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Survey Results for the 3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge

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Each year after the Flats and Handwashing Challenge I ask all of the participants to take a survey. The reason for this is to see how many of those who started ended up finishing, what aspects were considered the easiest, the hardest, and would participants say this is possible for others? The answers to those questions and more are below. There is an infographic and also graphs following that show more answers to the survey. flatshandwashinginfographic

Now for answers from our participants!






So what do these numbers all mean? Well, one thing is clear- it is possible. If we are to suggest this option to other people the data tells us a few things. Expect to be washing every day for at least 30 minutes per day based on the answers of the survey. People should have, at minimum, 10 flats and 4 covers but really, double to allow for a day’s worth of drying if washing each day.

What did the participants think? The Optimists-

“Even families that don’t seem super poor could benefit from this. 3 1/2 yrs ago our refrigerator broke and we went a month using coolers and winter weather as a refrigerator until a family member felt pity on us and bought us a fridge. Many families live pay check to pay check and losing a job or some other unexpected incident could put them in a very difficult financial position. Having skills to provide what your children needs (like clean diapers) makes that uncertainty less scary.” -Karen J.

“I grew up poor, was a cloth-diapered twin because my parents couldn’t afford disposable diapers. I knew, academically, that cloth diapers could work for anyone, but no one ever believed my math when I tried to persuade them that even with the cost of washing, even laundromat washing, cloth was less expensive than disposables. Now I have a true answer for them – thank you.”
-Mandy B.

“I truly believe this is less of a hassle than the cost of disposables. I’ll use flats for my next child during the newborn stage, rather than buy a whole stash of newborn cloth or disposables. I wish people would stop thinking of disposables as the ‘easy’ diaper, because in my experience as a single, low-income mom, they are no easier to change, slightly easier to dispose of than to clean cloth, and way more expensive. The strain of running out of diapers is not worth the supposed ease.”
-Melissa G.

“Thank you for doing this and getting me out of my comfort zone. I now feel much more prepared if an emergency should arise, and it was really a lot easier than I thought! Thanks again!” Tiffany E. Udall, Kansas

“I had fun, despite all the poop and bad weather. My 70 year old neighbor thinks this was nuts. My husband thinks I am nuts. I have worked with low income individuals who could care less about cloth diapers. I am low income. I started cloth diapering for environmental and health reasons and now i am thankful for the $ savings I want to change the world but i don’t think the world cares. I am just thankful you and the 400+ people who took part in this care.” Amye, New Hampshire

“This experience taught me that modern doesn’t always mean better. Using flats is something that everyone can benefit from. There’s a reason they’re still around today.” Acacia D. Syracuse, NY

Middle of the Road-

“Drying time was the limiting factor for the # of flats. A fan cuts drying time in half or more. I’m still conflicted as to whether I could suggest to someone working 3 jobs to hand wash diapers. Handwashing could be a temporary financial reprieve in that case, as long as it comes with a trade of less time working (for $). This challenge reinforces to me that the working poor are stuck and need a break, but I can’t tell if I’d have the energy to start in that situation.” -Montana P. Ithaca, NY

“It was all pretty great and fun. I will admit by Sunday night I looked at my washing machine longingly.” -Camerena R.San Bernadino, CA

“I work 12-hour shifts, and washing the daycare diapers between my work days, plus that day’s diapers wasn’t working. It was too many diapers that I had to wash on my day off. I spent 1/2 of the day washing the diapers. Also, My son had a stomach virus that made him poop like 5 times in 20 mintues, twice on the first two days. I couldn’t rinse/wash them well enough. I did this challenge last year, and rocked it!” -Kristina, M. Hampton, VA

“My wash routine was flawed, and it resulted in a rash on DS. More than likely, it will come down to not enough agitation, not enough soap, or sensitivity to the soap used.(or a combination). Having done this in the past, I know it works. So, even though it didn’t work for me *this time* I still fully support the idea. As with all cloth diapering, sometimes you will need to troubleshoot and tweak things. I also had some success with EC, and am looking into it further.” Jamie U. Cleveland, OH

