(photo found via google image search)
I was just trying to think about how to set up cloth washing outdoors for my group of kiddos at work. I was thinking through the idea of hanging up a clothing line either from a fence outside or between a couple of trees outside (we don’t have one of those indoor wooden clothing racks at child’s height). Then I was thinking through taking socks from the lost and found to use specifically during this practical life activity. (A: I don’t like letting the children at school wash used cloth napkins, placemats from meals, or used facecloths because I’m too afraid it spreads the germs from wiping the mouth and nose. While us adults may be heartier in health than a toddler, let’s be real– we get the luxury of wearing gloves at work. The children don’t. And I’m not sure if bar soap kills legit germs from saliva or mucous).
… and then I somehow was thinking that it would be glorious if I was legally allowed to let children hand wash their own clothing if they peed their pants at school. That would be a dream come true for me. In America that is fully a no-no according to licensing standards, however.
But if I had a toddler who was toilet learning, and they peed their pants at home, I would fully offer them the opportunity to hand-wash any of their own urine-soaked clothing, because practical life doesn’t get much realer than that. There are things at home that a school setting could never get away with because of licensing standards. However, I think that expecting your child to wash their own urine-soaked underwear and pants (not as punishment, but if they are willing and interested) is brilliant. I think it would add a layer of empowerment for how to handle one’s own soiled clothing.
Once upon a time, when I was about seven years old, I had a legitimately traumatic experience where I accidentally “sharted” during a day of recurrent diarrhea on a weekend. We were at home with my dad while my mom was out running errands, and these were the days where cell phones didn’t exist to the general public yet. My dad wasn’t in good practice of being the “primary caregiver” when it came to extreme, “uh oh” situations. My mom would have known what to do with expert grace, but my dad was clueless; and so was I because I had never uncontrollably pooped my pants as a person who had already achieved functional bowel control.
I had a sense for how to clean my own body by taking a shower independently, but I did not know what to do with the underwear, and neither did my dad who thought it wise to try to make me wash the underwear in the toilet. Meanwhile, my siblings were already teasing the sh*t out of me (haha) just for sneezing and pooping in my pants at the same time (which I also remember to this day exactly how they teased me, which became an ongoing joke for days afterward. I’m laughing harder now as I write this). And then came this added horrendous layer of being asked to wash my own underwear in the friggin’ toilet while wearing rubber gloves at 7 years old, utterly horrified, humiliated, and perplexed while my siblings knew this was occurring. I should have been shown how to bag the undies and just throw them away. I knew my mom would have never thought up such a ridiculous thing.
With that, let’s talk “humane” clothing management for urine and fecal-soiled clothing.
Firstly, it’s worth mentioning that urine is sterile when it emerges from the body. So a toddler can fully participate in changing their own clothes after peeing their pants. There should be some sort of small bin or plastic hamper with a lid where they are shown to put all urine-soaked clothing in your bathroom (a small trash can with a foot pedal and lid work well). I would have no qualms about letting my kid wash their own clothes right away after they peed on them because I know urine is sterile, it’s their own pee, and their clothing to manage. If I set up hand-washing urinated laundry for my own child, I would just show them the cloth washing protocol; and then because we were at home, I would show them to pour the used wash water down the toilet. I would then make sure I followed up by making sure they washed their hands really well and sanitizing the basins and the bucket as soon as they were done.
Other options are to just keep all urine soiled clothing in that plastic lidded bin until laundry time, and wash them all at once. Make sure you wipe out your bin with a towel and some sanitizer and wash the rag with the soiled clothing. Additionally you may always hand-wash the clothing in the shower, and keep a smaller bottle of detergent or Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap in your shower.
WHAT TO DO WITH FECAL-SOILED CLOTHING
When it comes to handling fecal-soiled clothing, this is where things get a little trickier.
A clothing management tip I received from a dad who got really tired of his daughter repeatedly pooping in her pants is that whenever she did, he lets her take off her own pants and underwear inside of their shower at home (while supervising and of course stepping in where needed). How real and how empowering to trust your child to help change themselves even if they have pooped their pants; and how creative to just have them do it in the shower where there is no fear of “making a mess” or being humiliated, because they can then take a shower. Thanks for sharing that great idea, dad!
If managing fecal-soiled clothing at home, your options are:
Firstly, if it’s possible to dump any feces off of the underwear into the toilet, definitely always do that.
option a) have a box of disposable gloves or a pair of cheap tongs, some sanitizing “clorox” wipes, and a large tupperware container pre-filled with some water, detergent, and a splash of hydrogen peroxide in the bathroom next to the hamper for urine-soaked clothing. Then place the soiled undies into your large prepared container to soak the rest of the feces off of the undies until you’re ready to do laundry, or until the kids are asleep later. When you’re ready to do a load of laundry later, take the undies out of the soak water to rinse them, dump the used pre-wash/ pre-soak water down the toilet, wipe out the container with a clorox wipe, and continue on with your laundry as usual. Refill with water, soap, and hydrogen peroxide to prep your soak container for the next set of soiled undies.
option b) hand wash the undies in the shower while you’re bathing your child. Keep a smaller bottle of detergent in the shower.
option c) some people will use the bidet (hand held ones work best) and wash the undies at the toilet when the toddler isn’t watching.
If your child poops their pants in public or away from home, you can:
~ always carry a stash of zip lock bags with you, and a reusable wet/dry bag, and take the soiled undies home to deal with later; or
~ always carry a stash of zip lock bags with you and throw the undies away.
A final tip, also from a dad:
If you are eating at a public restaurant and your child is still toilet learning, always insist that you visit the bathroom as soon as you arrive to the restaurant, non-negotiable. For outings, always have them wear 2 training pants type thicker underwear, and a plastic cover on top. Always bring something absorbent for them to sit on, like a couple of cloth diapers, and make sure they sit in the wooden high chair or in a plastic booster seat. Just because your child is in the toilet learning phase doesn’t meal life must go on hold. You just have to be prepared.