How to Never Start Cloth Diapering

This blog post is a part of the November 2013 “School of Cloth” event.  This is a month-long educational event sponsored by the Real Diaper Association, cloth diaper businesses, and various bloggers.

Getting started with cloth diapers

The first week’s topic in the School of Cloth is how to get started with cloth diapers. However, that topic kind of bores me and I’ve already written about my advice for starting out here. Instead, I’m going to talk about three things you can do to ensure you’ll never, ever, ever ever, get started with cloth diapers. 

#1: Care What Other People Think

If your mother-in-law tells you horror stories about accidentally sticking the baby with a diaper pin and having to dunk poopy diapers in the toilet, ignore her. That’s not how cloth diapers work nowadays. If your friends roll their eyes and say, “That won’t last long!” – just brush it off. If you try to take in everyone else’s opinion on how you should diaper your baby, you’ll never get started with cloth diapers.

Guess what? Cloth diapers aside, no matter what parenting decision you make, people are going to disagree with you. Some of them – raised in barns perhaps – will actually vocalize their criticism. If you haven’t learned the all-important life skill of letting things roll off your back, it’s time.

#2: Listen to Those Who Act Like You Need a PhD to Cloth Diaper

I once ordered diapers from a company that included a SEVENTEEN PAGE HANDOUT on washing instructions. There are eBooks for sale out there on cloth diapering with pages that number into the HUNDREDS.

Seriously… it’s not that hard.

I get irritated when businesses and bloggers make it seem oh-so-complicated. What’s their strategy, anyway? To elevate themselves as experts by confusing others? Sure, there are a lot of options out there, but at the end of the day, we’re talking about pieces of cloth that babies wear on their bottoms. Wear, wash, re-use. It’s been going on for hundreds of years, folks. Not hard.

#3: Focus on all the “What Ifs”

Don’t feel like you need to have a five-page, typewritten, three-year cloth diaper strategy in place by the time you hit your 25th week of pregnancy. Figuring out what type of cloth diapers work best for your family will be a hands-on process. Sure, you might have a heavy-wetting baby with sensitive skin, but there are lots of ways to deal with issues like those. Don’t stress about things that might not even happen. Just get started!



What things *almost* held you back from getting started with cloth diapers? Leave a comment! 

How to Sell Used Cloth Diapers

One of the often-overlooked financial benefits of cloth diapers is that you can sell used cloth diapers and get a good portion of your money back for them! Perhaps you have some diapers that no longer fit your baby right, or your little one is potty training, or you just went freaking crazy and bought way more diapers than you actually needed and now you’re coming to your senses.

Ways to Sell Used Cloth Diapers Locally

Selling locally is often the easiest and most efficient way to offload used cloth diapers that you no longer need. You don’t have to bother with shipping – score! It’s easiest to sell used cloth diapers locally if you can find an established group of cloth diapering moms. You typically won’t have as much luck at regular consignment sales or on Craigslist – although it wouldn’t hurt to try those methods, either.

If you have a local cloth diaper store, they may offer a consignment option where you can get rid of your unwanted cloth diapers with minimal effort. At my own store, we host periodic consignment events. Sellers earn 80% of the final selling price if they want store credit or 70% if they want to be paid in cash.

Check Facebook to see if there is a cloth diaper group specific to your local area. There are tons of large local cloth diaper discussion groups on Facebook – Chicago, Kansas CityMemphis, San Antonio, Central Iowa, and Nova Scotia to name a few. If you can’t find a group for your area, you should consider starting one! Not only is it a great way to sell used cloth diapers, but it’s also a place where you can compare notes on cloth-diaper-friendly daycare providers, ask for laundry advice, and even organize get-togethers with like-minded moms.

