Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cloth Diapering With a Portable Washing Machine

When we moved into our new place, we left a lot of things behind.  Most notably (for me anyway) was our washer and dryer and our nice long clothesline.  We live in the city now, so there is no clothesline and our apartment doesn't have washer/dryer hookups.  I looked really hard for one that did, but they were very rare and when I did find one, it was way out of our price range.  We settled on a place that has a laundromat on the premises, but I was still uneasy.  Cloth diapering was going to cost a lot of money this way, and it was going to be really inconvenient.  I did the math out, and it was actually going to be cheaper to switch to disposables.  The wash cycles cost $1.50 each, times that by 3 cycles to get the diapers clean (one as a pre wash, then a wash with detergent, then another one as a rinse to get all of the detergent out) so $4.50 every other day just for the washing.  I could still hang dry on a drying rack in the apartment, but if I chose to use the dryers then it would probably take 2 cycles to get everything dried, so bump that up to $6.50.  $6.50x3 times a week = $19.50, $19.50x4= $78 a month.  And that's just diaper laundry, nevermind our regular clothes, towels, and sheets on top of that!  Ouch.  Ouch ouch ouch OUCH.

I did some digging around, and I heard of people using apartment sized washing machines to get their diapers clean.  They seemed to run for around $200, which was a lot to me- that is what our brand new full sized washer cost.  But, factoring in how much money we'd be spending every week washing all of our laundry, I figured that it would pay for itself very quickly.  I ordered a Haier model from wal mart and picked it up from the store a few days before the move.  We used disposables for 4 or 5 days before, during, and after the move so that we could get settled in.  My dad was kind enough to get the machine set up for us.  My original plan was to put it in the bathroom, but we don't have the right kind of faucet in there so we had to put it in the kitchen.  Our kitchen is roughly the size of a gerbil cage, but we cozied it in next to the oven.  I used the coin operated washers for a few days because I was intimidated, but it sucked.  It really just sucked.  I decided to start using our machine.

It was a disaster.  Huge disaster.  The drain hose comes with this little clip on type thing which is supposed to  keep the hose anchored, but it doesn't.  Water went EVERYWHERE.  Twice.  I ended up standing next to the sink the entire time, holding the hose in place.  Then, I didn't think to turn the sink off before disconnecting the water hose, so my kitchen got sprayed with water yet again.  I was wet, frustrated, and seriously hating everything.  I was going to just put it on Craigslist and get rid of it and switch to disposables, but I decided to stick with it.



I went to Target in search of some plastic zip ties to use to anchor the drain hose, but found something way better.  They're called Gear Ties, and they're basically extra super strong twist ties!  I got a two pack of the longest ones there, and they worked perfectly.  They kept the hose attached to the faucet so that when poopy water came shooting out, it went right into the sink and not all over the floor and walls.  Perfect.  I remembered to turn the water off before taking the hose off.  Like cake.  After a few times I got our cycle down, and it really isn't much different than it was with our old washer.  The main difference is that I use hot water for all of the cycles now, even the pre wash.  No real reason, I just like to leave it alone and not mess with it more than I have to.

1. "quick wash" with no detergent
2. "regular wash" with detergent ("2" line of liquid Gain)
3. another plain "quick wash"
4. "quick wash" for my natural fiber stuff with 7th Generation softener



There is a "heavy" cycle which includes a long soak and agitates longer, but I don't use that cycle.  For one, it washes the items in the dirty soak water rather than refilling the machine with fresh water.  Ew.  Plus, the cycle is close to 90 minutes long.  The regular cycle is 40 minutes, and I didn't notice a difference in cleanliness between the two so I opt for the shorter cycle.

Then I usually hang my pocket shells and Flip covers up on the drying rack and bring my prefolds and inserts down to the dryer. It's been really humid, so that combined with the thickness of the diapers means that they would hang for days even with a fan pointed at them and still not be dry.  I didn't want to promote any kind of mold or mildew, so I spend $1 and use the dryer.  It also keeps the prefolds soft, which I'm all about.

There are some cons to the machine, but I think that they're pretty minor.  It's hooked up to my kitchen sink, so I need to disinfect the sink after every load of diapers.  The hoses aren't quite long enough, so I have to drag the machine over closer to the sink.  It's not really heavy or anything, it's just a pain.  And because our kitchen is so small, once the machine is in place it's pretty much impossible to get into the dining room where the trash can is, and if you need to wash your hands or make coffee or get water for the cats, you have to use the bathroom sink.  But these things are so minor that you get used to them after a week or two.



And the machine WORKS.  My diapers get super clean every time that I wash them, and so do our clothes. I have noticed more staining in the diapers, but I think that's because we don't have a showerhead to spray the diapers with before they're washed, so that's causing the stains.  I haven't had time to yet, but I know that a day out in the sunlight with some lemon juice will erase all of those stains.

Overall, I love this machine and I'm so glad that I stuck with it.  I named him Bertram, and he's awesome.

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