Cloth diapering in an apartment can seem like an overwhelming task, and indeed there are some challenges to overcome, but there are many families who have made it work and I want to encourage you that you can too.
This guide will cover everything you need to know in order to successfully cloth diaper in an apartment. Here is a brief overview of the steps to take. You can read about each step in-depth down below.
- Find out what amenities the apartment offers and read the lease policies (some may state portable washer/dryers are NOT allowed).
- Determine which washing and drying system you will use: In-Unit washer/dryer, Shared laundry facility, Laundry service, Portable washer/dryer, Handwashing, Line-drying.
Research Which Amenities The Apartment Offers
If you are still hunting for an apartment, try to find one that has in-unit washing machines and dryers. This will eliminate the most difficult (though not insurmountable) challenge of cloth diapering in an apartment, which is washing and drying the diapers without your own washer/dryer.
If you plan to use a shared laundry facility, make sure the apartment has one and that there are no prohibitions against washing cloth diapers in the lease policy.
You’ll also want to check your lease if you plan to use a portable washer or dryer. Some policies may state that portable appliances such as these are NOT allowed. Installing them could breach your lease so make sure you are following the rules set by your landlord.
Options For Laundering Cloth Diapers In An Apartment
In Unit Washer/Dryer
The most obvious and easiest solution for cloth diapering in an apartment is to rent a unit that already has a washing machine and dryer installed. If you are still searching for a place to live, an in-unit washer and dryer is an important amenity to consider. It could be well worth a higher rent payment, especially if you are planning to use cloth for a long time.
Shared Laundry Facility
It is possible to cloth diaper in an apartment even if your only laundering option is to use a shared laundry room. First, check with your landlord to make sure it is allowed.
Next, consider the cost of using coin-operated machines. You’ll need to calculate the monthly expense of laundering your stash. Compare this cost to that of using disposable diapers. There are a few eco-friendly disposable options, such as The Honest Company Diapers (find them on Amazon here), that are manufactured without nasty chemicals.
Check out this blog post by Pumpkin & Pickle to get an idea of how much it costs to launder cloth diapers in a shared laundry facility, as well as some great tips for wash routines.
If you do decide to use the shared apartment laundry room here are a few tricks to make it easier:
Seriously consider using flats or prefolds because these types of diapers will come clean very easily and dry fast. All-In-Two systems can also work, but the main thing to consider is the number of layers thick the absorbent part of the diaper is. The more layers, the harder it will be to clean, and the longer it will take to dry. A flat is only 1 layer thick and you won’t have any trouble laundering them. If you use thicker diapers such as All-In-Ones you may need to run an additional wash cycle.
When your baby poops try to get as much of the solids off and into the toilet right away. A cloth diaper sprayer works great for this and will also make Tip 3 incredibly easier. Here is a link to a great budget-friendly sprayer on Amazon.
Another option is to use a dedicated “poop spatula” to scrap the solids off, or just dunk and swish the diapers in the toilet. If you use the dunk and swish method, it helps to flush the toilet a time or two as you are swishing.
Pre-Rinse the diapers in your own unit. Pre-Rinsing the diapers will eliminate the need to run a pre-wash cycle in the coin-machine, which will save you money!
Like I mentioned in Tip 2, the sprayer works best for this because you can spray the diapers down over the toilet and then they will be ready to go into your diaper pail for storage until wash day. Make sure to leave the diapers fairly saturated with water as this will help prevent stains from setting in and the diapers will come clean easier in the wash cycle. It is generally recommended that you wash at least every 3 days.
If you don’t have a diaper sprayer you can fill a large tub of some kind (bucket, bathtub, sink, pail, tote, etc) with water and use some kind of stick to agitate the diapers for a few minutes. A popular tool for agitating is a toilet plunger (use a new one and dedicate it to cleaning your diapers). After you agitate the diapers gently wring them out and then toss them into the diaper pail.
One of the best ways to overcome the challenges of laundering diapers in an apartment is to simple not do it! Hire a cloth diaper laundry service to do it for you. Unfortunately, these services are not available in all locations so check to see if there is a local cloth diaper service near you before you get too excited.
Here’s how it works. You’ll sign up and decide which type of cloth diapers you want to use. Your options will vary based upon the company. Some companies offer prefolds only, while others may have many types to choose from, such as fitteds and All-In-Ones. You will have to research what will be provided in the package you choose (diaper covers, wet bags, pails, and liners, etc).
The diaper service will deliver clean and sanitized cloth diapers to your door. They’ll provide enough diapers to get you by until they return to pickup the soiled diapers. This could be once or twice per week.
The nice thing about laundry service is that you don’t have to worry about getting any poop off of the diapers, you simply toss the dirty cloth into a wet bag or pail and then on pickup day you leave the dirty diapers in front of your door. The diaper service will come and pick up the soiled laundry and leave you with more fresh and clean fluff. Voila!
Prices for this service will vary based upon where you live. The closest diaper service to me charges $25 per week.
Portable Washing Machines & Dryers
My personal favorite solution for cloth diapering in an apartment is the portable washer and dryer. This innovation makes life so much easier for people who need to do laundry without access to traditional hookups. These machines are smaller than normal washer and dryers (which is great for apartments) but still handle a decent load size.