Ways to Sell Used Cloth Diapers Online

If you feel a bit disappointed that your local options for selling cloth diapers are limited, then buckle up. Prepare to be overwhelmed with the number of ways to sell used cloth diapers online! I won’t provide an exhaustive list, but these options are some of the most popular ways to sell your used cloth diapers online.

ways-to-sell-used-cloth-diapers-online

  1. Re-Diaper.com – an online California-based cloth diaper store specializing in gently used diapers. You can send photos and descriptions of the diapers you’d like to sell, and they will provide you an offer. Once they receive your diapers, you will be paid via PayPal.
  2. ClothDiaperTrader.com – a site offering free listings for used cloth diapers in the US and Canada. The site does not operate as a payment clearinghouse; payments must be agreed to and arranged between buyer and seller, typically via PayPal.
  3. Buy/Sell/Trade (“BST”) groups – You can find a multitude of Facebook groups that serve as platforms for selling diapers of a certain brands (check out groups for GroVia, Sloomb, AppleCheeks, Goodmama, and Ragababe). BST groups can be particularly helpful if you are trying to sell a diaper of a lesser-known brand that has an obsessive following. They can also help you get top price for limited edition and/or retired cloth diapers, often referred to as hard-to-finds (“HTFs”). Most groups are private, and some require that you temporarily friend an admin to prove that you aren’t a spammer.
  4. DiaperSwappers.com – Organized as an online discussion forum, DiaperSwappers has over 30 topic-based forums and even more sub-forums, many of which exist specifically for selling cloth diapers of certain types (for example, there are separate places to post pockets, hybrids, or wool). Registering on DiaperSwappers is free, but before you can post goods for sale, you must be registered at least 15 days, post at least 30 times in the discussion forums, and have a verified PayPal account.

Selling Etiquette

First and most importantly, be completely honest! Always disclose any and all defects upfront. Offer to provide photos of any problem areas of the diaper.

Secondly, speak the language. Using the right cloth diaper lingo helps buyers trust you.

lingo

Used cloth diapers are categorized by condition; you can use these terms along with your full description of the item. Typical abbreviations include:

  • NWT – “New with Tags” – an unused, unwashed item with tags.
  • LN – “Like New” – only used once or twice, or washed but never used.
  • EUC – “Excellent Used Condition” – No stains, strong elastic, strong/non-pilly hook & loop closure, perfect snaps, and perfect lamination. These diapers are difficult to tell apart for a new diaper and are perfectly functional.
  • VGUC – “Very Good Used Condition” – Barely noticeable stains, strong elastic, sticky hook & loop closures, perfect snaps, very good lamination. You can tell that these diapers have been worn, but they are still in very good shape.
  • GUC – “Good Used Condition” – May have obvious stains and slightly relaxed elastic. Hook & loop closures may be showing a bit of wear. The lamination should still be fully functional. It’s very clear that these diapers have been used, but they still have some life left in them and don’t need immediate repairs!
  • UC – “Used Condition” – This is a diaper that might need repairs like tomorrow, but for today, it still works for its intended purpose!

Lastly, if you’re selling to another individual online, help them trust that you’re not a scammer.

  • Communicate regularly and respond to questions promptly.
  • If you use PayPal to request money, request payment for “goods” instead of “services”. You will incur a fee for this, but it protects the buyer, and you don’t want them to be suspicious of you.
  • When you ship, always use a trackable method. In the US, you can print first-class shipping labels (for items weighing 13 ounces or less) with tracking numbers from http://www.paypal.com/shipnow.

How to Get the Best Price for Used Cloth Diapers

To get the best possible price for your used diapers, think like a marketer! I’m always amazed at people who ignore common-sense ideas such as:

  1. Try your best to remove stains before taking photos.
  2. Take the time to set up for great photos. Use natural light and a plain background.
  3. Write a thorough description that justifies your asking price.
  4. Use a photo editor (such as PicMonkey – it’s free) to overlay text onto your photos.

Once you have a good-looking photo with an honest and thorough description, decide on your asking price. I recommend the following general pricing guide, but you should also check around to see what similar diapers in similar condition are selling for.

  • NWT – 90% of retail price
  • LN – 80% of retail price
  • EUC – 70% of retail price
  • VGUC – 50-60% of retail price
  • GUC – less than 50% of retail price
  • UC – whatever you can get!

Make it clear whether your prices include shipping or not. If your asking price does include shipping, append the letters “PPD” (“postage paid & delivered”). Before you publish your asking price, investigate any PayPal fees you may incur so you can build those into your price if necessary.

