Return to Cloth Diapering

 photo 100_7194_zpsd4c2eb28.jpgI think one of the hardest things about having a frugal blog is the expectations people have of you, they assume you have to do everything you talk about, all the time, and if you are going through some things and you aren't doing certain frugal measures you've talked about, people start wondering why. And then you start feeling defensive, feeling the need to explain yourself, why you're no longer doing what you recommended that others do.

A big example of that in my life is cloth diapers.

For the past 2-3 months, I haven't really been cloth diapering. And every single time, it seems, that people see me change my daughter's diaper, they ask in shock- "What? A disposable diaper???" And every time, I feel guilty about it. Why am I not cloth diapering? Why am I using a disposable diaper? Have I lost my "frugal touch"?
~ ~ ~ ~

I've come to the sad realization that cloth diapers do not last forever, and that while cloth diapering is a good money saving idea, my cloth diaper stash won't make it through another kid, and what I bought when Lee and Ike were born isn't enough to last through another kid, and yes, even the stuff I bought when Anneliese was born are gonners. 
Yes, some people might be able to keep their cloth diapers in pristine shape for a few kids... But I'm not one of them.

My hardest task in the house is keeping up with laundry. 
We have a clothes line outside and a dryer inside. I try to rarely use the dryer for frugality reasons, but do resort to it occasionally when I'm just so backed up on laundry.
And laundry hanging outside- well, I need two hands for that, so I can only do that when Anneliese isn't begging to be held. And on top of that, I don't leave my house immodestly dressed, and sometimes I don't feel like getting changed to hang the laundry, so it ends up sitting around, not getting done...
Which causes a big problem if you're cloth diapering, because you need to keep on top of laundry for that...

Well, sad to say, there has been more than once that I forgot to do the laundry for a couple of days (ok, more like a week or more), so the diapers just sat there and sat there and sat there... and when I finally got around to washing them, I didn't feel like hanging them up on the clothes line... so I put them in the dryer...

And since this happened far too many times, it REALLY put a lot of wear and tear on the diapers, and the last time that happened... when I opened up the dryer, it was all "lint" and the diapers were half gone...
 photo 100_7196_zps98a0d90e.jpg
One of the "still usable" diapers. Haha. 

Half the machine was filled with cotton fluff, and the diapers that were in the machine were very, very holy. Some completely unusable, some in really bad condition, but if folded over a certain way could be used in a pinch, and some just really ratty looking.
In other words, the combination of dirty diapers sitting for a while (urine has ammonia in it, which disintegrates things), and the dryer, really ruined about 2/3 of my cloth diaper stash.
And hence I couldn't really cloth diaper (full time) anymore, because I didn't have enough cloth diapers left to last me from one washing to the next.

So I was buying the cheapest disposable diapers, and using them together with cloth diapers...
But it was really hard, because my diapers were shot, and it's hard to use ones that were in such bad condition... Fortunately, my covers still work well.

I was contemplating what to do, because I wasn't sure if I wanted to be buying a whole new diaper stash at this stage in the game (Anneliese is 16 months, and my other kids were all potty trained before age 2), but then my friend decided that she was selling her some of her cloth diaper prefolds cheaply, so I decided to go with that. That wasn't enough to be able to cloth diaper full time, so I also bought 12 more prefolds from the US that my friend brought back for me.

I figured that even with this outlay, its still cheaper to cloth diaper. Because even if Anneliese gets potty trained soon, I'm not done having kids yet, so I can keep these for future kids. And because even if my cloth diaper stash just lasts me one year and not for a few kids, that still saves lots of money on diapers. But hopefully it'll last much longer than that, now that I've learned my lesson on cloth diapering. 

So now that I'm cloth diapering again, what lessons have I learned, and what am I doing differently?

1) Because the biggest reason why I fall behind on cloth diapering laundry once my kids are older and eat solid food and have grosser poops is because I put the dirty diapers in a bucket, and since I need to pre-rinse them before washing them, I don't always feel like pre-rinsing all the poop diapers in the bucket (washing out 10 or more poop diapers in a row is really gross, not to mention that bending down to do that many at a time hurts my back), I let them sit far too long.
So I've started rinsing each poopy diaper before it goes into the bucket, so I can just do a load whenever, and not only when I have the time/energy to rinse off all the poop diapers.

2) Never use the dryer for cloth diapers.

3) And if I do fall behind on laundry, and I don't have any clean/dry diapers, better use a disposable diaper here and there than stick my cloth diapers in the dryer.

