While standing in our darkened laundry room, my husband and I shine a flashlight through the front window of our HE (high efficiency) washing machine. We smile and give each other a high five. How did we get to this point? Our story starts about eight months ago when we purchased a new washer/dryer for our home. At the time, I was seven months pregnant with our first child and cloth diaper laundry wasn’t even on our mind. I was still one of those people who thought cloth diapering was a crazy reality I wasn’t ready for, but that’s another story. We’re both engineers who study each purchase we make, but leap at the introduction of new technologies. We were excited to buy a new HE front loading washing machine that promised to be a wizard in our laundry room.
The machine performed above and beyond my expectations. I could wash two full sets of bed sheets in one load! In March, our daughter was born. By May, I became curious about cloth diapers, and by June, we were cloth diapering full time with only two regrets. My first regret was why had I not started cloth diapering sooner? It was so easy, totally cute, and saved us money (my husband’s favorite reason). My second regret was purchasing the HE front loading machine 6 months earlier. Yes, I could wash a huge amount of clothes in one load within the minimal water requirements of the machine, but, and this is a critical exception, one load of diapers became one huge problem for those minimal water requirements. I searched the far ends of the internet and read all kinds of tips to trick my machine into adding more water. As suggested, I added wet towels with the intention of adding more water to the process. I tried different settings, even adding water to the wash basket while interrupting the cycle. I wanted a flowing river and all I could get was the equivalent of the little stream that runs through my backyard after a rainfall.
As engineers, we saw this problem as a challenge. And as new parents, we were anxious to save our budget-minded investment in cloth diapers. After exhausting all the tips online, I decided to call the manufacturer. I spoke with a nice man who informed me that my HE machine weighs the load and then adds the minimum amount of water for that load. Yeah, I already knew that! I informed him that cloth diapers like to suck up water, leaving no measure of rinse water available to them and requiring more water than the usual load of laundry. Obviously, we and many other frugal parents were in uncharted territory with no help from the manufacturer.
Finally, one frustrating evening, we decided to pause our wash cycle and manually dump water into the machine. Of course, we could only add water until it reached the lip of the front door seal. As expected, the diapers came out slightly cleaner than our previous washes. Empowered by our small victory, my husband suggested that we find a way to add larger amounts of water without opening the washing machine door, thus allowing us to avoid water spilling out the front of the machine. My husband had already modified the plumbing in the bathroom to accommodate the addition of a cloth diaper sprayer, so why not modify our washing machine as well?
The next evening, my husband purchased a short hose meant for dehumidifiers for $5.98. He attached the hose to the sink in our laundry room and then positioned the other end into the soap dispenser on the washing machine. I’m sure that the manufacturer would frown on our modification of their HE machine, but water already flows through the soap dispenser at the beginning of the wash cycle, so I felt certain that we weren’t asking too much of the system. We turned on the faucet and watched as a river of water flowed into the wash basket.
Since we started adding water through the soap dispenser, my baby’s cloth diapers have never been cleaner! We’re proud of our search to find a low-tech solution to a high-tech problem and happy that it didn’t deter us from cloth diapering. And every once in awhile, I still turn off the laundry room lights, shine a flashlight into my washing machine, and watch happily as a river of water flows onto my cute cloth diapers.
Please research any methods of modifying your washing machine to make sure warranties are not voided.
By Natalie J.