Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Old-Fashioned Way

Ok, so I doubt the bathtub and running water counts as "old-fashioned," but it's definitely not a super-sized energy-efficient washing machine, either.

I posted earlier this week about washing my cloth diapers in the bathtub. It was mostly meant to be funny, but there is some practicality to it and it merits a little bit of back story:
  • We don't have a washer right now (or a dryer, for that matter). We have hook-ups for them, but not the machines. I used to have machines, but the last rental we lived in had a set already and we didn't want to store mine, so I gave them to a friend who needed a set. (In a rather ironic twist in the story, that set just moved in two buildings down from us.)
  • Our apartment complex does have a couple of coin laundry machines, but the hot water doesn't work. That makes them mostly useless for washing cloth diapers.
  • There is a laundromat close to our house, but it's one of those nice ones that's supervised all the time. I'm mostly just a chicken and afraid that I'll get there and they'll give me a hard time and tell me I'm not allowed to wash diapers in public machines.
  • I have made a few trips to friends' houses to use their washers, but it takes so long to wash and dry diapers that I always feel like I've WAY over-stayed my welcome. I also tend to feel like I'm imposing on family time, and the chances that Gavrel will stay happy the whole time I'm there are pretty much non-existent. So by then I'm WAY over-staying my welcome with a screaming baby to boot and I feel really great about myself and what an awful friend I am by the time I leave.
Hence, I decided to see if it was realistic to wash my diapers by hand - or at least in the bathtub. And, while a bit tedious and hard on the hands, it is indeed realistic.

After my first attempt, some reading, and a few suggestions from my cloth-diapering friends, I think I've come up with a workable process, for anyone who is interested:
  1. Put water on to boil (I happen to have two big soup pots, so I fill those both and put them on to boil).
  2. Fill bathtub with hot water and "one quarter the normal amount of laundry detergent," per the diapers' directions.
  3. While bathtub is filling, "prewash" diapers with diaper sprayer to remove solids.
  4. Put sprayed diapers into hot bathtub.
  5. Add boiling water (I do this because I'm never going to be able to agitate nearly as well as a washing machine, so the heat has to help with cleanliness. Also, the bathtub is going to lose heat much fast than a closed washer with a smaller surface area, so I start it hotter to begin with).
  6. Agitate and then drain. I use a sturdy plastic pants hanger to help me "stir" the tub. :-)
  7. Fill tub again with cold water and 1/4 - 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar. I had never tried vinegar in my diaper loads before this week, but a friend mentioned using it and after doing some reading I concluded that it could potentially be helpful and decided to give it a try. It seems it may be helping, though I can't give you any long-term observations yet.
  8. Agitate thoroughly. By this point I usually ditch the hanger and just do it by hand. They've already been soaped down in boiling water - it's totally fine. Just don't tell my germophobe hubby.
  9. Wring everything out thoroughly and hang to dry. It would be great to hang them outside, but it's been so humid lately that they actually dry faster if I close them in the bathroom with the vent on. Go figure.
It's amazing what can be done when you're in a pinch! I'm sure this isn't the most purist, hardcore cloth diaper enthusiast-approved way to wash them (in fact, as I go back through the manufacturer's directions, I've noticed a couple blaring no-no's). But it works for a short-term solution. And I've actually noticed Gavrel's little bit of diaper rash *going away* in the last couple of days, so maybe I'm actually on to something...


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