27 August 2012

When it's Harder to Care for Your Diapers Than Your Children

When we started to consider having a baby, my first thought was there was no way we could afford diapers in Kinshasa. In those days, a pack cost $80-$100. And thus our child would have to forgo college because they were diapered in Congo. I then, however, discovered the world of cloth diapering.

I say "world" because there is an overwhelming number of cloth diaper brands. Once you've chosen your brand or should I say "system" (and god only knows how you make that decision) you have to choose between pocket liners or inserts: stay-dry, organic or disposable. Velcro, snap or Snappi. One-size or sized. And then battle terms like "Hybrid Diaper System" while your diapers come in as many versions as your computer from 1.0 and 4.0.

Once you have invested in a diaper system, you have to figure out how to take care of them. I am willing to bet there's more information on the internet about how to care for your diapers than about how to care for your children.

So when we returned to Congo with newborn Charlotte I conducted, what felt like, endless training sessions with Mamicho not about how to take care of our baby, but rather how to take care of our diapers.

Rinse them immediately, but never with soap. Never let the Velcro fasteners touch the diaper itself, only the tab made for holding them in place. We don't want pilling on our diapers! Wash them on this cycle, with this special, fragrance-free, gentle, organic detergent. Never put them in the dryer. Only line dry. But you can't line dry them outside, because they will get Mango Worm larvae in them and then we'll be hatching worms out of our baby's precious skin. 

As recommended by the manufacturer, we dry our diapers outdoors. 
The mosquito net shields them from Mango Worm larvae. 
We did this exactly one time before realizing how ridiculous it was.
And it went on and on like this. Poor ole Mamicho. She smartly and quickly followed very few of these ridiculous instructions. It didn't take long for our diapers to be washed in the worst, cheapest Chinese laundry detergent, which is probably just granulated carcinogens. It's been years since those Velcro tabs have been secured in place before washing. Our diapers go through the dryer everyday. And thanks to power surges, I'm sure our dryer heats them at temperatures similar to the surface of the sun. Oh, and we wash them in Congo water. "Congo" in this case means "four shades of dirty brown."

Not so surprisingly, 2 1/2 years later our diapers are still in great shape. (Bum Genius, you are welcome to contact me for an endorsement deal.) However, they have started to smell. Okay, they started smelling about 2 years ago, but whatever.

This weekend, I ventured down that rabbit hole of Googling about cloth diapers and discovered something quite traumatizing. In order to get rid of the smell you have to "strip" your diapers. And did you know that you are doomed to a lifetime of smelly diapers if you don't have access to Original Formula Blue Dawn Liquid Dish Soap?! There are literally hundreds of blogs, websites and diaper Q & A forums telling me Dawn is the only thing to remove the smell.

One poor British woman was brave enough to ask what she should do if she couldn't find this specific formula of Dawn in the UK. Is there a substitute? No there is not, American women answered her. They suggested she buy it by the case on Amazon or move to the US. Thanks, community of Mommies, that's helpful.

I thought for sure I could find an international version of Original Formula Blue Dawn Liquid Dish Soap. But turns out when you use the word "international" to Google Blue Dawn, you get a bunch of websites telling you how this soap is the ONLY thing the "International" Bird Rescue Research Center uses to clean animals after oil spills. Really?! How was the world ever clean before Dawn was invented? (Dawn, you may now also contact me for an endorsement deal.)

So I did the next best thing to Googling about how to clean my diapers, I asked Johan.

 The resident expert on cloth diapering. He suggested without access to Blue Dawn I use vinegar. "But Johan, that will void the warranty!" (Yes, diapers now have warranties.) And then he said, "Did you know they use that Blue Dawn to get oil off birds?!" Yes. Yes, I did know that.

Gulf-Oil-Spill-Washing-Brown-Pelican-06- by IBRRC, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  IBRRC 

So until I can get my hands on a large quantity of white vinegar, which in Congo is sometimes as hard as finding Blue Dawn, our diapers are still smelly. But they are diapers, right? And it's a good system to weed out friends who really like us from those who aren't willing to brave the smell of our children.

The icing on the saga of cloth diapering in Congo came late last year as I watched Mamicho rinse out a diaper. Not only was she using soap (gasp!) she was using a bar of my face soap. When I explained that was soap I use on my face, she laughed and said she had been doing that every day for 2 years.

And thus for 2 years I've been washing my face with dirty diapers. Does Dawn make face wash?


  1. OK then, my packing list for Christmas travels begins with blue Dawn.

  2. Be careful. I witnessed not one, but three bottles of blue Dawn eat through their containers. Of course they had been sitting in a bucket for a year, but still that could make for messy travel. No wonder it gets the stink out...and the oil off of birds.

  3. And to think back in 1974 when I used cloth diapers on my twins in N.Y.C. life was so much simpler with so many fewer choices!

  4. I am having my baby in Kampala in 2 months and am just now ordering my Bum Genius diapers, thanks for the heads up on washing them! I will have our visitors bring Blue Dawn :)

  5. Your opening paragraphs here nailed why I never could brave the world of cloth diapers. Too many choices! And getting day care to manage the dirty ones?? Never going to happen. Hilarious post!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...