Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Diaper Diaries: Part 1

It's Mother's Day and in honor of the occasion, let's talk about something all moms deal with: diapers. As a mom-to-be, I'm getting ready for diaper duty. We've decided to go with cloth diapers for two main reasons:

1. It's cheaper.
2. It's greener.

These are two deciding factors in a lot of things we do.

We opted for a diapering system called bummis. They were recommended by another new mom and seemed pretty simple (they require no pins, which was a huge relief to Keith).

The kit comes with 6 small diaper covers (to fit 7-15 lb babies), 24 organic cloth prefold diapers, a wet bag for storing dirty diapers, plus some disposable and washable liners. I also opted to order 24 more diapers (so that we have 48 total) and 4 medium diaper covers (to fit 15-30 lb babies). I ordered it all from and with the free shipping and a discount code I found online for 10% off the entire order, the whole kit and kaboodle cost right around $260. This should take us pretty close to potty training, though we may need to order a few of the large size diaper covers.

Basically, you fold the cloth diaper into thirds and lay it in the cover, which fastens with velcro much like a disposable diaper. Then when it's dirty or wet, you toss it in the wet bag and put a clean one in the cover. The covers can be washed right along with the diapers if need be but you shouldn't need to use a new cover with each diaper change. Anyway, that's how it's all supposed to work but I'll let you know in July (that's why this is Part 1).

I was pretty ecstatic when I came home from work to find these diapers waiting for me on the porch. They are just too adorable! Even Keith thinks they're cute. How could you not?

The kit also came with a handy instruction booklet and it recommended washing the diapers three times before using them. They are made from organic cotton and unbleached, so they still have a lot of the natural oils in them. Washing them takes care of getting rid of the oils, so that they absorb moisture properly. So even though little Bert has not arrived yet, I've already washed his diapers (all 48 of them) three times. And of course this had to be fit in on sunny days so that they could dry on the clothesline.

With the prospect of lots (and lots) of laundry ahead of us, we made another cheap and green decision: homemade laundry soap. We had been using Seventh Generation detergent and softener and were really happy with that. My allergies improved a lot once we switched to the dye and perfume free laundry products but they do get pricy, even with coupons. So, I did a little searching online about making your own laundry soap. There are loads (haha) of recipes and instructions and videos out there for liquid and powder versions. I opted for powder because the liquid ones made batches of 5 gallons and looked goopey. I didn't really want to store 5 gallons of mess in our already crowded laundry/mud room. Here's the recipe I settled on:

Laundry Soap
Use 1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup per load.
2 cups Borax
2 cups washing soda (I found this on the shelf right next to the Borax; Arm & Hammer brand is what our grocery store carried)
1 cup baking soda
1 bar soap, any kind (lots of things I read recommended Fels Naptha so that's what we used for this first batch; I found it with the bar soap in the toiletry/drug section of the grocery store)

1. Cut soap up into large chunks with a knife.

2. Throw the chunks into a food processor and blend into powder, or grate with cheese grater.

3. In large plastic tub or bucket, stir together Borax, washing soda, and baking soda. Allow to settle and be careful not to breathe in the powder.

4. Stir in grated soap.

One batch of soap fits perfectly into a Trader Joe's cookie tub. Oh how the little things in life thrill me!

A couple notes and recommendations:
• Cut the soap up ahead of time into smaller chunks and let it dry for a few days. I almost burned out the motor on our Magic Bullet grinding it into a powder.
• Check the dollar store for bar soap; you can probably get a 3-pack for $1.
• If you are going to do this, it's worth keeping your eyes open at flea markets and yard sales for a food processor to use just for this purpose.
• You can use scented soaps or add a few drops of essential oil if you would like a light fragrance. I chose not to so we could avoid any allergy issues.

Because I knew everyone would be so interested, I did a little number crunching to figure out how much cheaper our homemade laundry soap is compared to the eco-friendly detergent we were using. By some rough guess-timations, one batch of soap cost me $3.34. I say rough because I didn't measure what was left of the Borax and washing soda, I just looked in the boxes and estimated how many batches a whole box would yield (at least 3 or 4). One batch of soap is approximately 6 cups, so if you use the whole 1/4 cup per load, that's 24 loads and comes out to $.14 per load. I think the per load price is actually a little high, because I probably won't use the full 1/4 cup and there is probably more Borax and washing soda left than I've accounted for.

On the other hand, the Seventh Generation detergent costs $7.99 per bottle, labeled as enough for 33 loads. That comes out to $.24 per load. So, even with my high estimates, I still come out 10 cents ahead on every load. Plus, I typically use fabric softener with the detergent and what I've read says it isn't necessary with the homemade laundry soap. The savings just keep coming.

I guess there will be a lot of these appearing in our house!


  1. Yay! I love the choices you are making! I've been doing my own laundry soap for almost six years, and I love it. I do use a bottle of detergent once or twice a year to take away the soap scum, both from our clothes and from the machine. Otherwise the clothes start to look dingy. I still think it's better than using detergent full time. Another tip is to put vinegar in a downy ball. Some say it works as a fabric softer, but I think it helps remove residues. I can't wait to hear how the diapers work out. If they are a success, that's much more cost effective than the ones I've seen. Congrats on your new blessing!

  2. Oh! I meant to tell you that if you have a Salad Shooter, it works BEAUTIFULLY to shred a bar of Fels Naptha soap!

  3. Thanks for the great tips Michelle! I don't have a Salad Shooter but I will be keeping my eyes peeled at yard sales for one. Definitely going to try the vinegar in my Downy ball! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. You're most welcome! I'm loving your blog!


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