Not So Sunny-

“Each day that passes I’m pretty sure I despise handwashing a little more. I mean I guess when you have no washing machine, you have no money for disposables, or to go to the laundry mat, well, then you do what you gotta do. But dangitall. I have a washer. And I miss it. So, yes, major, major respect for my mom. I think may need to hug her, because I’m pretty sure my kids would go about with naked butts 24/7 if it had been me.” -Trish H. (Life as Their Mom)

“I really think having a newborn this year contributed to the difficulty I experienced. Most days went like this: nurse, change, rinse, nurse, nurse, nurse, change, rinse, etc. Finding time in there to wash without her waking up was very hard. And I didn’t have a good place to dry the flats/covers either. Last year I had the side of an unused crib…this year my 22 month old is in that crib so I couldn’t use the side. Rain was also a factor. It rained all week.” Sarah R. Carlock, IL

See you next year for the 4th Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge in May!

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3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge- Day 7: What did we learn?

3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge- Day 7: What did we learn?

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flatschallenge2013buttonToday is the very last day of the Flats and Handwashing Challenge.  

Starting Monday May 20 all participants (over 400 of them!) swtiched to only using flat cloth diapers and handwashing those diapers for 7 days.  They will continue to do so until their baby goes to bed tonight.  For our last blog post and link-up the topic is “What did we learn?”  This is a chance to reflect on this experience, offer hard earned lessons, and share our opinions on whether this is really an option for other families or if it just isn’t possible in a modern world.

I know that many who started this journey ended it for various reasons.  Many were valid- their families caught a stomach virus and everyone, including the mother, was too sick.  Some were recovering from previous surgeries and the physical activity of washing caused more pain than they could manage so they wanted to go back to using their machines.  Others were just “over it” and wanted to go back to using their machine and modern diapers.

Then there were those who found that handwashing and using flats were easy, fun even.  I’ve heard chatter from people that handwashing is “relaxing” and gives them some time to reflect on their day.  Others love flats so much that they are going to stick with them and get rid of all of their other diapers.

For myself I found this year, when I was fully participating (my son potty trained earlier this week!) to be very manageable.  I just didn’t look forward to washing the diapers.  It was a chore that had to be done and that I dreaded.  Knowing that I had to wash to have enough clean diapers ready for when my other diapers were soiled, and needing to allow plenty of time for them to dry in this humid weather, gave me the motivation to just get it done.  And when I would wash each morning it jump started my day and put me into a productive mood.  There is something nice about having to do manual labor because it sets the tone of the day that you are doing things.

I have the luxury of staying home with my kids and I work from home so my schedule is more forgiving than someone who works out of the home.  Would I wake up 30 minutes or an hour early to wash diapers before work?  Not likely.  If I worked then I would probably end up washing diapers very late at night before bed, after the kids were asleep.  That is just the way my body works.  I am sure I could do it and would get the diapers clean since it takes only 30 minutes a day.  Even during the challenge I would prefer to do something more relaxing or anything other than washing diapers for that slice of time but really, 30 minutes isn’t terribly long.

It becomes more difficult when your child is ill, or they are younger and soiling many diapers a day.

My son gave me a run for my money by pooping 4 times in one day.  That never, ever happens.  The only reason he potty trained this week is because I decided that he had used too many diapers that day and I was running low so I let him go diaper free for a bit and suddenly he was interested in using the potty!  If he hadn’t trained I would have ended up washing a second time that day.  Those are the challenging times and can be a real problem for families relying on a small number of diapers in their rotation and who don’t have the time to wash diapers several times a day.  30 minutes once is good, but an hour, or 2 hours a day is a lot.

The rules for the challenge are strict for a reason; it forces everyone involved to be aware of what a challenge this really is.  It is very difficult to sustain this lifestyle when there are no “outs” and you have to get those diapers dry before the morning because otherwise, you have NO diapers.  These are harsh conditions and we all know that if we had to, most of us would be able to toss the diapers in the dryer or wash a load, or even grab a pocket diaper from the stash of diapers we stopped using for the week.  For the people who really could benefit from this method (flats and handwashing) we also have to be able to offer advice to make this option work.

