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’ve been handwashing about 90% of the time for the last 2.5 years. 🙂

    • Kristi P.

      Go Mama! 🙂

  • Nina

    I’m in!  And I’m spreading the word around our local CD community and in our RDA diaper circle.  Next month’s meeting topic is all about the Flats & Handwashing Challenge.

    • Anonymous

      That is so cool! Thank you!

      Please excuse typos and brevity. Sent from my iPad

      • Rheanna

        well i’ve found some online but even with the discounts offered we have to pay shipping which makes it pretty expensive (i know that sounds crazy – but i already have a stash of diapers (that i bought all used because I cloth to save money too) and almost 50$ for a week of a challenge is hard to convince the hubby of, lol).  I’ve found some used, but its easier to find prefolds for cheaper.  which is weird to me since its more fabric, but the prefolds that I’m finding are cheaper like on diaperswappers.  I think this is such a great cause..maybe I’ll just donate something instead.  I could always resell them though too I guess.  I wish I hadn’t been so scared of the pre-fold flat option when I started five months ago! LOL. it seems so easy after I did a review of a contour and snappi

      • Theresa

        If you live near a Target or a Walmart you can use their “flour sack towels” from the housewares department.  They are technically dish towels, but they make fine diapers and cost about $1 each.  When I did this challenge last year I found that it was easier to a few diapers daily than to wash more diapers every other day so you’d only need enough for 1 day plus however long it took for your diapers to dry. We live in a hot dry climate so ours too less than an hour outside during the day, but if you live some place cold and humid it might take all day…You might consider picking up a 4 pack of towels for $4 and giving it a try to see how you like it. Worst case you run them through the washer with some bleach and you have extra dish towels…

  • This is awesome! We ECd our daughter (now 3) and used flats as backup. I am the only cloth diapering mom I know who used flats exclusively. (Our main method was to fold them in a rectangle and inserted them into a Thirsties cover…) I wish I’d known that you could hand wash them so easily! We machine washed… but, in any case, they are so easy to wash and dry–even in a machine they are easier than other diapers, that you save a lot of time and energy anyway. And there are so many uses for the flats when you are done diapering.  I imagine we’ll be using our flats as multipurpose cleaning cloths long after my daughter goes to college. (Sie note: My mom still uses some of the flats she had for me 36 years ago in her kitchen! When she saw I was using flats, she said–don’t you remember that cloth we used to use to cool fresh-baked cookies?” Yep… growing up we baked dozens and dozens of cookies, but I never knew it was a diaper! Good thing I know how well they clean up!) How many other diapers USEFULLY last a lifetime??

  • laura

    Is there a maximum number of covers/ pockets that can be used this year?

    • Anonymous

      No there isn’t.

      Please excuse typos and brevity. Sent from my iPhone

  • Juana

    I wonder if it’s mandatory to use flats only or if it’s possible to add boosters (of any kind – be it a washcloth or a specialized insert). One flat won’t last long on my child, and an additional flat folded as a booster is far too much.

    • Kristi P.

      I know you can use a washcloth, because that is essentially a flat. It would be very easy to make boosters that aren’t full flat diapers, even if you aren’t a sewer, though washcloths would probably be the cheapest and easiest way. You can always pick up a 5 or 10pk of washcloths at the dollar store before the challenge! 🙂 

  • Kristi P.

    OMG.. I totally just realized that I never filled out the survey thing at the end of the challenge last year! 🙁 Well, it would be 201 people completed it if I had remember to that part. My husband still thinks I was completely insane, especially since I was diapering two babies! This year it will only be one since my little boy is now day time potty trained!

  • Can we use gDiapers and stuff them with flats and that still count?

    • Anonymous

      Yes! Still counts

      Please excuse typos and brevity. Sent from my iPhone

  • Disappointed enthusiast

    I think the “flat only” option is quite sad and disappointing, while I understand the point. Theres no way Im sacrifising my budget just to join this challenge, even though I would absolutely love to help make a difference. It seems closed minded. I know people who hand wash EVERY type of cloth  diaper. And in my opinion prefolds at the very least should be allowed, they’re not THAT much different than a flat, they can be line dried in no time as well, but then again so can fitteds, aios/ai2s and so on. And ANY parent who loves there child and is willing to get there hands dirty should be allowed to do this challenge with whatever diaper choice they want. The point is you can diaper a child for cheap and you dont HAVE to have a washer. And your child can be wearing a safe healthy sanitary option other than a used disposable. So why on earth can’t there be at least a couple options? And just details on whats the easiest/harest/ and cheapiest/somewhat pricier. It actually hurts me that I cant be a part of this JUST because I dont have fitteds. And Im not going to make my own, why would I do that? I dont NEED any. This needs a lot of thought if you want even more people to join and support this. Some people like myself have already maxed out their cloth budget and it’s just plain stupid that I cant support something thats one of my biggest cares because I dont have the super cheapest option out there.   I dont know. Like I said, very very disappointed in this.

