Washing Diapers Can Be Simple
The Short Version
Diaper laundry can actually be easier to get around to than other laundry because you aren’t sorting, folding, ironing. In exchange, you don’t have to take out the trash.
1. Store used diapers in a dry pail or waterproof bag.
2. Dispose of solid waste properly.
3. Wash 2-3 times a week (see directions below)
4. Dry as desired.
5. Folding is optional.
More specific tips for perfecting your laundry routine
1. Storing Used Diapers
If you are able to leave the dry pail open, say in a laundry room or closet, the air circulating will actually keep urine odors in check.
2. Disposing of Solid Waste Properly
You need to flush solids down the toilet, but you don’t need to dunk the diaper or touch the poop. Hold the diaper by the clean edges or outside of the cover and try one of these popular methods:
- Just shake over the toilet if it’s solid enough to roll off
- Wipe with toilet paper if it needs a little help
- Use a liner if you want…the reusable cloth ones (usually fleece) help the poop roll off, and the flushable rice paper ones are still less more economical and less wasteful than disposable diapers.
- If you want, you can install a diaper sprayer to your toilet supply line (a little mini-shower that sprays away waste). Not necessary, but helpful if you don’t want any poop touching your washer.
- If you really, really want to dunk, try a diaper duck that holds the diaper while you flush.
* Note that legally, you aren’t supposed to place solid human waste in the trash, even if using disposables. Such waste can contaminate the water supply near landfills, unlike waste which is disposed of properly into the sewers or a septic system.
* Also note that breastfed newborn poop (prior to other foods) doesn’t count! You can wipe a little off with toilet paper if has a thick consistency, but usually it soaks into the diaper as a liquid. Therefore, you generally won’t need a trip to the toilet until you introduce solid foods, just a pre-rinse in your washer.
Run a rinse cycle first on cold. This loosens soils and replaces the dunk and swish. If you have some really bad poopy stains, you can soak in the washer with a little well-dissolved oxiclean before running the wash cycle.
Wash on hot with ¼ to 1/3 the normal amount of detergent. Try to use a detergent with the least amount of additives, such as optical brighteners. The cheap store brands often work well since additives cost money. Steer away from baby detergents which tend to be heavily perfumed, and exercise caution with “free and clear” detergents. Some people find free and clear detergents to be acceptable, while others get buildup.
If you have particularly hard water, you may want to add a small amount of a water softener laundry additive such as Calgon.
Use the extra rinse setting if your washer has one. Check your final rinse every once in a while to be sure there are no suds from detergent buildup. You may add vinegar to the final rinse if you desire, for its disinfecting and fabric softening properties. Do NOT use commercial fabric softeners as these coat fabrics in a way that repels water.
Line-drying in the sun will actually help remove stains. The sun also helps disinfect; in fact, many sewage treatment plants use the sun as one step in cleansing waste water. Air-drying indoors when the sun is not available will help prolong the life of your covers.
You can dry your diapers and polyester (PUL or fleece) covers in the dryer, even on high heat. PUL was designed as an industrial, hospital-grade fabric, so it has a much better tolerance for heat than old-fashioned vinyl. Occasional use of the dryer may even help reseal the laminate in the event of small leaks such as around lines of stitching. Obviously, you won’t see the energy savings or get quite the same life expectancy out of your covers as someone who air-dries, but the environmental impact is still less than the manufacture of disposables, and we’re talking about diaper lifespans that last through multiple children.
If you’re looking for the fastest option, you can leave your diapers unfolded in a laundry basket that simply travels back and forth from the dryer to the changing table with each load. If your changing table has a dust ruffle to hide the basket, all the better.
A neater option, is to lay similar diapers flat in stacks, such as a pile of prefolds and a pile of fitted diapers, etc. Using a small decorative basket to hold these piles will help keep them from toppling over, while adding a little flair.
Most diapers store well simply folded in half. They even fit in the hanging diaper storage that some folks use for disposables.