Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge May 21-27- Sign up!


The long awaited announcement for the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge is finally here and a date has been set.  Mark your calendars for May 21-27 as the 7 days you will be handwashing your flat cloth diapers.

A little background for those new to this event:

The Flats and Handwashing Challenge 2011 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.  The media neglected offering the suggestion that families use cloth diapers.  Why?  Who knows.  {read the original article} It was my personal mission 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.


Why Flats?

Sloppy Flats Application
Flats are very large squares of fabric, usually birdseye cotton, that can be folded in various ways to create a trim and absorbent diaper.   They can usually be snappied on but can always be secured using pins.  They need a waterproof cover.  Because they are 1 layer of birdseye cotton they dry far faster than a prefold, which has 4-8 layers.  On a sunny and breezy day outside they can take a little as 2 hours to dry.  Indoors, depending on the humidity and how well you wring them out, it can take 5-9 hours.  Being thin also makes them easier to hand wash; the thicker the fabric the more vigorous the agitation you need to get them properly clean.

Last year 500 people hoped to take the challenge and 200 successfully completed it {read the completion survey results}.  Considering I expected one or two others to sign up this was an unexpected outcome.  I compiled an enormous amount of information on flats including ways to wash them by hand, how to prepare a camp style bucket washer for hand washing, how to fold flats, and why they make the perfect cloth diaper for families on a budget.  Each day of the challenge I vlogged my thoughts on hand washing, tips I was learning along the way, and showed my trick for softening the air dried flats.  Dozens of other bloggers did the same and together we created a new internet full of helpful information.  Flats were the new black last May and hundreds of families discovered there is something to be said for this simple diapering method.

[hr]One twist on this year’s challenge is an effort to bring more purpose.  We all learned a great deal from our week of hand washing last year and appreciated our washing machines a lot more when it was over.  Many of us used this experience to become better cloth diaper advocates.  By understanding what must be done to keep a baby in a clean diaper when there is no option to buy disposables or use a washing machine it gave us a new perspective.[hr]

In order to make the efforts of all of the participants count towards more than just experience I am hoping to use this challenge as a way to fundraise for various cloth diaper charities.

I am personally pledging $1.00 per participant (up to $200.00) who completes the Flats and Handwashing Challenge to Giving Diapers, Giving Hope, a non-profit that supplies cloth diapers to families in need.

How can you help?  If you are a business you can do the same.  Pledge to donate any amount per participant and to your chosen charity.  If you are a Diaper Charity or Diaper Bank you can ask your local store to support your efforts by pledging.  Please contact me to set this up.  These businesses will be listed on this page as donors along with a link to the charity they are donating to.

You can also sign a petition to get cloth diapers or cloth diaper education covered by WIC– a government funded program that assists low income families by supplying food and other baby needs but not diapers.  Sign the Petition.  There is also another petition to show support for the DIAPER ACT (H R 3134) that could help get more babies access to cloth diapers (cloth and disposable).  Jenn Labit, creator of bumGenius, explains it best in her post.  Sign this Petition.

Use #FlatsChallenge on twitter to keep up with the challenge and meet other participants.

[hr]Now that you know the why, the how, and the when, let’s discuss the rules.  There have been some changes since last year.

[hr]Materials Allowed

The following diapering items can be used:

  • Any flat cloth diaper, store bought or handmade.  A flat should be only 1 layer of material for easier handwashing and faster drying.
  • 1 night time diaper per night of your choice although you are asked to make flats work for you (this diaper must also be handwashed)
  • Doublers (not inserts meant to be absorbent enough to stand alone) if you absolutely must.
  • A diaper sprayer.
  • Wet bags/diaper pails for storage.
  • Handmade “washing machine” for diapers such as the camp style washer I made last year.
  • Non Electronic Portable washing machines (must be powered by you and cost less than $100.
  • Commercially available or handmade covers.
  • Commercially available or handmade detergents.
  • Snappi, Boingo, and Pins for closure.
  • Pocket diapers STUFFED WITH FLATS. (note that the potential for repelling on the stay dry lining could make your challenge harder but you can see what happens)
  • Homemade or store bought fleece liners.
  • Iron (to use in order to expedite drying time or sterilize)

Materials Not Allowed

  • Electronic washer/dryer.
  • Pockets with inserts other than flats, AIO’s, Fitteds, Contours, Prefolds, AI2’s, etc.
  • Flushable liners.

Rules for Everyone

  • You cannot use your washer or dryer.
  • If for some reason something arises and an exception is made you need to disclose in the Conclusions Survey or on your blog if you are a blogger.
  • There is no limit on the number of flats or covers you can use.  Should you purchase 100 flats for $100 and go a whole week without washing?  No.  Use your common sense on this one.  As a tip the more diapers in your camp washer/ sink/ tub the harder the washing will be.  

