What it's REALLY like to wash diapers at the Laundromat...

Many families choose to use cloth diapers to save money, but what if you don’t have access to a washer and dryer?


 I’ve always been curious about how Laundromats work. After I had my firstborn at 19, we bounced back and forth between my mom’s and sister’s houses, but luckily always had access to a washer and dryer. We used disposables because I didn’t know cloth diapers were even an option. When my boyfriend (now my husband) and I moved into our own place, we needed to find a way to wash our clothes… 

Luckily, the house we rented had a washer and dryer hook up. We didn’t have the money to buy a washer and dryer outright, but I found a 24 month no interest deal at an appliance store. We divided the total cost up and paid maybe $35 per month, being sure to always make our payments on time and pay it off in full within that time period to avoid the accruing interest and finance charges. Within two years, those babies were officially ours!


But what if I didn’t have the credit to finance our washer and dryer? What if we rented an apartment without a washer and dryer hook up? How would we have washed our clothes? And had I been aware of cloth diapers back then, how would I have washed them?


I started a Facebook page for families in my area to connect with other families who use cloth diapers. I'd seen a mom named Ashley post a few times, but one post really caught my attention…



facebook post


I reached out to Ashley to see if she would allow me to interview her about how she manages washing her diapers at the Laundromat. I'm very grateful that she accepted and was willing to share her story...  



washing machines



When did you start using cloth diapers?

We have done part-time cloth diapering since my son was born, he just turned 1 year. In the last 3 months we have been doing mostly cloth.


What made you decide to go with cloth over disposables?

My mom is the main reason I was introduced to them. As a single mom in the 80s with limited funds she couldn’t always afford disposables. She used flats and plastic pants, as she called them. She thought it would be a good idea to start a stash for my son as a back-up. Having a single income in our house means price is a priority. I have stayed interested mainly for the cost savings, and partly because I think it is fun. I know I’m a dork.


Have you always taken your diapers to the Laundromat? How long have you been washing your diapers there?

Since we live in an apartment without a washer a dryer on site we have always used the Laundromat. It has been just over a year now.


Do you do anything special before you wash your diapers at the Laundromat, like wipe out the machine? Do you worry about fabric softeners left over from those who washed in the machine before you will affect your diapers?

I can see why someone would be concerned with residues in the washers and dryers at the Laundromat. I personally however, have never done anything to them before using them.


washing machine 



Have you had any issues with your diapers, stinking or leaking, that you would attribute to washing them at the Laundromat?

I do occasionally have to strip my diapers at home due to build up issues causing stink and not being as absorbent. I have never really blamed it on the Laundromat but it is a possibility.



What style of diapers do you use?

We use two different types of diapers. I have some pockets, but mostly all in twos used with microfiber inserts.



What is your wash routine and what type of detergent do you use?

I want to preface my wash routine with a warning statement of sorts. I am OCD about not having stains on my diapers. That may be weird and make my specific routine more difficult but it’s just how I am. My wash routine is kind of 2 to 3 stages depending on pee or poo. If it’s just a pee diaper, it goes straight into my diaper pail. This consists of a 5 gallon bucket with lid in my bathroom closet. If it’s a poo, I rinse it very well in the bathroom sink and get most if not all the poo off. It also gets thrown into my diaper pail.

After 3 days or so the pail starts to get full, and starts to smell. I then do my at home prewash or rinse. I fill my bathtub with about 3 inches of warm water, just enough to cover the diapers. I use vinegar or borax in this soak. I stir them around a bit and let them soak for about an hour. I then drain and fill again to sort of rinse. They then go back in the pail and off to the Laundromat.

There I use a front loader that costs 2.50 per load. I usually only have 1 load of diapers at a time. I typically use all free and clear detergent although have recently been looking into making my own. I then throw only my inserts in the dryer. The covers all get hung to dry at home. I have a clothes line hung up in my son’s room.



How long does it take to wash your diapers?

I usually never am there just to wash diapers. I always have other clothes. I would say no more than 2 hours, which includes folding my other clothes.



How often do you wash them?

Usually every 3-4 days



What do you store your diapers in to and from the Laundromat?

I transport them in my “diaper pail” or 5 gallon bucket and lid from Lowes. To take them home they end up in a large cloth bag.



How much does it cost each time you wash a load of diapers? How much do your spend average per week?

3.50 – 4.00 depending on dry time for each load so 7-8$ per week. It’s 2.50 for the wash and .25 for every 8 min of dry time.



Do you dry inserts and/or shells in the dryer at the Laundromat or at home? If at home, how do you dry them?

I have dried them at home before but it takes so long and takes up so much space. Picture my entire bathroom covered in inserts. Most of the time I put the inserts in the dryer.



Do you have any tips for families considering using a Laundromat to wash their diapers?

Do what works for you. If you don’t care about staining on the inserts or intend to sun them you might not have to do the extra rinse at home. I just don’t want to pay for an extra wash at the Laundromat. No matter how tempting it may seem to combine them with your other clothes to save money, don't. They then take forever to dry, and color will bleed into the inserts from your clothes.



washing machines 


I saw that you've decided to take Dirty Diaper Laundry's Flats and Handwashing Challenge. What made you decide to take the challenge?

I am always looking for ways to decrease the cost of my cloth diapering. I have been doing it more full time lately and I think if I use flats and wash at home I wouldn’t have to go to the Laundromat twice a week. Believe me it is not a fun trip with a 1 year old.

Also, through looking into this challenge I found out about fleece soakers which I didn’t know about previously. I have already sewn up a sample pair and intend to make more for the challenge. I really intend to only spend money on a plunger and some remnant scraps of fleece for this challenge. Otherwise I will be using receiving blankets, and cut up t-shirts.




I want to thank Ashley for sharing her story! I am truly inspired by all the families who commit to using cloth diapers, even when they don't have easy access to a washer and dryer. I met up with Ashley at a local La Leche League meeting and we, along with a few other ladies, discussed our plans to participate in the upcoming Flats and Handwashing Challenge. As she had mentioned in our interview, she is joining the challenge to see if flats and handwashing would be a good fit for her family. I look forward to seeing if and how her participation in the challenge changes her diapering routine!  



**Please note, you should first check with your diaper's manufacturer before adding any additives in your wash routine. Doing so may void the warranty of your diapers, and depending on your water type, could also cause problems such as stink or wear your diapers quicker than what is to typically be expected. What works for one family may not always work for another. Try keeping your routine as simple as possible and if you start having problems, contact your manufacturer for assistance.    





Stephanie Beck is a busy mama of four. She enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her family. Stephanie started her blog, Apron Strings Attached, because she wanted to share her experiences with raising kids, breastfeeding struggles and success, and cloth diapering. She now enjoys blogging about life in cloth diapers for TGN.



Leave a comment:

Have you ever washed diapers at the laundromat? Do you have any tips to save money or make washing diapers at the laudromat easier?

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