How to Wash Diapers in a Foreign Country

The following was posted today on All About Cloth Diapers as a Guest Post:

I have used cloth diapers about 90% of the time since my now fourteen month old daughter was born.

I also spend 80-90% traveling internationally with my baby for my own and my husband’s work and for leisure to places such as Paraguay, South Africa, Lebanon, Jordan, and India.

Before my daughter was born I was committed to using cloth diapers at home in Chicago and while traveling, so I stocked up on a full stash of various brands, cloth wipes, and accessories before my daughter.   Over the past year or so, I have learned a lot through trial and error about using cloth diapers while traveling.

Each time we set off for another trip and prepare to pack, one of the first things on my mind is, “Will I be able to wash the cloth diapers?”

There have been very few times when I have opted to leave my cloth diapers at home, as usually there is a good, or at least acceptable, option for washing diapers.  The few times I have opted to use disposable diapers is when I have gone on a brief 3-4 day vacation with my family and did not want to spend my brief vacation dealing with any washing whatsoever.

I have also grown in my flexibility in how I will wash, or have washed, my cloth diapers when I travel.  At first, with my brand new diapers, I could not fathom the idea of entrusting my glorious cloth diapers to another human to wash, for example, at a hotel.  Wouldn’t they ruin them if they use their own detergent and they don’t do it right?

Take a deep breath- the diapers will be okay!

I do make sure to bring along my cloth diapers, wipes, a few cloth diaper bags, and a powdered form of laundry detergent that will last my trip.  I have explored all of the following options in various places across the world:

  1. Choose accommodation with self-service washing machine

I have found that the ideal option, if available, is to select accommodation such as a rental home or apartment that comes equipped with at least a laundry machine.  That way I can wash the diapers when I need them, and control how my diapers are washed and with what they are washed.

Often times, staying in a flat or rental home can be just as cost effective as a hotel, and be more quaint and peaceful.

We have also stayed at B&Bs where we have contacted the owner before making the reservation and simply asked them if we would have use of the washer/ dryer while we are there; the answer has always been “yes.”  When we have stayed with friends or families at their homes, we just simply ask beforehand it will be okay to wash our diapers at their home while we are there.

I can do with or without a dryer as long as there is a place to hang the diapers and liners.  I have found that if I am in a very humid climate, such as southern India, I do need to bring along more cloth diapers and inserts than I usually would pack (about 5-6 days worth) as I typically need to line dry them without access to a dryer, which takes a while in the humidity.

  1. Request hotel/ B&B laundry service to wash diapers

My family and I are currently staying at a lovely B&B in South Africa for one month.  They provide laundry service to the various cottages and flats on the grounds, but there is not a self-service laundry option.

I brought along my stash of diapers, wipes, and my own powdered laundry detergent.  I asked in advance if the cloth diapers would be washed (and told them I would use flushable liners so that there would not be any solid matter), and they agreed with no problem.

I also asked what the price for this service would be in advance, which is substantially less than it would otherwise be to buy disposable diapers in South Africa, which can be very expensive.

After counting the dirty diapers, inserts, etc. to make sure I get everything back, I provide the dirty diapers every other day to the cleaning staff, along with a pre-measured amount of my own powdered laundry detergent, and the same afternoon I get back my clean diapers.

I will caveat this, though, as the first time I got the clean diapers back they clearly smelled of some perfume, and I found that they had added a fabric softener.  I just clarified to the staff that I only want the provided detergent used when washing my diapers because my daughter has allergies.  Since then there has been no perfume smell.

It took me a while to work up to being able to let go and trust my diapers with someone else, but it’s really not so bad, and is actually a bit of a luxury having someone else do the laundry for me.  It’s also certainly been more convenient than running out of disposable diapers and worrying about buying more.

  1. Take cloth diapers to local laundry service

Many places that we travel to have numerous laundry services available, often times close to hotels where we stay.  Often the price for hotels to do laundry are quite exorbitant, so if we are staying in a hotel, we sometimes just opt to bring our laundry across to the street to a laundry service that can be half the price, or less, than the hotel.

The same situation will apply as the hotel service option with counting the dirty diapers, inserts, and wipes, as well as providing cloth-diaper friendly powdered laundry detergent and requesting that no other detergents, softeners, or dryer sheets are used when washing or drying the diapers.

  1. Hand wash diapers

This is definitely a tedious and time consuming option that I personally do not think is practical for busy moms and dads, especially if trying to enjoy a vacation.

Kudos to those of you who hand wash!  We tried this option once, and will never again, while staying at a hotel in Paraguay.  It was our first international trip with our baby when she was six weeks old, and I was working while my husband cared for my baby at a hotel.

At the time, it did not even occur to me to ask the hotel to wash the diapers, or to use the laundry service across the street where we were bringing our regular clothes for washing.

My wonderful husband spent all of his free time during the day when my baby was napping washing diapers in the hotel bathroom sink and shower.  Our hotel bathroom and bedroom was littered with cloth diaper covers and inserts, and they just did not seem or smell that clean, despite my husband’s efforts.

After four days of this my daughter developed a rash and I convinced my exhausted temporary stay-at-home day to go out and buy disposable diapers to use for the rest of the trip.

Related Pages:

How to Pack Cloth Diapers for Long Travel

Cloth Diapering for Travel?

Flip Hybrid Diapers for Travel

Saving India’s Rivers from Diapers

Changing Diapers on the Go