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Why We Don’t Cloth Diaper or Buy Used Clothes

Let me preface this post by saying that I do not look down on anyone who cloth diapers or purchases used clothes. I do not think that I’m any better than those who choose to, nor do I believe that our way is the best and the ultimate. Once again, this is a personal decision that we have made for our own family based on our unique preferences and circumstances.

There was a period in time as I neared the end of my pregnancy with Claire when I seriously considered cloth diapering. It is more green. They say it’s more economical in the long-run. I have also read that today’s cloth diapers are superior to those in the past, and that they can actually be better on babies’ sensitive skin. Plus, look at all the cute designs!

(image source)

When I relayed my thoughts to my mother, she was vehemently against it.

“No, you will not be cloth-diapering your kids. And that is that.”

I know what you must be thinking: they are my children, and I have the right to raise them how I see fit. My mother should trust that I can make these decisions on my own, and she should respect them, right?

But my mother had her reasons. You see, she and my father have been in the clothes-cleaning business (dry cleaning and laundromat) for over twenty years now. And her main reason for being against cloth diapers is that soiled cloths can never really be clean again, no matter what cleaning method you use. And the stuff that gets on these diapers is some of the worst that can stain your clothes — at least in my mother’s eyes.

I finally understood when she pointed out that I wouldn’t just wash, and re-wear my clothes if they had been soaked in urine or had been smeared with stool; I would discard them. (And this is true — it is a personal quirk of mine.) So why would I expose my children’s sensitive skin to cloths that get exposed to urine and stool over and over again, especially since it sits against their skin for such prolonged periods of time?

“Besides,” she added. “I cloth-diapered both you and your sister, but only because we didn’t have disposable diapers back then. Why would you purposely add more work to your life when being a mother is already so much work?”

It made sense.

Yes, I am aware that there are chemicals in disposable diapers that may irritate babies’ skin. Yes, I know disposables are more expensive. But in my experience, they are easier, cleaner, and both my girls’ bottoms have remained free of diaper rash since birth.

My mother uses the same logic for buying used clothes. But in her mind, there is an added strike against used clothes because you don’t know who wore those clothes before you. In other words, you don’t know what type of lifestyle they led, if they were clean people, and so forth.

“I have run dry-cleaners for over twenty years. I have seen the horrible stuff that people do to their clothes — it makes no difference if they’re rich or poor, or if their clothes are expensive or not,” she tells me.

She understands that most of the clothes that are sold in second hand stores are in good condition. But she says that after some of the things she has been exposed to in her line of work, she can never place her trust in strangers to have taken good care of the clothes that she will wear, even if they have been carefully cleaned.

I have been exposed to a sliver of her business too. And I too, refuse to purchase second-hand clothes for my family for the same reason. Hand-me-downs from trusted friends and family members? Yes. But used clothes from strangers? No. 

ETA, 8/12/13:

It seems that this post was linked to from a pro-cloth-diapering Facebook group, as well as GBCN. If this is your first time visiting this blog, then welcome. :-) I wanted to write this addendum because I keep having to repeat myself in the comments…

  1. Please note that this was written more than 1.5 years ago. My first is out of diapers, and my second will be getting potty-trained soon, so there really isn’t any point in trying to switch to cloth at this point. :-)
  2. We live in an apartment in a city. So although we are lucky enough to have our own washer and dryer, we are still very limited on space and our W&D unit is pretty small. Additionally, we get very little direct sunlight (with small windows, to boot) which I know is one of the most recommended methods of disinfecting CD’s.
  3. How about blowouts? Do I throw out every piece of clothing that gets soiled? To me, there is a difference between having a few blowouts and getting them cleaned, versus using a cloth diaper which is continually getting soiled and cleaned over a period of 1-2+ years. (Luckily my girls had VERY few blowouts, and whenever they did I immediately scrubbed and soaked their clothes…something I can’t do with cloth diapers with my limited time and space.)
  4. I am not OCD about keeping everything clean. I do not keep my kids in a bubble. If anything, some people criticize me for not keeping their toys spic and span all the time, not regularly using hand sanitizer, etc. Just because I have this quirk (that others may find unreasonable) doesn’t mean it carries to all other aspects of my, and my kids’ lives.
  5. We try our best to “make up” for disposables by recycling, reusing, and saving as much as we can.
  6. We welcome hand-me-downs from trusted friends and family, just not from strangers. And we hand down all our girls’ used clothes (with the exception of badly stained/damaged ones) to friends with younger children.
  7. We may never buy secondhand clothes, but at the same time, my husband and I hardly ever buy new clothes for ourselves. Besides, I consider my refusal to buy secondhand clothes from strangers similar to CD’ing families who won’t buy used CD’s, especially stained ones.
  8. To those questioning my parents’ business and work ethics, my mother has confidence in her dry-cleaning business and the ability to get her customers’ clothes clean. But being in the business that they are, and having seen so much grime on clothes (much more so than the average person), it’s hard not to think about that stuff when wearing strangers’ clothes. Their own clothes? Fine. But to them, it’s a matter of the unknown. This is different from not believing in the quality of their work, IMO.

This is actually an old post that has rarely gotten attention since it was first written, so I don’t think I have any influence over other moms in this regard. (If other parents stumble upon this obscure post in a web search, I trust that they’re smart enough to do their own research and make their own decisions regarding diapers.)

If you feel that strongly against what I have written and feel the need to gather the troops in order to correct a complete stranger on the internet, you should know that linking to, and continuing to comment on this post, will only give me more credibility in the eyes of search engines — which may possibly lead to…gasp…this post convincing others NOT to use cloth diapers! (Also, I have ads on this site, so thanks for the extra traffic!)

In all seriousness though, this post was not meant to spread propaganda, nor was it written to stir up controversy. My intention was NOT to sway others from cloth diapers. This is a PERSONAL blog and I was just sharing with my readers an aspect of our lives. To me, CD’ing was just not worth the extra time, effort, and space. I know others must have made it work with less resources…kudos to them! It was just not for us.

(via xkcd)

The ignorant, unreasonable, first-world-problem-ridden OCD blogger who lives an entitled, middle-class lifestyle