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Cloth Diapering Without a Washing Machine – Guest Post By Alyssa

All that’s missing from Alyssa’s life is a washer and dryer. She has access to coin operated machines within her building (certainly better than schlepping them to a laundromat!) but anyone who has paid for laundry knows how expensive it can get. So, she washed her diapers by hand every day, for several months. She agreed to allow me to post this so everyone can see that it can be done! -Maria

My name is Alyssa and I love cloth diapers. Like, really love. So much so that I went against everyone’s “advice” and decided to CD my daughter while living in an apartment with no washer/dryer. Our diaper laundry costs were pretty much the cost of what disposables would have been (I’m a bargain shopper.) But the money wasn’t the point. I wanted my daughter to have what I had. Nice, comfortable, and breathable cloth next to her tush =)

As for the laundry, we made it fit in the budget. We were struggling, but we weren’t on the brink of homelessness or anything. I probably could have continued to use my apartment building’s community laundry room. But, for some reason, the spirit of George Costanza took hold of me (it happens from time to time) and I decided that spending $40 a month on diaper laundry was inhumane, and that I would wash the diapers by hand all by myself, even if my arms lost all feeling during the process.

My diapers were always squeaky clean when I hand washed them. I think it was the individual attention of that final rinse and wring. (I always dunked and swished in the toilet right after a poopy diaper. I was pretty aggressive with it too. Plus, all the pre-soaking did the rest of the work for me.) I’m out of shape and admittedly kind of lazy. If I can do it, anyone can!

So this is basically it. These pics were taken about two years ago. I did this every day for a few months. Don’t mind the gross tiles. It’s not mildew, just really old and peely grouting that is in desperate need of redoing:

-Prerinse with Tea Tree Oil and Baking Soda

handwashing cloth diapers

-Swish swish swish. Notice my ghetto swishing stick. It’s a baseboard. I don’t even know how I came into posession of that. Moving on….

agitating diapers

-Drain. Then fill tub again but this time add detergent and OxyClean. Oh, and at this point, you might need a glass of wine. Then swish swish swish again for a while and leave them there for at least ten minutes. Drain.

soaking cloth diapers

-Squeeze out excess water with your (CLEAN) feet. In this pic are a lot of mama made diapers plus a few Happy Heiny’s, a Mac a Doodle, Roo Bug, and a few prefolds.

wringing cloth diapers

-Fill tub again. Rinse (by way of swishing.) Then using your sink, rinse and wring each diaper indiviudally.

rinsing cloth diapers

-Place on rack to dry. Have another glass of wine.

cloth diapers drying

I think I could have gotten away with doing a soak, wash, and rinse. I tend to go overboard…


Do you think you’d cloth diaper if you had to hand wash then? What if you had to use coin operated laundry or lug them to a laundromat? Does anyone already do this? -Maria

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Maria is an aspiring "fit mom" of 3 children, writing about cloth diapers, going green, and her life as a single mom. Maria works with many companies within the cloth diaper industry and beyond, providing social media management, product development, and other services.
  • Marlene
    April 28, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    My aunt still tells the story how she would wash her toddlers in the tub and after they cane out, in went the days diapers to soak in the bath water. She rinsed and rung them in the morning and hung outside to dry in the morning sun.

  • Michelle
    June 16, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    I loved reading this I rinse then spray a oxi clean spray on it then rinse and then soak then rinse then hang in the sun and so many women said I was crazy and using bad cleaners when I use just a bit of oxi and vinegar so thank you

  • November 4, 2015 at 12:26 am

    […] “Cloth Diapering Without a Washing Machine” – Alyssa […]

  • Shelby
    September 11, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Does the temperature for the water of the soak, wash, and rinse matter much?

    • September 11, 2014 at 10:45 am

      To get them clean, you need water, time, temperature, chemical and mechanical action. ( If you decrease one, you’ll need to increase another. A warm initial rinse works best to loosen soil (if you have it), a hot wash, and a final warm rinse (again, if you have it) can help extract the water more efficiently (who knew!) That said, some people are able to wash in solely cold water if they make up for the temp other places!

  • August 14, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    […] don’t use a machine at all. While not ideal, hand washing flats is completely doable. Alyssa hand washed diapers full time to save on washing costs. If you do have access to a coin operated machine, add the diapers to a […]

  • Jessy
    April 21, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    I usually go to the coin laundry. I walk about 1/2 mile to get there. I carry my 3 month old baby on a Kangaroo and oush our stroller with a BIG Trash Can we have been using as our Diaper Bin. I spend $5 dollars. I was in HOT 2 times and use a Homemade Laundry Detergent (oxyclean, washing soda, borax) 2-3 spoons each time. I dry the diapers for 1 hour 15 minutes after they are washed. Oh and did I mention that before I take’em there I Rinse every cover and scrape the poop off with a brush? It is exhausting but there is a cretain degree of happiness in me when I see them all clean after the dryer,which offers NO HEAT drying by the way, and fold every single one. I get to watch a movie when I’m there. Cons: They always repeat the same movies, I walk a lot, I still do hand washing/work
    Pros: Really Hot water is used, I get to go out LOL

    Now, WHY I’M HERE:
    I literally ran out of money. The expenses are all covered but we didn’t put money aside for the washer. It was my mistake. And I have to wash today. I will follow this advice as much I can and update if it worked. I will be washing 30 diapers Covers, 60 inserts this way!