Finally, consider offering a discount for anyone who takes the whole lot, and quote a discounted price for everything. Selling everything together will save you a lot of time and hassle!

 

What’s your preferred method for selling used cloth diapers? If you notice any pro tips that I have missed, leave a comment!

How to Replace Elastic in Cloth Diapers

An easy tutorial for replacing the elastic in cloth diapers.

If you have an otherwise good diaper but the elastic is shot, step off the ledge! You have two options:

  1. Check the manufacturer’s warranty. You might be able to have it replaced or repaired at no cost.
  2. You* can replace the elastic yourself.

The first option is obviously ideal, because it’s the least work – a welcome solution for a busy mom! But if the diaper has no warranty or is outside of the warranty period, replacing the elastic is not that difficult of a project.

* Please note that my definition of the term “you” excludes me. Seriously, I can’t even sew a button. Thankfully, my mom (aka Crunchy Nana) is a talented seamstress and offered to show us an easy way to replace elastic in cloth diapers!

What You Need

Step 1: Measure the Replacement Elastic

If only one side of the diaper is shot, you can take a measurement of the unstretched leg on the opposite side.

If you need to replace the elastic on both legs, it’s fine to take any other cloth diaper and measure its elastic. You don’t even have to use the same brand or type of diaper to measure from; simply choose a diaper that fits your baby’s legs the most comfortably (that is, it doesn’t leak at the legs or leave red marks).

measure-the-good-elastic

Most of the diapers in my stash have leg elastic in the 5.5 to 7-inch range.

Step 2: Open the Casing to Remove the Old Elastic

The method demonstrated here is an exterior replacement method, so first you have to find a place to get into the elastic casing from the seam at the leg. A note of caution: be very careful with the seam ripper – you don’t want to poke a hole in the PUL by accident!

First, use the seam ripper to carefully unstitch the seam right next to where the elastic is sewn in (A). Open a space of about an inch so you can grab the old elastic and maneuver your fingers a bit (B). Next, you’ll need to take out the seam where the elastic is anchored so that you can remove the old elastic. Generally, this will only require ripping a few stitches (C).

removing-the-old-elastic

Now repeat A, B, and C on other end, and pull out the old elastic.

Step 3: Insert the New Elastic

Before inserting the new elastic, fasten safety pins at both ends. This will give you something to hang on to while you wiggle it through the casing.

new-elastic-ready-to-go-in

Insert the new elastic, pushing it through inchworm-style until your safety pins can hang out at each opening.

new-elastic-in-place

Step 4: Sew Down the New Elastic

Now that you have the new elastic threaded through the casing, it’s time to sew it in place. Now, Crunchy Nana (whose sock drawer is immaculate, and organized by color) wishes me to remind you to thread the machine so that the top color matches the diaper and the bobbin color matches the diaper’s lining.

Remove the safety pin from the end that you want to sew in first. To anchor the elastic in place while you stitch it, pull it about 1/4 inch past the original seam that you ripped out and will be sewing over. Then put a straight pin through the new elastic and the lining – just be sure not to pin the PUL!

anchor-the-elastic-before-sewing

Next, Crunchy Nana used a zipper foot to avoid going over that pin. (Tangent here. Zipper Foot would make a pretty awesome band name; am I right?!) Start a little ways back so that you can go over the existing stitches; then make a 90⁰ turn to sew the new elastic in place.

sewing-the-new-elastic

Once you have the first side finished, pull and stretch to make sure it’s stitched tight before moving on to the other end. Then simply repeat this process on the other end! Note that it may feel a little more difficult to keep everything in place on the other end, because now there is a bit of tension.

Step 5: Close ‘er Up

At this point, the new elastic is sewn in place on both ends, but you still have two open gaps where you originally ripped the seams in step 2.

close-up-the-holes

Crunchy Nana informed me that she was just going to quickly whip stitch these using a double thread.

(Once again, my mind wandered. This vocabulary is all so new to me, but whip stitching sounds like a great punishment. In a few more years, I’ll probably be throwing around this term as a vague threat when my children are being overly rambunctious. “Stop that right now, or Mama’s gonna have to whip-stitch you!”)

whip-stitching

Start about a 1/4 inch behind the opening so you catch in the good stitches and hide the knot. Pull it taut and anchor it between your thumb and forefinger while you whip stitch it closed.

