This post marks the end of our short, but hopefully helpful, series on dispelling some myths about why cloth diapering is actually easier than you think.
I asked you for your cloth diapering questions, and you really let me have it! I couldn't answer every single question, but I tried my best to make sure that all of the various topics were addressed, so here goes nothing...
Q. So, my question is: what detergent do you use? Do you use this for all your laundry? I have been making my own detergent for a while and would like to continue doing so when we are doing cloth, but don't want to hurt the integrity of the diapers.
A. I have two detergents that I use regularly. One is Country Save and the other is Biokleen Free & Clear Powder. I prefer Country Save for my diapers, and like Biokleen better for clothes, but I don't usually bother buying two different detergents so I just use them both interchangeably on all of my laundry. They're both quite cost effective (Country Save is cheapest) and I buy them in large boxes from Azure Standard, a natural foods co-op. Both brands are quite popular and if not carried by your local grocery store, you should easily be able to get them from any natural foods store or online (Amazon, Soap.com, etc.).
I think it's very important to use detergents that are safe for your diapers. The very best resource that I know of in this regard is the Cloth Diaper Detergent Chart at Diaper Jungle. It lists every detergent imaginable, giving it a rating out of 4, an approximate cost-per-load, and any specific things to note about that particular detergent.
Q. Intrigued, but to be honest, still not sold on it. Why not?
- my weak stomach. Though the washable bag option helps that one.
- my limited time. For now, I'll need to go back to work (teaching high school) a short 6 weeks after baby arrives. I'm not convinced I'd have the time. But this will be my firstborn, so maybe its because I'm unsure how ANY routines will go.
- the price up front.
A. I think you would definitely prefer the washable bag option. Another purchase to consider would be a diaper sprayer that attaches to the toilet to make even easier work of cleaning #2 diapers.
As for the time and price, considering that you will be working full time, why not consider partially using cloth diapers as a compromise? You wouldn't need to purchase nearly as many (maybe start with more like 4-8 diapers). You could use disposables while baby is being cared for by someone else, or perhaps at night, and use disposables during afternoon/evenings and on the weekends when you're home. This would keep the washing work much more minimal. It would still save you money and allow you to reduce your waste significantly as well.
Q. 3 kids and 5 years of cloth diapering and I've never felt it to be a hassle, just part of daily life. I do find they hit an age where I have to use a disposable over night, they just seem to leak out of the cloth diapers. What do you use to overnight your kids?
A. For overnight, I use pocket diapers with doubled up inserts. When I was using only one insert, I had leaking problems. So I began using two inserts (microfiber) and that was better, but not perfect. Then I switched to one hemp insert layered with one microfiber insert (I put the hemp as the bottom layer, because I find the microfiber softer), and this seems to be the best combination I have personally used and the one that gives them the least rashes.
I also had several other questions about leaking, especially at night, and for older babies who are heavy wetters. I'm sure other readers have some fantastic and different suggestions for this problem, so please share in the comments!
Q. I know that disposables are more expensive in the long run, but it's a big expense up front to get the diapers and wipes for cloth. I guess I'm just worried that I'll spend a couple hundred dollars and then discover that it doesn't work out for us, or that I've picked the wrong kind of diaper. I wish I knew someone close by who did it. That might help me get up the courage to try it!
A. Here are a few of the answers from the comments on the original post, which I thought were very helpful:
Mom of 4: A lot of diaper stores let you do trials, which is an awesome way to test various diapers and see how convenient cloth really is.
Nola: Most places allow you to buy only a few diapers or a few different kinds. Eg. you could buy one prefold, cover and snappi, one pocket, one all in one, and one fitted (the cover from the prefold would work with this) or more than that if you want, and try it... and then if you didn't want them, you could probably resell them since they'd hardly be used. You can just use a plastic bag or ziploc while out until you want to invest in a wet bag, and you can just use any garbage can with a lid for a diaper pail (and then reuse it later if you decide not to do cloth).
My thoughts: Another thing that might really help you is to read through the diaper reviews at The Diaper Pin. This is a fantastic site with really thorough reviews on practically every cloth diapering product out there, and the reviews are very honest, helpful ones from regular moms (who even tell you how long they've been cloth diapering). I have often used it while trying to make purchasing decisions.
Q. We are on the fence here. Want to go for it, but all my friends who have tried it have all complained about leaks, hard time finding the right detergent, sour smells, and limiting activities, later potty training, etc. What do you think about these issues.
A. My answers:
- Leaks: This is why I choose only excellent quality covers or pocket diapers. Don't use cheap covers like Kushies or plastic pants. They leaked for me incessantly. Bummis or Motherease are much better and gave me very few leaks. Always check that every part of the diaper is properly tucked in and covered by the cover or tucked into the pocket's outer layer (around the legs, by the tummy, above the bum, etc.). These are the key areas where leaks happen. And, change more frequently. The nice thing about cloth is that you're not counting dollars down the drain each time you do a diaper change.
