It is now May and we are just a few weeks away from the start of our Third Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge! May 20-26 families all over the world will once again use flat cloth diapers and only handwash them for 7 days. Why? To show that cloth diapers can work for any family- especially for those choosing to buy diapers each week over using the money for other expenses they also need to pay.
Being that, according to the Real Diaper Association, disposable diapers can cost an average of $66.00 per month, switching to a reusable and affordable option like flats can help. Even if families don’t have a washer and/or dryer flat cloth diapers can be relatively easily handwashed using a camp style washer, a sink, or tub. Even just switching to flats and handwashing part-time (or cloth diapers in general) can relieve a little of the financial burden of buying diapers. It is even possible to upcycle old t-shirts to use as diapers, or buy inexpensive towels or burp cloths for as little as $1.00 each.
Learning to handwash can also come in handy for many reasons. It can be great for families who enjoy camping and who would like to continue to cloth diaper. During our first year the incredible Pedal Powered Family shared with us how they handwashed and used flat cloth diapers while on their family bike tour across North and Central America! Another reason to learn how to handwash diapers is for emergency preparedness- especially for families who live in parts of the world that often lose power due to hurricanes or other natural disasters. It isn’t something we like to think about but even having a small number of flats, 6-12, in case of an emergency is a good idea. If you are a cloth diaper advocate and educator in your local community I also encourage you to take this challenge if you have a baby in diapers. Only when you experience it and learn what works (and doesn’t) can you educate others on handwashing and using flats.
I’ve been humbled by the support for the Flats and Handwashing Challenge and the reason it was started. In 2011 there were numerous news stories about families re-using disposable diapers, going so far as to blow dry the wet diapers or scrape out the solid waste. That was the inspiration for the Challenge. I decided to see if handwashing were something I could recommend to others; it was my own experiment. I almost jokingly asked on my fanpage if others might want to join me. The response was shocking and overwhelming; I assumed 10-20 advocates would join me. Instead 1,000 people signed up as interested and over 400 took the challenge. We have done it each year since.
There is a way to make cloth diapers work in any situation as long as the families have access to water. It is harder than using disposables. Yes, handwashing can suck. I’ve done it many times, not only for the challenge but on various trips out of town. I’ve washed diapers by hand in hotel tubs and hung them dry over the shower rod. I’ve plunged my diapers clean using my handmade camp-style washer and learned the hard way that gloves are your friends. It wasn’t very fun but I did it to show that anyone can do it and that the diapers do come out clean and sanitary when you are able to use hot water. There are families who do this everyday and I respect them and admire their dedication to making sure that, not matter what, their baby has access to clean and sanitary diapers.
Get involved! Please read all of the rules in the announcement post. Once you know and understand the rules you can sign up! If you are a blogger you are encouraged to also blog about your experiences and link your posts here during each day’s link-up. If you aren’t a blogger you can still share your experience by participating in the Flats and Handwashing Group on Facebook, tweeting using the #flatschallenge hashtag, or sharing through threads and posts on other parenting and cloth diaper forums along with others participating. The more we share the more chances are that people who NEED to know this can be done will see it. You can also follow the Flats Challenge board on Pinterest for ideas. Sign up now!
For those needing flats and covers for the challenge there are special discounts and promotions listed on another post. These companies generously donated to Giving Diapers, Giving Hope– a non-profit that provides cloth diapers for income qualified families.
In the past three years I have witnessed flats “come back in style” thanks to the Flats and Handwashing Challenge as well as the wealth of information now available through blogs and videos about how to use and wash flats. I’m excited for another year of learning and advocacy, maybe even a little fun too. I’ll have many posts this month leading up to the challenge on using flats and handwashing. The week of the challenge there will be prompts for each day where other bloggers will participate and link up.