Have Any Questions?

Well, don’t ask me! Remember, I can’t sew a button and that’s not an exaggeration. But Crunchy Nana will be monitoring the comments and is happy to chat with you about this project. Leave a comment below if you have any questions about how to replace elastic in cloth diapers.

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How to Treat Cloth Diaper Stains

Are you anal about cloth diaper stains?

OMG… my sincere apologies… I just couldn’t help myself.

Personally, I take a practical approach. To me, cloth diaper stains are as inevitable as bib stains. Since they are hidden on the inside of the diaper, the only people who will see them anyway are the elite and chosen group of my son’s diaper changers – me, my husband, and occasionally Crunchy Nana. However, if stains really bother you or you’re just trying to spruce up some stained cloth diapers before selling them, you might have a few questions about the best ways to remove the stains without damaging the diapers.

It’s a balancing act. Sure, you can soak those babies in chlorine bleach (clarification for CYA purposes: I’m referring to soaking the diapers, not real babies) and they’ll come out looking pristine. However, chlorine is so potent that it will weaken the fibers of the diapers and cause them to deteriorate sooner in the long run. Remember my chlorine vs. oxygen bleach test on a SoftBums bamboo pod stained beyond recognition courtesy of beet juice? Just a few weeks later, the end of the pod that had been soaked in chlorine bleach is now full of holes!

Stained Cloth Diaper Insert Bleach aftermath

The difficult thing is to find the gentlest possible method of removing the stain. Before anything else, always try sunning your cloth diapers first – clean but damp and in direct sunlight. If that doesn’t remove the stain to your satisfaction, here are some more natural ways to treat cloth diaper stains. (Keep in mind, there is no one foolproof stain remover prescription I can give you, because there will always be other variables at play – the type of stain, the type of fabric, whether you have any mineral build-up in your diapers from hard water, etc.)

Ways to Remove Cloth Diaper Stains

  • Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) – A nonabrasive cleanser and deodorizer; very mild. Some claim that it keeps diapers white with regular use, but for stubborn diaper stains, I haven’t personally found it to be effective. However, baking soda is cheap and you’ve probably got some around your house anyway, so it can’t hurt to try.
  • Borax (Sodium Borate) – According to someone with a PhD in chemistry, Borax cleans by converting some water molecules to hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), which bleaches out stains – a reaction which is more favorable in hotter water.
  • Citric Acid – Also known as lemon salt, citric acid is used as a preservative in foods and is non-toxic. You can likely find it in the canning aisle of your local grocery store. Citric can be used as a hard water additive and natural laundry softener. For stain removal, dissolve in water and spritz directly on the stain.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide – As sold in drugstores, 3% hydrogen peroxide is safe for household use as a disinfectant and stain remover. Make a mixture of 1 part peroxide to 3 parts warm water.
  • Lemon Juice – A natural bleaching agent due to the presence of citric acid. Rub directly on stain.
  • Oxygen Bleach – Powdered oxygen bleach is made from natural soda ash or borax and hydrogen peroxide. It is color-safe and doesn’t break down fibers like chlorine bleach. You can either add a scoop of oxygen bleach to your washing machine or, for tougher stains, make a paste and rub it directly into the problem spot.

If you’re just treating inserts, prefolds, flats, or wipes, it’s fine to soak them directly in a solution containing one of the stain-fighters listed above. If treating the lining of a pocket diaper or the absorbent material in an AIO, I would recommend making a solution or paste to apply directly to the stained part of the diaper without touching any elastic or PUL, since these substances could be caustic to those more delicate components of the diaper.

Have you tried any of these methods? Which is your favorite and why?

So You’ve Got Repelling Cloth Diapers

Repelling cloth diapers (and how to fix them) are a hot topic in discussion forums. As the Diaper Wrecker, I felt it was my duty to investigate this problem and see whether it’s really so angst-worthy. After slathering this poor diaper with Desitin and soaking it in a Downy bath for 24 hours, I was pretty sure I had successfully created a repelling problem. I hung it up to dry, and I was haunted by two thoughts: (1) Downy has a way strong smell, and (2) ohhh emm geee how am I ever going to remove all of that smeared-on, greasy Desitin?!