- Detergent: Use the link above to source out some good possible detergents. If you have hard or soft water, check out something more suited to your situation, like Rockin Green's unique formulas.
- Smells: If you've found a good detergent and are washing properly, you shouldn't have smell issues. To avoid this with diaper pails/bags, keep in your laundry room if you prefer (that's where I keep mine). Use homemade air freshener to keep things fresher. If a particular diaper is super stinky, wash that next load sooner than later. Use a good wet bag to keep your diaper bag free of stink. Also, drying diapers out in the sun helps to keep the stink away, too!
- Limiting activities: I have never found that cloth diapering limited what I do, whether it's going out, taking long drives, having sitters, etc. The only time we don't use cloth is for long vacations when we will not be staying with family and that's only once or twice a year at most.
- Potty Training: I have not found cloth diapering to make much of a different in potty training, either on the early or late side. My first trained early, my second late, my third will probably be average. I do know that many moms have attested to earlier training (as opposed to later). I honestly think it's more about the particular child than about the type of diaper you use, but that's just my opinion.
Q. We are currently in a rental and have limited access to a washer and dryer. Given that, I think we probably can't do cloth diapering since it is so dependent on having easy access to a washer and dryer. I'd love to hear ideas to get around this since I do believe cloth is definitely better!!
A. It does definitely help to have easy access to a washer and dryer, but you may be able to compromise. One idea is to ask your landlords if you can split up your laundry days throughout the week. Our tenants wanted to cloth diaper, so we talked about it and I gave them additional access to the machines on Wednesdays (instead of only weekends as was our previous arrangement), so they could do diaper laundry twice a week.
If that isn't a possibility, you could think about doing one mid-week trip to a laundromat. Yes, it's a bit of cost, but if you only do half of your diapers this way it might not be that bad. Or, you could consider doing cloth only Wednesday-Saturday so that you can wash those diapers on the weekend when you have access (or adapt this to your particular situation), and use disposables or something like gDiapers the rest of the week.
Any other ideas from those with limited machine access?
Q. A lot of you are mentioning that with cloth there aren't leaks.... It is true that I don't have any poop blow outs with my cloth diapers (I use Fuzzi Bunz), but for some reason, my son often gets wet clothes when wearing cloth and I have to change his clothes. He is 4 months old. For this reason I use Disposables when I am out. Does anyone have any tips on keeping your baby's clothes dry when using a Fuzzi Bunz cloth diaper. Am I doing the snaps too tight?
A. You might just be changing less often when you're out (this is easy to do- I often catch myself going longer between changes just because I'm otherwise occupied while I'm out). Or you might want to try using double inserts for outings or long car rides. Especially when they're very young and exclusively breastfed, they pee so frequently that you probably need to be changing a solid 6-8 or more times per day. And some kids are simply heavier wetters than others and need more frequent changes.
You should also double check that the inner part of the diaper is tucked properly inside the outer cover in all of the main "leaky" areas: around the legs, by the tummy, above the bum. All the places where the insides of the diaper can creep above the outside cover and the wetness can wick onto the fabric of their clothing. Double check that you have a snug fit in those areas and that no cloth (only cover) is touching his clothes.
Lastly, every once in a while diapers begin to repel a bit and start leaking. This doesn't happen often (unless, of course, you are using a detergent that just isn't working with your diapers), but if it starts to happen frequently, it might be worth stripping your diapers and see if that helps.
Q. I have some FuzziBunz that I used with my youngest during potting training. If I had used them when mine were infants, how would I handle a poopy diaper? I could replace the insert but there is still poop on the inside of the diaper. I don't understand how the inserts are more helpful seeing as most infant diapers are poopy. I would really like some insight into the actual steps in dealing with wet or poopy diapers. Do you toss the whole wet bag in to the laundry open or zipped up?
A. When babies are small, you just toss the poopy diaper straight into the pail and then wash. No rinsing needed at all. You only need to start dumping poop or rinsing diapers once you get to solid poops.
But, you won't be able to pull out and replace only the insert. Generally, that is only for diapers like Flip or GrowVia. With a diaper like a FuzziBunz pocket, you'll have to wash the whole thing each time.
Also, for those using diapers with inserts, there is no need to actually remove the insert from the diaper before laundering. I previously thought that I had to and so I would sit there shaking them out, needlessly. Now I just toss the diaper, insert and all, straight in the pail and then in the wash.
If you're using a wet bag, you will want to unzip it and dump it's contents into the wash, so that the diapers can freely move around, otherwise the inserts won't come out and the diapers won't get clean enough.
