Author Topic: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?  (Read 4834 times)

Gen Y Finance Journey

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Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« on: June 01, 2015, 01:03:05 PM »
I don't have any kids and I'm not currently pregnant, but my husband and I are planning on kids soon, and I was thinking about the cloth vs. disposable diaper debate. I haven't thought deeply about any of this yet, but the thought occurred to me and I'm curious if others here have thought deeply about it.

We live in California, where there's a serious drought. In my city, water prices are going up, and homeowners have been asked to restrict water usage, and will likely be facing fines if we use too much. So the costs associated with extra laundry will be higher than they've been in the past. How much higher? I'm not really sure, I'd have to do the math.

But beyond just the cost consideration, there's the water conservation consideration. It seems wrong to use so much extra water during a drought. But which is worse? Using extra water during a drought or creating all the extra waste of disposable diapers?

Has anyone done an analysis?

I'm a red panda

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2015, 01:07:58 PM »
Cloth diapers will have more of a local impact, but I think without a doubt disposable have more of a global impact, both in waste created, use of plastics, and in water used to create them.  But the water is probably from an area that has it.

Which matters more to you, is up to you.

TrMama

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2015, 01:15:10 PM »
So, I've never lived in CA, but I did cloth diaper two kids. Even when both of them were in diapers at the same time, I only did a single extra load every 3 days. And it was a small load, since young kids have tiny behinds.

So, you just have to do the math on an extra 2.13 loads/week. You can mitigate the cost per load by using a HE washer, but either way, it's pretty minimal.

greenmimama

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2015, 01:31:07 PM »
Very true what the PP said, local to global impact.

I have read that manufacturing one disposable diaper uses a whole wash load full of water.

And since you wash many more than one at a time, once you use them a few times the water savings shows up on the global impact.

If you just have a washer that is very conservative with water, and you use flats and covers, you could save much more water within the lifetime of them. I say flats because they are truly the easiest to keep clean, so no complicated washing instructions, since they separate into one big thin blanket, they are quick to wash and super quick to dry.

MayDay

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2015, 01:40:47 PM »
Having used cloth under challenging washing conditions, I would suggest considering:

1.  Using flats, easier to wash, least likely to need to be stripped.  If you have to strip it is a TON of washing.
2.  Do you have hard water?  If so, washing will likely be more difficult than someone explaining how EASY it is, and how THEIR diapers never get stinky!  If you have hard water, washing becomes an exact science involving extra rinses, at best, and a stinky disaster at worst.  Consider how getting a water softener would change your costs, and whether it is worth the expense.  With hard water you may also have to run more than a load every 3.5 days as the stank will be out of control.

catccc

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2015, 01:42:06 PM »
Ditto others on really minimal additional laundry, and flat love.  Pair with ECing to further reduce diaper use of any kind and your baby will have a baby sized footprint on the planet.  Or ECing just for poos (so easy) to cut down on rinsing) Plus many cloth diapered babies train faster.  Both my EC'd CD'd kids were out of diapers early, at 12 months for the 1st and closer to 18 months for the 2nd.

Another way to look at it- should you start using paper plates and plastic utensils to save the water you would have used washing dishes in a drought?  Probably not.  What about you using disposable underwear instead of washing yours?  Probably not a good idea, either.  I think of diapers the same way.

Gen Y Finance Journey

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2015, 02:33:01 PM »
Thanks for all the responses! Sounds like the consensus is that cloth is still better. It just feels wrong to do an extra 2-3 loads of laundry each week when there's such a major drought. :(

partgypsy

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2015, 02:53:34 PM »
So, I've never lived in CA, but I did cloth diaper two kids. Even when both of them were in diapers at the same time, I only did a single extra load every 3 days. And it was a small load, since young kids have tiny behinds.

So, you just have to do the math on an extra 2.13 loads/week. You can mitigate the cost per load by using a HE washer, but either way, it's pretty minimal.

Environmentally, there is no comparision, even with drought cloth diapers are environmentally better. At the same time, I am assuming you don't want to spent MORE for cloth than disposables.
 I would estimate how much more the water will be if you used an extra 2 loads, or whatever you estimate the increase in water costs will be. The tricky thing, is whether where you live will have tiered water use, or penalties for those who go above a certain amount of use.
Another thing to consider, is diaper service? My mother used cloth diapers but she developed severe psoriasis from dipping her hands in the (bleach) water that is used to dip the clothes in, and so had to transfer to a diaper service. I don't know if those are still around.
And others here will have other good advice for reducing costs for cloth diapers, which have a higher up front cost but lower overall costs, especially if used for entire duration, and for more than 1 child.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2015, 02:56:02 PM by partgypsy »

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2015, 03:01:58 PM »
Drying racks work great for cloth diapers (on sunny summer days in Pennsylvania, I think it would not go so well on days when the high is 12 degrees).

TrMama

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #9 on: June 01, 2015, 03:07:52 PM »
Thanks for all the responses! Sounds like the consensus is that cloth is still better. It just feels wrong to do an extra 2-3 loads of laundry each week when there's such a major drought. :(

The thing is, you're going to be doing more laundry if you add another person to your household, regardless of what kind of diapers they wear. As they get older, they will need to bathe, they will create more dirty dishes, they will track dirt into the house that will need to be washed off the floor and they will need to flush the toilet. The point we're all trying to make here is that washing some dirty diapers for a few years is really just a drop in the bucket.