    Wish me a good washing! I’m gonna need all the moral support I can get, and oh yeah don’t tell my mom, she doesn’t like me doing cloth diapers…..

    • April 21, 2014 at 5:29 pm

      You get my moral support for sure! I’ve only hand washed flats and covers during the flats & hand washing challenge – it is a lot of work, but kudos to you for doing it. Can you imagine throwing a quarter in the garbage with every diaper change?? YIKES!

      • Jessy
        April 21, 2014 at 11:12 pm

        thank you, God bless you!

  • April 7, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    […] 3 years ago, Alyssa wrote a guest post on how she washed her cloth diapers without a washing machine. I think combining a lot of her tips with flats/handwashing challenge experience can reduce your […]

  • Alexa
    December 8, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    THIS WAS SO HELPFUL!!!! Alyssa, you rock. I’m due in a month with my first baby and have wanted to cloth diaper but didn’t know it could be done with no washer/dryer. Now I’m off to start making diapers…lol!!! I have a lot of catch-up work to do!!

  • January 25, 2013 at 11:05 am

    […] hand wash them (pre-rinsing and such) to save money. Last year, Alyssa wrote a guest post on cloth diapering without a washing machine, and she details her wash routine there. Hannah used flats while traveling to Italy, and while she […]

  • Kim
    January 23, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Call me crazy but we live in a nice apartment with our own washer and dryer that work great and I am still considering hand washing. Think how much you would save on your electric bill if you hand washed. Our water isn’t very high but electric is what kills us if we do an extra load of laundry.

  • January 22, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    I live in an apartment with no washer/drying and I’m doing the same thing right now. Except I only pre rinse with water, wash with soap and rinse again. I hate it but refuse to spend the money washing them at the laundromat too! I also appreciate the tea tree oil tip, I’m going to have to try that.

    • January 22, 2013 at 7:22 pm

      You rock! 😀

  • whitney
    November 26, 2012 at 12:44 am

    So glad I am not the only one crazy enough to hand wash cloth diapers. I have been washing every other day in my tub or bucket for the last 12 months. Somedays I want to quit and use disposables, but I know all my hard work is for my child’s bum. Thanks for the tip on tea tree oil, I will need to try that for my next presoak :)! P.s. my swish stick is a plunger

  • Amanda
    December 1, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Living in an apartment we decided against cloth diapering because of the laundry cost, etc. But 3 months in, we’ve changed our mind and are going to start cloth diapering. I am researching hand washing (love your post) … wondering how much tea tree oil / baking soda did you use in the bath soak?

    • December 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm

      I think she used about a Tablespoon. 🙂

  • April 30, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    How great! I will definitely book mark this in case I ever need it. It does make me feel inspired to at least try. 🙂 Thanks!

  • April 30, 2011 at 11:45 am

    what a great post. i’m totally into this & my son isn’t even in diapers any more.

  • April 27, 2011 at 2:33 am

    i was washing my diapers like this at first. but, i decided to just go down and use the coin operated machine. i live in an apartment. but i DO do the first rinse / wash in the tub before tossing in the diaper laundry. sometimes i dont even bother! you are a miracle! makes me want to dump my diapers in the tub now and hand wash! =] well, foot wash really … lol

  • Beth
    April 20, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Wow! I have my own washer, but it’s a bit sensitive (that’s what I get for having a 15 yr old washer, and being to cheap to buy a new one since we’re only planning on living here one more year!) I’ve debated washing them myself before, but usually by the time I decide I can do it, my washer decides it’s going to work (maybe it just wants to know I’m willing to do it’s job?!) Good to know it can be done. Oh, and I love the getto swish stick. We’ve got random strange things used for other things at our house too. Sometimes, you get something that can do the job, and you just go with it!

  • April 20, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Wow, amazing! That’s what my parents and grandparents used to do. But these days you deserve a monument in your name :)a

    • April 20, 2011 at 11:46 am

      LOL, I’m imagining a bath tub with a baseboard sticking out of it, with “Alyssa” emblazoned on the side. 😉

  • Hillary
    April 20, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Wow!!! I’m glad i have my own washer, but still.. That’s really impressive!!! Kudos!!!

  • April 20, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Really terrific post! Alyssa, you’re hilarious! Love the wine in the shot! An essential ingredient to limber up those arms, I’m guessing! 😉

    Kudos to you, mama! Your brave venture has debunked a lot of the scariness for so many of us! 😉


  • Alyssa
    April 20, 2011 at 10:56 am

    It really wasn’t that bad at all. And like I said, the diapers always came out extra clean with absolutely no left over residue from detergent.

  • Hannah
    April 20, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Wow, good job! I have done this once or twice when my washing machine was broken and it takes awhile but everything came out clean!

  • April 20, 2011 at 10:12 am

    I’m in an apartment and sometimes I just hand wash the diapers if the laundry room is too busy or if I don’t have change for the washer.

  • Courtney S
    April 20, 2011 at 9:26 am

    This is an awesome post! Thank you for the info! If I had to chose between hand washing and a laundromat or coin laundry, I would chose hand washing. I’m so allergic to name brand/mainstream detergents that I can’t even wash my clothes at a laundromat. I wouldn’t want to risk all of the softeners/brighteners/icky stuff that is in “community” washers getting into my diapers. I’m so in love with my diapers that I would be right there with Alyssa! By the way, Alyssa, you are a GREAT momma!

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