Q&A About Washing Cloth Diapers by Hand

Today is Day 3 of the Flats & Handwashing Challenge and I’ve learned a lot over the past few days.  I’ve had some questions submitted to me that I’d like to answer for you regarding washing diapers by hand.  If you have a question that I haven’t answered please leave your question in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer them.

Q&A About Washing Cloth Diapers by Hand

Q: In real life when would you need to wash cloth diapers by hand?

A:  While most of us have the luxury of owning our own washer and dryer many people in America still don’t have easy access to laundry facilities.

  • Apartments and rental properties,
  • Homeless,
  • Short term housing
  • Emergency shelters
  • Group housing
  • Loss of power
  • Broken washer or dryer
  • Natural disasters
  • Camping
  • Traveling (hotels, cruise ships, and remote locations)

Q:  I’ve tried hand washing our diapers but find stains are harder to get out by hand; do you have any tips on handling stains?

A:  For starters especially when washing diapers by hand you should shake/dunk/remove as much solids as possible from your diapers before placing in your pail or wet bag.  For the sake of the challenge we didn’t have the luxury of using a diaper sprayer so you could dunk/swish in the toilet or pre-rinse your diapers in a sink or tub.  Pre-rinsing will reduce the chance of the stains setting in and make hand washing an easier task.  If stains do set in the sun is a powerful bleaching agent and will remove most stains within a few hours of direct contact.  When using flats I found that the sun was able to penetrate the stains much better as compared to microfiber inserts.

Q:  My grandmother always used the wet pail method for storing diapers before laundry day.  Would a wet pail method make hand washing easier?

A:  Yes, storing diapers in a pail partially full of water might make hand washing quicker and easier.  A wet pail simulates a pre-rinse for those who don’t have the time (or can’t stand to touch soiled diapers) to rinse the solids from the diapers.  When using the wet pail method for storing you should always use extreme caution around children and pets as it can be a drowning hazard.  Ensure that the pail is stored in a location where children can not access it and use a container with a locking lid.  Be cautious with the wet pail method because bacteria and mold can grow quite quickly.  For this challenge my pail never sat for more than 6-8 hours and I only used it if I had poo that wasn’t easily removed from the diaper.

Q:  How much time does washing diapers take?

A:  That all depends on how much you have to wash.  If you rinse and wash covers in the sink immediately and only save your diapers to wash later you will greatly reduce the amount of time you spend washing diapers.  If you have pre-rinsed and/or soaked your soiled diapers to remove any stains you will also reduce the amount of time spent washing.  I am using a 5 gallon open bucket with plunger and only have 3-6 diapers to wash each day (early potty training days) so they all fit within my bucket.  I’ve gotten into the habit of washing every evening and I only spend about 20-30 minutes on the load.  In addition to that time I’ll start a pre-soak right before dinner or baths and wash after the kids are in bed.  If you had more diapers to wash you could end up spending 30-45 minutes on a load.

Q:  Is there a best time of the day to wash diapers?

A:  I’ve been washing mine at night after the kids are in bed; however if I changed this up to wash in the morning it would speed up the drying process.  By washing in the evening you loose the power of the sun to bleach your diapers and remove any lingering stains and odors.

Q:  Do you recommend wearing gloves?

A:  YES!  While I haven’t been using gloves this week I wish I had a pair of tall kitchen gloves to use while washing our diapers.  After I’m done washing and wringing out my diapers my hands are very sore, raw, and dry.  Using gloves would also help those people who tend to be a little more apprehensive about touching poo.

Q:  I’ve seen people washing their diapers in sinks, buckets (with and without lids), tubs, and other containers.  Are there any advantages to using a certain type of basin or container?

A:  I’ve used the sink, tub, and a bucket (without a lid) and I actually prefer the bucket.  I tend to use the sink for pre-rinsing.  When I used the tub I felt like the diapers were just swimming around and not actually getting clean.  A bucket (with or without a lid) most closely resembles the washing machine.  By using a bucket with a lid you avoid messes and splashing.  I placed our open bucket in the tub so that it didn’t matter if it splashed over the edges.

Q:  How long does it take to air dry my diapers?

A:  This depends on your climate and the time of day.  It also depends on the weather that day.  In warmer climates diapers tend to dry quicker but once you start air drying in humid climates you need to give yourself a little extra time.  Obviously it’s easier to dry your diapers during the summer months; especially if you live in climates that experience ice and snow regularly.  I found that drying our diapers inside usually took longer than outside (on a sunny day).  Since most flats are extremely thin they should dry in 2-4 hours depending on all of the factors I’ve mentioned.  Lesson learned:  training pants take FOREVER to air dry!  I have one that has been on the line for 2 days and it’s still damp to the touch.

Q:  Do you recommend adding vinegar, baking soda, or other additives to the water?

A:  Since you are only washing flats and just a few covers you have a little more freedom with adding things to the wash cycle.  While pre-rinsing will prevent the need for most of these you can add a splash of baking soda for stains and odors.  You can also add a splash of vinegar to soften your diapers (especially if they get a little crunchy on the line).

Q:  Do you have any time saving tips that might help me?  Being a mom is overwhelming enough without adding hand washing diapers to the list but I just don’t have the money to keep putting into disposables.  Help!

A:  It’s much easier to deal with covers as you dirty them.  A simple rinse in the sink is all they should need.  Get in the routine of washing your flats every day or two so you aren’t overwhelmed.  I found that if I washed diapers at night I could start a pre-soak using my kids bath water and by the time they were asleep my diapers came clean much quicker.  I usually added a small scoop of detergent to the bath water before adding the diapers.  (Again, use caution with standing water to ensure that an accidental drowning won’t occur.)  You’ll find once you get into a rhythm your wash routine should only take about 30 minutes which is less than it takes to do a load of laundry and you can use that extra money you’ll be saving to buy the essentials instead of diapers.

Feel free to add your own questions and comment to the list.  For more tips on flats and hand washing please read my #flatschallenge archives.

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