Save the Date! 4th Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge May 11-17, 2014

The date has been set so mark your calendars for May 11-17 for the 4th Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge!  If you’re new to DDL let me give you some background information on what the Flats Challenge is and why you should consider participating.

Flats and Handwashing Challenge 2014

In 2011 I began the Flats and Handwashing Challenge as a way to test my own commitment and willingness to do whatever it took to keep my own child in clean diapers, if the situation were necessary.  The news outlets were reporting on diaper need– when families cannot afford to buy diapers for their children- and how they often resort to leaving disposable diapers on longer than is safe, some even going as far as scraping out the contents and reusing them.  Why were no media outlets talking about cloth diapers?  Why do they never mention cloth diapers as a viable means of solving diaper needs?  

I am the first to admit how hard and often impossible using cloth diapers can be for families who can’t even find a place to sleep at night.  Still, there are many, many families who are in the position to use cloth diapers but mainstream media refuses to publicize them or mentions them only as a non-option for low-income families.  Need is NOT black and white.  There are families who can’t afford diapers that live in nice looking homes, and families who can’t afford them who live in conditions many of us can’t imagine.  Why paint a picture of need in one color with the same sized brush?

A quote from the LA Times: “Cloth diapers are often not an option because they require frequent and expensive trips to the laundromat.”  Ask the thousands of families making cloth diapers work who are considered “low-income” before making such statements.  It can work, with a washer and without!

To show that cloth diapering can be done in almost any situation and on even the smallest budget I decided I would use flat cloth diapers and handwash them for a week, and invited anyone else interested to join me.  My personal goal was to see if it was even possible, how long it would take, would I be able to even wash them well enough, and do those diapers work well?

The answer was yes!   Yes, handwashing cloth diapers is possible if you make it possible.  Yes, it does take longer than using disposables, and longer to wash than using a machine (30 minutes on average).  Yes, I got them clean enough by hand and felt comfortable using them on my baby.  And YES!  Flats work like a dream!  As a matter of fact, they became a favorite to use at all times because of their versatility and washability.  By doing this at an extreme, it shows that variations of this method will work for everyone.  It also teaches families how to diaper during emergency situations if that arises and the power is out (with access to water) or how to handwash diapers while on vacation in hotel tubs.

This challenge has received a negative backlash because some feel it makes light of the real struggles families face everyday or has unrealistic expectations of how hard life can be for the people who are experiencing diaper need.  Others felt that because the challenge was started by a middle class white woman (ahem, me) that it instantly lost any credibility because how could I possibly relate or understand the needs of anyone struggling to make ends meet?  Some people do take this “challenge” for fun, some do it because they want to understand how hard it is and can be because they want to help others.  I do ask that people remember the reason this event began and are sensitive to the fact that there are families doing this every single day.  It isn’t a GAME, for some people it is life.  I am not ungrateful for the life I have and the conveniences I can afford.

I never set out to make this an event, it became one organically because so many others felt it was a way to understand how difficult, but possible, using the most inexpensive diapering option available even without access to a washer /dryer could be.  The other people involved each year are creating data and teaching others about how to use flat cloth diapers, how to handwash, and what works and what doesn’t.  I used this data and the experiences of myself and others to help create free booklets with ideas for low-budget diapering solutions.

We all want to make families more aware of their options.  While modern cloth diapers are the most convenient, flats and covers are the cheapest and also the least complicated!  There is no need to stress about the washing routines because flats contain no elastic or synthetics and they’re one glorious layer of fabric!  Covers can be was easily as well, and all can be laid out to dry.  Flats dry far faster than their modern counterparts, even prefolds, because of that 1 ply thickness.  Take a look at last year’s infographic explaining the Flats Challenge and the results of handwashing from our participants.

Sign-ups will begin next month so look for that post soon.  You can check out the past announcements to see the rules.  They stay basically the same with small changes each year, but the biggies are that you can only use flat cloth diapers and only handwash and hang to dry.


If you are a retailer, brand, or company that wants to be involved in some way please get in touch with me (look to the sidebar on the right for contact info).  I would like to find a way to use this event to raise diaper donations and funds to help Giving Diapers, Giving Hope– the non-profit cloth diaper lending organization I volunteer for.  Let’s find a way to help more babies get the cloth diapers they need.  

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