It’s simple and worthwhile to line dry cloth diapers. Crisp, clean sun-dried diapers are better for you, better for the environment, and most importantly, better for baby.
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it? Look at these maple branches. Don’t they give you a thrill — several thrills? I’m going to decorate my room with them,” Anne says in the book Anne of Green Gables.
She is then told that bedrooms are to sleep in. She replies, “Oh, and dream in too…you know one can dream so much better in a room where there are pretty things.” Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote those words in the early 1900s, and they still ring true today.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a daydreamer. I do most of this dreaming in the kitchen, whether cooking over the stove or by the sink washing dishes. It’s not because I’d rather be doing something else (well, maybe when it comes to the dishes); it’s an opportunity to let my imagination play.
One of my favorite times to daydream is while hanging freshly laundered cloth diapers on the clothesline; especially, in October. I can’t help but take a restful moment to pause and appreciate the glory of all the pretty things that surround me: the lovely colors of the trees, the sweet songs of the birds. And the gentle wind rocking me into a beautiful daydream.
Looking up at the branches of the great white pine, the strong tree that holds one end of the rope, I get a thrill decorating the clothesline with cloth diapers.
Old-Fashioned and Functional
Perhaps I’m romanticizing it, but I think there’s something dreamy about a clothesline. It adds charm to the home and looks pretty with clean diapers swaying in a warm afternoon breeze or completely still at dusk. It’s a calming sight that might make someone think of Italy, but it makes me think of the rural American countryside.
To my knowledge, we didn’t have a clothesline when I was growing up. There was a clothesline in my grandparents’ backyard for a time, and if I think about it, that clothesline is in the background of lots of fond childhood memories that hang in my mind.
Additionally, the clothesline calls to mind passages from the Little House on the Prairie book series. I think of Ma Ingalls washing clothes by hand and then hanging them on the line to freeze dry. Using an old-fashioned clothesline reminds me to be grateful for modern technology and having the option to use the dryer on rainy (or snowy) days.
Although it may not be as convenient in winter, and I must admit that I often opt to tumble dry during the colder months, line drying on a sunny day is the better choice for cloth diapers. It is better for the budget and can benefit mental and physical health, too. (More on all this soon.)
Personally, I find joy in doing laundry because of the clothesline and the sunshine, and because one day, I have a feeling I’ll miss all these piles of laundry.
Benefits of Line Drying Cloth Diapers
Fresh air and sunshine are good for us, and they’re good for cloth diapers, too.
1. It’s Free
Unlike using the dryer, hanging cloth diapers on the line doesn’t cost anything. The man of the place frequently reminds me that the dryer uses more electricity than almost any other appliance in the house. By line drying instead of running the dryer, it actually saves money on the electricity bill.
2. It’s Simple
A clothesline can simplify and refresh a stale cleaning routine, and it couldn’t be much easier to line dry cloth diapers. Just give them a good snap and pin them on the clothesline.
You may be wondering, “More specifically, how do you line dry cloth diapers?” I fold a bit of the diaper over the line before pinning the corners. This helps it keep its shape and not get bunny ears from sagging in the center, so it’s easy to fold for baby.
3. Line-Dried Diapers Last longer
Line drying increases the longevity of cloth diapers. It’s gentle on natural fibers, unlike the dryer (think about the lint trap). This is especially beneficial if you hope to use the diapers with multiple children.
4. Get Rid of Stains and Bacteria
Not only does drying cloth diapers in the sunshine brighten whites, but also it removes yellow newborn stains like magic. More importantly, it helps disinfect the diapers, which is better for baby.
5. Fresher Smelling Diapers
A good wash routine should remove odors like ammonia, but line drying the diapers outdoors further freshens them. I like having aromatic plants, such as lavender, nearby to add a light floral fragrance to the diapers. In the yard below our clothesline is a lilac bush, and when it’s purple with flowers, their sweet fragrance sometimes drifts up to the drying diapers, making them smell even better. If the man of the place has recently mowed, they will have a hint of that fresh cut grass scent.
6. A Mini Workout
Carrying a heavy basket of wet diapers out to the line is a good way to get a little exercise. And of course, hanging the diapers on the line works the arm muscles, too. You probably won’t work up a sweat, but you’ll burn more calories than if you had just put them in the dryer.
7. A Restful Moment
Hanging the diapers can be a moving meditation. Unless I’m rushing, I find it relaxing. Plus, it provides an opportunity for a few peaceful minutes outside by myself or with my boys. (Usually, Little Bear is playing beside me and Wilder Baby is snuggled close in a woven wrap.) I try to remember to take deep breaths of the mountain air and thank God for all our blessings.
8. Better for the Earth
Using an eco-friendly clothesline conserves energy, so it’s better for the environment. One of the many reasons we cloth diaper is because we don’t want to add an untold number of nonbiodegradable diapers to landfills. Line drying lessens our environmental impact even more.
Bonus Reason to Line Dry Cloth Diapers
Skip the bleach (hopefully you use non-toxic cleaning supplies anyway) and dryer sheets. You can avoid static-cling and get clean, bright, wrinkle-free diapers — with that breezy smell candle and detergent makers wish they could mimic — without any harsh chemicals.
Tips for Sun Drying Cloth Diapers
Line-dried diapers can feel stiff. To help with softening, try using white vinegar (I’ve even used apple cider vinegar) in the final rinse. You could also toss the diapers in the dryer for a few minutes to fluff them up. This step can help shake off pollen and other allergens that might have settled on them outside.
After breaking quite a few spring-hinged clothespins, I realized that the classic clothespins work better for me. With either style, if you’re using wooden ones, bring them inside when they aren’t being used to prevent molding. Take care of your clothesline, too, by wiping it off.
This probably goes against proper clothesline etiquette, but you can overlap the edges of the diapers slightly, so they can share clothespins. This technique also makes room for more. On that note, you can fold large flat diapers in half before hanging them.
Don’t have space for a clothesline or can’t get one because of an HOA? You could use a folding rack. Similarly, you can drape the diapers over a fence, rail, chair, or shrub. Just be mindful if it’s a windy day.
Watch the forecast and the clouds. Having to wait longer for them to dry because of a rain shower or sudden thunderstorm can be slightly annoying if you’re running low on ready-to-use diapers. If they stayed out overnight, you may need to wait for the sun to dry off the morning dew before bringing them in. You also might have to shoo off a few bugs.
Should You Line Dry All Cloth Diapers?
Most likely, most of your cloth diaper stash, from organic cotton flats and prefolds to hemp inserts and doublers, can be line dried. If you’re concerned about having diaper shells or any diapers with elastic in the hot sunlight, you can hang them in the shade or only have them outside for a short time.
Don’t sun dry wool diaper covers on the line. They should be laid flat to air dry and kept out of direct sunlight.
Brand new cloth diapers benefit from drying in the dryer several times. It is part of the prepping process that helps with absorbency. It makes them softer by breaking them in. They will also shrink and “quilt up.”
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