I’ve always had the opinion that this is a way to supplement a disposable diapering system or the other way around.  For most participants, just throwing the diapers in the wash would solve their problem and catch them up or give them a break.  For people without a washing machine that option doesn’t exist, but if they have a few disposable diapers they could use them while the diapers dried or when they were too exhausted or to crunched for time to handwash that day.

I’ve heard from many commenters this year that this event is cruel, that it makes light of a situation that I couldn’t possibly understand from my privileged lifestyle, that I’m not helping and that this is not a solution for poor families because it asks too much of them.  

I take care to make sure that this challenge is not “fun” and not a “game” because it is not.  I hope all the people who participate feel the same way.  It is a way to raise awareness that there are babies out there without clean diapers, who are potentially in unsanitary conditions because their parents can’t buy clean diapers.  When things are that bad then they have to know they can do cloth diapers no matter what.  The concept of reusable diapers is one that is unknown to a lot of people.  Reusing disposables just isn’t OK.  If that is the only solution to their problem then we aren’t doing a good job of presenting their options and the media is doing an even worse job.  As for my life of privilege… that is an assumption people have made that is not accurate.  

The babies deserve better than being left in dirty diapers.  They deserve the best of everything because they can’t do anything to help themselves and they didn’t choose to be here.  Our job as parents is to do whatever we can to keep them healthy and comfortable.  If that means handwashing diapers and using affordable cloth diapers then do it.  Do it when you have to, don’t do it when you don’t and can afford other ways.

How can you help?:

Each year I hope that this event will spark a fire in others to do more about the diaper need problem.  So what can you do to help families facing this struggle everyday?  Educate:  Educate others using your online or local influence.  Donate: Donate your used diapers or make a monetary donation to the national cloth diaper bank Giving Diapers, Giving Hope.  They are a non-profit that send cloth diapers to low-income families for the cost of shipping if they meet the requirements.  Share: Share the information about affordable cloth diaper solutions such as this post and video: Cheap and Easy Cloth Diaper Solutions.

All of the blogging participants will be linking up today with their thoughts on the challenge and what they have learned.  Everyone has something valuable to add because each of their experiences is unique and their opinions will likely be different than mine.  If you participated in the challenge your input is needed in the completion survey.  You have 1 week to take it.  Thanks everyone for making the 3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge another successful event.  

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3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge: Day 6- Open Topic Linky

3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge: Day 6- Open Topic Linky

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flatschallenge2013buttonThe 3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge is almost over.  We have made it to day 6!  Being the weekend it is once again an open topic day for the bloggers who are participating so you will have to visit their blogs to see what they are writing about today.

I haven’t washed any flats since Wednesday.  I will wash Everett’s soiled night time diapers this morning and then anything left on Monday morning.

Since I haven’t had the chance to be a full participant for a few days I’m going to leave the good ideas to the bloggers.  Please go visit them to see what they will talk about today!

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3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge- Day 5: What is Working?

3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge- Day 5: What is Working?

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flatschallenge2013buttonThe question, “What is working” for the Flats and Handwashing Challenge also implies that there are certain things that just aren’t.  As much as I feel that this event can be a powerful tool to showcase how easy using flats can be,, it is also a way to showcase what doesn’t work.  Even better, it is a way to compare notes on things that work better than others to make handwashing and using flats, when necessary, easier.

The thing I have heard most often this year in the “chatter” has been how great the flats are working for participants!  Several people have decided to sell off their stash and go back to flats.  Maybe they will use them with covers, or they might start using them as inserts in their pockets.  The reason?  Flats work!  They are absorbent and wash and dry like a dream.  In 2011 I had “I’m bringing flats back” to the tune of “I’m bringing sexy back” because this was the sentiment then too.  Flats were selling out at many stores!  Now I think retailers increase their stock around May!

