I’ve been postponing writing this article for some time now. In addition to having a squirming 10 month old baby boy, the truth is that I’ve been wondering a lot about how to formulate in a way that will not make it seem like an infatuated campaign for washies, but still demonstrate why I like using modern cloth diapers so much.Written by Mónika Markotán.
To point out the essence: I’m going to write about my subjective opinion and becoming a washie; I’m going to answer the questions I’m asked the most regarding the topic.
This article may offer new information for those who’re interested in modern cloth diapers and feel just as lost among all the information as I did at the time. Because, of course, the truth is that you can get lost in this world as well.
I’m often asked the question: where does the idea of using reusable diapers come from?
To put things into perspective, I’m also telling that I’m trying to run our household as “eco” as possible, to live our lives as environmentally conscious as possible. We recycle and reuse what we can, we compost, I employ my grandma’s tried and tested cleaning methods, etc. To cut a long story short, it was almost a given fact that we’re going to take care of our future child in the most natural way possible to protect him and Mother Earth.
If I’d be given the choice between wrapping my precious baby into fine, soft textile over and over again, or into a disposable plastic diaper packed with polyacrylate beads, my choice would clearly be the first.
Google is really smart, because based on my search history, washable diapers popped up while browsing one time. Back then I was just reading about it, the real push was given during a childbirth class by a washie mom, who brought their stock for a so-called “diaper-feeling”.
She told us a lot, about figures, statistics, she shared information about chemicals. I don’t want to expatiate on these, tons of info is already available online. But I’d like to point out that aside from liking the cute designs and the much finer feel due to the natural materials, the deciding moment came when she told us that an average toddler, before he/she is potty trained, uses up roughly a ton of disposable diapers. Which, on top of being considered dangerous waste, burden Earth with 550 year long  degradation. This hit me like a ton of bricks. How long? It seemed extreme to me.
Conversely, a convenient inventory of diapers washed every 3 days can stop at 20 pieces. The conditional mood is due the ease of slipping into the habit of hoarding diapers, moms (I admit that it happened to me, too, but of course the compulsion to hoard subsided with time) tend to overspend and amass a bigger-than-necessary stock only because the designs are nice, they see it as a hobby, etc.
There are so many different diaper systems available, how did I know which one is going to be the best for my son?
I started exploring the topic already while being pregnant, fortunately there is a lot of information on modern cloth diapers on the internet. I quickly subscribed to a free online course (available in Hungarian) that introduces us to the world of washable diapers through 9 episodes. In a nice, gradual way, without overwhelming us with information, the series presents the basics of washing, starting with the types of diapers (comparing them to disposables), through pitfalls and financial aspects (which also help in putting together your own inventory), to accessories and handling diapers.
The other really useful, and for me the most useful source is the „Mosható pelenka piac és csevegő” (Washable Diaper Marketplace and Chat) Facebook group. There are many experienced and helpful mothers in the community who not only offer their diapers to members, but their knowledge as well. The latter is free of charge, of course. Multiple topics cover everything that can come up regarding washable diapers.
And what’s really the most important: feeling, testing. It’s recommended to talk to a washie mom you already know, to borrow various diapers to find out which one suits our baby the most. This was most useful to me. It spared me money and time.
Is it worth the “fuss”?
The first and most important thing I want to put forth: if an accident happens to our baby’s bodysuit, we don’t immediately throw it into the incinerator wearing a pressure suit to destroy it, instead we wash it and use it as long as possible. How would a diaper be different from a neat little bodysuit? I think what justifies washing one and throwing out the other is knowing that one is a piece of clothing, and the other is a diaper. And it’s easier to use disposable diapers – why wouldn’t we throw it away?
I choose washable ones whenever possible. It would be hypocritical of me to say we use them under all circumstances, though. When traveling for a longer time, very far, or at night, I, too, resort to using disposable diapers, although I try to choose from the “eco” ones. Fortunately it’s rarely the case when I can’t manage using washable ones, and we venture farther and farther out with them.
What do I use and how?
Let me express myself by quoting the title of the famous LGT song: “Everybody Does It Differently”.
(Before starting there were a bunch specialized worlds for which I had to use a dictionary – now I’m quite good at washie-slang :)) By the way, Ökolurkó Mosható Pelenka Kódexe (Eco-baby’s Codex of Washable Diapers), available online free of charge, helped me a lot to clear things up.
I must admit, I’m not sure how many pieces the current inventory consists of, I’m always selling the ones I don’t need anymore, and I’ve just bought a new type I wanted to try out. I’d rather say that the number of actively circulating diapers is around 15-20.
