Thursday, December 19, 2013

Diapers on a Dime (Low income cloth diapering)

The newspaper headlines rarely catch my eye, but an article on how low income families struggle to buy diapers instantly got my attention.  It began by interviewing a family with young twins, who explained how stressful it was to constantly worry about running out of diapers between paychecks and how they sometimes had to decide between paying bills or buying diapers. They estimated that they go through $40 worth of disposable diapers a week and on an income of $2000 a month for a family of 5. That is a huge expense.  Oftentimes the end of the month left them with no money and no diapers so the mother would board the bus to go get an emergency ‘3 day supply’ from the homeless shelter.

The article went on to mention some families are  even resorting  to reusing disposable diapers by scraping out the feces, or leaving a diaper on until it’s actually bursts because it is so full. As the article progressed I kept hoping that it would mention cloth diapers, that is until I read what they said about it. They said that cloth was not allowed in daycare, and that it can’t be washed in Laundromats. By the time it mentioned the potentially high start up cost of cloth diapering the casual reader is left convinced that cloth diapering is not an option for families struggling to pay for disposables.

What I wish the article had said is that cloth diapering is in fact a very realistic option for families in need.  The diapers that they may be able to afford might not be the fanciest, but any type of cloth diaper is far better than having to reuse a disposable and risk bladder infections, or diaper rash. You simply have to go back to basics and think outside the box.

Diapers can be made from any absorbent material lying around. Flour sack dishtowels, receiving blankets and old t shirts can be used in place of commercial flats or prefolds diapers. They can be laid in a cover or secured with a snappy (or diaper pins). Covers can be made without sewing from old polar fleece blankets or traditional pull-on pant style cloth diaper covers can be purchased for as low as $5 a piece. If someone can sew (or knows someone who can) they can up-cycle thrift store wool sweaters into wool soakers. Cut up t-shirts or washcloths can serve as cloth wipes.  A peri bottle or other squeeze water bottle can be used as a diaper sprayer, or traditional dunking and swishing.  If the budget allows a cloth diaper kit like the Econobum package can provide prefolds and covers for 12 diaper changes.

If the family does not have their own washer, or dryer they can do their initial pre-rinse in the sink then do their long hot wash at a laundry mat (if permitted) or in a bathtub. If they lack a bathtub a 5 gallon bucket and plungers can work as a camping style washer. Since flats (and t-shirts) are so thin they can be air dried indoors in an hour or two.  Since the diaper stashes would be so small they could also be combined with regular baby laundry (this can be done as long as laundering the clothes is done with a detergent suitable for diapers and without fabric softener).

Ultimately, the newspaper article inspired me to do my part to spread the word about low cost cloth diapering. Hopefully we can all work together to spread the word about cloth diapering so that no family is forced to choose between buying diapers, or putting food on the table. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

November in a Nutshell

We were so thankful for a few sunny days of 60 before being shut inside all winter. We played outside as many days as we could for as long as we could before it got cold. I am going to miss our backyard this winter. Maybe I will be brave and try playing in the snow. 

These two kiddos are becoming best friends. We love them so much. 

We had a great Thanksgiving with G's family. There was so many people that G's mom and I had to make 14 dozen rolls for everyone. It was awesome, and we had a wonderful time. Once we were back at home we had a great weekend doing some shopping and holiday decorating (okay that's a lie and we really decorated before Thanksgiving). We are loving all the decorations. We wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cloth Diapering Myth Busters: Bleaching Edition

In my last post on cloth diaper myths I briefly addressed the contentious issue of using bleach as a part of cloth diaper disinfection. I mentioned the conditions under which I would suggest using bleach which are:
1) when sanitizing used diapers
2) if you baby is dealing with a bacterial (staph) or fungal infection (yeast)
3) or if trying to strip your diapers of lingering bacteria (most common if you are not laundering properly)

Notice that I don't mention soaking diapering in bleach as a part of a tradition "wet pail" system as that can be incredibly dangerous and cause unnecessary ware on the elastics in cloth diapers. Nor do I mention using as a part of your regular cloth diaper washing. But bleach has a place in cloth diapering, and I am thankful for it. 

What Bleach to buy:

As mentioned in my previous post your must by the original version of bleach. Not the splash-less, scented, gentle etc. It must have at least a 5.25% concentration of Sodium Hypochlorite. The bottle usually say kills germs and has instructions for sanitizing. If your bleach bottle says that it is for deodorizing and whitening only then you probably have purchased the wrong kind. Clorox and several other companies now sell a concentration of 8.25% Sodium Hypochlorite that is labeled as "Concentrated" but the dilution ratio remains the same. 

How to bleach your diapers:

1) Begin with freshly washed diapers.
2) Dilute the bleach in cold water 1 T water to 1 Gallon water (preferably cool water). You can also use a 1/4 cup for a small load size, 1/2 cup for a large load and 3/4 when soaking a extra large bathtub sized load. You can do this in a washing machine, tub or other container with a stopper. I prefer to use my tub as I do not particularly trust the bleach dispenser in my HE machine nor does mine use enough water to "soak."
3) Soak the diapers for at least 30 minutes. (I suggest soaking for an hour if dealing with stink or ammonia)
4) Rinse the diapers thoroughly, you can also re-wash them with detergent if you are particularly sensitive to bleach

* PUL is colorfast but cottons and flannels will experience fading even if the bleach is properly diluted. NEVER bleach animal hairs (like wool) or silk. Also DON'T bleach if you have iron hard water.


