Apartment Green Living: Hand Washing Cloth Diapers

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Washing Cloth Diapers in Apartments

My City View

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My Story: I’m an apartment-dwelling city girl with a heart to go green. Actually, city living can be very eco-friendly. We’re a single car family and my husband commutes to work on his bike. We often go days without using the car. Being close to many restaurants, stores, and parks encourages us to think, play, and buy local. Additionally, having a smaller place forces us to be intentional about not accumulating unnecessary stuff. Indeed living in the city can be very green!

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Yet apartment living also has its drawbacks, namely, we do not have in-unit laundry. Now this wasn’t an issue when it was just my husband and I, but not having a washer and dryer is a major hindrance to going green with a baby. How could I cloth diaper without a washer and dryer in our apartment? While there are many reasons my husband and I chose to cloth diaper, saving money long term was one of our biggest motivators. The idea of paying over $5 to complete one load of diaper laundry and juggling a baby during multiple trips to the laundry room was not going to work! Plus, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of daily plunging my diapers. So we started looking for washing alternatives.

Hand Washing Cloth Diapers WonderWash

“Hand” Washing Cloth Diapers: At The Laundry Alternative we found our diaper laundry solution, the WonderWash and Nina Soft Spin Dryer. The WonderWash is a hand-powered washer that can do about five pounds of laundry in one load. It retails for $42.95 and doubles as our washer and dry pail. My typical load size is one day’s worth of diaper laundry: 6-9 diapers, liners, and cloth wipes. While we use the WonderWash in our bathtub, the unit is small enough to use on a counter top. The Nina Soft Spin Dryer is a small centrifugal dryer… think of it as a turbo powered spin cycle in a regular washer. It is compact and weighs only seven pounds so storage is a breeze. We use the spin dryer to not only help dry our diapers, but it also plays a key role in our wash/rinse method. Truth be told, retailing at $145.00, the spin dryer was a splurge for us and if cost is a concern for  you, one can effectively wash cloth diapers with just the WonderWash. Prior to washing, I use a diaper sprayer on all our poopy diapers/wipes and on all our overnight diapers.

Laundry Method

  1. Presoak diapers in warm water 15-30 minutes, insert drain pipe and drain soiled water completely.Hand Washing Cloth Diapers Wonder Wash Drain Pipe
  2. Tumble wash in hot water with 2 tablespoons of detergent (we use Eco Sprout) for at least one minute, 60-75 rotations, drain. (Allow the detergent to dissolve in the hot water before rotating.)
  3. Tumble rinse in hot water for at one minute minimum and drain. (For faster draining and better results, wring out diapers by hand or press diapers against the washer side.)
  4. Tumble rinse in warm water for one minute, drain, and wring out diapers prior to spinning.
  5. Spin diapers: Place diapers into the Nina Soft Spin Dryer, being sure that the load is balanced. Spin until water stops draining.
  6. Tumble rinse in cold water for one minute, drain, and wring out diapers prior to final spinning.
  7. Spin diapers and hang dry.
  8. Disinfect tub and the outside of the WonderWash.Hand Washing Cloth Diapers Drying.

To see the WonderWash and Nina Soft Spin Dryer in action checkout my “how-to” video by clicking on the link or watching it below.

Hands-On but Fast: This wash/rinse/spin routine takes twenty to thirty minutes of hands-on time. Add that to a thirty minute pre-soak and that’s just one hour to wash a day’s worth of diapers. I can finish diaper laundry during my son’s nap time or my sweet hubby does diaper laundry in the evening. Our diapers come out clean and are dry in one to two days. Don’t let apartment living keep you from cloth diapering. Using the WonderWash makes hand washing our diapers fast and more convenient than traditional hand washing.

First Time Mom Hand Washing Cloth Diapers

Would not having an in-unit washer and dryer keep you from cloth diapering? Do you have any hand washing tips?  Remember, sharing is caring!


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Wife, work at home mom, and bassoonist, Laura Ankrum lives in Iowa City, Iowa. Prior to the arrival of her two children Laura taught elementary music and band in the Boston area. Now her home is her classroom and music studio. Laura is passionate about education, encouraging other moms, and eco-friendly living. She is the social media coordinator at Thirsties Inc.


Randi Graves · May 21, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Do you know about how much water it uses with each load?

    Laura · May 21, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    I would estimate two to three gallons (about a bucket full) with each step.

Laura · May 21, 2014 at 3:22 pm

The WonderWash is also great for prepping diapers and washing clothes.

Heather Johnson · May 22, 2014 at 9:41 am

Kudos to you! I am not sure that I could handwash like that. I do not even handwash my regular clothes. Everything goes in the washer no matter what.

    Laura · May 22, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Thanks Heather… I don’t think I could keep it up if it weren’t for my hubby pitching in.

