Photographs by Alyssa Murkin/staff Katherine Loichinger of North Charleston uses cloth diapers on her 1-year-old son, Thaddeus. After washing them, she hangs them to dry on a clothesline in her backyard.

Vicki Waldron is a diaper changing pro.

As a mom of five children ages 4 months to 17 years, Waldron can’t come up with the number of diapers she has changed over the years, but she can say for sure that things are different now than they were almost two decades ago.

“When you are handed your baby at the hospital, you sort of go with what everyone is doing,” the Charleston mom says.

And 17 years ago, that meant using disposable diapers. But times have changed, and what’s old is new again.

Before disposable diapers were invented, all new moms had to go with were cloth diapers. Now the reuseable tushy protector again is gaining popularity.

For moms considering cloth diapers, options abound and the notion of extra laundry can seem overwhelming. But with a little practice, those in the know say the process can become just another part of the parenting routine.

Reasons to switch “With my fourth one, I read so much more and I researched over the Internet,” Waldron says. “It takes a (disposable) diaper something like 500 years to decompose. That’s part of it, but that’s not my big thing. What got me were the chemicals.”

According to the Real Diaper Association, research shows that the very things that make disposables so absorbent contain chemicals that are harmful to children. Among the toxins listed are a super-aborbent polymer formerly used in tampons that was found to increase the risk of toxic shock syndrome in the 1980s.

When Waldron’s daughter, Evelyn-Claire, now 6, was born, Waldron had a friend who used cloth diapers. She gave it a try and never went back. When her son, Landon, an 11-11-11 baby, was born, Waldron didn’t hesitate to use cloth.

North Charleston mom Katherine Loichinger doesn’t regret her decision to choose cloth for her children, Fletcher, almost 3, and Thaddeus, 1.

“I started when Fletcher was about 2 weeks old,” she says. “In the beginning, it was for budget reasons.”

Knowing that she could use the diapers for multiple children convinced Loichinger that a little extra laundry was worth the effort.

“The average family will spend close to $2,000 diapering a child,” she says. “We’ve spent probably a total of $600 since Fletcher was born. And we can use them if we have a third.”

The debate continues as to the actual savings and minimized environmental impact of cloth versus disposable diapers since cloth diapers do mean a noticeable increase in the size of Mount Laundry. But those who are avid users of cloth diapers say the method has been beneficial for their families.

Load up on laundry While washing all those diapers may seem like a daunting task, Loichinger says it really doesn’t take long to develop a routine.

Once the process is mastered, washing diapers becomes second nature.

“If it’s wet, you put it in the diaper pail,” she says. “If it’s dirty, you spray it off in the toilet. Come laundry day, you take the whole thing and dump them in the washer.” Then toss them in the dryer or hang them up on a line.

Waldron and Loichinger even use cloth wipes.

“It’s so much easier and cheaper,” Waldron says. “There are so many solutions you can buy or make yourself.”

Both say cloth wipes make sense because they are easily washed right along with the diapers. If disposable wipes are used, an extra pail or garbage can is needed by the changing table to corral the mess.

Stocking up For moms who choose cloth diapers, Loichinger says making the decision during pregnancy allows friends and family members to give cloth diapers and supplies as shower gifts. Some moms-to-be even have diaper showers to supply everything baby’s bottom will need from birth to potty training.

“It is daunting at first,” Loichinger says. “The initial cost is large.”

To get started, moms need some basic supplies, Loichinger says, including a pail liner and a pail (a flip-top kitchen trash can works great), a diaper sprayer (helpful, but not required) and a waterproof bag for travel.

To reduce diaper washing to an every-other-day task, Loichinger says having 24 diapers on hand is helpful. If moms want to use cloth wipes as well, about two dozen are needed.

A variety of diaper systems are available, according to Loichinger. Some use a diaper cover and some are all-in-one systems with a built-in waterproof cover. Some brands have snap closures, while others use Velcro.

No matter what the choice, both Waldron and Loichinger say using cloth diapers has been easy for their families. And like every other new skill they developed as moms, what once was intimidating is now part of everyday life.

“It can be overwhelming at first, but you get used to it,” Loichinger says.