Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cloth Diapers and Homemade Detergent

Lately, I've had a number of friends ask about M's cloth diapers and our homemade laundry detergent. Despite making me sound like a tree-hugging nut (I am) with too much time on my hands (maybe), it's actually very easy and wicked cheap. It works well for anyone interested in saving a ton of money on baby items. We have spent less than $200 on diapers, and M is equipped through next year. The cost of laundering the pre-folds is about $4/month. Did I mention that we have had 3 poop explosions in 8 months? And that was only because we accidentally left a gap in the leg. Otherwise, our poop explosion count would be zero. What's not to love?

Laundry Detergent: I'll start here because our laundry detergent can be used on all laundry and costs less than one cent per load. It takes about 15 minutes to put together and lasts a couple of months (laundry for three people plus diapers).

1 bar of soap- I use ivory because it's easy to find at the grocery
1 cup washing soda- this is different from baking soda
1/2 cup borax
5 gallon bucket- we use an empty cat-litter bucket

1. Boil four cups of water on the stove
2. Grate bar of soap into boiling water and stir, while boiling, until soap has dissolved
3. Pour 3 gallons of hot water from that tap into a 5 gallon container. Add the boiled soap solution to the hot water.
4. Pour in washing soda and stir until dissolved.
5. Pour in borax and stir until dissolved.
6. Set container aside and let sit overnight.
7. The next morning, stir mixture again. A thick gel will have formed at the top; just stir to break up gel.

You can keep the detergent in the 5 gallon container or reuse old detergent bottles. I prefer the latter because the mixture needs to be shaken or stirred (ha-ha) before each use, and the cup is already there to measure the detergent.

This formula works with high-efficiency washers because it is low-sudsing, naturally. (Suds are an added gimmick. Don't take my word for it; Google it and you'll see what I mean.)

Diapers: There are a million options out there for cloth diapers. I'm just going to plug what we prefer for our kiddo based on quality and cost-effectiveness. Pre-folds, in my opinion, are the best in terms of ease-of-use and budget-friendliness.

You can get cheaper pre-folds, but we buy ours from Green Mountain Diapers (GMD). I buy the unbleached organic cotton, but they have cheaper options. I prefer this style because they are wider and shorter for each size. This seems to fit our girl better. She's a skinny-mini, so I don't know how the typical, narrow pre-fold suits the chunky babes. In addition to great diapers, their washing instructions are my diapering bible. They have a solution for every issue. GMD is also a great, small-business. I love to support small businesses!

We use Imse Vimse covers because they are soft, quiet, don't allow leaks, and each size seems to fit for a long time. My only complaint is that the elastic wears easily. (We dry them in the dryer, which is against the manufacturer's recommendation.) We'll have to buy new covers for the next baby.

M in her Imse Vimse
Photo by Shawn Pierce

Laundering the Diapers: We use about a cap full of detergent for each load of diapers (24 prefolds and a cover or two). We also use 2 tablespoons of oxygen bleach. Because we have soft water and a high-efficiency washer, this helps brighten the diapers and completely eliminates urine odors. I equate diaper laundry with Barry's smelly soccer clothes. They need something a little extra. It amounts to $0.25 per load ($4/month). We prefer pure oxygen bleach. The only option we've found that you can buy without being a wholesaler is Ecover. It's non-chlorine and 100% natural. Not all families need this addition, but we do best with it.

We dry our pre-folds and covers in the dryer despite recommendations against it. We just don't have a good space in the yard for hanging laundry because our great dane eats fabric. And, being a great dane, there's no space out of his reach. ;)


Kirstie said...

Wish I had known about your oxygen bleach idea. We constantly struggled with ammonia problems despite doing everything I could think of. And B's poor bottom got redder and redder.

Sarah A.T.J. said...

Thanks! When I run out of Charlie's I'm going to try your recipe!!!

Anonymous said...

For some reason, I really want to try making this detergent! Maybe I need a boyfriend. LOL :)