaner. Because I’m doing a little extra as I take my diapers off, I’ve rationalized that letting them sit with less poop in the laundry, and with stain spray on them – the better chance they have of getting white again. I don’t know that I can prove that, but it wasn’t until I started doing this regularly, with the right spray (key!), that I felt my diapers were actually looking clean out of the wash. Yes, I tried other things and routines to get here!
Here’s my processing step detailed out with concise notes:
- Bring the diaper into the bathroom.
- Remove the diaper pail lid and move the pail right next to the toilet bowl (to prevent dripping).
- Turn on the diaper sprayer so it’s ready while you don’t have your hands full, and have your spray guard ready right next to the toilet as well.
- Dump what you can into the toilet from the diaper and separate wipes into the pail. I have a hard time putting chunks or much poop at all into my pail, and in turn into my washer. Totally personal preference here though – until your baby is eating solids, all their poop is water soluble, and you could skip all of this if you’d prefer to put it all straight into the wash!
- Hold the diaper in the spray guard over the toilet bowl and spray your diaper off into the toilet (at this point my insert is still in my diaper usually).
- Once you’re done spraying, hang the sprayer back up on the side of the toilet (comes with a hangar that fits under your toilet tank lid).
- At this point I’ll rotate the spray guard over the diaper pail and separate my diaper into my pail, dropping the insert in. I’ll leave the spray guard in the toilet and use my stain spray on the cloth diaper before dropping that outer layer into my pail as well. I used various stain removers, and my most successful BY FAR has been this enzyme based stain remover called Bac-Out by BioKleen. Natural products finding natural waste just makes sense, but also get my stains out best, especially if it has time to sit on the diapers before you run them through the wash.
- If you had a messy diaper, or extra splash while spraying, you can still use your sprayer to spray out your guard into the toilet so it’s clean and ready for the next use!
- Reset your diaper station, making sure not to forget to turn off your sprayer so it doesn’t leak while charged (common if you forget you have water in your hose), and ensuring your diaper pail is sealed, whichever model you choose to use!
A few other things to note about my processing step:
- I only do ALL these steps when I have a poopy diaper and/or spots that could create stains. This could include cream or medicine that you don’t want to stay on your diapers.
- When I have a wet diaper, I open my diaper pail lid with one hand, and separate and drop my diaper in with the other hand – it’s a lot more simple most of the time!
- If I have a solid enough poop, I may also just drop it into the toilet and stain spray my diaper into the pail without using my water sprayer. This is also a nice shortcut if you don’t feel you have a mess to wash off your diaper.
Step Three and Four: Wash and dry your diapers.
I have found that the three biggest factors in seeing my diapers come out of the wash white and odor free are Pre-treatment, Water/Wash cycles, and Soap. About every three months I still have to “strip” my diapers**, or do my best to sun-bleach – but for the most part, this wash process has worked for me consistently. One side note to my system: I have an HE front loader system. Most of my research on cycles and washer factors was on HE washers because they typically use less water than a standard washer. Check into your type of system to know whether some of my steps are necessary, or different from what you should be doing!
Once I get to my wash step, I simply dump my wet bag full of processed diapers into the wash! Depending on how full my pail is, and how much water I ended up having to use to soak my diapers, I may have to soak a couple of towels in water and throw those into the first cycle of my wash load. (If needed I will put water in a bucket and dunk towels right outside my washer before putting it all in and starting the cycle.) With all my diapers in the load, I run a “Rinse and Spin” load on the “Delicate” setting. This cycle uses the most amount of water in the cycle, which is important in flushing all the bodily waste out of your washer system before adding soap and cleaning your diapers in the wash.
Once your diapers have been rinsed off and spun, I add any other laundry that needs to be done to my load (generally all my kids’ clothes first), and run a “Permanent Press” load, adjusting my soil level to “heavy.” I have used a few different types of detergent, and all Free and Clear detergents I’ve tried seem to have the same results in wash loads. If I find a good deal I’ll buy an enzyme based (or “natural”) detergent, but Kirkland’s generic brand detergent also works well.
When the loads are done, I hang and dry all the pockets (outer layer) of my diapers, and dry the inserts on a delicate load in the dryer (with or without the rest of your clothes). If the sun is out, I’ll put my diapers in the sun, as this has been the other best trick to clear up stains or whiten up the fabric on my diapers. “Sun bleaching” is another #momhack I use often, and for all things I’m trying to clear satins from, not just diapers. In the winter, I have a great drying rack that holds all my diapers from a full load, which is a great space-saver as often as I do my diapers!
I’ve included some before and after photo examples of diapers that have gone into my wash pretty soiled (without much spraying for the sake of testing my system), and come out very clean, below.Yes, you could consider these “Poop pictures.” And you’ve been warned 🙂
**When I “strip” my diapers, I try to get them all dirty at once, and do one big load with the entire collection. I try not to do this more than once every three months, and usually do it when I feel like my diapers are starting to look dingy, or more importantly because they start to hold the ammonia smell urine creates when soiled (it’s hard to explain how to gauge the smell, but you’ll know it when they have it – you don’t really smell it until they’re in use, and it’s like all of a sudden they’re pretty ripe). As mentioned above – sun bleaching is a great alternative and much less harsh on your diapers if you can take advantage of your dry timing. But I find that this is still necessary once in a while. There are a couple of products I have felt are less impactful on my diapers, and haven’t seemed to wear them down like I read about through a routine stripping process. Soaking diapers in dawn detergent is one thing people rave about – I tend to do my normal cycle, makes sure to add water weight to my cycle, and use a scoop of BioKleen’s Oxygen Bleach Plus. It’s still chlorine free and color safe, and it’s easy to just add a scoop to my wash cycle along with my free and clear detergent. I just put a small scoop in the load with my laundry after my rinse cycle is complete, and I feel like this clears my diapers right up!
Before: After (right out of wash, then after dried in the sun):
Step Five: Fold in your diapers so they’re ready for the next diaper change! This last step brings you back to where you started. With a stocked changing station ready to clean up your little one and continue to vicious cycle of sleep-eat-poop. It’s a quick activity to take your stack of inserts and diapers and simply stuff them so your diapers are all lined up and ready to go. I find that it’s a quick step during a diaper change if you don’t want to pre-stuff all at once, or when you need to change your babe before the diapers are all stuffed. Either way, this brings you back to where you started.
I hope this visual and step-by-step guide was helpful if you’re considering cloth diapering, or trying to figure out what someone else does that you’d like to try to make your system easier. I would welcome any questions or thoughts you may have to make this process “worth it” for you! Happy diapering!