Cloth Diapering Myths Debunked


My first two children spent all their diaper years in paper diapers, and even though I felt small bursts of guilt when I thought of our contribution to landfills, I didn’t consider cloth diapers an option. I mean, cloth is so yukky and hard to do, right?

Wrong. But it took two cloth diapering friends to debunk my myths.

Myth 1. Washing Cloth Diapers is a lot of work.

It’s work, but not a lot of work. Like 2-3 small loads a week, and I don’t even fold, I pile. It’s also a little work to keep up a stash of paper diapers, and this is eliminated.

Myth 2. Cloth Diapers are uncomfortable to the baby/ aren’t as healthy as paper.

Maybe vinyl pants are uncomfortable, but not the new laminated or fleece cloth covers (which there are dozens of choices on). Paper diapers do tend to wick away better, keeping baby dry, but then mommies tend to rely on that and not change the paper diapers as often as they should (this was me!) and that paper diaper can heat up. Some people think hot paper diapers are associated in male infertility when those baby boys grow up. Whether or not this is true, I’m just glad to avoid those clear bead things (chemical absorbants) which are use in the paper diapers and the bleach in the paper which is a known carcinogen.

Myth 3. Cloth Diapers are ugly.

Oh, they are so cute, with colors, patterns . . . whatever your flair. What’s ugly is a plastic bag of cartoon printed paper diapers, and later a pile of soiled paper diapers.

Myth 4. Cloth Diapers and hard to put on.

There are several methods of diapering (inserts, all in ones, prefold plus cover, etc.) but each is pretty easy to learn. With the new Snappi fasteners, it’s easy to secure the cloth diaper without pins, and most covers velcro on like a paper diaper.

Myth 5. It’s better to throw away the mess.

A (non-stinking) diaper pail which is dumped into the wash is so much nicer than a trash can of diapers stinking up the garage every week. And, ever thought of all the poop entombed in the landfill forever? That seems like a ecological nightmare.

Myth 6. Paper Diapers are a pretty cheap luxury.

Huggies from Costco was costing us about $40/mo. That’s times 30 months or so (if they potty train early). I think I can get more fun out of $1200 than buying diapers. ūüôā

Myth 7. It’s All or Nothin’.

Even doing cloth diapers, I still use paper when we travel. And now on my 2 year old who is potty training (fingers crossed) and keeps the paper one dry a lot (Seventh Generation: no bleach in the paper diapers).

How To Start Cloth Diapers

There may be better ways to start cloth diapers, but I gave myself a challenge to spend about $80 and try it for 2 months. That way, if I hated it I could resell the diapers on diaperswappers.com and still be ahead money-wise.

I started reading some diaper websites, and was amazed at all the options (it can be overwhelming). What I finally settled on is the most simple, cost effective, and easiest method I know.

Cotton prefold from greenmountaindiapers.com because they are extra wide so they fit better. (Started with 12, at the end of my trial added another 12.)

Snappi from babyworks.com for fastening. (Started with 1, got another as a spare.)

Thirsties cover from babyworks.com to cover; reuse all day long unless a blowout. Fits well, few leaks, cute, good price. (Started with 3, but quickly had to buy 3 more so I could get through at least 2 days.)

Read about using Cloth Wipes here.

5 Gallon Bucket with lid which I had on hand; for throwing the soiled/wet diapers in (breastfed baby; but for baby eating food, the poop gets flushed down the toilet first). No solution in the bucket, I just dry bucket. When the bucket is full, I do laundry.

Laundering: dump bucket into washer, rinse bucket with 1 cup white vinegar which I then pour into wash. Rinse cycle on cold with vinegar. Wash cycle on hot with tiny bit of Bioclean soap and scoop Oxyclean. Second rinse in warm, no soap. Line dry the covers, send cloths through drier on hot (or line dry in summer).

That’s it.

It’s doable, cheap, and soft on my baby’s bum. What’s not to love?

Repurposed Decorations: Not-So-Fine Art

More on re-using items in decorating: old art (frames, canvases, etc.) can get a new life if you have an artistic streak, or are pretty handy with spray paint.

