How to Cloth Diaper in an Apartment


If you live in an apartment or other small home, know that, yes you can cloth diaper your baby. 

With that said, there are some special concerns you’ll have around space, and of course washing, especially if you don’t have a washer in your home. In this article I’m going to cover all of that, so let’s go. 

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Storing Cloth Diapers (And Accessories) in A Small Space

The Change Table 

First off, your change table doesn’t need to be a table or a dresser; it can be as simple as a changing pad on your bed. 

If there’s no room in your house for superfluous furniture, don’t think your baby is missing out. In fact I often hear from parents that their big change table was a waste of money because they just end up changing baby wherever they’re hanging out in the house, which often isn’t in the nursery. 

If you use your bed or carpeted areas for changes, unless you have a very neat child or a love for cleaning, you will want to invest in a nice big change pad however. I actually recommend having a few in rotation just to allow you to always have one in your diaper bag, and have extra for when those messes happen. 

For on the go, a nice big fold-up one, for example, this Toolik one on Amazon is perfect. It’s wipeable and folds up into itself (the ones with baggies are a pain on the go). In this climate of viruses and such, it’s helpful not to feel like you have to disinfect a public change table, or use your baby’s blanket for protection from germs or cold when changing a diaper!

At home, an inexpensive pack of pads like these quilted bamboo ones I also found on Amazon will be perfect as you’ll have plenty around and they can be thrown in the wash whenever. It’s so much easier to throw one of those in the wash than your whole bed set! 

Clean Cloth Diaper Storage

Some parents are wizards at organization and storage. Thankfully many of them are also generous with sharing their genius, so the rest of us can shamelessly steal their ideas.

Here’s a compilation of some ideas from the Cloth Diapers for Beginners group and around the web to help keep your small cloth diaper space neat and functional:

1. Make them Art

Displaying those cute prints on the wall with a cute and functional shelf is an idea that’s ultra-popular in the cloth diaper community right now. This particular DIY shelf is the current hot storage idea. 

This Pinterest image is from Alyssa Ashmore’s blog at alyssaashmore.com. If you visit her, she has the DIY instructions and plans for you to make one yourself. 

If you go for a display storage system for your clean diapers without a changing table, you’ll likely need to come up with something to store your wipes, rash cream, and change pad, but a small bag, caddy, or bin you keep next to your changing space is easy and functional.

2. Hide them under the bed

If space is really at a minimum and you’re often using your bed as your changing space, under the bed storage totes may be a great option. 

There’s often lots of storage space under the crib that would be perfect for these bins, or if you often change on your own bed, storing them under there may be ideal. 

Pulling them out may become a chore if you have to do it 6 to 12 times per day, but the space savings may be well worth it. 

I love the look of these metal ones with wheels from Amazon or your typical plastic ones with lids from Walmart like these are just great.

3. Hide them Behind a Door. 

Another storage space that’s often overlooked is behind your door. Over-the-door organizers, even the ones for shoes, but especially the new ones they have with perfect storage boxes, work really well at keeping all your diapers and gear in one spot neatly.

Here are a few examples to let your imagination take it away: 

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4. Try a Diaper Caddy

This one is probably something you’ll use to compliment another storage idea for your clean diapers (like under the bed or behind the door) since most diaper caddies can’t hold a full stash, but for size and portability, a diaper caddy with today’s diapers, wipes, creams, etc, can’t be beaten.

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5. Pack a Rolling Cart

I love this one so much that I recently bought one of them from Michaels (this one exactly) that I am going to be showcasing in an upcoming YouTube video where I fill it with my favorite diapers and accessories. 

I can not wait to pack my cart up because not only is it cute as can be (I bought it in teal, but it literally can be found in any color of the rainbow) but it is FUNCTIONAL. Because it’s on wheels, you can just grab it and roll it on over to wherever you need it. 

Michaels also sells some adorable coordinating bins and organizers that can help you pack it in such a way that even the most A-type among us. I couldn’t find links to these online, but I found a ton in-store (and have one to show you in my upcoming video, subscribe here to get notified when that’s out.

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Dirty Diaper Storage in A Small Home

For a full rundown of how to store cloth diapers, and how to choose a storage bin, bag, or container check out this post. 

In that article I go over all the pros, cons, and special considerations you should make when choosing between:

  1. Storing your soiled diapers in your washer (I’ll talk about apartment washer options below);
  2. Storing them in a wet bag or hanging diaper pail;
  3. Storing them in a trash can or laundry bin with a pail liner; or
  4. Storing them in an airtight diaper pail.

Above and beyond regular soiled diaper storage concerns you’ll find in that article, like how often you plan on washing and cost, dirty diaper storage in an apartment or small home can also be tricky just because of space. 

If floor space is a concern, a large hanging wet bag (I have some of my favorites and buying recommendations here) is likely going to be your ideal choice. You can hang it on your change table, in your bathroom, on a doorknob, on your rolling cart… literally anywhere. 

Apart from a hanging wet bag, storing your dirty diapers in your washer will be the biggest space-saver, especially if you have a small, electric washer just for diapers. I will talk about those fully, but first, let’s go over all your washing options when washing diapers in an apartment. 

Washing Cloth Diapers in An Apartment

If you are the rare butterfly that has a washer in your apartment or small space, you’re set. 

If, like most apartment dwellers, you don’t, you’ll have to figure something out so that you can wash your diapers at least every 3-4 days (depending on your storage, again check out this article for more info). 

Here are your options: 

1. Shared Laundry / Laundromat 

For many in an apartment with no in-suite laundry, a shared laundry room or local laundromat is where you’re taking your clothes to be washed. This may be an option for your diapers as well.

