Friday, February 20, 2015

Cloth diapers - can you wash them without your own washer?

Once again, another major news article has tossed off the line "the poor can't use cloth diapers, because 1) laundromats won't allow them to be washed in their machines, and 2) daycares won't accept them.
I made some phone calls today to the laundromats in our area, Harrisburg, PA.

Classic Dry Cleaning and Laundromats chain- Jamie was a big help - a big yes you can, and you can earn free washes with their cell phone app.

Dolly's coin laundry chain - no problem, a ban would be unenforceable anyway.

Morris Laundromotion chain - never heard of anyone doing diaper laundry - no problem if they did though.

Wash Basket Laundromat - would probably upset customers, prefer not to.

Elizabethtown Laundromat - No big deal, but if there's a mess still in the machine they'd appreciate you cleaning it out.

Overall, the laundromat owners and managers overwhelmingly said that horse blankets and dog bedding were a MUCH bigger problem than diaper laundry or laundry covered in vomit (because really, when the tummy bug strikes and the kids nail all the blankets, it's just smarter to take $20 to the 'mat and get them all done at once). The former can clog the drainage pumps and leave a lot of hair behind, while the latter usually are only yucky and bad-smelling.

The only person who said anything about not wanting them there had no concerns about the machines, just the other customers. He figured if someone would be offended by diaper laundry, he'd be the one getting a phone call to deal with them, even though there was no rule about it.

Now, these are mostly just chain laundromats in suburban areas - I tried calling some of the smaller urban 'mats, but since they weren't staffed, I didn't get a reply. I don't know about larger cities and their policies - I'm sure that some are more strict than our soft, squishy semi-urban area, but I started calling several in the downtown Pittsburgh area and couldn't get a reply.

And that, I think, is the real crux - the places aren't staffed. So even if there's a sign up (which most don't have) how are they going to enforce it? And the ones that WERE staffed had no problem with allowing customers to wash their diapers there. So the real enemy here is public opinion - people being grossed out by the idea that diapers were washed in the same machines that they're using, and complaining to the management.

Yes, everyone's different. And I knew a few people that would spend money they really couldn't spare to run an empty load before they put their clothes in, to make sure the residue from previous washes was gone. People, these are PUBLIC machines. Much like public restrooms, you can get yourself tied in knots about what other people have done in there, you can clean it yourself, or you can trust that the machines are operating as they should and the washing process left them sanitary.

If I had to do it all again, I'd probably order something like this portable washer or this one,
or if money was really tight, this hand washing kit with either a spin extractor to spin them mostly dry, or a Spin Mop bucket or industrial mop bucket with wringer to get the things mostly dry before hanging. Just because laundromats cost a lot.

Next time I'll start calling around to daycares.  :)  Actually, in PA it's legal for daycares to use cloth diapers, the only requirement is that the parents supply enough clean ones for the day, a waterproof container to store them, and take them away at the end of the day. From there it's just a matter of educating the daycare workers about how to use the diapers, which is the real hurdle.


  1. I wonder how a cloth only day care center would fare? I know its better for many sensitive bottoms.

  2. I have seen a few diaper services that offered their services to day care centers. I don't know how many centers were actual clients, but getting a volume discount and bundling the cost of diapers into the overall bill would be really healthy and convenient.

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