My wife and I are having our first child and our considering cloth diapers. We live in an apartment complex with 10-15 units and all share the same two washing machines and two drying machines. We are wondering if washing cloth diapers in these machines could have a negative impact on the other tenants' (and our) clothes. I have not read this anywhere so I am guessing that it will not, but I wanted to get an explicit answer.
Nappies require a lot of washing and rinsing. You'll likely be doing a wash every other day. This increased time might be seen as problematic by other residents.
But I suspect your question is about poo: you don't put much poo into the machine.
Many cloth nappies use a biodegradable disposable liner which collects most poo, leaving the nappy much easier to clean. You'd probably be sluicing the nappies before washing them - some people recommend using the shower hose to remove solids. Or maybe you'd be soaking them.
You'd wash the nappy with a cold pre-wash, followed by a hot (at least 60 celsius) wash, followed by a good rinse. You'd use about half the normal amount of detergent, and make sure it wasn't a "biological" detergent. (the heat would kill most of the enzymes anyway, so there's no point in a biological detergent).
If your child is breast fed their poo will be water soluble and will wash away in the machine. If they're on solids or formula you may find their poo isn't water soluble. (Another reason for the hot wash and good rinse).
But you're likely to find that some people perceive a problem. They're likely to say it's unhygenic, or uses the machines too often. And most new parents report feeling a bit overwhelmed by the washing. So, if you're determined to use cloth nappies you might want to investigate a nappy washing service. These washing services tend to use less water and energy than home washing.
How do you deal with the poo?
Flush it! At each change, you flush any solid waste down the toilet. If you are using a flushable liner*, then simply flush poo, liner and all. If any waste has clung to the nappy - or you are using a washable liner - you may have to sluice this, too – it's not as difficult or distasteful as it sounds! You simply grip firmly onto a corner of the nappy or liner and rinse it in the toilet as it's flushing. Incidentally, if your flushable liner is merely wet, you can wash it in the machine with your nappies – I find they last fine for three or four washes before developing holes. If your water pressure is insufficient, and the toilet sluicing trick doesn't work, then rig up a shower spray (either use your shower, or use a rubber spray attachment over your bath taps), and use this to shower poo off the nappy into a dedicated bucket. This is very easy and effective. You then simply put your rinsed nappy into your storage bucket, and flush away the contents of the sluicing bucket.
TL;DR: No, there's no problem washing nappies in a communal washing machine. But other people may think there's a problem - and so that becomes the problem.
2Good answer. My brother in law, who had anxiety issues w/germs, had a huge problem sharing using our washer when we were cloth diapering. To alleviate his worrying, we did a courtesy "sanitizing" cycle after the diapers. You can look up how to do this online. We'd also wipe down the lid and knobs with disinfectant. Totally unnecessary steps, but it went a long way towards avoiding hard feelings. Feb 21, 2016 at 13:40
1I'd also like to add that there is a product available called The Potty Pail that is for spraying off poo into the toilet. I suppose it might not work outside the U.S. where plumbing standards are different, but it's a great idea anyway. I'm getting one for myself when baby #4 arrives in Sept. Feb 21, 2016 at 13:49
1Re quantity of washing, I can't comment on cloth nappies as we use disposables but we average a load of clothes every one to two days. Babies generate a lot of washing! Feb 21, 2016 at 21:41
It depends on the baby's age how often you do laundry and also on how many diapers you have. If you have quite a few (I highly recommend having twice as many as you need for one day) you can do an infant's diapers every other day. If you have just enough, be prepared to do a load every day. Once the baby is older, you will have to wash less frequently because they dont need to be changed as often. I wouldn't go more than four days even if your supply allows it--they get REALLY stinky, even if you rinse well. Feb 21, 2016 at 23:57
1My mom used to use the toilet to get rid of poo before washing the diaper. Just put into the toilet to soak for a bit. She would squeeze in a little Lysol if necessary. Then you take the tip of the diaper in your fingers and dunk, dunk, dunk. Flush and redunk a few more times if necessary. That usually gets rid of solids. And you don't have poo in your tub or sink. Feb 22, 2016 at 18:43
I would be most concerned about the added duration or use that your neighbors may not appreciate.
For my routine I have to pre-wash which takes about 1:10 in my machine, followed by a heavy wash with extra rinse which takes another 1:25 in the same machine.
After the wash, I also end up drying for two cycles or about 1:15 total dry as the brand I use can melt under higher heat.
In total, it can be upwards of 2:35 in the wash and 1:15 in the dry(if I hear the end of cycle alarms!) which could end up delaying the next user quite a bit of time if they want to use either. Keep in mind most brands recommend a daily wash routine as well!
I seem to recall my start to finish time was 5 hours, pre-wash, heavy wash, extra rinse, and a long dry cycle. I have an older top loader tho, and I often didn't do each step immediately after the other. OP could observe when the laundry room is most often not in use so that the long cycles are least likely to inconvenience neighbors. Feb 22, 2016 at 0:08