Here is a large framed printed canvas that I bought about 7 years ago at an auction for $5.

I had thought that I’d like to use the frame someday, probably repainted. It’s been in the attic all this time. Now 7 years later, I’m OK with the gold frame and the canvas itself gave me inspiration. I know the painting in there is a reproduction of something famous, but it doesn’t go in my house.

So I painted over it.

First, I masked off the frame from the canvas and applied a coat of Gesso (it’s like primer for art) that I got at Michael’s. Then I used oil paints to paint my picture (I was visiting my sister who is taking lessons and has a whole set of oil paints).This is my first dabble at oil painting.

The picture I painted is of my two boys playing outside in the early spring. I wanted something personal: it isn’t fine art, but I love it because it is meaningful. (And, to be honest, I’m delighted that the subjects even look human, and like my sons! Thanks, Mom, for all those art lessons years ago!)

Of course, my boys didn’t sit in that positions as models for hours so I could get the shadows right; so I snapped a photo to refer to as I painted.¬†Here is my photo.

First I sketched in the main parts of the picture with pencil, then painted it in. You can see  that I changed some of the elements in the photo to be more elegant (no crabby fence). Also: I painted in a well drafted room with the windows open.

Novice that I am, I had no idea that oil paintings can take weeks, even months to fully dry. I had to come back home before that time, so we very carefully wrapped the frame in paper and placed a board over it to survive the trip home.

Then my new “art” got a place of honor on my mantel.

Here it is at Easter time with some spring moss, lamb, and bird.

Have you kept an item out of the landfill by repainting or re-purposing it in your home?

I’m linking to a blog party on mantels at Funky Junk Interiors.

Feathering My Nest the Clean Green Way

The concept of re-using things is certainly a “green” idea. But it’s not always a “clean” idea, as in non-toxic. Some old pieces of furniture carry an ugly past ‚ÄĒmildew, lead paint‚ÄĒ that can pollute your home if you bring them in unawares.

Recently I’ve been enjoying a number of DIY decorator blogs (like theinspiredroom.net and funkyjunkinteriors.blogspot.com), and with 6 weeks until my baby’s due date (and nesting instinct in full gear!) the inspiration has been enough for me to take action, scour craigslist.com for cool vintage items, break out the sand paper, and start feathering my nest. So how to balance a love for vintage items with a determination not to bring toxic stuff into my home? Here’s my go-to list:

  • Check items for signs of mildew (black spotting on wood) and odors. No smoke, mold, or animal smells welcome!
  • Check for peeling paint/other finishes, and be aware of work involved to restore pieces. There’s a real design trend for “chippy white paint” and “weathered finishes” but these are just asking for home contamination as they continue to wear.
  • When attempting a restoration project, be aware of the risks involved with both dust and chemical inhalation. Choose low or zero VOC products (paint), apply in a ventilated area, and wear protective gear.
  • Vacuum and wash/scrub all items with a rag and water, vinegar if needed, before bring into your home.
  • Clean up your mess as you go, so paint chips from old furniture, etc. don’t spread around your work area/home.

Want to see some of the things I’ve been working on?

Drawers

Old drawer used as a kitchen table tray

These drawers (3 of them) came inside this cute old cabinet which I snagged free off of craigslist. (Yes, free!)

Old cabinet

OK, so it isn’t so cute in this picture, but wait until you see my after photo (coming later…). The lady I got it from had scraped half of the paint off, and was done with the project, so I took over. I love the scraped look of the drawers, so with a thorough inspection and washing I brought them inside.

The first drawer is used as a tray on my kitchen table with a basket of napkins and glass bowl of flowers in it. It keeps things a little neater and gives the whole group presence.

Here is another drawer, which I’ve used to hold books in the living room. Love how it again gives presence to the grouping, as well as allowing them to be displayed upright on a trunk.

