Hand Washing Cloth Diapers is Possible
Yes, people actually still do this – often by choice! I tried hand washing while part-time cloth diapering my first daughter. Living in an apartment with limited washer/dyer access, and trying to do everything as inexpensively as possible, I experimented with quick-drying flats (and even flannel receiving blankets) and the cheapest diaper covers I could find. However, I did not take the time to work out an organized method; I just tried to give a quick wash after each changing. I’d like to think I was die-hard, but this “method” did not last long.
I’m pleased to say, there are easier ways to do it. There are various reasons one might hand wash cloth diapers: limited washing machine access, travel, or a broken washer. Whatever your reason, hand washing is pretty simple. Your exact method might change a bit depending on how often you must hand wash, and what kind of diapers you are using, but here are your most basic hand washing directions:
- Rinse with cold water to prevent stains from setting.
- Agitate/knead/swish in hot water with your choice of detergent; scrub stains if necessary.
- Rinse well.
- Wring out excess water and hang to dry.
The bathtub seems to be a popular spot for hand washing cloth diapers, with the kitchen sink as second choice. If you are concerned about washing dirty diapers where you wash yourself or your dishes, you could fill a special bucket for the purpose, and then rinse in the bathtub or sink, but the bucket still has to be dumped somewhere. Here are some additional tips for the serious hand-washer:
- Try to wash on a daily basis. If you let the dirty diapers pile up, it can be quite overwhelming.
- Flats are the easiest to hand wash and line dry. Keep in mind bulky all-in-ones will take a long time to dry, so you will likely need more of these than you would flats or prefolds.
- Pre-soak the diapers if you can; leftover bath water can be handy for this. Although a dry diaper pail is the general recommendation, a wet pail/”wash bucket” can be a handy way to soak diapers through the day before you wash them in the evening. Pre-soaking can remove the need for an initial cold water rinse, and can make scrubbing less necessary. *
- Rubber gloves!
- Flushable liners can cut down on your contact with the messiest diapers.
- Make sure you do not use too much detergent. Hand stripping cloth diapers would not be fun, so it’s best to try to avoid unnecessary detergent build-up.
Hand washing cloth diapers is not as difficult and unpopular as one might think. Remember, back in the day, this was the only way to do it. Some moms say it keeps cloth diapers looking their best. Others find it cuts laundry costs, eliminates laundromat hassle, and is often the only way to avoid disposable diapers while on vacation. Do not be afraid; hand washing is a realistic possibility.
*As a possible drowning hazard, these methods should only be used if the water can be kept safely away from unattended children.