So here's to cloth diapering! Wish me luck that I don't manage to ruin any more diapers...

And if you just happen to catch me changing Anneliese's diaper and you see disposable, you'll know that the reason is because I fell behind on laundry. Not the end of the world.

Are you a cloth diaperer? Do you have a hard time keeping up with laundry? Have you ever experienced dryers disintegrating your diapers or anything else?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. I was an avid cloth diaper-er for my two girls (age 4 and 2) but recently stopped as well. While I feel pretty guilty about it, something had to give. My 4 year old has a brain defect so developmentally she is not ready to potty train (and I'm not sure when she will be). So I've been doing it for a long time, with most of that time having 2 in cloth simultaneously. My problem wasn't so much keeping up with the laundry, it was dealing with so many leaks. No matter what I did, my 2 year old leaked multiple times a day. Plus, she hated wearing them due to the bulk. When my 4 year old had leg surgery a few months ago and had to wear a full leg cast for a month, I couldn't use cloth diapers on her so I used disposibles on both. After that I just couldn't get back into the groove of it. As for drying, I always dried my prefold/inserts in the dryer and never had any visible wear on them at all and I was using the same diapers for years. I always line dried my covers though.

    1. Yea, something's gotta give sometimes... A lot of my friends who cloth diapered ended up stopping by a certain point...

  2. My husband and I cloth diaper full-time but for the time being we only have one baby (15 months). I have a strict laundry routine (every second morning after baby is out of her overnight diaper). I always dry them on a rack; honestly, I'm kind of scared of the degradation you've described even though I don't use prefolds (just pockets and AIOs). I also worry that the dryer would concentrate any urine that somehow gets left behind after the extra rinses and make them stink when used. Using the kind of diaper that I do also makes it easier to deal with poop because, gross as it is, most of it usually falls right off the diaper into the toilet.

    That said, as we have more children, I'd like to transition into more prefolds and covers. They're more economical, I don't like how difficult microfiber is to clean, and prefolds are much more flexible in terms of how you can fasten and arrange them, or you can stuff them into pockets, and when you're done with them they make good cleaning rags ;)

    You can only do what you can do! For myself, I love my cloth and even take them out with me (gives me an opportunity to evangelize!). But many other CD mamas I know take disposables out, or use them overnight, entirely at convenience. You have to use what works and it sounds like you made the best frugal compromise to gradually work your way back in. Good for you!

    1. Personally, I never liked pockets or AIOs, I prefer prefolds. They're cheaper, and you can get away with having less, because the cover is separate from the diaper... I had more leaks with AIO and pockets than with prefolds and covers...
      Thanks for the compliment.

  3. We always rinse poop right away to avoid this! That said, the ammonia is a killer - we let them go too long once, plus once my mom put double the amount of bleach I'd asked her to use in (yeast happens) and now most of my diapers are destroyed or half-dead, and we'll need new ones for a new kid. Almost all of mine were bought used, though, so I don't feel terrible about it.

    1. When my daughter had a yeast rash, I added a few drops of tea tree oil to the detergent with every load of diapers until the rash was gone for a week. It worked fine, and is gentler than bleach. I use prefolds, and I don't know how this would affect pockets/all-in-ones.

  4. Just saying... I almost always rinsed any poopy dipe before it went in the bucket (with the non-rinsed wet dipes), because it's just too gross once it's "caked". When I knew I would not be able to rinse right away (like on trips), I used rice paper (which I have tons left off and should have sold a bit if not all since we are now out of diapers!)

  5. I've never had a problem with the laundry, just the clothing sometimes, sucks that you lost them all. Good luck.

    1. I would say I completely lost about 2/5 of my diapers, 1/3 is holy but usable in a real pinch, and the rest are ok... At least my covers are all ok!

  6. When my kids were in diapers, I used disposable/flushable liners. It meant no rising poop - it got picked up inside the liner and flushed down the toilet. I had my parents/in-laws bring me a stash of liners from Britain, but they can probably be ordered online too if they're not available in your part of the world.

  7. I bought some diapers really cheap from Ebay. Grobaby diapers is what they were, there was a huge lot for about $120. They have inserts that snap-in so I only go through about one cover a day. And then another lot of about 10 pocket diapers for about $30. Between these two purchases I have enough to cloth diaper if I do laundry every 2-3 days. I never dry covers but inserts I will dry for about 15 minutes and then line dry the rest of the way. Otherwise they are just too crunchy. I have a hanging rack in the house so I don't have to go outside. This works wonders. And I rinse out every poopy diaper right after it happens.