Drawer used to tidy coffe table books

(By the way, how do you like the architectural paper book covers? I’ve seen this treatment in Pottery Barn to simplify the random colors of a stack of books. My husband thought I was crazy to “cover up all the color.” Hmm, I’ll have to live with it awhile and see if I miss the color. )

Old Mirror

Here is another project that I got for free off craigslist (gotta love free stuff). I actually drove over to get this old mirror, and left because it was too decrepit, then thought, hey, free is free, turned around and went back for it. The lady said it had been hanging on the side of the barn. Oh my. Do you see where the mirror backing is peeling from the frame mirror pieces?

Peeling old mirror

It sat in my garage for 2 months before I figured out a brilliant solution: scrape away what’s coming off, and paint those areas of the mirror black. So, with dust mask and rubber gloves, and a vacuum to clean my mess and not allow it to spread, I scraped the backing off those side pieces. Then I carefully masked up the other areas, and sprayed it with black satin spray paint. It was not a low VOC spray paint (I don’t know of one, do you?), but I did this job outside, in a full breeze, while wearing gloves, a mask, and holding my breath for spurts, then walking away to catch my breath again. (A pain, but I think this is about the only way to do spray painting with a chemical awareness.)

Here is the finished product in my living room.

Old mirror new

Amazing, eh? I think so! This was a completely blank corner, so it’s really added a lot to the space.

Oh, and here are the books before being covered with paper. Thoughts on the difference?

Do you have some fun before and afters from feathering your nest?

I’m linking to a blog party on uses for old drawers at FunkyJunkInteriors and a linky party for inspiration at TheInspiredRoom.

Thinking Like Grandma

It has to be the mother of all earth-friendly mantras. The idea of leaving less trash behind you on the earth, and using fewer resources, distilled down into three words. Reduce, reuse, recycle.¬† It seems like we’ve seen it printed on the backs of natural products and the front of waste receptacles for years. But do we ever think about what it would look like in our daily lives?

I, for one, used to think only of the last word, recycle. Growing up in CA, recycling meant getting money back for aluminum cans. As an adult, the local residential recycling program raised my awareness that glass and plastic should also be recycled. Oh, and paper and cardboard too. My family is now using the third size/type of curbside recycling container supplied to us by our waste management company in the last 8 years (I hope they recycle the other plastic ones!), and it’s certainly the largest, coming in one third larger than our garbage can. But I’m actually proud to say that we don’t even fill it half full each week (same as with the garbage can). And I’ll tell you why.

I’m proud we don’t fill the whole bin¬†because we are doing more of those two first words in the 3Rs: Reduce and Reuse. Recycling is only the last ditch¬†effort to not let something go into a landfill. Before you relinquish it, think of all the ways you might use it. You might call this thinking like Grandma.

I have one great-grandmother who immigrated as a mail order bride from Switzerland (she and Grandpa had known each other as children) just before the Great Depression. My grandfather, her son,¬†told me¬†he didn’t think she noticed the depression much since poverty had always been¬†her way of life. When I knew her, she was elderly, but still cultivated every square inch of their city lot for fruit, veggies, poultry, or flowers,¬†and hung out each load of laundry, including carefully rinsed paper towels. Her clothes were patched, and repatched; clean of course. I’m sure she boiled¬†into soup every bone that came across her table (see Bone Broth). Her back porch was filled with glass and plastic jars and newspapers which she kept for reuse in food storage, gardening, and then would give her overflow of newspapers to the church for fundraiser recycling. She did not see these “reuses” as a sign of poverty, rather as a sign of the great wealth (no hunger)¬†which she and grandpa had been blessed with through their hard work in this land of opportunity.

Of course, my other great-grandmothers and grandmothers all lived during the Great Depression, and I can think of ways in which they all were, and those living still are, frugal in their daily habits, including reusing and recycling. Necessity made them reduce, and reusing and recycling were the natural results.

