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Cloth Diapering in a Third World Country

Last year my husband and I had the opportunity to travel on a mission’s trip to the third world country of Guyana. It is the only English speaking South American country. My husband had been once before we were married but this was my first time and we now had a seven month old baby boy. We were there to share the gospel and teach young Christians about the Word of God. We were not with a team but on our own. We lived among the locals on a dock of a river.

I had been cloth diapering since my son Gideon was a couple months old so I decided when were planning our trip that I would be taking my cloth diapers with me. I had tried to find out as much information as I could before we traveled to Guyana about what the people of the country do with diapering and asked people who had been before but nobody knew. However I did discover that most of the trash was put into their local river and that played a big part in my not wanting to add my diapers to the river trash! So I packed my 20 bumgenius diapers and disposable wipes (this was before I switched to cloth wipes). Boy did they take up a lot of room in our two suitcases, but it was worth it to me.

When we arrived in Guyana we were there during the rainy season, meaning that pretty much everyday you could expect at least one torrential down pour. In addition to that Guyana is very, very hot! So that makes for very humid weather. I remember a couple days after we got there, we were at a family’s house that had a baby about my son’s age and I asked what they did for diapers. She told me that they did pampers and it would only take me a couple days before I would go buy some disposable ones too because my diapers would never dry. I of course told her that they would dry fine and I’m sure she thought I was just a crazy foreigner.

A couple days after we arrived in Guyana I decided it was time to give washing my cloth diapers a try. It was definitely not easy and it was a long process. The way you get water where we were staying was from a great big tank, that was on a tower to the side of your house, water came through little pipes to your “shower” and the kitchen sink. Sometimes it was warm since the temperatures were so high but you definitely didn’t get hot water. So not having the resources of a washer in Guyana I had to do my best with what I had. First I boiled a pot of hot water and placed all my rinsed diapers in a big tub. Then I placed some diaper detergent on the diapers and poured the boiling hot water on top of them. Then I “stirred” them the best I could with a stick and left them to soak till the water wasn’t so hot. Then I would take them out one at a time and scrub and rinse them with the cold running water. Then I would do my very best to wring as much water out as I could before taking my basket of diapers outside to the clothesline to dry.

Now if I could get them out there while the sun was shining for a while usually they would dry fast. However some days the sun didn’t shine and it rained or all of a sudden a cloud would dump rain on my almost dry diapers. So the days that I couldn’t hang them outside I would hang them inside and with the humidity it would take up to three days for them to dry. Now I knew why most of the locals didn’t mess with cloth diapers—it was frustrating. We were down there for two weeks and my cloth diapers survived and so did we! I now have a much better appreciation for my washer machine and how it saves me from so much work.

Stephanie Shelor is a stay at home wife and mother, married to the love of her life Joshua. They now have two little ones under the age of two—Gideon (18 months) and Tirzah (2 months) and are loving cloth diapering. Her blog is


  1. Beth said...

    I have wondered how this would work! Thanks for sharing!

  2. adamswifey said...

    that is amazing. good job and bless you for doing the right thing even when it would have seemed MUCH easier to contribute to the local pollution.
    i will never complain about having to wash diapers again!

    you're a REAL cloth diaper woman! 🙂

  3. One Sassy Mama said...

    What a fun blog entry. Thank you for sharing your experience in handwashing diapers. And may the Lord bless you for your work in service to Him. 🙂

  4. Crystal said...

    You go girl!!! It made my day to see that your post made it to TCDW!!! You are so brave to cloth diaper overseas! Wow!

  5. Hannah said...

    Cool! For long-term cloth diapering in a rainy climate where you need to line/air dry, I have heard that flats are the best! Sunshine was a good idea to disinfect and get stains out etc.

  6. Upstatemamma said...

    We cloth diapered our daughters when we were in Ethiopia last year. It was difficult but totally doable. We were there a month so the savings made it totally worth it to me. Happy to meet another mama who has cloth diapered during international travel. 🙂

  7. Wow! I would have personally used flats and covers to make it easier, but I find it totally amazing you did this! Good job!

  8. Katie L. said...

    Thank you for your story. Would you have kept using cloth if you were there for more than 2 weeks?

    I am moving to Thailand and thinking about how cloth will dry in humidity or be sanitized with only cold water. It will work, especially since I won't have to hand wash. I'm just wondering if this would have been sustainable long-term for you. Especially as a missionary, I want to do other things than wash diapers!

  9. Hey Katie L.!
    I live in Thailand and I am cloth diapering. The sun keeps my diapers perfectly white and as long as I bring them in before it gets really humid (late afternoon/evening) they dry just fine. I'm glad to hear there will be another cloth diaper momma around here!

  10. Jelli Bean said...

    Living in Costa Rica, no one seems to cloth diaper, but I'm determined. Although I'll have to rig an outdoor clothesline (we live in an apartment) and try my best with only cold-water washes, I am determined! Wish me luck!

  11. Ana B said...

    Great accomplishment! Probably easier than trying to find disposable diapers over there 😉

  12. Brenda said...

    After reading your story, I defin. will not complain about washing cloth diapers again. Good for you for doing the right thing and not contributing to the local pollution.

  13. Katie, I totally would have done it for more than just two weeks, I just love my cloth diapers. However those were the only ones I had, next time if I go I will probably just try a different type that are easier to dry…and it really is a small thing when you are serving the Lord!

  14. lilmrsmchenry said...

    I know that I arrived late on the scene but I am just reading some of the older posts. The best combo that I have found during camping trips is birdseye flats fastened with pins (or a snappi) and vinyl pants. The flats are incredibly easy to hand wash and dry quickly. The vinyl pants you really just have to wipe out or give a quick dunk then the only thing to dry on them is the elastic.

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