3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge Day 4: How’s the Handwashing?


flatschallenge2013buttonOn the fourth day of the Flats and Handwashing Challenge the topic I and the other bloggers linking up will be discussing is an important one- the handwashing part.

I think out of this entire event the handwashing is what people find the most terrifying and most curious.  Why, WHY would anyone do something so crazy and what is it like?  Is it hard?  Is it gross?

This is my third year participating in this event and I’ve handwashed my diapers on various other occasions when traveling.  Each time I learn more about what works best when handwashing my diapers, pick up tips from others involved, and realize that handwashing is not easy but it is possible.  I have a how-to handwash video using the camp-style washer from the first year as well: How to Handwash Cloth Diapers.

For starters I’ll explain my wash routine:


I store the dirty diapers in the bucket I plan to wash in.  When it is time to wash I fill the bucket with cold water and do a pre-rinse that includes a couple of minutes of agitation with the plunger or breathing washer.


I drain the water, and usually dump all the contents into the bathtub.

This is when I make sure all of my flats are unfolded, and if not, I unfold them and put them back in the bucket.

Next I fill the bucket with hot water and add a few drops of my detergent.  I had a sample of Vaska so that is what I have used this week (but any free/clear detergent will work).


I agitate using the breathing washer for a few minutes.  I never time it but I usually go longer than what I think is good just to be safe because often I think I have been agitating forever and I look and it’s only been 2 minutes.

I dump out the water and diapers, rinse each diaper in the cold water coming from the faucet, then put it back in the bucket and fill it once again with cold water.

Agitate with the washer again.  If I see too many bubbles from soap (not bubbles from the agitation) I pour the water out a little, add more, and agitate more.

Next each diaper is hand wrung and the covers are rolled in a dry towel to help them dry faster.


I dry them on an Ikea drying rack outside when I can, or inside if not.


The entire process takes about 30 minutes.  (28 if I look at the exif data on my camera!)  

Drying the diapers is something that is totally subjective to where you live and how you hang them.  It took several hours for mine to dry due to the humidity and the fact that I didn’t wring them out super well.  Today’s batch dried faster inside and I wrung them out bone dry, as good as I could by hand.  My trick to soften air dried flats is pictured below, but basically you twist and beat the diapers quickly and they soften up completely!

Soften line dried diapers by hand

I’ll be honest and say that I never look forward to washing the diapers.  I never look forward to my normal diaper laundry either.  It truly isn’t that hard and it isn’t too time consuming but even at only 30 minutes a day it can be a chore for anyone coming home from a full day of work.  Even though I never look forward to it I always get it done and though I dread it I find, while washing, that it isn’t that bad.  That is generally how I feel about all of my chores around the house and even my work online.  I’m a procrastinator and always make things seem worse in my head but when I finally get off my butt and do it I wonder why I made such a big deal of it?

I think just having someone try it and see that the results- clean diapers for very little cost and not a huge amount of effort- could get more people to consider this method.  There aren’t places to try a bucket washer so having educational videos and articles on the Internet is one step in that effort.  More hands on the ground helping in crisis centers, food banks, and diaper banks are other ways to get this information to families who would consider it and who would benefit from it most.  As for the gross part… well I’ve been lucky this week since my son’s stools were completely solid.  I’ve washed a variety of poop out of flats in the other years I’ve done this and it isn’t pleasant but if you have a diaper sprayer, or use the shower head to rinse the poop into the toilet first it is very easy and not as gross as one might think.

Now it is time to visit the other bloggers and see how they are finding this whole handwashing thing!  The best part is seeing the variety of answers.  Some have loved this experience, some have struggled with keeping up with the washing due to the number of diapers being used, and some are having a rough time with the weather and getting diapers dried in time.  All will have valuable experiences to share.

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  • Milena Diehl Virostek

    My washing routine is pretty simple. I do a quick rinse/agitation with my plunger, then I wash for about 5 min with my detergent, then I do two more quick rinse/agitation to make sure I remove all the soap!

    I was using gloves to help while ringing out but my gloves ripped on me. So I am just using my hands and folding the flats and wipes into little triangles and then squeezing. My grandfather was who showed me how to wring a wash cloth out that way and it would dry really quick, so I figured it would work well for the flats.

    I gave been drying inside and outside. When I dry inside I make sure I have an oscillating fan blowing on them as this sped up my indoor drying by 2 hours!

  • Ashley C.

    Any tips for drying diapers when you can’t hang them outside? I live in the middle of the city, and any time I have tried hanging clothes or diapers outside, they smell awful! Kind of like a mix of wet dog and something else…not sure how to describe it. I’m assuming it’s pollution and poor air quality?

    • Lyn Mack

      If you can put a fan near them so they get the air movement, it should help them to dry faster when they are hanging inside. I have mine on a drying rack in the middle of our living room because that is where the ceiling fan moves the air the most. 🙂 I hope that helps.

  • H

    My baby should be arriving just in time for the 2014 challenge, however, considering she’s my first, I think I’ll be getting the hang of this ‘mothering’ thing instead of participating in the challenge. Looking forward to 2015!