Repelling Cloth Diaper

Before I describe how I went about excorcising this diaper of its evil, greasy build-up, I have a word of caution for you. This is an extreme example of a repelling diaper. If you have a problem with persistent leaks and think your diapers might be repelling, check a few other things first. It may just be that the diaper is fully saturated or not fitting properly on your baby.

Now let’s talk about stripping. It’s a word I hear waaaaaay too often in cloth diapering discussion forums and it usually makes me cringe. Why? Because if you have to strip (i.e. deep-clean) your cloth diapers on a regular basis, it means something about your regular wash routine is out of whack. There are many different ways to strip cloth diapers, and the method you choose should depend on what kind of build-up (detergent, ammonia, ointment, etc.) is present:

  • For detergent build-up, a few extra hot washes with RLR Laundry Treatment
    will generally do the trick, and then you need to reduce the amount of detergent in your usual wash routine.
  • For ammonia build-up, a soak in Rockin Green Funk Rock Ammonia Bouncer
    followed by a hot wash with detergent usually does it for me.
  • For serious greasiness, unfortunately, laundry products don’t usually help, and we turn to a product made for de-greasing dishes – Dawn.

Blue Dawn is a de-greaser, which can help your repelling cloth diapers

This was actually my first time to use Dawn for diapers and I wanted to be careful. Dawn generates some pretty intense suds, which can overwhelm the pump and motor of your washing machine if you use too much. We had to replace the pump of our washing machine a few years ago and it cost about $300 when it was all said and done, so I’m not interested in risking that for the sake of one cloth diaper. This is a job that requires scrubbing by hand.

I added this much Dawn. It made me laugh because it made me think of a Smurf skid mark.

9_Dawn application

Anyway, then I started scrubbing it with hot water and a toothbrush. It didn’t seem to be doing much – I could still feel the Desitin clinging to the fleece. Out of frustration, I threw it in the soaking bucket, added 2 more drops of Dawn, filled it with hot water, and left it for a few hours.

10_Dawn Soak

After the soak, I rinsed it with hot water until most of the suds were gone, and then tossed it into the washing machine and did a hot rinse.

After the pocket and insert had dried, I re-tested to determine the time it would to absorb 50 ml of water under pressure. (Before the experiment, it only took 8 seconds.) I was pleasantly surprised to find that although now it took 13 seconds to absorb the same amount, the water did go through. I was really expecting it to just sit there on top of the fleece.

I was doing diaper laundry anyway, so my next step was to throw it in the pre-wash with my other diapers. I added a scoop of Country Save oxygen bleach in the pre-wash just for the heck of it, and then did my normal hot wash with Country Save detergent followed by a final rinse. After everything had dried, I noticed that the “wrecked” diaper no longer smelled much like Downy. There was just a faint hint of it.

I laid the “wrecked” diaper next to its twin (which been cared for properly and never exposed to the Downy, Desitin, or dryer sheets) and poured a little water on both of them. I let them sit this way for 15 minutes, but neither one of them absorbed the water. As I’ve explained before, this is normal behavior. I bet you can’t even tell which diaper is which:

Side by Side Comparison

Ok, ok, I’ll tell you. The diaper on the left is the one that went through the gauntlet. After this photo, it absorbed 50 ml in 10.5 seconds, while the diaper on the right did it in 8 seconds.

Based on my experience, it wasn’t too hard to bring the diaper back to decent performance. I was actually hoping that it would be harder, because I wanted to share an idea for what you could do as a last-ditch effort to prevent repelling.

12_Scissors

She WOULDN’T.

Snip, snip.

13_Snip Snip

Ha ha! Just did. Ok, I don’t actually recommend this. I suppose if  you were at the end of your rope, without a warranty, and just seriously pissed off a diaper, you could do it. It might feel liberating.

(But it only improved the time to 9.5 seconds, which wasn’t too impressive.)