Portable washing machines will come with two hoses. One to fill the drum with water and one to drain the water out of the drum. The hose that fills the washer up will attach to a faucet or showerhead with an adapter. The hose that drains the soiled water out is placed inside of a bathtub, sink or toilet.
In the image above, Kelly Hyde used a splitter on the shower arm which makes it very easy to change the flow of water between the showerhead to the washing machine hose. Attaching the washer hose to the shower allows the drum to fill much faster than if you were to attach it to a faucet. She also prefers to drain the soiled water into her toilet (just make sure your machine won’t overflow your toilet bowl).
Kelly uses the 2IN1 Mini Compact Twin Tub Washing Machine + Spinner Combo, which is the winner of the Best Budget Portable Washing Machine.
Budget Pick Portable Washing Machine:
The 2IN1 Mini Compact Twin Tub Washing Machine + Spinner Combo has a washer capacity of 11 pounds and also has a separate tub for spinning out excess water. This is an awesome feature for cloth diapers because it cuts down on dry time, especially if you line-dry your diapers. You can find this washer on Amazon here.
Top Pick Portable Washing Machine:
This Giantex portable washing machine is compact yet can handle a load of cloth diapers with its 9.92 pound capacity. The easy to read LED panel has 10 programs and 8 water levels selections to choose from. It is easy to use and plugs into a standard outlet. This washer is also available on Amazon here.
Here is a video review of the Giantex in action.
Portable Dryers are electric and can be plugged into any standard outlet. Check out this super helpful video to learn about venting an indoor portable dryer.
Top Pick Portable Dryer
The Panda Portable Dryer can be plugged into any standard outlet and is perfect for apartments because of its compact size. If you’re not sure about keeping up with a line-dry cloth diaper routine you might want to consider a portable dryer like the Panda. Another pro of using a dryer vs line-drying is how fluffy soft the diapers will be when they come out of the dryer, unlike line-drying which can sometimes leave diapers feeling a bit crunchy and hard.
The Panda is available on Amazon here.
If you’re like me, the thought of hand-washing diapers isn’t an option that you would even entertain. This was my initial reaction when I first heard about this method, however, after doing more research I have been very surprised to learn that a LOT of parents hand wash their cloth diapers.
For some, this is their ONLY option, but it is possible and you can effectively clean cloth diapers by hand. Here are some ways to do it:
The Wonder Wash
The Wonder Wash is a hand-crank portable washing machine that requires no hookups. You can clean small loads in 1-2 minutes with this affordable, compact machine. This is an ideal option for apartments because it takes up much less space than regular washer and dryers, and is also much smaller than the electric portable laundering machines.
Check out this great how-to video by a mom who washed her cloth diapers in the Wonder Wash for nearly a year.
You can purchase the Wonder Wash from Amazon here.
Bucket & Plunger
The Bucket & Plunger Method is one of the cheapest and most popular ways to “hand-wash” cloth diapers. Many moms have told me that this how they started out laundering their stash while living in an apartment, and that it worked great for them.
You can use almost any tub or container to do this, but a simple option is to use a 5-gallon bucket or a large plastic tub. You can also use a bathtub, tote, laundry pail, or sink. Basically, anything that will hold your stash and that you don’t mind being full of soiled diaper water.
You’ll want to purchase a new plunger to use exclusively for agitating the diapers. This handheld “breathing mobile washer” is another option. You could also simply use your hands if you’re in a pinch (wear gloves to protect yourself from contact with detergent).
- Step 1
Throw your soiled diapers into your container and fill it up with warm water. Allow the load to soak in warm water for a half-hour or so. This pre-soak will make it easier to get the diapers clean in the next step.
- Step 2
After the diapers have soaked for a while dump the dirty water out of the container. Now it’s time to add your detergent. Start with a small amount. If you find the diapers are not getting clean you can increase the amount of detergent you use. Fill your container up again with warm water and then begin agitating the load. Agitate the diapers for several minutes.
- Step 3
Dump out the soapy water and then fill the container back up with warm water to begin rinsing. Once you container is full of clean warm water commence agitating again. You may need to repeat this rinse step several times until there are little to no suds left in the water.
- Step 4
After the load has been thoroughly rinsed, dump out as much water as you can and then gently wring and squish the water out of each diaper. Try to be gentle on the elastics so that they don’t get stretched out too much. That’s it! Now your cloth diapers should be squeaky clean. On to the drying method!
Line-Drying cloth diapers is easy if you live somewhere with a big yard and clothesline, but for apartment dwellers, a bit more creativity is required to find a good place to hang all that fluff. Here are a few ideas to help get you started.
Best Budget Pick:
Folding Drying Rack – These Racks are a great option for small apartments because they fold down and can be stored away. They are also very lightweight and portable so you can move them around or set them outside on your porch for sunning stains and disinfecting diapers. Here is a link to the AmazonBasics Foldable Rack which is only $26.99.
Best For A Large Stash
Laundry Drip Hanger – This hanging rack is great if you have a lot of diapers and diaper covers in your stash. This rack is also collapsible and comes with up to 52 clips. Also available on Amazon here.
Best Free Method
The truth is you can hang your diapers up anywhere to dry. Look around your apartment for any places that will work nicely to drape a diaper over such as the shower curtain rod, the backs of chairs, your balcony or porch railing. For a larger stash, you can hang the diapers on clothes hangers and then place them in the closet or over the shower rod. For quicker dry time point a fan towards the diapers.