Q. One thing I wonder though is washing the soiled diapers along with other clothes... how many fecal particles are getting on the other clothes or in the washer? I think I read somewhere to clean your washer once a month by pouring a cup of bleach in and washing an empty load. This will help sanitize it. What are your thoughts on this?
A. I personally don't worry about fecal particles. I always dump solid poo in the toilet, and give less "solid" ones a good swish to get most of the yuckies off before washing.
Since I always do a rinse cycle first, I would say that the majority of fecal matter rinses away before I even do my hot wash. With the second, full, hot cycle, anything remaining is rinsed away and sanitized because of the hot water and the detergent that I use in this cycle. I don't notice anything dirty left in the machine after this second cycle and it smells fresh as well.
If it really bothered you, I think it's reasonable to consider doing an empty cycle once a month, perhaps with a more natural bleach product or something like Biokleen's BacOut, to give the washer a really good clean and set your mind at ease.
Image by niftysmith
Q. I think your numbers are very conservative for disposables costs -- but HIGH on the cloth side. (i.e. further proving your point) -- showing that even with the most luxurious cloth diapers, you are still saving money! I've gotten most of my diapers as gifts (baby shower) or homemade (from flannel receiving blankets) or second-hand (passed on to me, as my original cloth diapers from 8 years ago are all worn out now). Sure, they aren't as fancy/convenient, but it has meant very, very little out-of-pocket! :)
A. I agree, my numbers are exactly as you said-- conservative for disposables, and high for cloth. I actually did that on purpose. I didn't want to have a bunch of people telling me that disposables cost less than what I had calculated (even though I know that many people spend more than the numbers I used and there are still some super-shoppers who spend even less).
I also wanted to show how, even with higher cloth diapers numbers than is necessary (because yes, you can do it so much cheaper than the numbers that I quoted!), the cloth STILL wins out as cheaper. Does that make sense? I wanted to make it a worst case scenario and have the cloth still be the obvious winner!
Q. OK, I'm going to ask my question. When you say you swirl the diaper in the toilet and then drop it into the pail, do you drag the pail into the bathroom with you, do you have an extra pail in the bathroom, or do you bring it back to the changing area and drop it in the pail (and if so, how do you keep it from dripping all the way back)?
A. Basically, yes, I drag the pail into the bathroom (I keep it in my very nearby laundry room, but I know others who keep it right in the bathroom). I lift the pail up right next to the toilet so there's no leaking.
And now, allow me to demonstrate (yes, really-- blogging is a shameless job, you know!):
Q. Do you really end up with a pail full of wet cloth waiting for a whole load? Or do you let them sit for a while before washing them out?
A. I really do end up with a pail full (usually) of cloth diapers by the time I wash them. Sometimes, it won't be quite full but I will wash anyways because I don't like to go longer than 3 days.
Now, it's not really a "full" load in the sense that a load of clothes would be. I usually only only a small load setting or at most, a medium setting. Never the large setting that I use for clothes, towels, etc.
Image from Leslie's Boutique (they make gorgeous wet bags!)
Q. But I have some fears and questions. How does the wet bag hold in the smell? What fabric is it made of that can do that? I've heard that even diaper pails with plastic bags can get smelly. My worst fear is having a house that smells like poo and not even knowing it. (I want my friends to love visiting!)
A. Wet bags are made of PUL, a water-resistant fabric. They usually have at least two layers, so the stink has to travel farther to get out and it can't leak out. They are not perfectly stink-proof (nothing is), but I find that it stinks less than a pail (but, I still use the cheap pail I bought 6 years ago, because the "green" girl in me just won't let me get rid of it!).
My main solutions to diaper pail/bag stink are:
- Go no more than 3 days between washes (and with a wet bag, you will always just toss this in and wash it at the same time)
- Use a dry pail, rather than soaking diapers in water.
- Keep it somewhere other than a frequently-used room (mine is in my laundry room)
- When it does start to smell a bit (usually, though, the smell is a direct result of opening it to toss a diaper in, not from the smell just naturally seeping out), use a simple homemade air freshener. I keep a bottle in my downstairs bathroom, which is where I swish my diapers and close enough to my laundry room that I can use it in there when needed. I will spray both inside the diaper pail and in the air around it.
Real Moms Talk Diapers
I had been hoping to share with you some of the reasons why other moms choose to cloth diaper, and also some of their best tips for diapering... but, this post had so many great questions to be answered that it is already long enough!
You can read all 79 of them on the Keeper of the Home Facebook page (this is a direct link to the answers). There are so many excellent answers and helpful thoughts in there.
Your Turn to Weigh In
I've done a lot of talking just now, but I know that there are so many knowledgable and experienced cloth diapering moms out there, who can help to answer some of these great questions.