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City's only cotton diaper service folds

Company may be last in state to offer them

Posted: Sunday, June 06, 2004

When Britt Constantine gave birth to her son, Canyon, five months ago, she liked the thought of soft cotton diapers on his bottom.

On Thursday, Constantine and her husband, Garri, bought disposables for the first time because Juneau's only cloth diaper service has gone out of business. It may have been the last cotton diaper service in the state, according to business sources in Anchorage and Fairbanks.

"That diaper service I thought was a really great resource in this community," she said. "They gave something that was soft on their (babies') bottoms."

The Bottom Line Diaper Service at 5750 Glacier Highway closed at the end of May, owner Sharon Jones said. Jones had to close the business because of health problems and could not find someone else to run it, she said. She sold the equipment used to clean the diapers.

"Basically we're sorry that it didn't work, and that someone else wasn't interested in continuing the service," she said.

Constantine also is sorry because cloth diapers offered softness, were environmentally friendly and encouraged parents to become more responsible diaper changers because cloth does not absorb as well as disposables, she said. Babies also tended to toilet train more quickly because cloth diapers felt wetter, she said.

"I'm really going to miss it. I'm really going to miss it. I'm really sad," Constantine said while holding Canyon. The two had stopped in at The Growing Tree, a children's store next to the former diaper service on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, the couple bought their first package of 144 disposable diapers at Costco for $32. The diaper service cost $13 a week for about 100 diapers.

Bonny Rivera, a distributor for cotton diapers in Anchorage, said that city's last cotton diaper service folded nine years ago.

"I think that's amazing for this size city," said Rivera, who gets an average of four diaper service inquiries a week.

The Chamber of Commerce in Fairbanks also does not know of any cotton diaper service there.

Richard Lyon, the original owner of Bottom Line, remembers when the diaper service in Fairbanks folded because he bought some of its stock. He vividly recalls seeing spoiled diapers sitting in the snow.

Lyon and his wife, Joy, started the Juneau business in 1989 and owned it for seven years before selling it to Jones. They had 160 customers at the time.

The Lyons started the business because they had a baby and another on the way. Plus, there was lots of focus at the time on recycling and environmental consciousness, Joy Lyon said.

"We were going through a lot of diapers ourselves and it was on our mind, and a friend of mine said, 'Why don't you start one (a diaper service)?,' " she said.

For parents reluctant to switch to disposables, Rivera said washing cotton diapers isn't as bad as some would think. That is the cheapest alternative before using a diaper service or buying disposables. The latter is the most costly choice, she said.

Rivera raised both of her children in cotton diapers. At first she would insert the diapers with flushable liners to handle most of the solid waste. Then she put the soiled diapers in a dry pail until she got enough for a wash every three days. She washed the diapers in hot water separately from other clothes, added white vinegar to reduce the urine smell and always used an extra rinse. She would lay them out to dry.

Parents also can choose a wet pail system in which they would soak the diapers in white vinegar and water. That system eliminates more odors and stains, but Rivera said she had difficulty lifting the pail with the added weight.

Small diapers for children 6 to 20 pounds will last until a baby reaches about 8 months old. At that point, the child is ready to move onto the larger size diapers that will last the 2 to 212 years until the child is toilet trained.

Rivera sells cotton diapers for $85 a dozen. She is a distributor for the Ontario, Canada, company, My Lil' Miracle Inc. She sells the diapers out of her home to a local customer base by appointment.

If Rivera has the diapers in stock, she can ship to Juneau customers in four to five days. Otherwise, they could receive the diapers more quickly by going to the company's Web site, www.mylilmiracle.com.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com.



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