Taking the Plunge by Christie Dickson

Taking the Plunge by Christie Dickson

Have you ever wondered how you would wash your diapers if you didn’t have access to a washing machine? I’d thought about it a few times; “what would we do in the event of a natural disaster?”, but I didn't worry about it too much. Then, three years into my cloth diapering journey, there was a mechanical failure in my hot water heater and I found I couldn’t wash my diapers in my normal way. Luckily, I could reach out to my Real Diaper Circle Leader and friend, Janice, who pointed me in the right direction for learning how to build a camp washer.


My husband, Jeremiah, went out to the hardware store for a bucket, lid, and plunger. When he got home, he cut a hole in the lid, and drilled holes around the plunger to allow for better agitation.


My next mission was to heat water. I set to work on the stove, heating water to rinse the diapers. I put the dirty diapers in the bucket and filled it about 2/3 of the way full with warm water. We closed the lid and took turns agitating the diapers, for about 10 minutes. Jeremiah took the bucket and emptied it. We then moved to the wash cycle. We added hot water (around 120 degrees F). I wasn't sure how much detergent we needed to add, so I added one heaping tablespoon of Tide, a heaping tablespoon of powdered water softener, and, in a change to my normal routine, I added a tablespoon of oxyclean.

We took turns agitating the washer, plunging until our arms were tired. I checked the suds level after the first round, I was shocked to see how many suds there were, Oops! We agitated the diapers for about 30 minutes. Even my son, aged three (pictured), helped out! Jeremiah then dumped the bucket again and we rinsed, several times. I've forgotten now how many times we needed to rinse. Once we were mostly clear of soap bubbles, I tossed the diapers in the washer to spin the water out. If the washer spin cycle had been broken, I would have wrung out the inserts by hand. I hung my shells to dry like normal, and dried the inserts in the dryer.

Everything came out really clean! I was so glad because we have really thick inserts! On the morning we found our hot water heater was broken I started using all our receiving diaper flats and these proved really easy to clean. I found them super trim and absorbent for use too.

For those wondering if they can hand wash; yes, you can! I highly recommend it. Not only does it use a lot less water, extremely helpful in a drought situation like California is experiencing, but it is also great exercise for your arms! Hand washing is an economical way to wash your diapers if you don't have a washer at home, or if you have to use a coin-op machine. Just make sure to dump the initial rinse and wash cycle water into your toilet or down a utility sink. Don't worry, the toilet will flush itself before overflowing.

Next time I hand wash, I will omit the oxyclean, I think it contributed to the excess suds I experienced. I’ve found a full tablespoon of washing powder does well for handwashing.


Christie Dickson

Real Diaper Circle Co-Leader of Real Diaper Circle for Ventura County, CA





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