No Washer, No Problem :: Washing Cloth Diapers without Insuite Laundry

For many urbanites, apartment dwelling involves a shared laundry room, coin operated machines, and designated time slots for using the washers and dryers. Can families really still manage cloth diapering in these circumstances? The answer is a resounding “yes, oh YES!”

Dealing with cloth diapers outside of one’s own suite may seem like a nuisance, not to mention expensive when you’re shelling out coins in hand. In reality, it’s quite easy and the cost is usually comparable, if not less, than paying for the extra energy usage on your monthly utility bill.

Here are four tips for using cloth when you don’t have insuite laundry:

Choose cloth diapers that unfold or come apart to wash easily and dry quickly. Pockets, prefolds and flats are great options for this. If you use fitteds or all-in-one’s, choose ones that have multiple, separated layers for ease of washing and drying.

Sign up for time slots or make your schedule to allow you to wash every two or three days. If you can’t get three slots a week, try to sign up for two slots that are 3 ½ days apart, such as a Monday evening and a Friday morning.

Consider line drying. Since most laundry-room machines are coin operated, line drying will certainly save you $$$. If you’ve got the room either in your suite or in your building’s laundry room, give it go. Inexpensive drying racks can be found at Ikea or any hardware store or mass merchandiser.

Do a short cold wash cycle first or choose your own rinse. The fact that many coin-op machines can’t do an isolated rinse cycle adds unwanted cost and time to the washing process. If you prefer to avoid this cost, consider two cheaper and faster ways of rinsing your diapers (and of course, as always, it is preferable that you knocked off all solids into the toilet at the time you changed the diaper!):

In the diaper pail – Place the diaper pail in a large laundry sink or bathtub. Fill with cold water and swish with a stick. Pour out as much water as you can, then dump all the contents into the washer and start your normal hot wash. This method requires a strong back, but try it with the ever popular Planet Wise Pail liners and keep the diaper contained while washing to ensure you never have to touch the dirty diapers!

In a laundry sink – Dump the dirty diapers from your pail into a large laundry sink, fill with cold water, and agitate them with a stick or with your hands. Drain the water from the sink, pressing on the diapers as the water empties. Toss the diapers directly from the sink into the washer and wash on hot with detergent. Presto change-o, you’re done!

With a bit of planning and some considerations about how to save even more money with cloth diapers, laundering in a shared laundry or a coin-op laundry is definitely do-able.

Are you are a “no in-suite cloth diapering family”?  What is your best strategy for making it work for your family?

4 thoughts on “No Washer, No Problem :: Washing Cloth Diapers without Insuite Laundry

  1. Rochelle

    I just wanted to say that we are a “no in-suite cloth diapering family”, and I enjoyed this post because it was extremely difficult to find information on how people had made cloth diapers work without their own laundry facilities before my son was born. All the washing instructions are directed at people who can run multiple cycles and have unlimited access – it was all pretty daunting to begin with.

    I use mostly pocket diapers and some prefolds. My current strategy (now that my son is 10 months old and eating lots of solids) is to dump whatever solid waste I can directly into the toilet. When that’s not possible I toss the dirty one into a separate pail I keep in the bathroom with some cold water to soak for about an hour and then wring it out and throw it into the diaper pail with the rest of my diapers (and dump the water down the toilet). I do a hot wash, and do a load of other laundry in another washer at the same time. Then I pull out all the pocket shells/covers and hang them on a laundry rack in my apartment to dry. I put the pocket inserts/prefolds in the dryer with the other load. The pocket shells and covers dry really quickly. The inserts and prefolds are sometimes still a little damp when they come out, but I found when I was only hanging them they would take 24 hours + to dry sometimes. This way they get dry or mostly dry, but I’m still not paying for an extra dryer load. If they’re still a little damp I hang them for a few hours.

    I should say that when my son was a newborn I was soaking all my diapers in a pail prior to washing them (and using a gdiaper swish stick to agitate!) because they were pretty much all poopy. It was a lot of work, but I was still too cheap to run them through the wash twice. It got a lot easier when I didn’t have to do that anymore! I also decided it was worth it to invest in a few more diapers so I didn’t have to wash every other day.

    Sorry this is long, but this is one topic I really wish got more coverage!

    1. Karen

      Thanks for sharing Rochelle. I think you make a good point about having a few extra diapers on hand to extend your laundry days. The extra investment will likely pay for itself in reducing the number of coins going into the machine!

  2. Amy K

    I just found your blog after entering for the free diaper giveaway!
    We too are in a no insuite situation. And I was terrified when we moved in here. BUT now, now I LOVE it. The machines are much more heavy duty than what we had in our house.
    I dump solids into the toilet, then if they are still a bit pasty I just soak in toilet before tossing em into our pail. I wash them about every 3 1/2 days, and only do one cycle of wash. I use my own homemade detergent with some extra baking soda with a vinegar rinse ( in a downy ball) and they come out squeaky clean and fresh smelling EVERY time. Then I either hang dry( on my enclosure) or pop in dryer (depending on how lazy I am that day) The great thing about non insuite laundry is I can do all my other laundry at the same time since we have 8 machines. I think cloth diapering without insuite laundry is definatley do-able!

    1. Karen

      Now 8 machines sounds like a bit of a luxury!!
      Glad that you have found a routine that works for you. Thank you for sharing and good luck with the contest.


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