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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

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How to Cloth Diaper on Vacation

When we planned a three-week trip to France and Spain with our 12-month old twins the thought of NOT cloth diapering only briefly crossed my mind. Then I thought: “Do I really want to try to find disposable diapers in Europe every other day”? Ugh…no. Nor did I want to pack everything in my luggage. So we took our cloth and survived. In fact, I think the boys and we were all happier because of it. Here’s how we did it.

The supplies:

We use flats and covers (Flips) when we’re out and about. Our flats are simple birdseye cotton flats; I had enough to last 2 days/boy. I find these the most forgiving in unfamiliar washing machines. I use either cloth diaper-safe detergent sample packs or Eco Nuts liquid detergent while traveling—these are simple, effective, and light-weight. I also bring my collapsible drying hanger (The New Clothesline Co. DUO) and, for this trip, two large, two medium, and one small wetbag, and a handful of cloth wipes. We also brought 1 package of disposable Flip inserts (18/package) to use just before and on the plane trips to minimize the number of heavy, wet diapers we packed in our luggage and carry ons.

The facilities:

Most places we stayed (apartments and Bed & Breakfasts) had washing machines. Only one apartment, in Paris, didn’t have laundry facilities. That was the first place we stayed, so we had a backlog of diapers to wash from the plane trip over. Fortunately, there was a Laundromat near by. One of the B&Bs did our laundry for us, at the other, I had free use of the washer and dryer at night after the B&B laundry was done. The apartments each had a washing machine and a clothesline.

The process:

When we were out, we packed clean diapers, extra covers, wipes, the “dirties” wetbag, and the changing pad into a medium wetbag and tossed it under a stroller. We transitioned the dirties to a large wetbag that served as a laundry bag back at the room. I will use a wet/dry bag when I do it again to minimize the number of items I have to remember to pack in the stroller.

We didn’t have our trusty diaper sprayer on the trip so resorted to the old dunk and swish, which worked great until the boys each started working on 4 molars and wanted to eat raisins all day long…gross. I got proficient at using the jet of water in the toilet during the flush to act as a “sprayer” for the stickiest messes then scrubbed the rest in the toilet bowl. For urine, I just rinsed the diaper very well before putting it in the wetbag to reduce the possibility of ammonia buildup.

We washed diapers every day when we had clotheslines (to account for drying time) and every other day when we had dryers. At first I was nervous about using unfamiliar washing machines and felt the need to strip the machine before washing the diapers. With Eco Nuts, this is easy: just run an empty wash with the detergent and, voilá!, you’re set. However, when you’re at a Laundromat with tiny, European washers, this can get pricey…an empty wash, a pre-wash with a detergent wash, and an extra rinse (all separately paid “washes”, eep! Thank goodness the dryers were HUGE and efficient, as we paid 1euro/10 minutes. The huge benefit to flats is that they dry in about 10-20 minutes in a dryer). So after the first day, I ditched stripping the washing machines. (If I was very concerned, I ran a load of clothing with my detergent before running diapers). The only place this was a problem was at the B&B that washed my diapers. I gave them my detergent and told them how to use it (they spoke impeccable English) but my diapers came out scented—their normal detergent must have had a strong scent and there was probably residue in the machine. Again, the benefit to cotton flats is that another wash will take out anything you don’t want in them.

It was a bit tricky figuring out the settings on French and Spanish washing machines, thank goodness “Pre” is the same in every language. I typically used a cotton wash cycle at 60° with a pre-wash and then did a short wash to act as my extra rinse when I couldn’t find the extra rinse setting.

In the end, with a little creativity by means of the diaper sprayer and a little flexibility on the washing regiment, we got by without any blowouts, rashes, buildup, or other diaper-disasters. I owe the most of our success to using cotton flats and covers. Once we were in Europe, using disposables never even crossed my mind except to thank the stars that we could spend that money on tasty treats and fun outings instead!

Oh, and if you’re thinking about international travel with kiddos who still need highchairs…think about getting an Onya. These awesome front/back carriers convert any chair into a baby seat and saved the boys’ cloth-diapered behinds almost every day in Europe!

Bio: Martha Growdon is a Geologist and mom of 13-month-old fraternal twin boys in Houston, TX. Flats and flips are her go-to cloth diapering system and she loves to show people how easy is it to use cloth.

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