Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How to Handwash Cloth Diapers--tips and tricks for getting started

If you don't have a washer and dryer, cloth diapering may seem impossible for your family. Kim over at "Dirty Diaper Laundry" wanted to change this misconception when she created the "Annual Flats and Hand washing Challenge" 
Handwashing doesn't have to get your hands dirty!

Why hand washing?  If you live in an apartment you are most likely bringing your laundry to a laundromat, or centralized laundry room.  You're also probably paying to do your laundry and trying to minimize the number of loads each week.  This can make doing laundry an expensive and time-consuming task.  Even if you have a washing machine at home, there may be times when you don't have access to it. What about if you want to take your cloth diapers on a camping trip?

Hand washing diapers is very simple.  By purchasing simple tools like a 5 gallon pail and a plunger, you can easily get your diapers clean without a washing machine.  This method doesn't involve coming in contact with any "diaper water."

See this video for how to make your own 5 gallon pail and plunger set up for washing cloth diapers and other clothes. I have personally found that I don't like the lid with a hole method--just using a bucket without a lid works much better and I'm able to fully agitate the diapers without limiting my range of motion with the plunger.

Below is a video demonstration on washing cloth diapers in the 5 gallon bucket setup. I prefer to soak the diapers so that I don't have to do as much agitation (I'm a lazy handwasher!).  More details about this method can me found in my post here, but the general idea is to:

1) Soak diapers in hot water
2) Dump water and add hot water with detergent (Soak)
3) Agitate diapers and dump water
4) Rinse in hot water
5) Squeeze out remaining water and line dry

If you really dislike the idea of using a plunger or you plan to handwash on a regular basis, you might consider looking into a commercial laundering pod that can be used to wash diapers and clothes.  It can also spin-dry laundry so they will require less drying time.  There are many non-electric washing or "drying" devices.

The key to hand washing diapers is to wash smaller loads more often.  Diapers should be washed daily or every other day.  This will also reduce the amount of diapers needed in your diapering stash and help to save money.  Make sure you are using enough water to get the diapers fully rinsed and check to make sure that the diapers are clean when you remove them from the bucket.  If you are camping, you can heat water over the fire to get hot water (but be careful that it's not too hot or it could damage the diapers).

Another idea is to do partial handwashing.  I discussed this method here and the idea is to pre-rinse the diapers by hand using the above methods and, after they are mostly clean, wash the diapers with detergent in a washing machine.  This could be an option for apartment dwellers whom are paying for for laundry services.

Cloth diapers are really the most economical option for families on a budget and it is easy to use them regardless of if you have a washing machine.

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