    I did spend a lot of time finding those good deals on Ebay, though. Many days of just flipping through listings. But let me tell you - buy the HUGE lot. It will save money even though it is hard to part with $120 in the beginning.

  8. my mom used cloth diapers for me and her last two children. when it came to the twins (her 4 and 5th children) she used a service that would pick up the dirty diapers and drop off fresh ones every week! I was really surprised that our little city offered this service, so I wonder if its not available elsewhere!
    Keep up the great work! your posts are inspiring whether you are able to stick to them 100% or not. Its your life, so live it the way you want to!

  9. My mom used cloth diapers for me and her last two kids. once the twins came (her 4th and 5th children) she used a service that would pick up the dirty diapers and drop off clean ones every week. I was really surprised that a service like this would be offered in my small city, so that may be an option!
    anyway, your posts are inspiring whether you can follow your own advice 100% or not. its your life

  10. We never used cloth diapers. I worked full time, and my husband flat-out refused to use cloth. Plus we didn't have a washing machine, and I was doing most of the laundry by hand except for the really heavy stuff.

    Do I feel bad about it? Yeah, kind of. Mostly it's that guilt for not being as frugal as I could have been. My daughter was happy enough with cheap disposables, so that wasn't an issue. But most of my friends later were appalled; it's like I failed a test. Oh well, they weren't doing the hand laundry for me.

  11. Penny, you resonate so much with me that I've sometimes wished I lived nearby just so I could bring you cookies and have a nice chat. I really loved this post. I suffer from mental illness, and while I do a lot of frugal things when I'm in a good head space (which is most of the time since they got my meds figured out), sometimes I just don't have the energy.

    Can I ask if you've ever hung up clothes to dry inside the house? We have a compression rod we hang in the shower stall and put Hubby's good work shirts (that we don't want the complex dryers to damage) on plastic hangers and just hang them there. They don't get wrinkled and we don't have to pay to use the apartment complex dryer.

    We have on occasion hung a line in the living room. We live in a dry climate and clothes that have gone through the spin cycle don't drip enough to cause problems with the carpet.

  12. I hang my sons diapers to dry on a rack in his room, so I can grab them right from there when he needs one! We use disposables at night and on the go, though. I prefer prefolds with a cover as well.

  13. We used cloth diapers almost all the time, on our only child. Keeping up with the laundry was CRUCIAL, and I felt that one of the most important factors in making it work was being able to line-dry indoors (in the basement) so that I could get it done in any weather, at any time of day or night, regardless of what I was wearing. That's important for my keeping up with the laundry in general (because I line-dry everything, work outside the home during many of the daylight hours, and live in a place with many rainy or very cold days) but it was particularly important for diapers. I worked out a 4-day laundry schedule, described in my article on our cloth diapering method.

    When I lived in dorms and apartments, I hung clotheslines near the ceiling in my living space. It wasn't classy decor, but it worked and saved money!

  14. Using the dryer is still cheaper than using disposables. I used the dryer every time for 3 kids and my diapers were still all fine after that I gave them away to a new mom. I think you had cheap prefolds and they wore out.

    You can also cloth diaper with flats, which need to be folded several times to make thick layers. Just take men's T shirts and cut out the sleeves and neck to make two large flats and fold however you need for baby. Old Tshirts are cheap and readily available.

  15. my kids are grown, I used cloth diapers for all three. I never bought diapers, when I was pregnant and someone would ask what I needed , I asked for diapers. Much more practical (in my opinion) than another cute outfit that was outgrown quickly. I never used bleach, washed a load every other day so they were not sitting in water and they held up for the 6 or so years my kids were in them.

  16. We are having another baby and I really want to clothe diaper him. I used disposals on my girls, I have no idea what Iam doing or where to start. Id like to find them used from someone, and when you rinse them off, is that in the toilet? Thanks, I read these comments and learned quite a bit too!

  17. I have a stash of about 40 diapers in 2 different sizes, and PUL covers I could send you. I made them last year when I thought I would be cloth diapering, which didn't work out well with our kid and our setup (basically, he hated it). The diapers are fitted, with a soaker pad made of 3 sheets of microfiber. You'd have to use either Snappis or safety pins to close them, since I didn't bother putting any fasteners in (mostly because I wanted them to be a bit more flexible in the sizing). But I would send the whole lot to you for €200 (cost of supplies) if you wanted them.

