Your Post-TEOTWAWKI Diaper Insurance, by K. in Pennsylvania

After watching MacGyver as a kid I was left in a awe of how someone could create a diversion by blowing up an old abandoned shed in the middle of the woods with a  propane tank, child’s tricycle, the tire’s inner tube, three ball bearings, and a grinding wheel strategically placed near the shed window.  After he launched that “3rd and last chance” bearing, from the improvised “tricycle-sling-shot”, thru the window, striking the grinding wheel and igniting the propane filled shed…KA-BOOM!  My life was never the same…that was the start of my “improvising calling”.

My wife has graciously born the ups and downs of my “need-to-modify” mindset.  I appreciate that your site brings other improvisers to sit around the internet campfire and trade stories and real world, practical ideas.

So why I’m writing: I’m a blessed husband and proud father of two young boys. I’ve always had “how do I protect them” in the back of my mind.  So with that in mind my wife and I have been working on setting up our “emergency” stash.  A few months ago I started looking at the issue of diapers vs. “no-diapers.” This article is from a dad, to all the parents with little ones in diapers, or those anticipating future additions to the family.  The goal is to anticipate diaper changing issues in a prolonged emergency (while currently benefiting from the solution, even if the worst never happens).  I’ll explain that last statement by the end of the article.

Potential Problem

What do you do WHSHTF and there is no place to make a “disposable diaper run” to the store?  I like to call this the WTSHT-LOD scenario, where ”LOD” = Lack of Diapers.
If you think that changing diapers can be messy now; imagine no diapers, no wipes…and no place to get them…now that is a real crisis.   I can’t even imagine trying to change a poop total-diaper-blowout with some last-minute, improvised, t-shirt solution.  I don’t want my wife, nor myself for that matter, to have to be on diaper changing duty in a WTSHT-LOD scenario without a good back-up system.

Possible solution? 

Change to cloth diaper, now (or start kissing your t-shirt collection good-by)

Objection #1               But aren’t cloth diapers messy?

Reply # 2       
Yes…but all diapers are messy.  Cloth diapers are a bit more work, but my wife and I made the switch a year ago and figured out a system of rinsing out the poop into a bucket , then dumping the black water into the toilet.  The cloth diapers then get wash and dried like regular laundry. (I’ll go thru the details below).

Objection #2               But aren’t cloth diapers expensive?

Reply # 2

Think longer-term or call it “diaper insurance”.  We were spending around $60 a month on disposables, and decided to switch to a cloth system ($300 total). Cloth diapers paid themselves off in five months and now we’re ready if there are no disposables available. Plus they are now available for our second boy. Note: I pray we never have to run into a WTSHT-LOD scenario, but if we do, we have diaper insurance.  If it never happens, we save money.  (I wish my other insurance policies were so beneficial).

Objection #3               There are no cloth diapers available in my neck of the woods.

Reply # 3

            Do not get the Gerber brand “cloth diapers” that you might find in stores.  They are more suitable for waxing your car, changing oil or for use as a spit rag.  Using them as a true cloth diaper will only leave your child and yourself very disappointed.
            They have advanced a long way from the old-school style of cloth and pins. There are various different options out there now. We started with a cloth diaper system (it uses a “pouch/layer” system to hold various absorbent layers that trap the urine and poop).  After trying that for a while my wife found (it uses a “cover/layer” system where super absorbent inserts are laid onto the cover).  There are plenty of options out there, pick what works for you.  We like the Softbums (cover/layered system) because you simply change inserts and keep using the same diaper covers..  Additionally, they have a clever “adjustable cover system” (MacGyver would be proud).  The diaper cover grows with the child (saving money versus other systems that require buying bigger diaper covers as your child grows).

Note: My “review” of cloth diaper systems are limited to these two.  I’m sure there are other viable systems.  I’ve got no kickbacks or vested interests in it either. 

If you’ve gotten this far I figure you’re probably wondering: Okay, how do I make the switch?  I’ll go through that in the following paragraphs.

Note: If you happen to change over to cloth diapers don’t toss those disposables away.  They are great as a back up if the cloth diapers are in the wash/dryer.  Now that I think about it, they would be a great barter item.  While they can be bulky, disposable diapers might be the 1st thing that unprepared parents are looking for in a WTSHT-LOD scenario.

Speaking of this, can anyone shed some light with your experience on other uses of disposable diapers…improvised wound bandage?….perhaps even a desiccant (with the amount of  urine they soak up from my baby boys you could bail out a sinking battle ship or use it as a chemical spill boom. I’ve been tempted to toss them into my ammo cans and gun cabinet).