Lara Clinton · May 30, 2014 at 11:16 am

Wow, I’ve never seen wonder wash before! That’s really cool. In unit laundry machines are easy but this helps!

Jennifer · May 31, 2014 at 8:46 pm

Super cool! It’s nice to have the whole process laid out like that. Thank you for sharing!

    Laura · June 1, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Thanks for reading!

Anne Sweden · June 2, 2014 at 10:05 am

This is on my wish list! I think it would be indispensable during an emergency of any kind.

Audreana Derhake · June 6, 2014 at 1:02 pm

We have a wonder wash! We’ve always only used to while camping, I never thought to wash diapers in it! Thanks for the awesome idea!

    FirstTimeMom MN · June 7, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    You’re welcome! You must be pretty serious campers to have a WonderWash!

Tabitha · June 23, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Why did you choose the Wonder Wash over an electric portable washer…


    Laura · June 23, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    I’ve never seen this electric washer… Have you used this with cloth diapers? If so, do you like it? We like that the Wonder Wash doesn’t run up our electric bill.

Nikki A · July 23, 2014 at 1:50 pm

I had no idea the Wonder Wash existed. Props for finding a green solution!

I’ve also heard that spinning out your machine washed laundry can significantly reduce your drying time. I’ve thought of buying a spinner but have never seen one anywhere other than my friend’s mom’s house.

Michelle · July 24, 2014 at 3:01 am

Thank you for posting this! I just received my Wonder Wash and Spin Dryer Junior (same manufacturer as your Nina) today. I was surprised to stumble upon this video of someone else cloth diapering with the same setup. I am expecting my first baby and we are planning to make an attempt at cloth diapering despite living aboard our 43 foot sailboat. I hope it works as well for us as it has for you!

    Laura · July 24, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Congratulations! Sounds like you have some fun adventures ahead.

Cristy Kiesel · October 3, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Does eco sprout work really well in getting the poop stains and smells out? I also noticed that you were hanging the diapers on a rack by the window. Does that also help get the stains out if you can’t sun bleach them outside?

    Laura · October 7, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    Good questions, Cristy. For tough stains I actually used OxiClean stain spray in addition to my regular amount of Eco Sprout and just added an extra rinse. I didn’t notice any sun bleaching when drying by the window… but they did dry faster there.

Breanne Pesis · October 19, 2014 at 8:15 pm

I found this page because of the scavenger hunt, but, I have to say that I too do not have a washer and use a portable unit. It is a pain but I am making it work and love my cloth so far!

Janna Law · October 25, 2014 at 3:27 am

I woud totally cloth without a washer and dryer after reading this post. I am fortunate to have one but this post must be a wonderful tool for those who don’t.

Monica Miller · November 1, 2014 at 8:03 am

Thanks for sharing this. I’m living in an apt and we have shared laundry which is a bit of a concern for me.

DowntownLegal · January 19, 2015 at 9:18 pm

Thanks for this video & tutorial! We use the wonderwash + spin dryer (I have a slightly different one, whatever laundry alternative sold in 2008) in our NYC apartment – the spinner makes a HUGE difference in getting the diapers clean and they dry a whole day sooner when they’ve been spun instead of wrung.

What I do slightly differently:

It takes the same amount of time for 2-4 days of diapers (we use prefolds & covers) as it does for 1 day of diapers (as long as it fits in one load, obviously), so we don’t do diaper laundry daily.

I setup the wonderwash so the drain spout goes almost directly into the bathtub drain, and I setup the spinner at the back of the bathtub (I overflowed every container i used to catch the water, so I came up with this solution) this way, the dirty water doesn’t really touch the outside of the wonder wash, and barely (sometimes not at all) touches the tub, which means a lot less sanitizing/cleaning to do afterwards!

Katie M · January 26, 2015 at 10:47 pm

Not having an in unit washer or dryer wouldn’t make me stray from cloth diapers. I didn’t even know about the wonderwash and spindryer and these are such great investments but luckily we have enough room for the in unit washer and dryer but if it ever goes out these could be on our list of possibilities since it’s just so expensive for replacing a washer or dryer.

Cassandra Rae · August 11, 2015 at 9:49 pm

I remember reading this post when I first started CDing. I live in an apartment that had coin laundry and it was getting ridicuous the amount I was paying for laundry. We ended up moving to a house after only being there for a year. But if we had been there any longer I would have certainly purchased this handy machine!

    Laura Ankrum · August 14, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    It worked well for us… It’s amazing how much we saved on laundry costs.

Dandi D · November 3, 2015 at 1:21 pm

I’ve never had to hand wash diapers, but this is good to know!

Bert @ First Time Mom MN · January 15, 2016 at 3:49 pm

What kind of diapers do you have? Microfiber? Organic Cotton? Laura didn’t have a problem with smell at the time she wrote this post but let’s see if we can’t figure out what’s happening with your dipes!

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