Monday, May 11, 2009

Cloth Diapers and the Laundromat

We've been living in our studio apartment for over two and a half years- all the while making weekly trips to the laundromat. When we started using cloth diapers, that changed to bi-weekly. There have been a few weeks when people have offered their homes for the laundry (Thanks Faith, Monique, and Vanessa), but the majority of the time, I've trekked the 2 blocks. How does that work with cloth diapers? The same way it worked with clothes, though there are a few special considerations.

First, we had to pick a couple of days to do laundry. In general, I go on Mondays for diapers only and Thursdays for everything. This is because our laundromat has assigned some of the washers to only be $1/wash on Thursdays. Saving us money! One of my favorite benefits of the laundromat is that you can get everything washed all at once. You don't have to spend hours doing laundry! Just 60-90 minutes!

Last November taking a ride in the laundry cart

My diaper routine:
  1. Pour the detergent in. We have a mild detergent without any perfumes or fragrances. Some diapers need specific detergents. The microfiber in the Bum Genius can hold onto the urine smell if the detergent isn't one that rinses well from it. You can avoid that complication simply by using flats or prefolds to stuff the pockets since those don't have detergent restrictions like microfiber does.
  2. Throw diapers and wipes and wet bags in. Our diaper "pail" is just a really large wet bag that we wash with the diapers.
  3. A few drops of tea tree oil get thrown in. It's antibacterial and smells really good. It is also expensive, but that is why I only use a few drops. Our tiny bottle has lasted us over half a year so far.
  4. Set to the hottest, most agitating setting. I want the diapers to get clean! There are no "extra rinse" settings at the laundromat like some home washers have, so I'm pretty aggressive with the settings.
  5. I used to add a cup of white vinegar when the cycle changed to "rinse" to eliminate odors. I've heard that vinegar ruins the microfiber of the Bum Genius, so I've stopped. Of course, if you choose to stuff your pocket diapers with something other than microfiber, go ahead and do this. If vinegar is ok with microfiber, someone please let me know.
  6. Put the diapers and inserts in the dryer. You can put the covers and pockets in the dryer, but I've found that the heat of the dryer has ruined some covers. The plastic parts melted into themselves. Not good. Of course, it's summer now, so I dry both diapers and covers on a line: saves money and energy.

One of the pitfalls of the laundromat is that you can't control the detergent other people have used previously in the machines. I always wash the diapers in a machine that is in a corner and hard to reach, hoping that it's used less and so will have less detergent residue.

What about stripping the diapers? There are times when cloth diapers do need to be stripped for smells. Most sources online will tell you to wash the duapers on a couple cycles of super hot water, which isn't possible at the laundromat. Our simple solution is to boil the diapers. We have a very large stock pot and when I need to strip the diapers, I plan on boiling then in that. Stock pots also come in handy when you give birth at home in a tub.

In Marxh pushing the carts around

In the winters, I spend about $3.75/week on diapers. In the summers, it's only $2.50. It is free, of course, when I do it at someone's house. Not bad compared to the economical and environmental cost of disposable diapers. For me, the biggest downside to the laundromat is having to leave the house and if I don't have the car that day, it's kind of a pain to carry it all, but it's good exercise.

I know that, "I have to wash my diapers at the laundromat" sounds like an overwhelming thought. It was to me originally, too. But really, it's not a big deal and it's easier than this post makes it sound, I promise.

If you're in Provo, the laundromats with $1 washes on Thursdays are the ones on Freedom: next to Honks and the one at the corner of 3rd south. Hope that helps you, Melissa! And I hope your washer gets fixed soon!


  1. You are brave! I didn't start using cloth until I had my own washer and dryer. We didn't go to a laundry mat before hand, we would go to my parents' or my in-laws' (because they are both close). But, it still wasn't something I wanted to do!

  2. Go Heather! I've heard that Bum Genius doesn't recommend vinegar, borax or baking soda because it can damage the elastic. (Not sure if that's true, just what I've heard on mothering) However, on the BG website they say that you can occasionally use bleach on them which makes no sense. I've used vinegar on microfiber and it was ok, never heard not to.

  3. Too hot water can damage the "shell" of the BG diapers, or so I've been warned. That's why when we strip them we don't turn up the water heater. I suppose you could strip just the liners though and avoid that issue altogether.

  4. When I mentioned stripping, I was referring to the inserts since those are the ones that hold smells. The diapers themselves aren't a problem- it's the microfiber that holds onto the ammonia smell.

    I do try to be kind to the BG covers. I try to let them air dry instead of using the dryer- though the sun is gentle on them, too. :_

  5. i msy be doing that this summer for dipes only....we have a washer but no dryer and hanging is fine for our clothes and things but dipes we'll need dry asap

  6. I stripped mine with running a wash with 2 cups distilled white vinegar. If you actually have a spot for adding softener for the rinse cycle, add 1/2 cup each time you wash and you usually don't have to strip at all.

  7. The best way to clean cloth diapers is to pre-rinse them off in the toilet using a Hand Bathroom Bidet Sprayer. So convenient and if you are trying to help the environment (and your pocket book) you can give it a double whammy by virtually eliminating toilet paper use at the same time as you benefit from using it on the diapers, by using it on yourself. I think Dr. Oz on Oprah said it best: "if you had pee or poop on your hand, you wouldn't wipe it off with paper, would you? You'd wash it off" Available at they come in an inexpensive kit and can be installed without a plumber. And after using one of these you won't know how you lasted all those years with wadded up handfuls of toilet paper. Now we're talking green and helping the environment without any pain. One review:

  8. I have only had to strip my diapers once so far, and that was because I was using too much detergent. I don't think using the vinegar once a month would be that big of a deal since BG says to do a bleach rinse once a month. I rarely even do that and don't have a problem.

  9. That is the laundromat I used to go to, I must have never gone on Thursdays because I totally missed that they had $1 washes on Thursdays. My washer is fixed now! If you run out of quarters or don't feel like going to the laundromat, let me know and you are welcome to use my washer :)

    I have heard that if vinegar is completely rinsed out of microfiber it won't damage it.

  10. I just wanted to say thank you for posting this! I also want to cloth diaper, but need to use the laundromat and I was wondering how it would work. This is very helpful. If you don't mind me asking, how big is your stash? I know that I would prob. need a bigger one to be able to go an extra day without doing laundry. Thanks!

  11. We had 12 pocket diapers and like 15 prefolds and like 20 flats at that time. We've increased out pocket stash since then. :)


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