Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cutting Cloth Diapering Laundry Costs

Cloth diapering is an eco friendly thing to do, both for the ecology and the economy. The way I see it, if I can keep dipes out of the dump and extra bucks in the bank, it's a win win situation for all.
Some people mistakenly believe that once you factor in all the variables of buying, washing, drying, and using cloth, you've canceled out all the benefits, financially and ecologically. Extra water, soap, and electricity are used when cloth diapering your kiddos' tushies, but if you do things a certain way, you can keep the extra costs of cloth diapering as minimal as possible.

Laundering Cloth Diapers Economically and Ecologically

Water costs money, especially if you live in a country like mine with a drought. Water is a scarce commodity, even in the US, and should be conserved if you want to be earth and pocket-book friendly. Electricity is also used in the laundering of the nappies, which raises the cost and environmental impact of the diapers. Cloth diapering may raise your utilities bill. Here's how to ensure that the least electricity and water is used while cloth diapering.

Pre-wash By Hand
My washing machine was bought refurbished and working perfectly approximately 3 years ago, but recently starting acting up. Whenever I was washing cloth diapers, the the machine wouldn't empty out the water during the spin cycle. The little bits of food in the machine from the diapers were breaking my machine!
Pre-washing diapers from their poo ends up saving costs a few ways. First, the machine doesn't get broken and need replacing or a repair person.(The way my husband "repaired" the machine when it got stuck was forcing water up the pipe into the machine, loosening up the food that was stuck in the pipe, and allowing the rest of the water to come out.)

Since pre-washing the diapers by hand gets them partially clean, you can both lower the temperature and shorten the cycle on your washing machine. My washing machine heats up the water inside, using a ton of electricity, but even if your washing machine just takes hot water from the boiler, using hot water for your wash will still will be costing you extra money. Cloth diapers don't need to be sterile, as you'll be using them for tushies, not food, but if you're concerned about that, just add some vinegar to the wash cycle. This works as an anti-bacterial and also a fabric softener.
Start lowering the temperature of your washes. If you're currently heating your water to the maximum temperature setting on your machine, lower it to a medium setting. If you're using warm water for your diapers, try switching to cold water. At first, I washed my cloth diapers at 190 degrees Farenheit (90 Celcius), but on the advice of a reader, I switched to 85 degrees (30 Celcius) and all was fine. Now that I'm pre-rinsing my diapers by hand, the diapers still get completely clean using unheated water.

Pre-washing your diapers by hand allows you to shorten the wash cycle drastically, which uses less water and less electricity altogether. My washing machine has 3 basic cycle lengths- regular (shortest), whites, and pre-wash (longest). Now that I pre-wash by hand, I am able to get my dipes totally cleaned on just the regular short cycle.

Pre-washing your diapers by hand can easily use more water than machine washing if you're not careful. To thriftily hand wash your diapers, fill a large bucket with dirty dish water. (You know, the water filled with food and soap residue either from hand washing or machine washing your dishes.) Put your dirty diapers in the bucket of water, and use a broom handle to push the diapers up and down and side to side. This way you get most of the washing done without needing to touch them, and get all food particles off the diapers and into the water.
Remove the diapers from the bucket (if you're squeamish, wear rubber gloves) and if desired, rinse off in a bucket of clean water. Then, ensuring that no food particles remain on the diaper, stick them in the washing machine. Then pour the water down the drain (toilet or bathtub is fine).
This hand pre-wash routine takes me a total of less than 5 minutes for a full load of diapers, shaves about 60 minutes off my wash cycle, and allows me to use cold water in the machine. Best of all is that I don't waste any water because I'm using dish water. (And if that grosses you out, dish water is just filled with food particles and soap and the diapers are filled with digested food particles, so the dish water is cleaner than the diapers...) If you're grossed out by using dish water, you can use shower or bath water (water collected while waiting for the water to heat up or that was left in the stopped up tub after you finish bathing).

Other Cloth Diapering Laundry Tips
-Of course, line dry your cloth diapers, ideally outside in the sun. This helps stop wear and tear on the diapers, saves money on the dryer use, and the sun also works as a natural bleach to keep the diapers white, and as a disinfectant/sanitizer.
-Don't use a ton of laundry soap. In addition to damaging the diaper by doing so, it is also completely unnecessary as the diapers will get clean with just a tiny little bit of soap. I use a very little bit of soap for my regular wash, and about half that amount for cloth diapers and they get very clean even so. This saves you money on detergent as well as on needing to replace the diapers.
-No special laundry soap needed. Just use your regular laundry soap or homemade stuff. Maybe not ideal, but I haven't seen ill effects from doing so.
-Make sure to stick the velcro tabs on diaper covers to the tabs designed for doing so. This will stop your cover fasteners from fastening on to everything and ruining the velcro. I was not religious about doing this and I really damaged the velcro on my diaper covers and they need replacing now.

Cloth diapering really IS a money saver. Even without employing these tricks, you'll still be saving money by cloth diapering as well as helping the earth out. By putting these tips into practice, you'll be maximizing your savings and doing your part in keeping the earth greener.

Do you do any of the tricks mentioned above? What do you think about them? Would you potentially adopt at least some of the ideas?
If you cloth diaper, what is your cloth diapering laundry routine?

If you're interested in learning more about cloth diapering, check out these other posts in this series:
Cloth Diapering Benefits
What Type of Cloth Diapers to Get
Why I Started Cloth Diapering
Modern Day Cloth Diapering- more than just plastic pants and diaper pins
And for the really dedicated- Family Cloth- Reusable toilet paper

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