Flats and Handwashing Challenge – Cloth Diapers

My friend Kim at Dirty Diaper Laundry blog has been very busy lately.  First she creates the Cloth Diaper Finder, an amazing program that helps you select the perfect cloth diaper for you based on your preferences.  She’s also working on a few other surprises that I’m sure will be equally exciting.  Then a few months ago there were several articles floating around the internet about the lengths that some parents take in order to save a few dollars.  See disposable diapers are expensive and the cost keeps rising.  There are families out there who literally have to make the choice between buying food and buying diapers. Parents will leave disposable diapers on their babies hours longer than they should and some will even go to the extreme of reusing a disposable diaper!!  Sadly it’s the babies who suffer; sitting in any diaper for more than a few hours can lead to severe rashes and infections.  Left untreated due to the high cost of medical treatment these babies lives are at risk.

Thankfully there are options out there but those who are in need aren’t always educated about the ease and cost savings of using cloth diapers.  I won’t go into the politics behind our welfare and low income assistance programs because that’s not really my specialty – cloth diapers on the other hand are my specialty.

So Kim decided to hold a challenge for herself and for anyone else who was willing to participate (over 200 people are currently signed up).  The Flats & Handwashing Challenge was born!!  From May 23-30th participants will try to cloth diaper under the same stresses that many of the low income Americans face everyday – no money, no laundry facilities, and no support from the government for necessities like diapering your baby.

Flats are (typically) large square or rectangular pieces of cotton that can be folded and placed inside a diaper cover.  They consist of a single, thin layer of fabric which makes them ideal for handwashing and air drying.  Store bought flats sell for as little as $1.00 each making them the most economical form of diapering available today and since flats are typically made from cotton you can turn ordinary household items (tshirts, receiving blankets, old sweaters, and more) into diapers with little effort.

Handwashing? Yes, the challenge says we have to handwash our diapers for one week.  Why? If you were living under the most extreme conditions where you didn’t have access to a laundry or laundry mat how else would you wash your clothing … and your cloth diapers?  Even for those of us who are fortunate enough to have laundry readily available what would you do if your washer broke, or if a natural disaster struck and you were left without power?  These are realities that people face every day across America.

Why am I joining the Flats & Handwashing Challenge? Being an advocate for cloth diapering is important to me – something that I take to heart.  I’m always trying to lead by example so that I might encourage at least one person to use cloth diapers on their baby.  My blog reaches many more people than I’ll ever know and maybe someone who reads about our challenge will be able to share the information with someone in need; and you just never know when you yourself may be the one who is in need tomorrow.

The rules from the Dirty Diaper Laundry blog:

  • You MUST use Flats.
  • You MUST handwash them.  How is up to you.  (bathtub, sink, large wash tub, portable non electronic washing machine, or camp style washer (bucket and plunger- think churning butter)
  • You MUST air dry them.  (indoors or outdoors, makes no difference)
  • You MUST limit your number of covers in rotation to 5 or less.
  • You can use any detergent you want.  (Keep in mind that you still want cloth safe detergents)
  • You can still use your nighttime diapers but I ask that you try to make flats work.  Maybe try a prefold wrapped in a flat.
  • You can use disposable liners.
  • You CAN’T use a diaper sprayer.  I thought long and hard about this one, but at an average cost of 40.00 this is one diaper accessory that is out of range for many families.  Dunk, swish, flush, or scrape!
  • You MUST start the morning of May 23 and end the evening of May 30.
  • You MUST fill out a completion survey about your experience.  Results will be published here and can be republished on your own blog.
  • You don’t have to be a blogger!  Your conclusions about the experiment will be entered into the survey at the end of the challenge.  You can share on your Facebook, Twitter, various messageboards.  But if you are a blogger please share your experience on your own blog.  Grab the button and let people know you are planning on joining the challenge.  Recruit others!  Challenge your own readers to join and fill out the completion survey.  You can blog everyday updating your experience, beforehand to let people know you are getting ready for it and explain what you will be doing, and of course, after the fact to let people know how it went.  If you hated it, say so.  If you think it was awesome and want to continue in some aspect, say that too!  Who knows, flats might be your favorite diaper!

So there you have it – in just a little over a week I will be cloth diapering under the most extreme (yet modified) conditions – and so will my husband and my daycare provider!  Although to be honest with you my husband will be out of the country that week and my daycare provider will only have to change the diapers – I’ll be the one doing the washing!

My supplies so far:

  • One dozen natural birdseye cotton flats purchased from Kelly’s Closet ($21.95/dozen)
  • Five flour sack towels purchased from WalMart ($4.87/5 pack)
  • Old tshirts and receiving blankets to make repurposed flats
  • Miscellaneous diaper covers from our stash (retail prices start at $8.95 for Econobum)

Items I still need to find/buy/borrow:

  • Plunger for washing (optional for washing)
  • Bucket for handwashing (although you could use a tub or sink)
  • Low cost cloth diaper safe detergent (I’ll probably get a box of Planet for the challenge)

I’ve already been experimenting with my birdseye flats and I have to tell you that I’m quite impressed with how simple they are to use and how absorbent they are at night.  I’m really excited to see how well I do with the handwashing; especially considering how little time I have free each day.   This is going to be an extreme challenge for me.

Will you join us?  To learn more about the challenge and for more information on how to participate please visit Dirty Diaper Laundry.  Kim has developed some video tutorials on handwashing, prepping, and folding flat diapers.



Looking for cloth diapering resources and tips? Visit my cloth diapering archives, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and on Pinterest.
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