Shift switch: Diaper washer at Milwaukee Diaper
It has been four years since I last changed or washed a diaper, but for some reason, I chose to be a glutton for punishment and take a shift at Milwaukee Diaper, a cloth diaper service based in Bay View.
From the moment I walked in the door, owner Tracy Sherman warned me that I was about to embark on a highly pungent experience.
"Since it's summer, the diapers are especially smelly for you today," said Sherman with a smile. "In winter, it's not so bad, but in summer, you definitely know you're in the diaper business."
Recently, Sherman took over the cloth diaper business in addition to her consignment shop called Half Price Kid Stuff, 2675 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Prior to owning the businesses, she spent 15 years in the hotel industry where she became an expert in laundry services.
Milwaukee Diaper strives to be as green as possible by using reusable bags and labels to transport the diapers, washing in high efficiency machines and dryers, using flex-fuel delivery vehicles, invoicing via e-mail rather than paper and mapping routes according to geographic proximity to reduce excess fuel consumption. Plus, all of the diapers are cut and sewn by work-at-home parents in Wisconsin.
"We currently keep more than 3,660 diapers and cloth wipes out of landfills on a weekly basis," says Sherman.
Milwaukee Diaper's cloth diaper service costs $59.99 if customers pre-pay for at least four months, $64.99 if they pre-pay for three months, $69.99 for two months pre-paid and $74.99 if they want to pay month-to-month. Cloth wipes are an extra $12 per month and a second order for another sibling is an extra $35.
My shift at Milwaukee Diaper was divided into two roles: filling orders and washing. My bottom line (yes, yes pun intended) was that it really wasn't as disgusting of a job as I thought it would be. And I learned a lot about poop, which as the mother of two school-aged boys, I can't know enough about at this stage in the parenting game.
Once a week, a diaper delivery person drops off a family's weekly supply of diapers in a big yellow bag. Hence, my first responsibility of the day was to read the orders from a spreadsheet, and fill each bag with the correct size and number of diapers. Then, I cinched shut the bag and tagged it with the customer's name. Easy as poo. I mean pie.
I then moved onto the portion of the shift that I was less enthused about: diaper washing. My first task was to grab one of the yellow bags from the massive pile and empty the 100 diapers stuffed inside into an industrial-sized washer with the "soil level" set on heavy.
"With my system, you never have to touch a diaper," said Sherman.
I wore rubber gloves anyway.
I was relieved and surprised that I did not have to scrape the poop from the diaper. According to Sherman, the high-efficiency washers are so powerful that it's not a necessary step. Occasionally customers put every cloth diaper into an individual plastic bag to cut down on smell, which requires Sherman to cut open every bag to retrieve the poopy diaper.
"Not my favorite, but just part of the job," she says.
Sherman says she takes special requests from her clients all the time, and it's one of the ways her service remains appealing to new parents. One of her clients, for example, wants her diapers washed in a separate load.
"She's a self-proclaimed 'germophobe,'" says Sherman. "And it's fine with me."
Sherman uses Tide for all of her diaper laundry.
"We have some poo to clean here -- not delicate lingerie -- and I tried all of the natural detergents but found that Tide really works the best," she says.
After the first wash, I sorted the clean, wet diapers into two piles: stained and not stained. About 50 percent of the diapers come out clean and ready for the dryer, and the remaining portion are still stained with yellow splotches (here's a fun fecal factoid for non-parents: breastfed baby poop is mustard yellow.)
The stained batch gets washed again with chlorine-free, oxygenated bleach and the clean batch gets tossed in the dryer on a high heat, anti-bacterial setting. The bags get washed and bleached, as well.
About 10 percent of the diapers remain slightly stained after the bleach wash. Sherman washes them with lemon juice, hangs them on her line to dry and sells them for discounted prices in her consignment shop.
"This work is really not as gross as people think," says Sherman.
Maybe it's because I'm a mother, and like all moms, I have worn my share of puke, pee and poop, but I agree with her.
As of last night, we received a credit from our financial service. So as long as you paid via Visa, I would contact them for your refund. It took a little over a week to get our refund that way.
Bottoms Up has been in business in Milwaukee for 15 years. The reason they are more stable is because they do other laundry services as a side business. I feel really bad for those that were duped. As a diaper service owner as well (Earth-Changing Diaper Service - South Chicago Suburbs), I truly feel as if it is difficult to stay in business in this climate but that it is your duty to your customers first to realize and admit when you have had enough and are going to fail. For Bottoms Up call 800-598-5484 Website: www.bottomsupdiapers.com
We contacted our financial institution, and an investigation is underway. Also, I was able to have her website provider disable her ability to accept payments. They wouldn't take down the website all together, however, if you would like to contact them, their email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. For those of you looking for another service, we've been told about https://www.spottedhorse.com/sites/bottomsupdiapers.com/service.htm Good luck.
Joan | Jan. 17, 2011 at 10:38 p.m. (report)
If you don't mind laundering them it would be worth to keep up doing cloth on your own. Also, the prefolds and laundry bag are probably worth more than $74.99. You could probably sell them when you're done and get your money back. A great tip for getting rid of stains - spray a water/lemon juice mixture on them and put them in a sunny window (when/if we have any sun anytime soon) or dashboard of car. Stains come right out.
Hey therealrdub, have you had any luck with the Visa refund? I might try that approach if it's not too much of a hassle.
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