My husband and I recently visited my family in North Alabama. We arrived two days after 180 tornados hit the area, killing hundreds of people. The day before we arrived I called my mom and asked if she thought I could wash my diapers. They didn’t have power or hot water so washing in the washing machine was out of the question.
Truth be told, I was seriously contemplating buying disposables to bring with us. I even called my husband and asked him to pick up disposables. I have been cloth diapering for over 6 months and had put disposables behind me. I wasn’t about to raise the white flag on cloth. I called him back and told him to forget the diapers, I would figure out how to wash them by hand at my mom’s house.
After receiving great advice on Facebook from Stacy at Diapershops.com, I was confident I could wash them. My diaper stash consists mainly of pocket diapers, a couple of fitteds, hemp inserts and cotton prefolds for stuffing. I don’t use microfiber inserts at all due to a sensitivity.
We traveled by train from Newark, NJ to Birmingham, AL. By the time I arrived at my mom’s house there were plenty of dirty diapers to be washed. The next day, Saturday, was a beautiful sunny day and the temperature was predicted to reach 85. Perfect for line drying!
My mom and I gathered supplies: two empty storage bins, a big spatula, Dawn soap, kite line for hanging, and two plastic garbage bags. I started by filling up one bin with cold water for rinsing the diapers. I laid one of the garbage bags on the ground and separated diapers from inserts. I added the diapers to the rinse bin and left the inserts on the bag. While the diapers were soaking, I filled a huge stock pot (think lobster pot) with water and heated it on the stove. I preferred hot water to really wash the diapers, but I understand that in a desperate situation you can wash everything with cold water. Thankfully my mom had propane gas running through the house so we were able to cook and get hot water.
While the water was boiling, I stirred my soaking diapers a few times. I left the diapers and started working on the kite line. The back porch was very large and had full sun all day. I tied one end of the kite line to a patio chair and tied the other end to the porch railing. I pulled it tight because the weight of the diapers and inserts would definitely make it droop.
After that, I filled the empty bin with the hot water and soap. I added a tiny bit of cold water because I didn’t want to melt any of the snaps on pocket diapers. That would be bad. Next, the rinsed diapers were added to the hot soapy water and stirred with the spatula. I let them soak while I emptied the dirty rinse water and refilled with clean, cold water. I added the inserts and repeated. The tricky part about this was I needed to rinse the soapy diapers, so the garbage bags really came in handy as a holding spot between washing and rinsing.
Everything was hung to dry on the line.At the end of the day we pulled the diapers and the inserts off the line and they all smelled clean, even the dirty diaper. The inserts were a little stiff from line drying, but I don’t believe it affected the absorbancy.
My husband was really helpful here because he was able to squeeze the water out of everything better than I could. My mom was amazing too because she never once thought I was crazy for doing all of this instead of just using disposables. In fact she was very supportive of it all.
My heart goes out to the Alabama families that lost their homes and their loved ones.
By Shanon Tranchina
Shanon Tranchina is a stay at home mother to 10 month old daughter Reilly and wife to Dennis. She is the author of the blog I’m That Mommy, www.thatmommy.com, where she writes about cloth diapers and other mommy things.