As my family has had reduced income in the past year, reducing has become a necessity. It’s exciting to think of all the¬†ways¬†we’ll¬† be¬†making better habits, just like my grandmothers. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • We purchase milk and eggs directly from the farms; the egg cartons we return to the farmer, and the glass milk jar is in continuous-loop reuse.
  • I don’t plan to rinse out my paper towels for line drying, but have switched over to cloth rags for most cleaning jobs. They’ll be hung to dry as soon as we can get the lines installed (and the weather accommodates).
  • I have switched to cloth diapers; they also will get line drying soon. However, when traveling I do use paper diapers. I just keep positive by rejoicing about all the waste I’m avoiding during the majority of the time! Even if you aren’t ready to take the plunge into cloth diapers, I highly recommend cloth wipes for use with your baby (see my post on Cloth Wipes for Diapering). Traditional disposable wipes are often laced with dangerous chemicals; going to cloth means you get to choose what cleanser is being wiped onto your baby’s bottom each day.
  • We buy¬†most of our children’s clothing, and some of mine, at resale shops; and I enjoy resaling our cast-offs for credit.
  • I made a patchwork quilt out of a number of old plaid shirts of my husband’s. It turned out so cute that I gave it as a baby gift, and have cut out another from the rest of those shirts to make one for my baby boy. You would be amazed at how much fabric is in a man’s shirt.
  • I’ve been reading about using newspaper for starting a garden bed by covering the sod, then piling it with compost. What a great way to reduce (the need for weed cloth), and reuse (the newspaper). Since there seem to be moisture concerns with weedcloth (and it’s expensive), this seems like a win-win idea for the perimeter beds I’m planning in our yard.
  • We compost all our veggie scraps, non-meat/dairy table scraps, and egg shells. Better dirt, less garbage.
  • I collect all the glass jars which come into our home filled with jam, salsa, marinara sauce, etc. I reuse these when storing smaller amounts of pantry items bought in bulk (beans, popcorn . . . looks so pleasant on the shelves, too!) or leftovers. Glass jars can also be used for culturing dairy or storing frozen liquids, or in the garage for holding nails and screws. My collection of glass jars is beginning to overwhelm my kitchen, so this month I’m going to sort them, and store some in the garage until the summer when I can make lanterns from them to hold tea lights around our back patio.
  • A habit which I need to¬†build is taking my reusable bags into the market weekly. My excuse for forgetting (three children in tow) should be my reason for remembering: start this as a habit in their lives. Nonetheless, when a plastic shopping bag does come home, it gets a second life as a bathroom garbage can liner before ending in the landfill.
  • Making most of our food from scratch, mainly from bulk ingredients or fresh produce, is probably the greatest means of our garbage reduction. Besides having a much greater amount of packaging, and being more costly at the checkout, prepared foods are a drain on your health.
  • Still need the convenience of prepared food? Prepare it ahead yourself: double the recipe size which you normally prepare, and freeze the excess for an easy reheated meal. For salad, wash and chop your salad ingredients when you get home from the market. Keep the oversized salad in the refrigerator¬†all week long, quickly pulling out what you need for a meal, and adding the toppings which you desire on that day (tomatoes should be reserved for cutting until use; they make the salad soggy, and turn mealy in the fridge).
  • I recently created a place under my kitchen sink for recycles (finally!). Read about it in my post called Creating a Recycle Center.

Leave a comment with creative ways you are reducing, reusing, and recycling!

Creating a Recycle Center

It suddenly hit me: I wouldn’t pile trash on the counter waiting for a chance to take it to the garage. I have a kitchen trash can for it. So why am I still piling my recycles on the counter?

Here’s a picture of my counter, cluttered with recycles: Root Beer bottles, newspaper, ziplocks box, butter box, vitamin bottles, etc. I hate clutter, and I too often have chucked “small” pieces of recycling (junk mail) in the trash because I just wanted to be done with it.

And here is my under-sink area, which I thought was fully used, until I realized what a necessity a recycles bin is. I was storing flower vases under there, stuffed with plastic shopping bags for lining bathroom trash cans. The vases I moved to a high shelf, and the bags I consolidated.

Then I rearranged my cleansers and garbage can, and my new recycle bin fits perfectly! The rainbow stripe decoration on the reused shipping box is complements of my two artistic children (6 and 4 years).

Here is my newly efficient garbage and recycling center! New habits, new way of life.