    (Plus the prints are really cute).

  18. Hi Penny! I found that even using them part time was helpful for keeping their bottoms aired out and preventing diaper rash. When I didn't have time to hang them out nicely I would just drop them on top of my laundry rack and spread them out some. The top ones dried first, etc! Really, no one is checking for wrinkles!
    Good for you for the effort!
    There needs to be a blog for the lazy or overwhelmed frugalist! You sound like you work so hard!

  19. I am currently cloth diapering, and I use an AIO by AMP Diapers, made in Canada and they are awesome! My baby has just started with solid foods, so I started adding a disposable liner into the diaper so that I could just flush poop down the toilet instead of letting it sit in the pail. Anyhow, at about the time we started with solid food, I was introduced to a book called "Diaper Free" by Ingrid Bauer, which is about Natural Infant Hygiene or Elimination Communication, and I've started this with my LO, and now I don't even have to wash poopy diapers. Nevertheless, I do always put them in the drier because they get REALLY crispy when they are air dried, but luckily they are still in great shape!

  20. Diapers must not be well made anymore. I cloth diapered my kids and am still using the diapers as dust cloths 20 years later. I'll admit a few have worn out by now. :)

  21. I never rinsed mine first. I knock the stuff off into the toilet and then put them in a small bucket that had water and deteregent already in it. When it started to stink or the bucket filled up, I dumped the whole thing into the washer. They could "soak" for 3-4 days before washing.

    The small bucket was from the dollar store.

  22. We only have small portable washing machine (haier brand) with no drier in our apartment so I line dry our laundry in the bedroom. We use pocket diaper (gdiaper & perfect bum),the only system my hubby approved. We don't have lots of liners so I do laundry EVERYDAY,I just don't like seeing the dirty diapers to sit more than one night.

  23. I second the flushable liners. That might really save your diapers and your having to clean them off. Also I made a schedule for washing. I have seven kids and have washed MOndays, Wednesdays and Friday evenings for about 12 years. Maybe that will help you as it did me. Before I went to bed I tossed my prerinsed (poops) diapers in the washer for a rinse cycle and made sure it was on its full cycle before I turned in for the night. Then in the morning I tossed in my dryer or on the line and got on with my usual laundry. I try to make a few things routine like dishes, laundry, bathroom cleaning and homeschooling. If nothing else gets done (as it often is the case) at least we have done the dishes, laundry, bathroom cleaning and homeschooling. HOpe that helps!

  24. After diapering three kids and a crazy washmachine that ate clothes( our landlords finally replaced it!) Mine are a little worse for the wear...that and after several moves many have disapeared( my hubby does not like/ will not use cloth diapers and will just throw them out when we go to move if i don't have them all packed and hid away, he's not the one home with the kids and he wont even change a disposable and I had the clothdiapers before I ever knew him, so he can just deal!) We just found out we are expecting again so I guess I will be sewing my own as hubby will not be happy spending money on cloth diapers he finds gross and out dated!

  25. Have you tried a baby carrier yet to help with doing chores while holding a clingy baby? I looooove my Ergo but it was admittedly quite expensive. On the cheaper end, Moby wraps, ring slings, and Mei Tai's are all pretty easy to sew yourself if you can get low-cost fabric.

  26. I cloth diapered my second, and last, from the time she was 11 months old until she potty trained. My only regret was that I didn't take the plunge with her brother when he was born 5 years prior. I used fuzzi bunz one-size pocket diapers. They fit from birth till potty training because of the snaps and adjustable elastic, so you can re-size them as the baby grows. Plus, no velcro (like with some cloth ones) to get stuck to EVERYTHING in the washer.

    Yes, some people thought it was gross or stupid to do. However, I justified it as a cost savings. Around $400 up front for 24 diapers (PUL exterior), cloth wipes, inserts and doublers, a diaper sprayer, and a PUL diaper pail liner VS well over $1200 a year for disposables...not to mention the cost of pull ups when she got older.

    She was super easy to potty train, too. I kept her potty seat in the room where we spent the most time (trial and error taught me that) and she could just go sit on it when she needed to go.

  27. Sorry, old post, but I'm new to cloth diapering. I'm due in October with my first, and I'm making my own covers and using flour sack towels as flats. I always liked the idea of modern cloth diapering, but now I kinda have to do it for money's sake. Babies are expensive! I'm starting to collect homemade recipes for cleaners and toiletries mostly because I afford anything else. Here's to penniless living!


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