The end may be in sight for Portland-area parents who’ve been navigating a cloth diaper disaster. (If disaster seems like a strong word, picture a warehouse full of soiled nappies, take a deep breath and read on.)

Anakaren Nuño stood in the warehouse of Tidee Didee Diaper Service in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 6, 2019. With its boiler out of commission, the business has been unable to sanitize diapers. 

Anakaren Nuño stood in the warehouse of Tidee Didee Diaper Service in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 6, 2019. With its boiler out of commission, the business has been unable to sanitize diapers. 

Kate Davidson/OPB

It all started about one month ago. That’s when the industrial boiler at Tidee Didee Diaper Service caught fire during a maintenance call, according to staff. Located on Southeast 92nd Avenue, Tidee Didee is the area’s dominant service for collecting and sanitizing cloth diapers.

“We have about 500 customers, including daycares,” said Anakaren Nuño, daughter of owners Juan and Aurora Nuño.

The boiler was roped off with yellow “caution” tape; the insulation above it charred. Business ground to a halt.

Across town, in Southwest Portland, Megan Phillips noticed that her baby’s dirty diapers didn’t get picked up one day.

“I thought, that’s strange, that’s never happened,” she said. “I got a voicemail message that afternoon saying there had been an issue with the boiler and the service would be suspended.”

No word on when it would resume. Diapers could be collected, but not sanitized and returned.

The weeks passed and hundreds of parents and childcare providers faced a similar question: Could they sustain their cloth diaper choice, without a cleaning service to help them?

Phillips was reluctant to use disposables, so she decided to wash her 9-month-old’s cloth diapers herself. She rinsed them in the toilet before soaking them in chlorine-free bleach and running them through the washer. It’s a routine she said she couldn’t keep up if she hadn’t taken a year off from teaching second grade.

“I’m not suspending my relationship with Tidee Didee,” she laughed. “I’m hoping to hear from them.”

Meanwhile, Tidee Didee’s warehouse grew fairly pungent. 

With cloth diapers piling up inside, Tidee Didee is hoping to replace its boiler ASAP. 

With cloth diapers piling up inside, Tidee Didee is hoping to replace its boiler ASAP. 

Kate Davidson/OPB

“The whole area is just filled with bags and bags of dirty diapers that we have to sort through once we get back up and running,” Nuño said.

Nuño’s family just took over the business in September. Then, they watched revenue dry up.

“It’s been difficult because we still have to pay our employees even though they’re not working. Because we don’t want them to leave,” she said. “We’re like a small, [tight] knit family here.”

This week, Nuño got some good news. The insurance payment was on its way. She hopes the boiler will be replaced soon, perhaps with a different system.