Another surprising discovery people have been making is that flats DO work overnight!  I’ve heard each year from moms who assumed they would still need to use their night time diapers but found out that 1 or 2 flats will still work!  And if they needed a stay dry liner, well, those are easy to DIY and a fleece liner can be used in the diaper to help baby from feeling too wet at night.

As I’ve said in the past 2 posts- Ev has potty trained during this event!  I’m still in shock and it was very unexpected but I won’t stop him when he is so ready.  That means that I haven’t had the “full” experience and he has only used two diapers (one each night) since Tuesday afternoon.  Still, I’m using flats overnight pad folded in a cover and I’ve done two loads of handwashed diapers so far. On our first 2 days he was in flats using the diaper bag fold or the pad fold and it was awesome, no leaks!  Yesterday I posted my handwashing routine and that has been working well also.

As for “fails” well, the only fail this year so far has been my motivation and enthusiasm.  Before the challenge began I was dreading it.  I really didn’t want to handwash diapers.  I always strive for honesty on this blog so there it is.  I still got out my supplies, even after waiting until the very last second to do so, and when I had enough diapers that needed washing I did it.  As always, once doing it I’m reminded that it isn’t so bad.  Washing machines are easier and require far less effort.  I just throw the diapers in and forget about them for an hour until they need to be dried.  With handwashing I have to be fully awake and present.  I can’t zombie wash- I have to have the energy and being a mom to 2 boys who rarely gets a solid 2 hour stretch of sleep this is hard for me.  I can see how it would be hard for working moms too.  I have the luxury of waiting until I feel awake to do so which can often be after 9 or 10 am, or will wait until the kids are napping to have less interruptions.  I know this system can work but it requires a lot more of the parent because they are the machine and it is 30 minutes of solid work.  The only thing that I don’t love about the act of handwashing is the wringing of the diapers.  This can take a toll on my hands.

Every diaper fold I’ve ever tried has worked for us but I have my favorites.  The diaper bag fold and Jo fold are easiest and can be folded ahead of time.  I don’t really like the Origami or Kite fold.  But I’m too lazy for folding so I stick with the Pad fold.

Now I want to hear what is working for you!  And what isn’t?

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3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge Day 4: How’s the Handwashing?

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flatschallenge2013buttonOn the fourth day of the Flats and Handwashing Challenge the topic I and the other bloggers linking up will be discussing is an important one- the handwashing part.

I think out of this entire event the handwashing is what people find the most terrifying and most curious.  Why, WHY would anyone do something so crazy and what is it like?  Is it hard?  Is it gross?

This is my third year participating in this event and I’ve handwashed my diapers on various other occasions when traveling.  Each time I learn more about what works best when handwashing my diapers, pick up tips from others involved, and realize that handwashing is not easy but it is possible.  I have a how-to handwash video using the camp-style washer from the first year as well: How to Handwash Cloth Diapers.

For starters I’ll explain my wash routine:


I store the dirty diapers in the bucket I plan to wash in.  When it is time to wash I fill the bucket with cold water and do a pre-rinse that includes a couple of minutes of agitation with the plunger or breathing washer.


I drain the water, and usually dump all the contents into the bathtub.

This is when I make sure all of my flats are unfolded, and if not, I unfold them and put them back in the bucket.

Next I fill the bucket with hot water and add a few drops of my detergent.  I had a sample of Vaska so that is what I have used this week (but any free/clear detergent will work).


I agitate using the breathing washer for a few minutes.  I never time it but I usually go longer than what I think is good just to be safe because often I think I have been agitating forever and I look and it’s only been 2 minutes.

I dump out the water and diapers, rinse each diaper in the cold water coming from the faucet, then put it back in the bucket and fill it once again with cold water.

Agitate with the washer again.  If I see too many bubbles from soap (not bubbles from the agitation) I pour the water out a little, add more, and agitate more.

Next each diaper is hand wrung and the covers are rolled in a dry towel to help them dry faster.


I dry them on an Ikea drying rack outside when I can, or inside if not.