Equipment List

1.)         A long-term mind set (can’t buy in stores or on the web…but if you’re a prepper you’ve already acquired this item)
2.)         Buy a cloth diaper system (see above suggestions or surf the web for others)
3.)         5 gallon “rinsing” bucket to rinse off poop…any hardware store has these (don’t need a lid)
4.)         8 gallon “holding” bucket/container (preferably with a “pop-up” lid)
This will be used to hold rinsed diapers before being laundered.

Optional Equipment #1

             A hand-held sprayer (used to spray off poop from the diaper).  It works like the supplemental hand sprayer on some kitchen sink, but instead it attaches to the existing toilet water supply line.  Check out or for the MacGyver out there you can probably make your own set-up with a trip to the plumbing section at you local hardware store. 
Note: I place this hand sprayer under “optional” but after I used it there was no other option.  The alternative to not using a water sprayer is to dunk the diaper directly into the toilet and agitate by hand. Which is not only messy but will leave you with seriously dry and cracked hands (bless those mothers who used to do it that way).  In a post-WTSHTF scenario you need your hands to be in good shape.  If you decide to use a cloth diaper system with the optional hand held sprayer you will still have to get your hands slightly dirty with the cleaning/wringing, but it will be much less than the dunking method.

Optional Equipment #2
            An unused hand-pump weed sprayer (like the ones found at any hardware store). Why? What if there is no water pressure?  This will provide “off-grid water pressure” in case there is no more water system and the previous toilet hand-held sprayer becomes useless.

How does our system work (with the “optional” hand held sprayer)?

  • When the diaper needs to be change for urine deposits, diapers go straight into the 8 gallon bucket and thrown into the laundry later.  These are the easy diaper changes.  If you want, you can rinse them with the hand held sprayer, although we don’t find this necessary
  • If there is a poop deposit, use a minimal amount of  toilet paper, take off as much poop as possible, and throw that combination straight into the toilet.
  • Now the fun part…Drape the messy diaper inside of the 5 gallon bucket (messy side facing the middle of the bucket)…Turn on the hand held sprayer and start firing.  Note: some poop issues are easier to clean up than others…better aim/technique will come with time…trust me.  If you’re good at the “water sprayer games” at the local fair this will be easy…almost fun. Who am I kidding? You’re spraying water at poop!  But I figure if you having to do this crappy job you might as well make a game of it.  Additionally, instead of getting the satisfaction of winning a big-blue teddy bear, you’ll win the ever incalculably valuable affection of your spouse.
  • When most, if not all, of the poop is off, wring out the cloth diaper and place in the 8 gal “holding” bucket.  When bucket gets full it’s time to do diaper laundry.

Use the black water that is left in the 5 gal “rinsing” bucket to manually flush the toilet.   Another good technique to learn: How to manually flush the toilet from a bucket (without splashing)?  Two keys to that are aim and steady, continuous follow-through.

How does our system work (without the “optional” hand held sprayer?)

  • Same as #1. 
  • This is the really messy part….instead of taking off the poop with toilet paper…you need to dunk the whole diaper with you hands and agitate until it’s all off.  Once again I seriously recommend investing in a hand sprayer.
  • Same as #4 above


While the cloth diaper system requires a little more labor than disposables, there are many advantages:

A.)        Most of all…you’ll have a fully funded “diaper insurance” policy that comes with a sense of peace when you encounter a WTSHT-LOD scenario

B.)        Save money verses disposables (long-term mindset)

C.)        Avoid the last-minute “honey-we’re-out-of-diapers” trip to the store

D.)        Reduce valuable storage space requirements for long-term disposables stash

Note: Even if you were able to buy a stash of disposables. How many cases of different sizes of diapers are you going to have to buy?  What if you have more than 1 child?  You might as well start building a dedicated “diaper storage shed.”  Let me know if you do, I’ll buy some stock in Pampers.

Follow-up note:  Even if you had the cash and storage space for a shed full of diapers, what would you do if you had to G.O.O.D.?  I can see it now, an SUV with a pop-up trailer filled with disposables tearing down the road with a crazed mob of diaperless parents hot on their tail.

E.)        While I would not rely on disposable diapers for my kids, I would think that in a WTSHT-LOD event, disposables (if you have the space to store them) would be a valuable barter item for non-prepared parents.

F.)        If you get the “weed-sprayer” you now have a “grid-down-proof” way of getting pressurized water for not just diaper cleaning but also for rinsing dishes, final bathing rinse in the shower and other water pressure needs.