How To Wash Cloth Diapers In A Foreign Country

The following guest post was written by Gypsy Momma

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.

For more on traveling with cloth diapers or traveling with babies, please visit my blog:

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About Jessica Menon

I’m a mom with a fourteen month old, Veda, and I travel internationally for work frequently. Although my husband and I have a home in Chicago, we spend 80 to 90% of our time traveling out of the country. I am not a medical doctor or expert of any kind; I am just a mom with lots of experience traveling internationally to developing countries while pregnant and with an infant/ toddler. I personally find that breastfeeding, cloth diapering, and the Dr. Sears attachment parenting approach works best for us. That means I do my best to ensure I am emotionally and physically connecting with my baby, and that I respond to the unique needs of my baby, and not to a schedule or clock. This works really well for me and my family, and I find it is especially compatible with international travel, which requires flexibility, adaptation, and mutual understanding with my child.

View all posts by Jessica Menon

16 Responses to “How To Wash Cloth Diapers In A Foreign Country”

  1. Shawna Says:

    I spend most of my year in Asia and I do have access to a washer and dryer, however, the electricity supply is not stable as we have a lot of load shedding. My baby wears Wee Huggers Pocket style with chinese prefolds and disposable liners. I also went out and bought a heavy bucket with a lid. Everytime she has a dirty diaper, I rinse it well and keep in the bucket. Every 2-3 days, I boil a large pan of water on the gas stove and then pour the boiling water into the bucket. I add a little Dettol (kind of like Pine Sol) and some homemade soap (washing powder and borax). But only very little. The Wee Huggers don’t boil well, so I soak them separate in lukewarm water and Dettol. I let the diapers soak overnight and then the next day, when the power is on, I run them through the rinse cycle of my machine and then hang in the sun to dry. Works really well and I never have any stink issues at all.


  2. Barbara Johnson Says:

    All this information was great if one had a washing mschine. I have 10 girls and 11 babies in Liberia. They have no electricity so they have to wash there Diapers by hand. They also make soap but it is too harsh for the Diapers. Can anyone suggest a mild soap to wash diapers in so the babies do not get a rash?
    Mrs. Johnson


    • Gypsy Momma Says:

      Hi Mrs. Johnson,

      You are in a whole different league of washing cloth diapers in a foreign country! No electricity, washing machine, and 11 babies means a LOT of hand washing of poopy diapers (that must be around 100 a day)! As I had mentioned, we tried hand washing and gave up pretty quickly. Are you caring for the girls and baby in an orphanage situation? I am not sure about what might be available in Liberia for a mild soap option. Autumn posted an article recently on making your own soap (the link is below). I’m not sure what ingredients you might have available to you in Liberia, but you could try to see if something like this works, or if there are viable substitutes for you. Either way, I wish you good-luck and lots of happy baby bums!


  3. Sherry Says:

    I think a hybrid diaper would be a fantastic option for travelling. Possibly flip diapers with disposable insets and prefolds/cloth inserts. I haven’t traveled for extended periods of time but it seems like an option.


    • Gypsy Momma Says:

      Hi Sherry,

      A hybrid is a great idea. They could be great options for weekend/ week-long trips and would definitely reduce the amount of washing (and hand washing covers alone might not be that bad!).

      I haven’t actually tried a hybrid diaper with disposable inserts, primarily because I typically travel for extended periods of time (right now I won’t be touching home in the U.S. for over 3 months), so I wouldn’t want to be stuck trying to pack a 3-month supply of disposable inserts, or try to rely on finding them where I travel, because I don’t see these types of items for sale where I travel.

      The hybrid would be a great option for shorter trips, though, and I might think about trying those for a shorter 2-3 week trip next time that comes about!


  4. Heather Says:

    Wow, this is great to hear! We are moving to Lima, Peru this May and I was so excited to see that they sell cloth diapers there. We will be brining our stash, for sure, but I would love to hear from anyone in Peru and find out what soaps they use there.


    • Eliana Says:

      Hi, I would like to know your experience in Lima using cloth diapers. Can we buy cloth diapers there? How do you wash them? What detergent do you use? Thanks!


  5. Brooke Says:

    Wow that is very impressive! I don’t know if I could handle that while travelling especially while on vacation. The last thing I want to do is be tied to a washer/dryer. If even for a couple hours.


    • Jessica Menon Says:

      Hi Brooke,

      Yes, sometimes it does make sense to leave the diapers at home depending on how and why you are traveling. I’ve chosen to leave the cloth diapers at home and use disposable for some vacations. I have found that for weekend/ long weekend trips for 3-4 days I can usually just pack enough cloth diapers and wash them when I return home, as well. But depending on where I am going in the world, I just can’t get over the guilt of disposable diapers ending up in a beautiful river bed (like they would in India)!


  6. Anastasia Says:

    I’ve traveled with diapers LOTS of times as well. for me SPACE BAGS are awesome! You kow, the kind you roll up to get the air out! they take up much less room that way!


    • Gypsy Momm Says:

      I will have to check out SPACE BAGS…I have been using Eagle Creek Compression Sacks to get the air out and condense it, but haven’t seen this other option and I’m curious. Thanks!


  7. Athena Says:

    I’m curious,what type of diapers do you use,how many do you pack ?I thought it was more expensive to bring your dipes along,paying for xtra bags.Please fill me in.


    • Gypsy Momma Says:

      Athena- I use three different brands (FuzziBunz, Happy Heineys, Bum Genius) all in the One Size fits all. Autumn should be posting a more detailed blog about packing cloth diapers for travel soon, but I typically pack about 3 days worth, which right now is about 30 diapers. They don’t add that much weight to a suitcase, just bulk, so I use a compression sack (Eagle Creek in size XL) and stuff them all in there so it takes up a much smaller space in the suitcase so I don’t need an extra bag just for diapers….stay tuned for a post soon about packing diapers when Autumn has a chance to post it, or feel free to contact me for more info!


  8. tarin Says:

    If you’re still in South Africa, Cape Town in particular, you’re more than welcome to come and wash your diapers at my house. I just took my load out the dryer! People here still think anyone who uses cloth is crazy, but I’ve never used a disposable on my son and will never use one on any of my kids.


    • Gypsy Momma Says:

      Hi Tarin- I’m jealous you’re in Cape Town! I would love to be there (and take over your washing machine!) but I am stuck in Free State in Ladybrand on the border of Lesotho, which is also beautiful but in a very, very different way! I’m glad to hear you’re trail blazing the cloth usage in Cape Town, despite people thinking you’re crazy. People seem to look at me strange here in South Africa wearing my baby in a wrap on the front, too! Is it easy to get cloth diapers in Cape Town or South Africa? Do you buy things online or from a store?


      • tarin Says:

        We only have one store that sells one brand of prefold diapers, bambino mio, and they are awful. There are several great online stores, my favourite is They stock bumgenius. Several other stores sell some knockoff chinese brands and then there are the south african made cloth diapers, both one sized all in one options. One is biobaba found at and the other is mothernature found at There’s also bam+boo cloth diapers but they are a knock off of some uk brand but a great one I find is fancypants found at Unfortunately they are all very pricey so I tend to order online from nickisdiapers in the states and make my own


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