The entire process takes about 30 minutes.  (28 if I look at the exif data on my camera!)  

Drying the diapers is something that is totally subjective to where you live and how you hang them.  It took several hours for mine to dry due to the humidity and the fact that I didn’t wring them out super well.  Today’s batch dried faster inside and I wrung them out bone dry, as good as I could by hand.  My trick to soften air dried flats is pictured below, but basically you twist and beat the diapers quickly and they soften up completely!

Soften line dried diapers by hand

I’ll be honest and say that I never look forward to washing the diapers.  I never look forward to my normal diaper laundry either.  It truly isn’t that hard and it isn’t too time consuming but even at only 30 minutes a day it can be a chore for anyone coming home from a full day of work.  Even though I never look forward to it I always get it done and though I dread it I find, while washing, that it isn’t that bad.  That is generally how I feel about all of my chores around the house and even my work online.  I’m a procrastinator and always make things seem worse in my head but when I finally get off my butt and do it I wonder why I made such a big deal of it?

I think just having someone try it and see that the results- clean diapers for very little cost and not a huge amount of effort- could get more people to consider this method.  There aren’t places to try a bucket washer so having educational videos and articles on the Internet is one step in that effort.  More hands on the ground helping in crisis centers, food banks, and diaper banks are other ways to get this information to families who would consider it and who would benefit from it most.  As for the gross part… well I’ve been lucky this week since my son’s stools were completely solid.  I’ve washed a variety of poop out of flats in the other years I’ve done this and it isn’t pleasant but if you have a diaper sprayer, or use the shower head to rinse the poop into the toilet first it is very easy and not as gross as one might think.

Now it is time to visit the other bloggers and see how they are finding this whole handwashing thing!  The best part is seeing the variety of answers.  Some have loved this experience, some have struggled with keeping up with the washing due to the number of diapers being used, and some are having a rough time with the weather and getting diapers dried in time.  All will have valuable experiences to share.

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3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge- Day 3: Open Topic Linky

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flatschallenge2013buttonDay 3 means we are almost halfway through our 7 day challenge to use flats and handwash for 7 days.  This week there are over 60 bloggers participating who have been linking their posts and today instead of there being a prompt for writing they are picking their own topic.

For me I wanted to expand on a tip I shared a few days ago about using this time in flats as a way to start practicing Elimination Communication!  *Post contains affiliate links.

Before disposable diapers were the norm all babies wore cloth diapers and almost all of them potty trained far earlier than babies do today.  It isn’t unheard of for children to still be in diapers when they start school!

Each year when I do this Challenge I find myself more inclined to give my baby “diaper free” time or to let him wear a flat with no cover on.  The best motivation for potty training early when you are washing diapers by hand?!  Not having to handwash diapers anymore!  You can see why our grandmothers made sure to give their babies lots of potty chair time and lots of naked bum time.  One pee on the potty (or on the grass!) means one less diaper to wash.  When you are the washer you think a lot more of how many diapers you are going through.

I’ve shared my youngest child’s issues here on the blog before about his trouble with pooping and withholding.  He has been much better about going without me having to help but it has always been in a diaper.  In the earliest days of his problems I would try to encourage him to do his business on a potty seat but that made him associate it with pain.  Even after his troubles resolved the mere mention of the “potty” word caused him to protest, often cry, and the subject was dropped.

I’ve given him diaper free time here and there but the potty never entered the equation again until yesterday.  Everett did have a hard time passing a very large poop and I “doula’d” it out with him.  He had smaller movements 3 more times.  I knew that at this rate I would have to wash diapers for the second time that day and I was hoping to wait until the morning so I removed the diaper, cleaned him up, and set him free!


I put the little Bjorn potty in his room and he played while I went about my crazy productive streak and sorted all of the toys in the house, matching pieces as I went.  He began showing signs of needing to pee so I asked if he would like to go potty.  Surprisingly he said yes!  I rushed him to his seat and he was happily sitting and playing but nothing came of it.  About 30 minutes later his father was home and noticed the same signs, he ushered him to the potty and after a few minutes of sitting and playing he did it!

