5th Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge- Day 5: What’s Your Wash Routine?

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On our 5th day of the Flats and Handwashing Challenge our topic of discussion is the wash routine.  Arguably, this is the most important thing to discuss about this event.  There is no denying that handwashing diapers (or anything) is not ideal or enjoyable in the eyes of most people.  Can it be done and what is the best method?  There is no easy answer but all of the participant takers are working to find what works best for them in their busy lives.  In the real world it would be expected to do whatever is best for you at the time, in our challenge there can be no cheating, no buying disposables, no using the washer.

flatsday5

The hardest thing about my wash routine seems to be psyching myself up for it. With two in diapers laundry tends to stack up quickly and becomes intimidating all too soon. My first load of laundry I washed too few, as I know myself and I knew a large load was something I was afraid of.

I set the girls up with some toys and activities to entertain them for a few minutes and got started. I used the same routine as last year, rinsing the diapers with my sprayer like I do for any load of diaper laundry and setting them into a bucket of cold water to soak about half an hour before I even set up the girls with their toys. Soaking seems to help a lot with the wash process. Just use common sense and make sure you don’t leave babies unattended with a bucket full of water, especially a bucket full of dirty diapers and water. But I think you all know that.

After soaking for thirty minutes I pulled on my gloves and dumped the bucket water and dirty diapers into the tub. I refilled the bucket with hot water and added a little laundry soap (a few pinches is fine for me when hand washing a small amount of laundry) as the water filled, stopping when the bucket was about half full. Then I added the diapers and used my breathing washer (looks like a plastic plunger, Kim gave me hers but you can order one cheap or use a regular plunger with a few holes drilled in it, this is what we use to agitate the laundry) and churn the wash. Last year I discovered I like doing this bit in stages, setting aside the rinsed and soaked covers that don’t (usually) get as soiled so I can focus additional energy on the flats, then adding them nearer the end of my wash.

As I churn the laundry I can see the diapers getting well agitated and I know they’re getting cleaner. Once I’m satisfied with their wash I add the covers and wash some more just to be certain everything is thoroughly clean. At this point I’m ready to turn the bucket (letting the diapers fall in the bathtub) while I fill it with water a third time. Returning the diapers to the bucket and allowing them to rinse ensures everything is clean, and at this point if your water is still super sudsy you can repeat the rinse but with the right amount of detergent just one rinse should be fine.

This next part was probably the most tedious for me, I emptied the bucket then hand wrung each diaper and shook off excess water from each cover before putting them in the bucket to transport outside to the clothes line. I don’t like wringing but it’s important to make the load easier to move and to aid in drying time. Once your laundry is pinned on the line you can look forward to a nice fast dry time (very important in climates like mine this time of year when it rains nearly every day, I have to be ready to run outside. Wednesday’s load finished drying draped over chairs in the dining room with the ceiling fan on). The flats can get a bit stiff from line drying, especially if you have hard water, but if you shake them and tousle them a bit then fold them it helps.

As I stated earlier, figuring out how much laundry to tackle at a time has been a bit hard for me with two in diapers for the first time this challenge. I did laundry on Monday early in the day and didn’t wash very many diapers, which made my routine simple and quick but didn’t yield much in the way of results. I waited till Wednesday afternoon for my next load and had to separate the flats and covers into two loads. Washing diapers while a second unpleasant smelling pile awaits is not nearly as fun. I much prefer washing  closer to every day, or once I see I have enough diapers to fill the bucket a little over halfway.

While the rain and the unfamiliarity of two babies in handwashed diapers has been challenging and a little stressful, it is still possible and I have continued on the challenge. When my husband took the girls to their grandparents while I attended a work event, I prestuffed covers with pad folded flats so they wouldn’t have as much to figure out during laundry. I think it’s all about looking calmly and logistically at your challenges and facing them one by one.

What is your wash routine like when you handwash?  Are you living this day to day or are you just participating for the week?  DDL would love to hear from everyone who has experience handwashing.  Sharing experiences can help others who face a time when they have to handwash in their lives.  Link your blog post or leave a comment.


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  • Liz

    We live with flats and prefolds and plastic pull up walmart covers day to day! I was actually a little stunned seeing people talk about it being “hard work” as we switched at ten months, cold turkey from disposables. My hubby and I figured out washing is best done at night – we have a bucket with a little splash of bleach and water sitting in our bathroom 24/7, when a diaper gets dirty I give it a quick spray with our DIY toilet sprayer and toss it in the bucket. When our LO goes to bed, one of us usually takes a shower, so before the shower we toss a little laundry detergent into the bucket of soaking diapers, swish it a few times with a plunger we bought specifically for that, then toss the whole thing into the bottom of the tub to rinse while we shower. Walking on them while we shower seems to get them really cleaned and rinsed, we only have about 6 at a time, because we do it every day, and when we’re done, we drip dry in the shower while we wring out the extra water and hang up the diapers on a rack. Maybe it’s because I’ve never known different? Idk. It seems to work pretty well for us!