We do not own a washing machine. Because of that, we wash our cloth diapers at the Laundromat, and through some trial and error I have now found a system that is working very well. This is a definite must when one load of laundry costs $4.50 in our neighborhood! The following points are what I follow, and this system seems to be working well so far!
Pre-Rinse. I thoroughly rinse out all of the diapers in the sink or toilet before putting them in the wetbag –be them wet or soiled (I am sure a diaper sprayer works great too). This eliminates practically all of the smells between washings, provides much needed additional water to the washer (since the diapers are already soaked from the rinse), and killed almost all of the ammonia smell that had been present after the earlier experimental washings.
Supersize the Washer. Even though I can technically fit the diapers in a small or medium washer, the diapers were not coming out clean. This meant having to wash them again, which took more time and money, something that definitely was not appreciated! The problem was fixed when I started using a larger washing machine. Having the extra space for the diapers to tumble in (I only have the option of front loading machines), as well as the extra water, resulted in diapers clean enough to put your face in and take a big sniff!
Divide the Detergent. The machines I use have the option of adding detergent to the soak and wash cycles. I take the recommended amount of detergent to be used on diapers, add a little bit more, and divide it between the soak and wash cycles. This usually translates into approximately one rounded plastic silverware spoonful into each one, resulting in clean diapers without extra detergent left on them.
Wash Once a Week. While I know the idea of this may gross some people out, I have not had any problems yet with mold or smells (specifically, it smells no stronger than the trash bag the dirty wipes are thrown in –we mainly use disposable wipes still). Only going once a week makes scheduling laundry trips much easier (after all, who really has the time to sit at the Laundromat several times a week?), as well as saves me a lot of money. Yes, I had to buy a larger stash of diapers to get through the entire week, but it really pays off. Currently, I pay $4.50 for a medium-large load, whereas the medium is $4.00. Two trips a week would cost $8.00 a week ($32.00 a month), verses my current $4.50 a week ($18.00 a month). This saves me $14.00 every month, which I can then use on more diapers if I want!
Utilize Free Dryers. As all cloth diapering people know, drying diapers can take a LONG time –even in a dryer sometimes! Because I prefer to use a dryer for all of the items that do not have PUL on them, it was crucial to find a place where I could dry for free. This was especially true when I have found that it takes several dry cycles for the prefolds and inserts to fully dry. Even though I have found that some of the free machines dry more slowly than those that cost money, more often than not they are equally effective. Finally, by taking this option, I am saving a couple more dollars on each trip!
Look for Incentives. In spite of not yet benefiting from this last tip (due to not being able to find it in my immediate area), one thing that I want to save even more money on is by finding a Laundromat that offers a discount to those who opt to put money on the store’s Laundromat card, instead of putting the money directly in the washing machine. I have heard of places where a person can save 25¢ or more per wash. And while I know that does not sound like that much money, saving a mere 25¢ a week results in $26 after two years (around when many begin to potty train their little ones). Which, coincidentally, is just enough to buy the new Flip training pants that I am so excited to get!
Rebecca Brown is a busy full-time working mom who finds the demands of cloth diapering are definitely worth it –including the time spent sitting in hot Laundromats during the summer months!