    • Nrice3389

      you know you can use old tshirts for flats i usually hit up the thrift stores 25 cent sale i usually make them into prefolds but they do work as flats. you should search it on you tube there is also one for a no sew cover that is awesome.

      • disappointed enthusiast.

         In reply to all of my replys, I know what flats are, that was never the question. If I wanted to buy them I would but thats stupid I have plenty of diapers and am a full cloth household, I literally do not need any more squares of cloth in my home. And I am allowed to think its rediculous that someone would start a challege that leaves so many people out. Yes I realise I can do it on my own, but wheres the fun in that. Im allowed to make a statement that this challege leaves people out who plain and simple do NOT want to use flats. and in case I did not cover this I KNOW prefold are not flats…flats ARE FLAT prefold are PREFOLDED. seriously where was I acting like I was mistaking that Melanie henderson Miss  “BTW, fitteds are NOT flats.” I genuinely am asking why people like me yes annoying whiny complicatingly set in their usual diapering ways people like me, cant participate in something as simple as this challenge and get a dollar donated in my name for being more awesome than just simply handwashing flats. But thank you all for your concern I dont remember asking the people who were signing up for an answer to my complaint. Im quite positive that I was questioning the founder of this little challege. The same girl who hasn’t even responded yet. Thank you very much everyone have a great day!

      • Anonymous

        To answer your original question I chose flats for my own challenge. I started this event last year as I explained. I started it for ME and decided I would invite my readers. I expected maybe 5-10 people and had no idea it would explode the way it did.

        I chose flats because they are inexpensive for people who don’t already own cloth diapers and because they are FAR easier to handwash and dry.

        I didn’t start this Challenge as a way to get people to participate. That was a side effect of being a popular cloth diaper blog. I am sticking to the original outline as much as possible with only a few added rules (or subtracted) from last year.

        I am very aware this leaves out other families who might want to participate. I hate that it does, especially for people who want to participate but have children in daycare (although I am encouraging those families to use pad folded flats in a pocket diaper or cover). In reality many families would still have to use disposable diapers during this time but I wanted to show what a FULL TIME handwashing family would go through- the good and the bad.

        Like many experiments the rules are an extreme. I promise my aim is not to exclude others nor to boost sales of flats (although that tends to happen each year) but to particiapte in a social experiment where the end goal is
        to prove this can be done. In the process the participants are spreading
        the word, learning, becoming better cloth diaper advocates, becoming more
        compassionate to those in this situation, and amassing a valuable library
        of handwashing and flats information.

        I don’t claim that this is a perfect experiment or is a solution to the
        world’s diaper problems. It was just a little idea I had that turned into
        a big one. I’m sorry you are unable to participate but so far we have 350
        are are hoping to do so. I was happy with 10 and thrilled with 300+. If
        you change your mind there are many tutorials on turning t-shirts or old
        sheets into flats for 0$.


      • Disappointed, I think Melanie made her ‘fitteds are not flats’ comment because you had said, ”
        It actually hurts me that I cant be a part of this JUST because I dont have fitteds.” I think you meant to type flats in that sentence but accidentally typed fitteds.  I hope that helps you understand some of DDL fans replies to you.  =)

    • wood

      If you don’t like the way someone else is doing things start your own blog and do  your own challange just the way you want it. It seems as soon as someone tries to do something fun and nice someone has to complain. Apparently you feel you should have been personally consulted before the parameters of the challenge were set. It’s not like this person is in it for the money.

    • Melissa Jasko

      You can pick up a dozen Gerber flats for $10-$12 from Meijer. If you double them up they are very absorbent – also 100% cotton! Depending on the age of your little one, you can wash them daily and be able to participate in the challenge! When the challenge is over you can use them to stuff pockets and even clean the bathroom! I also like the T-shirt idea! Just an idea! 

    •  um… do it anyway?  there’s not “flats challenge!” police coming to arrest you for doing the challenge with prefolds instead. and why does it hurt you so much? and BTW, fitteds are NOT flats. i use old receiving blankets for my flats, and if you wanted, you could get them at a baby/kids thrift store for next to nothing. but that’s not the point. the point is, if you want to do the challenge, and use your prefolds, then.. just do it and quit whining about how it’s “not fair!!” that you can’t do THIS challenge with the guidelines set out. who cares if you use prefolds? i don’t. do it anyhow if it’s so important to you to be able to “participate”.