Rules for Bloggers

  • You cannot be sponsored by received free flats or covers to use.  Bloggers will see a link to the rules in the form of a .pdf after signing up within the sign up application.

Now that you have read the rules you can

Grab the button for your blog if you are participating

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  • I would love to participate! but that week is already overly busy and we will be away from home. 🙁 
    My youngest is only 4.5 months old now so we could still participate next year. I think this is great though.

  • Robyn Gordon

    I’m very new to cloth diapering, in fact, I haven’t even been CDing for a week yet. But, I love this idea, and I love the fact that simply because I’m interested in seeing if I can do it, $1 goes to a really good cause. 

    As for the disagreement below about not being able to join, if you don’t have flats, make/borrow some. Check craigslist, facebook, consignment stores, thrift stores, heck, even Wal-Mart has them for super cheap. I love that you want to join just so your name makes another dollar for the cause, but the arguing and complaining kinda take away from the fun. 

    My personal challenge during this challenge is going to be finding a place to DRY my flats, as our lease says NO CLOTHESLINES along with no washer/dryer. And it’s a mobile home, with a very tiny bathroom. I’m sure I’ll figure something out. 

  • Rebecca

    Are microfiber towels allowed?  They are one layer, but not cotton.

    • guest

      Microfiber can’t touch skin… it will dry the bum and cause a nasty rash 

  • What is a reasonable number of flats to use? I have no idea how many I would need for two days.  It seems like we go through so many diapers around here.  Any suggestions are welcomed! 


    Oh I would love to start this challenge but my baby is not due till November. I have been aking flats for this baby because I want to be a frugle as possible. I can make pockets, AIOs and such but with all my babies we have had such a hard tim with all the stink, and then come rashes from using those kinds of diapers. Plus this is a suprize # 5 and the less money we spend the better. Jen Leibert

  • can you hand wash with rockin green? I have never hand washed before.

    • Anonymous

      Yes. I used mine last year.

      Please excuse typos and brevity. Sent from my iPhone

  • Spunkamonk

    I was just wondering….. So it is within the rules to use pocket diapers, as long as they are stuffed with a flat??? And of course HAND washing all of the pieces…. Right????

    • Anonymous

      You are correct

  • Eponineca

    I signed up but have not seen any e-mails.  Was I supposed to get a confirmation?

  • Jenney

    So I had the problem of two in diapers, but one  who rashes really easily (due to GI issues) and sometimes has to have topical non-cloth friendly cream.  I had asked if I could do one child in the flats challenge and the other not.  But problem solved.  My rashy problem POTTY TRAINED  :o)  So here we go…can’t wait to get started!

    • Anonymous


      Please excuse typos and brevity. Sent from my iPhone

  • Bree T

    Wish I could participate in this 🙁 , but my first baby isn’t quit born yet, I’m 38 1/2 weeks pregnant and showing no signs of labor so I’m pretty sure my son won’t be born in time. But hand-washing cloth diapers will be a fairly regular thing for me once he is born because we don’t own a washing machine and I don’t really feel right about washing dirty diapers at a public laundry mat. I hope to be using some flats with just simple covers, but I know I will be using prefolds and pockets with reusable and disposable inserts because I have received some of these as gifts, and as much as I was initially against it I will be using some disposable Huggies and Pampers because I also received a package of each as gifts. But as for the rest of our diaper supply, I only plan on purchasing flats, covers, and Seventh Generation disposables (for busy times and traveling).

  • claire

    how interesting this is a challenge! we do this everyday – no washer, no dryer and flats 🙂

  • Tammy

    I think this challenge is fantastic. My dds are 8 and 5. We were really struggling when we had each of them, especially the one who is now 8. I tried so hard to find cloth diapers. I could not find them ANYWHERE. WalMart, Target, online. Even later when I wanted to find cloth training pants, I could not find those either. It is so sad. Even as much as we struggled, there were others who would come to our house to ask for help to buy diapers for their little ones or needed a couple to get them through the night into the next morning. They would have benefitted from cloth diapers, too. Also, living in a rural area, it was not always easy to get to a store.
    The economy is still in bad shape. There are many who can benefit from having cloth diapers. I think the eduction you are providing on them is fabulous. Tbh, I do not even know many of the terms you are using about cloth diapering. I do not know if you have a YouTube video with “all about cloth diapering” including terminology, examples, where to buy, and how to fold, but that would be a huge asset for those who can get to a computer. I do agree that it would be helpful if WIC offices could offer a package of cloth diapers to new moms.
    Thank you for sharing your passion.

    • kimrosas

      Thank you! I don’t have a video explaining terms just the concept.

      Please excuse typos and brevity. Sent from my iPhone

  • FCD

    is boiling ok or would that be cheating?