See not so scary. After the bleach bath I rinse them in hot water (to breakdown the bleach or run them through a hot wash with detergent). Then they are clean and sanitized and ready to be dried and then popped on the bum.

*** While I haven't personally experienced any fading it is important to recognize that it is a risk you take. But if buying used or if your child has a yeast rash it is a risk you may need to take.

Bleaching Alternatives: 

If you have Iron rich hard water, DO NOT BLEACH YOUR DIAPERS. You will get terrible orange staining among other problems. If you are trying to rid your diapers of bleach or staph or are trying to disinfect used diapers you can use 4 cups of Hydrogen Peroxide liquid with 1 cup of borax (although expensive and not as broad spectrum as bleach it is the next best thing to bleaching). You can also use Lysol in its full concentration (though I have never personally tried it and am unaware of its results), as such I don't recommend it. 

What about boiling? Yes, you technically can disinfect natural fibers (cotton, hemp and bamboo) by boiling them. So if you have a few random used inserts of that variety and would like to sanitize them that way then go for it. Remember that they must be free of snaps (which would melt) and should not contain any inner layers of microfiber. NEVER boil PUL, anything with plastic, wool, silk or Microfiber. 

Sunning diapers does have some disinfecting qualities. Large scale studies haven't been done to study if the sun's rays kill fungus (like candida or yeast). So while it is always nice to have sun dried diapers it is not guarantee that they will be completely disinfected. 

* Along the lines of diaper stripping, for heaven sakes DO NOT PUT DAWN IN YOUR WASHING MACHINE! It can break it and leave you with suds everywhere. Dawn is only for handwashing diaper cream off of diapers. 

Why not Grapefruit Seed Extract?:

While countless blogs and websites are guilty of touting GFSE as a yeast killer I particularly blame this myth on Thirsties diapers. They on their website tout Grapefruit Seed Extract as being the superior yeast killing method. They include the following quote

"Tests have shown that GSE is dramatically more effective than Colloidal Silver, Iodine, Tea Tree Oil and Clorox bleach against five common microorganisms. In studies performed by Dr. John Mainarich of Bio-Research Laboratories in Redmond, WA"

At first you are like "Wow! I had no idea that GFSE was so impressive." Then if you are like me you get geekily excited to read more about the study so you click on the link they provide. Yet the link they include is merely quoting the same study themselves and are doing so without any citations. Not only that but the article they linked is actually about using GFSE to treat thrush in a breastfeeding situation or topically on a baby's bum. While it does briefly mention the need to treat laundry for Thrush, it does not provide a mention of the amount of GFSE needed to disinfect laundry.  In fact the the only mention of what quantity of  GFSE is needed to kill yeast it mentions 10 drops per ounce of water (referring to taking GFSE orally or when applying topically). Even if this dilution were applied to laundry it is no where near the "20 drops in the final rinse should suffice" that Thirsties recommends. 

Also deeply concerning is the fact that in large studies done on the supposed anti-fungal properties of GFSE it was found the natural un-synthetically preserved GFSE has ZERO anti-fungal properties. A recent study done by the US Department of Agriculture that the the anti-fungal properties of GFSE are only in the synthetic version and only because of the preservative Benzethonium Chloride. While it is in fact a antimicrobial agent it is only approved for topical use and even then only at concentrations of 8%. 

Another reason GFSE is touted as antimicrobial is because it includes the same antibacterial ingredient that is used in hand soap which is Triclosan. But again the amounts needed to disinfect ones hand while washing is very different than in the context of laundry. Laundry involves anywhere from 15-40 gallons of water. 

For a comprehensive article on the myths surrounding Grapefruit Seed Extract I highly recommend this article

But isn't bleach scary? 

Clorox has a fantastic section on bleaching and cloth diapers. They bring up some excellent points. 

So, does the chlorine wash out? Am I putting people's children at risk? Am I killing the environment? How many times should I wash and rinse after soaking in bleach water?
A: I battle these bleach myths quite often and I get very agitated about the misinformation floating around out there. Answers to your questions:
  • “Does the chlorine wash out?” Yes, sodium hypochlorite active is very reactive and with the "soil" load you are dealing with it will be virtually all reacted and gone in the initial laundering/soak. The extra rinses are good "insurance" and definitely give you peace-of-mind that it has been removed.

  • “Am I putting people's children at risk?” No, you are definitely not putting any children at risk. Actually, by doing the thorough cleaning and sanitizing of the diaper, you are helping prevent diaper rash and spreading unremoved germs.

  • “Am I killing the environment?” No you are NOT killing the environment. Sodium hypochlorite is made from salt and water and after it reacts with the satins and soils in the laundry, 93-97% of it returns to salt and water again. The remaining 3-7% is easily removed in waste treatment and is biodegradable.

  • “How many times should I wash and rinse after soaking in bleach water?” I think 1-2 rinses should be plenty.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what you are comfortable with. For us bleach has been the way we were able to rid our diapers of yeast and make sure that our "new to us" diapers were thoroughly sanitized. If bleach is not an option for you, do thorough research into alternative sanitizing methods. 

General Bleach Information: