Cloth diapers look great with a shower cap and socks.

Literally. But more on that later.

Our washing machine quit last Wednesday, with a load of dirty cloth diapers inside it. On Saturday, a repair technician declared it “not worth fixing.” As we await its replacement, we’re heading into our sixth day without a washing machine.

“First world problems” notwithstanding, this sucks.

We’re fortunate that our neighbours have offered us the use of their machine, but I can’t bring myself to wash cloth diapers in someone else’s washer. After two trips to the laundromat in three days, we decided it was more sensible to switch to disposables until our own laundry is back up and running.

Save for a handful of disposables that we tested out in Oliver’s early weeks, we’ve been exclusively cloth diapering for the past 15 months. We’ve used cloth through stomach bugs, international air travel and even a 10-day sailing trip! Despite our present lack of in-suite laundry, we are still using cloth diapers overnight, as the disposables are so thin that I can’t imagine they would successfully keep Oliver dry for his 12 to 13 hour sleeps. We are leaving our overnight diapers to soak in a pail of water, since they are only wet, not soiled. Hopefully we’ll have our new machine in a couple of days, and those few diapers should be none the worse for the wear.

We had a package of Safeway’s Mom to Mom diapers in our earthquake evacuation kit, and on Saturday I began using them in place of our beloved cloth diapers. As far as disposables go, I will give these diapers credit where credit is due. They are unscented. There’s no nauseating, artificial “baby” smell (*ahem* Pampers). They are softer than I expected them to be, and so far they have not irritated Oliver’s sensitive skin. They are relatively inexpensive, at $10 for 31 diapers.

They are also paper thin, which some might consider an asset, but it’s a problem for us because Oliver’s pants — purchased with cloth diapers in mind — keep falling down! The rise is so high that the diapers go a third of the way up his back and stick several inches above the waistline of his pants. I guess this is to protect against up-the-back poop explosions? In any case, I’m thankful that Oliver is eating solids now because there’s no way the leg “elastics” on these diapers would contain runny newborn poop the way the cloth diapers did.

I feel like I am diapering my child with paper, which I guess I am. I also feel like these diapers cannot possibly be comfortable for Oliver, after he’s been accustomed to only soft fabrics and cushy padding against his most sensitive parts. Fortunately, he’s not complaining.

But the most surprising revelation about disposable diapers has been that they stink horribly when soiled. I can tell as soon as Oliver has peed, because I can actually smell it! When he pooped yesterday, I noticed the smell from more than 50 feet away. And don’t even get me started on the diaper pail. We are using the same latching diaper pail we use for the cloth diapers, but lined with a plastic garbage bag instead of a washable pail liner. On Saturday evening, after not even a full day of using disposables, the stench in Oliver’s room was overwhelming — with the pail closed and latched! I should mention that there was no solid waste in the pail, since we empty it in the toilet before disposing of the diaper (did you know that you’re supposed to do that?). I now understand why people buy expensive and complicated diaper disposal systems.

We normally change Oliver’s cloth diapers every hour and a half to two hours, but I’m finding that I need to change the disposable diapers even more frequently because I can smell every single pee. Lucky for Oliver; not so lucky for the environment or our bank account.

Disposable diapers are more convenient given our present circumstances, but I really don’t like them.  Our recent exploits have only served to confirm that we made the right decision for our family when we chose cloth diapers. I can’t wait until our new washing machine arrives so I can put these diapers back where they belong: in our emergency evacuation kit.


  1. Good for you. I admire all who have gone down the cloth diaper path. Wish I could have bit the bullet (sucked up my paranoia of poo) and used cloth diapers. You must have saved SO MUCH MONEY!!

    • Funny story: a few months ago I had a somewhat heated discussion with a relative who was relentlessly criticizing our decision to use cloth. She kept reiterating how disgusting cloth is, and that there is a reason disposables were invented. She didn’t even want to hear what I had to say. Finally, I called her out, “Have you ever used cloth diapers yourself, or are you just making judgements based on what you *imagine* it might be like to use cloth? Because unless you’ve tried them yourself, you have absolutely no basis to criticize.”

      Fast forward to today, and I now fully understand exactly where she was coming from :). Changing poopy disposables is gag-worthy. If you’ve never used cloth before, you automatically translate that level of grossness to the idea of cloth diapering, and then add in the fact that you have to re-visit all your diapers (and handle them!) every two days for laundering. I can see why the notion would be completely off-putting. But the reality is that poop in cloth diapers is not nearly as bad as you’d expect. We line ours with flushable tissue liners and just dump the liner and any solid waste into the toilet and flush. Most of the time, there’s not even any poop on the diapers when they go into the laundry! And the poop simply doesn’t smell as nasty in cloth as it does in disposables.

      All that said, this week I sure am glad that disposables exist!! 🙂

  2. I found that the disposable ones were not able to handle the amount of fluid my little man can produce. He still wets through the cloth occasionally, but nothing compared to the the disposables. Totally agree with the stink assessment as well.
    I knew they would save us money, but I had no idea I would actually PREFER them!

    • The nice thing about cloth is that you can always customize the absorbency with inserts and doublers. We had some early problems with the BumGenius diapers leaking overnight, but then we started triple-stuffing them (one regular insert plus two doublers) and they never leak – even after Oliver’s occasional 14 hour sleeps.

      When we started out with cloth, I was hoping that I “wouldn’t mind” dealing with them, but after this stint with disposables, I realize that cloth diapering is actually *less* gross and smelly. Who’d have thought?

  3. Very reassuring. I’ve been wanting to switch to cloth for some time and didn’t for that reason (stinkiness).

    Love your blog – very inspiring! All the best.

  4. I remember using one of the “natural” brands of disposables early on. Earth’s Best I think? Anyway, yeah, they smelled SO bad. Aside from the frequent laundering, I don’t find cloth diapers difficult to deal with at all. Unfortunately (sort of), I had to ditch them. We’re using gDiapers gRefills now and they don’t stink at all. Hope your washing machine is repaired soon!

    • We used a few “Broody Chick” diapers when Oliver was a newborn, and I don’t remember any bad smell, but I don’t know if that’s because of the diapers, or because it was newborn pee, which is essentially odourless. I didn’t buy those diapers this time around because they were a little too compostable for my liking (i.e. degrading during use).

      We’re getting a new washer on Saturday – yay!

  5. My husband and I wanted to go as natural as possible and were hoping to use cloth diapers. Unfortunately, where we live in Germany we couldn’t find a service to provide them for our twins. We started using ‘natural’ disposable diapers, but the stores didn’t keep them in stock. We ended up with huggies and they don’t have all the deoderent smell of Pampers and others. The nice thing is that our girls have been potty training since they were 4 months old, so they usually tell us when they need to go.
    Now that they are almost 10 months, I plan to try out the cloth training pants we purchased to further encourage them to going on the potty and being out of diapers sooner. The potty training has helped so much with saving diapers and the stink.

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