Of course I did a ridiculous song and dance and the long promised reward of M&M’s for pottying was finally realized!  That kid loves chocolate and was happy to get his treat.  Later that night before his bath I had him sit again and, after a few minutes and having read a short book, he declared that he did it again!  And he had!  More dancing, singing, and a reward.

It is my hope that today is the start of our road to underwear and our goodbye to cloth diapers.  I won’t be pressuring him but I know an opportunity when I see it and it is waving at me.  We are still participating in the Challenge and I’m sure he will have more wet diapers, even if he is miraculously trained during the day we may have nap and overnight dirty diapers.

I realize that when mothers and fathers work full-time your care provider isn’t going to give your baby diaper free time.  However, there is no rule saying EC is an all or nothing thing, just like cloth diapers.  Every family can benefit from introducing the potty and “cues” for pottying at any age.  I started ECing my other son when he was 6 months old and we have many days where he didn’t have a wet diaper at all!  Schedule changes would interrupt our best days but I know that our EC time made him potty train easily and without resistance at a pretty early age compared to the American average.

If you are participating in the Challenge (or not) try leaving the diaper off for a bit.  You might have a pee on the floor, or you might catch a pee on the potty.  For anyone interested in learning more about EC “The Diaper-Free Baby” book by Christine Gross-Loh is excellent and gave me a lot of insight into ways to make EC work for us.

Now I can’t wait to see what topics our bloggers will choose today!  Follow their links below!

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3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge- Day 2: Supplies and Preparation

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It is Day 2 of the 3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge, that yearly even where we only use flat cloth diapers and handwash them for 7 days.  Our second day will focus on the diapers and other items we are using.  Since flats are so economical it will be fun to see what our other participants have spent to participate!


This year I didn’t purchase any new flats for the Challenge since I already had quite a few.


My flats-

4 Ikea Flats (2 packs of 2) from last year- $6.00

8 Target Flour Sack Towels (2 packs)- $8.00

9 Diaper Rite bleached flats from Diaper Junction- $13.50  (I have given some away… which is why I don’t have a dozen)

3 t-shirts as diapers- $1.50 total from thrift store

4 flats made from an XXL shirt- $1.00 for all 4!  (Tutorial to make cheap and easy t-shirt flats)

$30.00 TOTAL for all flats.

My Covers-

Since I review diapers for a living I have several covers but I only chose to use a few that have been in my collection for a long time.

Thirsties Duo Wrap Size 2- 14.95

Swaddlebees Capri Cover- 16.95

Blueberry One Size Coverall- 16.95

Applecheeks Envelope Covers (2) Size 2- $38.00

$86.85 TOTAL covers cost.

The total cost is $116.85.  I realize these aren’t the cheapest covers on the market but I also didn’t want to run off and purchase more covers when I already had many.  Even though the grand total is over $100 this is a very economical amount to spend on a stash of cloth diapers.  I counted everything I laid out to use, however my gut tells me I will only use about 10 flats total from what I have, if that, and 2 covers each day.  Since I will wash every 1-2 days that still isn’t too bad!  If you have to get a stash of cloth diapers for less there are ways to cut cost by using cheaper covers and maybe even sticking to the t-shirt flats since  they are about .25 each!  I have listed many options for getting cheap cloth diapers on another post that you might find helpful.

I also already had a bucket around here, and my breathing washer (pictured on the right, affiliate linked to Amazon) from the first year’s event.

Now I want to know what you spent on your stash?  Link up your blog posts!  If you aren’t blogging tell me in the comments!  I wonder who spent the least?!

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3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge- Day 1: Why Take the Challenge?

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flatschallenge2013buttonOn the first day of the 3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge our topic of discussion is “Why take the Challenge?”  Rather than repeat my own reasons that you’ve read again and again I asked others who are taking it to see why they wanted to participate.  We have had over 400 people sign up from all over the world to participate in the Challenge.  At the end of the post you can find blog posts from bloggers who will be writing about their experiences.

