SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine — Parents of children born before the 1970s likely have fond (or not so fond) memories of swaddling their infants in cloth diapers that were rinsed and washed in sinks or washing machines.
Even when disposable diapers first began to surface, they were meant to supplement their cloth siblings when parents were away from home and couldn’t rinse the soiled cloth. Gradually, though, disposable diapers became the standard because of their convenience. Parents now buy them by the hundreds.
But like so many things, cloth diapers have seen a resurgence in recent years, especially among environmentally conscious parents.
Liz Hudson, a Southwest Harbor mother of two, recognized that growing trend and was surprised to learn that people Down East and in eastern Maine had no options for cloth diaper services.
That’s how Dandy Diaper Service was born.
From a storefront just off Main Street in Southwest Harbor, Hudson washes, dries and folds parents’ cloth diapers and delivers fresh ones every week. Her service provides parents the option of using cloth diapers without having to do the messy cleaning in their own homes.
“You never think, ‘Oh, I’m going to be a diaper cleaner,’” the 33-year-old Georgia native said Saturday from her store, which opened in January. “But it’s something I would have loved to have as a parent, and there is definitely a need.”
Hudson’s two children, a 6-year-old and an almost 4-year-old, are out of diapers now, but she and her husband, a local lobsterman, did use cloth diapers with her youngest. There was no diaper service then, so they did all the work themselves.
Most parents don’t want that hassle, Hudson said. With Dandy Diaper Service, the used cloth diapers are placed into a lined plastic bin and, when it’s full, Hudson delivers a new batch and takes the old ones back to Southwest Harbor for cleaning. She has industrial washers and dryers and uses all-natural, ecofriendly detergents.
Nearly all disposable diapers, she said, contain toxins from the bleaching process, a fact more and more parents are learning. About 90 percent of disposables end up in landfills. From a carbon footprint standpoint, a diaper service is the best way to go.
There are practical reasons, too.
“Studies show that children who use cloth diapers potty-train faster,” Hudson said. They can feel that wetness on their bottoms instead of having it absorbed, she said. Diaper rash also is typically lessened with cloth diapers.
What about cost?
Hudson said her diaper service is on par with what parents would spend on disposables. The start-up fee is $40, which provides parents with the lined diaper pail, a deodorizer disk and a wet bag to take out in public. After that the cost is $25 to $30 a week and includes 90 cotton diapers for newborns, 70 for infants and 50 for toddlers. Infant diapers usually run between $20 and $25 for 100.
Diaper Dandy Service is still in its infancy as a small business, but Hudson, who has a degree in microbiology from the University of Maine and works part time at a local hospital, said she’s working hard to get the word out.
She now delivers to clients throughout Hancock County and even into Penobscot County as far as Bangor, including some day care facilities.
Her store also has a wide variety of cloth diaper styles and some other baby-related products, but she hopes to add to the inventory as her customer base grows.
“I think there is a still a perception that using cloth diapers is messy or inconvenient,” Hudson said. “It’s really not.”
Dandy Diaper Service also is one of three locations in Maine — Bangor and Camden are the others — scheduled to participate in a national Great Cloth Diaper Change event at noon Saturday, April 23, to help bring awareness to the benefits of cloth diapers.
Organizers are hoping to set a world record for most cloth diapers changed simultaneously. Each location must have a minimum of 25 participants to count for the record.
More information on Dandy Diaper Service is available online at www.thedandydiaper.com or by calling 460-1479.