Diary of a Cloth Nappy Family 5 – The Houseboat Part 2

Ready to find out how our houseboat holiday with cloth nappies, no washing machine, no leaks, no smells and no stains went? Read on!

I know it’s been a while since Part 1, I apologise. I realise you’ve been on the edge of your seat and holding your breath for two weeks. You can take that breath now because the time has come. If you haven’t read Part 1 (also known as the prep post), then click on through here to see what we did to prepare for the week.

Because it’s been a while since our trip, I’m not going to do our typical diary format. And honestly, it was a week on a houseboat; day 1, day 2, day 3 get a a bit monotonous, so you’re welcome.

If you’ve read Part 1 you would know that for this trip we were inspired by Fluff Love University’s hand washing technique involving a homemade bucket and plunger camp washing machine. It’s a very simple three stage process; prewash, hot wash, rinse.

Prewash: dissolve a small amount of washing powder in warm water, add nappies. Plunge 50 times, wait 5 minutes, plunge 50 times. Ring out nappies, move on to wash.

Hot Wash: Dissolve a tablespoon of washing powder in hot water, add nappies. Plunge 50 times, wait 10 minutes, plunge 50 times. Ring out nappies under cold running water. Move onto rinse.

Rinse: Fill bucket with cold water, add nappies. Plunge 50 times, ring out, hang up on the side of the houseboat.


The downsides of this method: the plunger had a sticker on the handle which quickly came off, leaving sticky residue! Super annoying. Once we found the perfect spot in the bathroom to sit (I preferred the edge of the bath, Jonah preferred the toilet) getting the right angle and plunging well became habit. My arms felt buffer by the end of the holiday, but three weeks later my arms feel extraordinarily weak again. Boo.

Before you get your knickers in a knot about the water usage, don’t worry. The bucket has 7-10L capacity, less when also filled with nappies. It was also river water. I thought for sure our nappies would end up with a dirty hue to them, but every time we hung them up, we had to wear our sunnies. So white!

Now let’s rate this method.

Effectiveness 10/10

I was not exaggerating when I said no smells and no stains. This method left out nappies possibly whiter than we left. Yes, they felt a little soapy after the rinse cycle, but once they were dried we couldn’t tell the difference. We also didn’t bother giving them another wash in the machine when we got home because we were so convinced they were washed well.

Effort 8/10

Yes, yes this method takes effort. 250 plunges each wash cycle, and washing everyday. However, if you’ve ever been on a holiday in a confined space with a somewhat dysfunctional family group, you might appreciate some quiet time in the bathroom getting an exercise-fueled endorphin boost.

Laze factor 9/10

Now obviously you can’t be totally lazy and not do the washing. That would be bad. But we did manage to get lazy day 3 by not washing first thing in the morning, leaving our soak between plunges a lot longer than 10 minutes, and also not hanging them out until early evening. We never ran out of nappies, nor did we need to restart the wash. This method is holiday-proof. You want to take a break on the nappies to go for a spin in the tinny? Sure! You want to forget about the nappies and take an afternoon nap? No problem! Just don’t leave the bucket in the shower all day or that might be annoying for other people…

Conversation starter 10/10

This houseboat holiday was a ‘flotilla’ meaning there were four boats cruising together throughout the week. Our boat was flying nappies on the side with pride! During some of our excursions to other boats, we discovered other ways to wash nappies without a washing machine. Aunty Colleen used what I can only describe as a large pasta maker, and Great Aunt Anita wondered if we were putting them in the bathtub and stomping on them like grapes! We discussed the environmental impact of disposable nappies, the way convenience has eroded our sense of responsibility to creation, and the cost benefit or deficits to modern cloth nappies. Perhaps not your idea of a stimulating conversation topic, but it certainly gets me excited!

There were many things I would rethink about our trip if I could do it again; the length and enclosed space with a 10 month old who was cutting multiple teeth and learning to walk, being on a houseboat on first trimester pregnancy, and how many snacks we didn’t take. But I would do cloth nappies with a bucket again in a heart beat!

We’ve even used our experience to optimise our wash routine at home. We’ve stopped using our beloved Baby Bare Honeypot night nappies and started using the terry towel kite fold instead. Perfected on the trip, Jonah now folds one of those bad boys every night like a pro, and they wash like a dream!

We have even started using the plunger to hand wash our night nappies before chucking them into the daily prewash. It’s so much simpler and faster although that sticky residue still drives me mad!

And as much as the first trimester nausea allows, I’ve re-embraced woven wrap nap time. It’s so snuggly, so comfy, and peaceful.

It is with great satisfaction that we ended this trip with the knowledge that our next challenge; camping with cloth nappies, would not be nearly as challenging as imagined. For whenever the future takes us camping, we will be prepared with bucket in tow.

I couldn’t resist adding this one. Look how cute it is!

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