Gen Y Finance Journey

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #10 on: June 01, 2015, 03:18:33 PM »
Thanks for all the responses! Sounds like the consensus is that cloth is still better. It just feels wrong to do an extra 2-3 loads of laundry each week when there's such a major drought. :(

The thing is, you're going to be doing more laundry if you add another person to your household, regardless of what kind of diapers they wear. As they get older, they will need to bathe, they will create more dirty dishes, they will track dirt into the house that will need to be washed off the floor and they will need to flush the toilet. The point we're all trying to make here is that washing some dirty diapers for a few years is really just a drop in the bucket.

Sure, but by that logic, once you've spent some money/resources on something, you shouldn't question spending a little more. You've gotta question and analyze everything! :)

waffle

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2015, 03:25:10 PM »
Unless you are running a Laundromat out of your house I'm guessing that washing clothes (especially if you have a HE washer) is a pretty small portion of your total water usage. Cut back on shower times and partially loaded dishwashers to save water. 

asiljoy

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #12 on: June 02, 2015, 07:20:22 AM »
Yeah, gonna agree with Waffle. We cloth diapered, and it really didn't dramatically impact our water usage. Your living patterns are going to change regardless and chances are the first few months the extra laundry will be offset by the lack of showering/teeth brushing that tends to happen when taking care of extra small people :P

justajane

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #13 on: June 02, 2015, 07:33:26 AM »
I second (or third) the flats, and this may not be a popular opinion, but the reason I love the flats, other than cost, is that you can bleach them. People don't do this as often anymore, but there's nothing that is more efficient and easy to get rid of the stinks and stains. You don't even have to use that much bleach - just a few tablespoons. I would argue that it is also more environmental, especially if you live in a drought stricken area. I live in the Midwest where water is plentiful, and even I felt damned guilty by all the water it took to strip diapers. Really, it's ridiculous how much hot and cold water you have to use. And sometimes it doesn't even work!

Of course you can't do this with synthetic fabrics. I use some Fuzzi Bunz, but overall I think cotton is where it's at for my baby's bum. I have to admit that on the third we have used shamefully few of our cloth diaper stash. At this point, it's pure money when we use them, since we've already made back the cost of the diapers on kid one. But life has been stressful and I've had health problems, and well, you do what you can.

In general, we all do what we can. If disposable ends up being best for you, it's okay. If you are this mindful of the environmental costs of what you do, I'm sure you already do a lot of conservation.

catccc

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2015, 09:35:21 AM »
Drying racks work great for cloth diapers (on sunny summer days in Pennsylvania, I think it would not go so well on days when the high is 12 degrees).
I'm nearby in Chester County PA, and it can certainly get cold here!  But line drying overnight indoors in the winter works well!  When we had our first kid, we lived in a 399 sqft apt and purchased a mini washing machine that hooked up to the sink (Haier HLP21E) to do laundry in the apartment instead of running to the laundromat.  Line dried on a small rack in the corner of the kitchen.  Small loads, small rack, and a husband with a dirty job (farming) meant lots of little loads, but it was fine!

Gen Y Finance Journey

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #15 on: June 02, 2015, 09:41:41 AM »
Yeah, gonna agree with Waffle. We cloth diapered, and it really didn't dramatically impact our water usage. Your living patterns are going to change regardless and chances are the first few months the extra laundry will be offset by the lack of showering/teeth brushing that tends to happen when taking care of extra small people :P

Hah, that's a nice way to look at it :)

Gen Y Finance Journey

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #16 on: June 02, 2015, 09:42:54 AM »
I will admit the prospect of using flats is pretty scary to me. Any brand recommendations or good user guides online?

catccc

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #17 on: June 02, 2015, 09:50:46 AM »
I will admit the prospect of using flats is pretty scary to me. Any brand recommendations or good user guides online?

I found all these crazy folds online, but in the end I just folded them into quarters and then thirds to make a long rectangle to go into the cover.  I liked thirsties and flip one size covers.  But I only had the thirsties because they didn't really manufacture one size covers when my first was born.  Although I probably still would have needed some newborn sized covers.  My girls were small.  I am small.  Basic workhorse diapering!  I had a couple of fancier pocket dipes, but if I were to do it again, i would have skipped those.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2015, 09:54:04 AM by catccc »


Fuggled

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #19 on: June 02, 2015, 10:37:21 AM »
We used cloth diapers for our first (now 4 years old) and we're reusing them on our second (10 months).  One thing we learned which caught us off guard is that HE washers have issues with diapers because they use so little water and the diapers are so absorbent.  We eventually established a routine of doing 3 consecutive cycles to get them clean and remove any soap.

First, a short cycle on cold w/o soap to get everything wet.
Second, a heavy duty cycle on hot w/ half the typical soap.
Third, another heavy duty cycle on hot w/o soap.

I think a traditional top loading washer would have been less of a hassle, but we still like the cloth.

asiljoy

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #20 on: June 02, 2015, 11:18:36 AM »
I saw this the other day:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-cloth-diapers-might-not-be-the-greener-choice-after-all/2015/05/08/32b2d8dc-f43a-11e4-bcc4-e8141e5eb0c9_story.html

Yeah, there are plenty of these kinds of articles around and to me at least, have questionable premises that narrow the issue to a point where suddenly disposables look attractive again. Here, they chose to hate on cotton production and the amount of water it uses. Fair. However, they chose to overlook that there are a bunch of options beyond cotton. Moreover, they didn't bother to discuss the environmental ramifications of clear cutting trees or drilling for oil, both of produce key ingredients in disposables.

MayDay

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Re: Cloth Diapers During a Drought?
« Reply #21 on: June 02, 2015, 01:01:39 PM »
For flats we liked Thirsties Duo covers (though that was 5 years ago), and folded a rectangular pad like was already mentioned. No crazy folding.

Consider disposable at night. Seriously, disposable diapers are awesome at many things, and soaking up 12 hours of nighttime pee is one of them.