    • Kelly Egan

       Dear Disappointed – the reason the challenge was for flats was they are cheap, wash and rinse easily and dry quickly when you don’t have a spin cycle to hasten the drying. If you’ve ever hand washed clothes or diapers, you know that it’s not the washing that gets you, it’s the fact that wringing the clothes out by hand doesn’t extract as much water as a washing machine. It takes much longer for things to dry in general, and heavy, multi-layered items in particular. Hence, flats are ideal for hand washing and line drying.

      It’s to show people that no matter how poor you are, how limited your means, you can still diaper your baby without risking their health. If you don’t want to participate in using flats, no one is forcing you. It’s a challenge, not a mandate. If you want to hand wash your existing diapers and comment about that experience, I’m sure that would also be interesting and informative. Last year one blogger took it a step further than the challenge and made several flats and covers on a $0 budget, just to prove she could. It was pretty interesting seeing how someone was doing the challenge differently – I’d be interested in seeing how hand washing your regular diapers would go. Lets hear it!

  • anne

    Wondering… I use prefolds. I would love to participate, however, I don’t see the need to supply me with something I don’t need or for me to buy just for the challenge… what’s a girl to do?

    • Disappointed enthusiast

      Exactly my point.

    • Chikabtrfly

      Hey momma,
      Don’t worry about it just go ahead and use your prefolds and wash those by hand and hang them to dry. She chose flats because their inexpensive and dry so very quickly. It’s just meant to be fun with a good cause attached to it.  If the technical rules are bugging you, you could always cut up some old t-shirts. Go ahead and use your prefolds, we won’t tell we’d love to have you participate. 🙂

  • Nrice3389

    do you have to have a blog for this challenge cause i will so post all over facebook i already make my own detergent and diapers while i use a washer usually i think washing by hand will be fun to learn and a great skill if ever something were to happen to my washer.

  • Nursepeachga

    How many flats can you have?

    • Anonymous

      No limit but I think you’ll find you have to still wash daily or every other day due to the size of wash loads.
      Please excuse typos and brevity. Sent from my iPhone

  • Rheanna

    I know nothing about flats or prefolds but I saw this post and when I was at the store I was looking around. I just wanted to double check that it has to actually be a flat or can it be a prefold? I was trying to find something that said flat in the store. Thank you!

    • Anonymous

      A flat is a single layer if fabric. Prefolds have many Laura and are harder to handwash and take longer to dry. What kind of store are you looking at?
      Please excuse typos and brevity. Sent from my iPhone

      • Rheanna

        well i’ve found some online but even with the discounts offered we have
        to pay shipping which makes it pretty expensive (i know that sounds
        crazy – but i already have a stash of diapers (that i bought all used
        because I cloth to save money too) and almost 50$ for a week of a
        challenge is hard to convince the hubby of, lol).  I’ve found some used,
        but its easier to find prefolds for cheaper.  which is weird to me
        since its more fabric, but the prefolds that I’m finding are cheaper
        like on diaperswappers.  I think this is such a great cause..maybe I’ll
        just donate something instead.  I could always resell them though too I
        guess.  I wish I hadn’t been so scared of the pre-fold flat option when I
        started five months ago! LOL. it seems so easy after I did a review of a
        contour and snappi

      • wood

        When I first started using cloth diapers I had a budget of $5. Yup $5. I used receiving blankets and even a couple of t-shirts. For the purpose of this challange that should do and be pretty cheap. In my area receiving blankets run $1 each and at garage sales can be even cheaper.

  • Hannah Barnhorn

    I work full time – how can this mama participate?

    • Anonymous

      This year pockets stuffed with flats are allowed which would still be easy for caretakers to use. But all the washing would still have to be done by hand.
      Please excuse typos and brevity. Sent from my iPhone

  • Wathens 4

    If I want to add to my stash of flats by sewing my own what should the dimensions be?  And what is the best fabrics?  I assume that cotton would be best other than that any suggestions?  We will be camping part of this time so I am looking forward to doing this.  I just got some more covers to  make it easier.

  • Angela_d6086

    I did buy flats for the challenge, it gave me a reason to use my stash cash. My daughter who I bought them for has had continued rash issues.And after I gave up trying to fold them and just went with  a pad fold I have to say they are wonderful. I have not  used any other sense they got here, I NEVER WOULD OF BELIEVED  THAT. I love Flats!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank You for opening my eyes!