Changing Diapers: the Hip Mom's Guide to Modern Cloth Diapering

Friday, May 25, 2012

Flats Challenge: DAY 5

I am participating in the 2nd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge, hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  I have pledged to use flats, and handwash them, for 7 days.  The Challenge was an idea that came about after numerous articles referenced the practice of reusing disposable diapers.  Families with no money for new diapers were scraping out the solid contents or using a hair dryer to dry the diapers for reuse.  Not only is this unsanitary but it is also extremely dangerous. {read the original article} It was the personal mission of Kim of DDL to educate others that, although not ideal, hand washing the inexpensive flat cloth diapers was an option to families who had no other way to diaper.  No baby should have to suffer when there are ways to diaper for less than $50.00.

A little Flats Challenge humor!
(not sure who made this to credit them)


UPDATE:  We have a TON to do today (shopping, packing, lunch, speech therapy, gymnastics, loading up the car, then a 6 hour car trip).  E woke up first thing with a nasty diaper, then another one soon after (where the receiving blanket leaked even his pee, but fortunately not the poop).  The last 2 days he's had nasty "teething poo", but he's not teething.  Not fun with flats, but I've dealt with it and just washed more often.  But today (and the next 2 days) I won't have time or be able to handwash diapers every few hours.  We don't have enough to go more than 5 diaper changes before I need to wash. 

So I cheated.  And not even with a regular cloth diaper.  I cheated with disposable inserts.  I have them to use on our trip once the Challenge was over, but I'm starting early.  I don't want to leave dirty cloth diapers here for 5 days, so it was the next best option. 

I am still handwashing the last batch of flats and covers.  I knew at this point I could have just thrown them in the washer, but I wanted to at least follow through with that part.  So, I think I am done with the Flats & Handwashing Challenge.  I really wanted to follow through, and I'm a little disappointed.  But, I'm still proud I even did the first 4 days with our busy week. 

The rest of this blog I wrote yesterday, since I wasn't sure I'd be able to sit and blog this morning.  So read on for things I've learned, and some helpful tips!


I've learned a lot this week.  I've been cloth diapering for almost 2.5 years, done a TON of research, lead our local cloth diaper group, but I have never done anything quite like this challenge.

I'll be honest.... I was this close to backing out last minute.  I have had so much going on recently, and the next 5-6 weeks are just crazy busy.  I didn't want to add using "inconvenient" diapers, and the time to handwash diapers, to my list of things to do this week.  Not to mention the blog posts to go along with it.  And the fact that Day 5 we will be in the car for 6 hours, and Days 6-7 will be out of town.  There were too many good reasons NOT to take this challenge. 

But, I'm glad I did!  I'm glad I have stuck with it so far.  We'll see how things go when we hop in the car later, and spend the next couple of days out of town, but so far it has taught me a lot.

Here are just a few things I've learned so far:
  • Pad folding inside a PUL cover is just like using an AI2 style diaper.
  • Flats & handwashing are only as difficult as you make them out to be.  I took a simple approach, and found this challenge was much easier than I anticipated.  I think if I had over-thought it (or had a very negative attitude towards it) I would have just made it more difficult on myself.
  • I really can cloth diaper my child with things found around the house.  Receiving blankets aren't my favorite diaper, but they work (sometimes;).  So do t-shirts.  Flour sack towels are my favorite.  Granted, not everyone has PUL or wool covers, but they are easy to get or make.  Baby washcloths make great wipes (but I already knew that!).  This is advice I frequently give, but never experienced first hand.  Now I have!
  • In case of emergency, I will not have to worry about what to use as a diaper.  I can get creative.  I know how to wash them if I don't have access to a washing machine.
  • Don't spend 30 minutes drying and straightening your hair, then wash the diapers.  You'll get sweaty and undo what you just did.... 
  • Always have an extra change of clothes when running errands.  I've been lucky with our regular cloth diapers not to have to do this. 
  • Be sure the cover goes over all of the flat.  I forgot a few times and the wet flat stuck out of the cover, causing leaks.
  • Wash daily, or it's just more work.  I found that 5-8 items (covers and wetbags included) were the easiest for me to wash at one time.  I sometimes washed twice a day, but once a day was usually enough.
  •  Line drying outside is much quicker than indoors.  Plus, the sun helps sanitize the diapers, while fading stains.  
  • Flats are extremely versatile!  They can be used in ANY cloth diaper.  Plus, they make fantastic cleaning or burp rags.  Also good for spilled drinks!  
  • It doesn't take much detergent when handwashing diapers.  I used 1-1.5 tsp to wash 5-8 items, with the bathtub filled about 1/4 of the way.
  • When taking diapers off an outdoor clothesline, shake well to remove any bugs. 
  • Beat, shake, and/or twist dry diapers to soften them up.
  • Don't skimp on the agitating.  When agitating diapers by hand (or with a plunger),  it feels a lot longer than it is.  4-5 minutes worked well for me, then soak, then another 3-4 minutes of agitation before rinsing.  Diapers may stink if they don't get clean enough.
  • Moisturize!  My hands have been very dry this week, so lotion has been my friend.  

I will try to update as soon as I am able with how the final days of this Challenge went while out of town.  If I have internet access, I will try to get at least one blog post up.  Here's hoping I don't give up on flats in the last 2 days of the challenge.  My only concern is finding time to handwash the diapers.  [insert sad face here]


  1. I think you hit the nail on the head with handwashing- elaborate routines seem to lead to nothing but frustration and exhaustion. It doesn't need to be hard :)

    Nice job jumping in even when you knew you might not be able to finish because of your busy schedule. Now you know if you ever needed to, you could do it. With tornado season coming I love knowing that if I was without power for an extended period of time, I could make it work.

  2. I don't think you should be disappointed - your experience is teaching others! I think it's a good honest look at some challenges you may run into with this method.

    We only have one flat in our stash, that we use as the last diaper of the day if our son poops unexpectedly just before bath time. But it's a really simple method (pad fold the flat in a Thirsties cover), and I'm considering getting a few more as backup diapers, especially since we'll have two in cloth in a few months!

    And the washing instructions are great, especially if your washer were to break. You made hand-washing sound like no big deal! :)

    1. Thanks:) I was super nervous about handwashing, but it was much easier than I thought it would be. If I were to handwash long term, I would definitely do things differently. But for short term, my method worked well.

      Flats really are awesome. They don't get the credit they deserve. I don't use them often (on a regular basis), but I love having them on hand for backup (or just because I want to use them!).

      I definitely learned a lot. Especially after 4.5 days of flats, then 5.5 days of using disposables or hybrids. I appreciate my washer and my cloth SO MUCH more now. And I do feel better about sharing my experience with all of this. It always feels weird to tell people to handwash/use flats/use 100% cloth on trips if I haven't actually done so. Now I can give my honest experience with all of it.

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