Here are some tips to help make this option work for you:

  • Ask first. While I hate the idea of having to ask if washing cloth diapers is okay, some laundromats, and some neighbours may give you a hard time if they seee you wash your cloth diapers there. 
    Save yourself some drama and ask ahead of time so that if any ignorant people give you grief you can always explain that you asked.
  • Get a drying rack. For all-in-ones especially you can really go through a lot of quarters on drying alone.  To save some money, use a drying rack inside your home.
  • Rinse the heck out of your diapers beforehand. If you’ve learned about the Measure Method of washing cloth diapers that I teach here, you’ll know that I always recommend an initial rinse/spin of your diapers to remove urine and any left over waste before your heavy-duty wash with detergent.
    Paying for laundry can get expensive though, so rinsing your diapers, A LOT, before heading to the laundromat can save you some coins.
    If this is something you think you could do, just note, you really have to rinse them well!
  • Check for extra cycles. Some washers will allow you to add another cycle (wash or rinse) for an additional quarter.  Take advantage of that.
  • Check for dryer sheets. If you’re using the laundromat dryers, do make sure to check the machine before popping your diapers in. A lot of people will forget their dryer sheets, and dryer sheets are a big no-no when it comes to cloth since they leave a residue on diapers. 

2. Hand Washing

It may sound extreme but handwashing is totally an option and many cloth diaper parents do so. 

If you hand wash, I recommend using a washing aid, like a DIY plunger bucket washer, a crank washer like the EasyGoWasher, or a camping washer like this Scrubba one (review and tutorial coming soon) rather than the bathtub so that you can get enough agitation to get them clean inside all those layers.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to make the DIY bucket washer if you’re interested in it:

I have more information about how to use the Measure Method to get your detergent and diapers in the right proportion, specifically using the bucket and plunger washer or the EasyGoWasher (which is the same size), in the Cloth Diapers for Beginners Wash & Care Handbook, which you can check out here

The nice thing about these is that they can double as your dirty diaper storage.

3. Portable Washing Machines

If handwashing sounds crazy to you, there is one more option that many cloth diaper parents (and campers) love — portable electric washing machines. 

Portable washers are compact washing machines built to hook up to your kitchen sink, and then tuck away when not in use. They are absolutely perfect for small homes, apartments, RV’s and the like, and even if you only use it for diapers, they can be resold easily after you’re done with it. 

If you’re just using your portable washer for diapers, it can also double as your dirty diaper storage, just leave the lid open for airflow. 

As for which one to get, there are a ton of options out there, and just a quick browse through Amazon can get you easily overwhelmed and with how expensive they can be, it’s not like you can try a bunch.  

I have spent a lot of time researching portable washing machines and speaking to the Cloth Diapers for Beginners community about their experiences with them to figure out which ones are worth the investment. 

Here are the two that I recommend based on what I’ve learned:

COMFEE’ 1.6 Cu.ft Portable Washing Machine

Our Pick for Portable Washer
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Why I recommend it:

First and foremost, more than one community member has told me that their Comfee brand washer works well. It also has an amazing online reputation in the cloth community on the whole. 

This washer also has a nice big drum size, and the build is comparable to a sturdy full size washer. 

The most important reason I choose this washer as my top recommendation is because of something most people don’t think of however — and that’s customer service & warranty. 

There are a few portable washers out there that our community has had good results with, but only one with good return/warranty options.

To explain, most of the portable washers sold online are sold directly from China, and if you have a problem you’re dealing with the Chinese manufacturer. Comfee however, is made by Midea Group (who also makes larger appliances) and sold directly from Amazon on Amazon.com. This means that if something goes wrong, you are dealing with Amazon returns and not the company, which is huge. This washer also has a manufacturer warranty. 

Garatic Portable Compact Mini Twin Tub Washing Machine

Best Budget Portable Washer
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Why I recommend it:

The One drawback to the Comfee model is the price. If you’re on a tight budget and looking for a portable washer, many have tried and liked the twin-tub washer/spinner portable unit.

While you may have a hassle if something goes wrong, this little portable works well enough for the price and you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised.

It’s also super light-weight and tucks away nicely if you don’t want to leave it out. 

If you want to try a portable washer, and the price is an issue, this one is a good option.

4. Laundry Service

If you have the means, considering a laundry service or even a local cloth diaper service might be the way to go.

While this is by far the most expensive option (possibly even more expensive than disposables) it will keep your baby’s bum free of chemicals, and you free of laundry.

To see if there’s a cloth diaper service in your area, check out our cloth diaper directory here.

Drying Cloth Diapers in Your Apartment

Though I touched on it above, I want to talk about drying cloth diapers separately here because I want to point out that, if you don’t have a dryer in your home, you can easily try cloth diapers anywhere using a drying rack. 

In fact hanging your diapers to dry is a great way to increase the longevity of your diapers as high-heat can cause PUL, snaps, etc., to get damaged faster than air drying. 

That’s not to say you can’t dry diapers in the dryer, as I’ve written before here, drying them in a dryer is ok in most cases; but drying them on a rack is gentler and will help prolong their life.

There are many kinds of drying racks that fold up, or collapse so that they won’t take up space when not being used. 

Conclusion

Is it possible to cloth diaper in an apartment or other small home? Absolutely! You have tons of options for storage and washing that can make cloth completely doable! 

Now that you have a good handle on storing and washing cloth diapers in a small home, consider diving into the topic of washing, and coming up with the perfect wash routine for your situation

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