We don’t use any kind of commercial baby wipe at home. Clean water is the best. We wash the baby’s skin with pleasantly warm water and a cotton cloth (that I’ve cut out of a T-shirt) or a reused diaper liner, then we wipe it dry with a tetra diaper.
Baby bottom butter, cream, oil etc.:
This list will be short: the usage of any kind of cream is not only unnecessary with washable diapers (my son never had diaper rash, his butt is very well ventilated in the washies), it’s actually recommended against due to clogging the pores of liners, so we don’t use creams. (Except when his skin gets red during teething, then we sometimes use a small amount in a thin layer, but I think the tube will never run out, luckily my baby’s skin doesn’t demand it. :))
I use a biodegradable vegan washing solution free of phosphate, chlorine, paraben, petroleum products, colorants, which hasn’t been tested on animals, and which only contains natural, plant-derived ingredients (corn oil, coconut oil). For me, this is an important aspect. Fabric softeners are not needed and also not recommended, as their particles clog the pores in liners, besides the fact that many people are allergic to some of their components.
My disinfecting, bleaching miracle solution: sodium percarbonate.
I also use washing soap – I use it to rub liners with poop stains, it cleans them up nicely.
The biodegradable bleach, disinfectant, and stain remover, marketed under several names: sodium percarbonate, stain-removing powder, bleach powder. It’s an excellent product for washing white and colored clothes, for pre-treating strong stains, and for soaking.
How do I do the washing? Isn’t it disgusting?
I’d refer back to my analogy above about bodysuits. We do wash baby clothes with pee and poop stains, right? From the point of view of washing, this is the same.
I set up the following washing routine:
- before machine washing I pre-wash all diapers: I rinse them after use, I wring the pee-filled ones, and I rub the poop-stained ones with washing soap, then rinse and wring them, too. They lie waiting like that in an uncovered container. They do not stink. This operation takes max. 2 minutes per diaper, but I think it’s even less :). I don’t store them for long, I wash every 3 days at max.
- I was diapers on 60°C, and centrifuge them at 800 rpm.
- I unbutton all diapers, I collect the hook-and-loop fasteners separately, then I put the diapers into a washing bag to protect them from damage.
- When drying, I take care not to hang the diapers, I rather let them dry lying. (Washie moms debate about whether hanging damages the thigh bands or not, but I’m playing it safe.)
- If I see it necessary (the diapers smell, they don’t soak well, or I’ve just got a used one and want to make sure it’s clean), then I soak the liners in warm – not hot – water with sodium percarbonate overnight. It’s important not to do the same to the outer parts, as percarb damages PUL, which makes up the sealing layer, a vital part of the diaper. The next day I just wash them in the machine as usual.
“Reusables can’t be cheaper, as washing takes power, water, energy, and time.”
I like researching everything and not spending money unnecessarily, so I searched the internet for a bit and I found two calculators, which can be used to calculate the estimated costs of washing diapers. The calculators can be found here and here (both in Hungarian).
Washables ending up cheaper didn’t surprise me. Yes, even with the extra soap and everything, it’s still cheaper. And I didn’t even consider in the calculation that the current diaper inventory is planned to be used by multiple kids, which would make washables even cheaper.
I already mentioned that the circulation of diapers is quite active not only at us, but all around the country and even outside of it, so you can save a lot if you don’t insist on buying new ones. We bought both new and used diapers as well, many of them paid for themselves, so I can say using washables wasn’t unprofitable for us at all! Investments could be ploughed back into the inventory quite well.
“Doesn’t it hinder coordination development? Aren’t reusable diapers bad for the infant?”
If I wanted to put it briefly: no and no :)
People over 30 all wore washable diapers when they were toddlers. And those weren’t so modern in design, and yet these people don’t have musculoskeletal disorders. Additionally, it’s good from orthopedics’ point of view, as a wider straddle help keep the hip in proper position. Another advantage of washies is that, due to well-ventilating fabrics, the occurrence of diaper rash is far lower than in the case of babies wearing disposables. (My baby never had rash in 10 months.)
Didn’t I regret starting it?
To be fully honest, I’m a bit proud of myself for being a washie, even if that’s a bit immodest. And not only of myself, of my husband, too! He takes care of changing, washing, drying, preparing diapers without a word.
I can’t say I’m always washing diapers with a smile on my face, sometimes I ponder life’s great issues while scrubbing, but ultimately I’m doing good by washing. To my baby boy, to Earth, to my wallet, to my own spirit. And this feels good. If I had to start over, I’d do it again.
After 10 months I can say it’s worth the time and money invested. Disposables would cost money, too, but they’d just end up being thrown away, and washables can be ploughed back.
The best course of action was to start washing. I’m encouraging everyone to try it out! :)
Author of the featured image: Dóra Kocsis