So, how do you actually handwash diapers?
Good question... honestly, I have no idea. I'm basically just winging it. There are so many websites that will tell you the do's and don'ts of washing diapers. Do use a lot of detergent, or don't. Do use bleach, or don't. Do use softener, or don't. Use only a special detergent, or use only the strongest normalest detergent there is. It's like advice on baby sleep... or anything else in parenthood really.
So I asked my mom how she washed diapers back in the good old days. She cloth diapered me 30-odd years ago. She cloth diapered my sister and brother 40-odd years ago. She cloth diapered her baby brother 60-odd years ago.
She used ivory soap flakes, hot water (so the soap would dissolve), water softener when washing with well water (very hard), and sanitized with bleach on an as-needed basis.
Now most people will tell you that you need detergent (as opposed to soap) to wash cloth diapers. My feeling is that, not unlike electric washing machines, detergent is a new invention, so when handwashing, it should be possible to get by without detergent.
I also didn't want to buy anything extra for the Flats and Handwashing Challenge, because I want to be able to handwash diapers anywhere without special equipment.
- If there is poop, scrub it a bit in the toilet without soap.
- Agitate diapers in some plain water, rinse and squeeze. Doing this either just with my hands in the sink, or a combination of hands and feet in the shower. (Shower or sink depending on whether or not I am multitasking with a shower at the same time.)
- Rub a little soap on the diapers (not all over, and not on each diaper individually, but on any particular dirty areas, with the general idea to get some lather going).
- Rub diapers against one another and/or against the bottom of the shower like a washboard (we have those awful little 1-inch tiles). Focus extra attention on visibly dirty areas.
- Visual inspection. Repeat 3-4 as needed.
- Rinse until no bubbles.
- Smell test. Repeat 3-6 as needed, though I've only actually found myself repeating step 6.
- Hang dry the diapers, outside if possible.
Pro tip: a flat diaper makes a great hobo sack for carrying around the rest of your laundry.
I feel like I am using almost no soap and almost no agitation. Yet the diapers do seem clean, and it is enough work to be pretty annoying. I wish I knew a good way to truly verify that the diapers are clean. I'm afraid of giving my baby a rash from unclean diapers, so perhaps I am over-washing. If only I had a way to find out without risking her health.
Overnight: 2 flats in the pink wool. Slept through the night. Pooped in it before we got her up. Thank goodness our overnight diaper is flats. Spot cleaned the wool and didn't re-lanolize, as only a tiny bit got on it.
Daytime: 1 miss resulting in wet panties, dress, sheet, and mattress protector to wash today. All the rest of the pee and poop in the potty all day. She went to her 18 month well child check in underwear, and peed in the potty in the car. This is pretty exciting to me because lately she has been refusing every potty away from home, even a familiar one in the car. Go daddy-o! (I was at work today.)