"Easy!" I tell them. "I get my husband to do it!"
All joking aside, I've got to say that using cloth diapers hasn't chained me (or my husband) to the washer/dryer at all. We wash a load of cloth diapers about every two and a half days, so that works out to two or three loads a week. Not too bad, really, considering the fact that we wash Monkey Boy's clothes that often anyway.
If you plan to use cloth diapers, here are some questions you'll have to consider at some point:
- Should I use a dry pail or a wet pail for my cloth diapers? (A wet pail is a diaper pail that's full of water and some sort of antibiotic or cleaning solution, such as bleach, detergent, or tea tree oil).
- Should I soak my cloth diapers before washing them? (Either in a wet pail or in the washer itself.)
- Should I wash my cloth diapers in hot or cold?
- How many rinse cycles should I run my cloth diapers through?
- What sort of detergent or soap should I use with my cloth diapers?
- To bleach or not to bleach?
Personally I like to keep things as simple as possible. (Why? Because I'm lazy.)
We use a dry pail because frankly, a wet pail seems like way too much of a hassle. In order to keep odors to a minimum, we rinse and wring out any diapers that have poop in them before throwing them in to the pail. The lid of the pail has a space to put a deodisk -- a disk-shaped deodorant cake -- to deal with odors.
(Oh, how I love that deodisk. It totally nullifies the diaper stank. Right now, Monkey Boy's bedroom has a delightful citrus smell in it, like someone's been squeezing an orange peel in there. Mmm... orangey.)
When it's time for us to do another load, we fill the washing machine with hot water and throw in some ecofriendly biodegradable detergent (it's called VIP, but I think it's only available in Canada -- not sure) and 1/4 cup of Borax. Once the machine is full of water, we add the diapers and let them soak for about five or ten minutes before putting them through a rinse cycle.
Once that's done, we add any of Monkey Boy's clothes that need to be washed and run everything through a regular cycle with hot water, then rinse with cold.
That's it! And so far we haven't had any staining, stink, or rash issues at all.
So really, washing our cloth diapers has only added about 10-15 minutes to our regular laundry routine. In the grand scheme of things, that's nothing. Knowing what I know now, I'd continue to use cloth diapers even if we had to go to a laundromat to do our washing. What's an extra 10 to 15 minutes every few days?
Especially when compared to running out of diapers in the middle of the night and having to drive around town looking for a convenience store that sells diapers and is still open at 1:00 in the morning.
(I'm sure that doesn't happen to everyone, but I know at least three people who've had to make a midnight run for disposables! Definitely something I'm happy to avoid...)
One thing: we've found that drying our cloth diapers takes a little longer than regular laundry, especially when we're drying the fitted cloth diapers, which are thicker than the cotton prefolds we usually use. If we're doing a load of fitteds plus prefolds and diaper covers, we tend to keep them in the dryer for a full hour (whereas our regular laundry usually takes only 40 minutes to dry).
Of course, if you're worried about excessive electricity bills, you can always hang your diapers to dry. And the nifty thing is, sunshine naturally bleaches cloth diapers, so if they have any poo stains on them, the sun will bleach them back to their original whiteness. AND it will help reduce any lingering odors on your cloth diapers.
Sunshine: a free way to dry your dipes, AND bleach them, AND kill odors. Reason #195857 why Mother Nature is just so darned cool.