How to wash diapers without electricity. A simple guide to how we washed our cloth diapers when we weren’t able to use a washing machine and dryer.
Woe is us… or is it, woe are us? Friday at 11pm our electricity went out here in Maryland; there were over a million people without power. We would have headed over to visit family out of state, but we had a lot going on at home this week that we couldn’t miss.
We were without power from Friday at 11pm until today, Monday, at 4:30pm. Imagine our excitement as we sat out back in the baby pool when we heard the air conditioners start up! Yeah we were roughing it alright, out in the baby pool. We are so weak, can you imagine how our grandparents, great grandparents, etc. lived? Gasp. God forbid we ever experience a zombie apocalypse.
This power outage was a real bummer though. I lost about 60oz of frozen breastmilk… and two gallons of ice cream… which happens to be my favorite coping mechanism! Fortunately, we had a backup plan… drinking (just a glass!)…
Here’s my thoughts on no electricity. I think we should all lose power for a couple days each year so we truly appreciate how great we have it and spend more quality family time together. It really makes you think outside the box when you don’t have electronics flashing everywhere to keep you overstimulated. It also meant I got a lot more sleep than normal… it was awesome.
Washing Cloth Diapers without Electricity
We did have to think outside the box a little though to wash these diapers. Our bathtub is in a room with no windows. My husband rigged this great light to help me see while I was washing diapers by hand (more on this later!)… yes, that’s a tripod, some duct tape, and a flashlight!
Due to the power outage, we didn’t have hot water either as our hot water heater is powered with electric. I could have boiled water and mixed with a bit of cold to get a “hot wash,” but felt that it was unnecessary.
Step 1: Make sure you rinse all of your poopy diapers as normal… I use a diaper sprayer to rinse in the toilet. You can dunk and swirl your diaper in the toilet. I like to remove the inserts from my pockets for this because otherwise the insert soaks up all the dirty water.
Step 2: I soaked all of my inserts, diapers, and wipes in a bathtub full of water. I swished them around a lot.
Step 3: I wrung out the diapers, inserts, and drained the tub. I didn’t want to transfer “urine water” into the clean wash.
Step 4: I filled the bathtub with water again and added my normal detergent. I had to guestimate here on how much detergent to use. It’s better to use too little than too much. Too much detergent used in a wash can cause build up on clothing and diapers.
This is the step that you want to add hot water if you want a hot wash. DO NOT add boiling water and burn yourself. Please. If you use hot water, you want to mix boiling water with cold water in the tub BEFORE adding your dirty items… you want the temperature to be around the same temperature you normally wash on.
Step 5: I found something to use as a washing board, seeing I didn’t have one just hanging around. I used this old shelving rack, and put a prefold under it to keep it from scraping my bathtub up. I also was careful not to tear my diapers on the jagged edges. BE CAREFUL of whatever you use. You don’t want to harm your diapers.
Scrub a dub dub? Scrub the dirty part of the diaper (the inside) and the inserts down the “washing board” to help rub away any stains. Careful not to tear the diapers.
Step 6: After I scrubbed each diaper, I would rinse it with clean water, wring it out, and place it in the laundry basket to transfer outdoors to dry. In the picture, I have the unwashed diapers on my left, the diapers I’m washing currently inside the bathtub, and behind me (not shown) there’s a laundry basket with the clean diapers. It looks like there’s lots of light in the bathroom but that’s just the flash on the camera… those candles and the flashlight were “it.”
How to Dry Cloth Diapers without Electricity
The best way to dry laundry without electricity is to line dry it! The sun and fresh air are good for laundry, and the sun can even remove stains. You can use a rack or put up a clothesline.
Drying cloth diapers, especially prefolds and inserts, takes a while so save yourself enough time between loads to make sure you don’t run out.
Some areas forbid drying laundry outside, as do some HOAs. Our HOA in Maryland gave me a citation for this (during a power outage, what dicks). Fun fact though? Maryland has a right to dry law. I was in the process of moving so I didn’t bother to argue (they just told me to move it), but it’s something to look into if you have an HOA that gives you a problem about drying laundry.
If you absolutely cannot dry outside or worry about laundry being stolen, line drying inside works too. You just won’t have the benefit of sunshine.
And yeah… sure, we could have run to the store to get disposables… but that wouldn’t have been environmentally friendly or a financially wise decision. I wanted to see what it would be like to wash diapers by hand. Now I know.
Whenever I do things like this I feel a little closer to the generations of women who came before me. I like that.
I’m not sure if Grandma cloth diapered, but I know that my great grandma and my great great grandma had to have… so it’s special. It’s hard to appreciate what we have if we forget how little former generations had.
DIY “Washing Machine” Made with a Bucket
People who need a long term solution for cloth diapering without a washing machine, dryer, and/or electricity say these DIY bucket washing machines are fantastic for getting things clean. This is a great option if you plan to be off grid.
Here’s a great video showing how to use a bucket to make a homemade washing machine for your cloth diapers.
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Danielle Pientka is the sewing and DIY blogger behind DIYDanielle.com. She taught herself to sew in 2011 when she wanted to make cloth diapers for her first son. She’s been sewing everything from ecofriendly items to kids products to clothing since, as it has become a passion. She loves learning how to do new things and teaching others in the process. She hopes to inspire other moms to take time for themselves to find their own creative passion.
Danielle lives in Maryland with her three young sons and her husband, Brandon. In her spare time, she gardens, reads, horseback rides, and has a small homestead with goats and ducks. Visit her shop to buy patterns or her sewing eBooks. Subscribe to her newsletter to get blog updates, free patterns and other printables by clicking here.