32315_4387509698706_100847751_n“I’m taking the Challenge to bring awareness that flats are very much a viable option in today’s modern world. I am using 24 flats and 6 covers to cloth diaper TWO boys!”

-Callie Fritts, mama of 2 boys and consultant/blogger for www.diaperparties.com


“I am taalyssaking the challenge because I love to challenge myself. I want to be able to teach others how to cloth diaper on a budget and have experience in it. I am also interested in learning an alternative to using disposables or hybrid diapers on the road.”

Allyssa Streeper – mom of a 7 month old and owner of Crunchy Canadians from B.C., Canada (http://www.facebook.com/CrunchyCanadians)


me“…to prove to myself (and hubby) that I can be ready in any situation and to have experienced it firsthand! I am blogging about it to share the experience and raise awareness that cloth diapering can be done on any budget!”

Melissa Alexander, part time working mom of 3 and author of Teen Toddler Newborn

20130103_162609“…for reasons two : 1. To spread awareness that cloth diapers are a viable option for low income families and
2. To remind myself that I decide to cloth diaper to save money.  There are so many beautiful fancy diapers available, it’s hard not to want them all, but I don’t really need them.”

Jessica Dunn, mother of one http://lifeourwayblog.blogspot.com

kayla dusseau pic“I’m taking the challenge for the 1st time this year to show that moms working outside of the home can cloth diaper their children and save money for other family needs.”

– Kayla Dusseau @kaylalorri Blogging @ notquitehomemade.wordpress.com

SC20130516-124459-1“…to have the knowledge to tell others from first hand experience that cloth diapers don’t have to be expensive and intimidating.”

-Heather Lucas, mommy of two munchkins, @HeatherLucas777

13877_10151417300833391_1040619364_n“…to learn something new and to raise awareness than anyone can cloth diaper no matter what their income or situation.”

-Michelle Ferguson of The Not-So-Secret Confessions  http://www.mommyfergblog.com

IMG_0133“…because many people with low incomes can realize how easy is to get savings, happy baby butts, and most of all, healthy conditions of life only with a cloth and a bucket.”

Elena Santoyo, Full time mother of a chubby baby in cloth diapers, and blogger.  http://elenalovediapers.wordpress.com

evalepe-1366757133_600“I’m taking the challenge because I want to demonstrate the ease of cloth diapering, how fun it can be and how great it is for both baby and the environment.”

Eva Lepe mother of two and the writer of http://clothdiaperingmx.blogspot.mx/  @EvaLepe

imagefb“I’m taking the challenge because I was afraid of using flats and my competitive nature is stronger than my fear. Plus, I wanted to find a better way to cloth diaper while camping.”

-Crystal Ferguson


“…I could do that! I could do that ANYWHERE!” and I immediately considered how easy it would be to wash flats and a couple covers in a sink on a cruise ship or motel room. I could hang them to dry just inside the open door of the balcony or simply take advantage of the AC. I could still use her adorable little covers and know that I’m doing what I feel is best for my baby even in unusual situations.”

-Lara Jackson, contributor for www.dirtydiaperlaundry.com

My Headshot“I’m participating in this challenge for the third year because I want to be more diligent about noticing my daughter’s cues for when she has to go potty.”

~Sarah McKelvy, Mother of 1, Blogger at http://www.wifemummynurse.com


steph“I am taking the challenge to help show parents that when money is tight, they have options. You don’t have to spend your hard earned money on expensive disposable diapers that you are going to use once and throw away. Cloth diapering is a very realistic option!”

-Stephanie Beck, Mother of four and owner of: http://www.apronstringsattached.com/

Now take a look at the blog posts from today about why others are taking the Challenge.

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Get Prepared for the 3rd Flats and Handwashing Challenge plus Blogging Prompts

This post may contain affiliate links.

flatschallenge2013buttonThe 3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge begins this Monday, May 20 and will go until the evening of May 26.  As a quick reminder, this event will involve hundreds of families from all over the world; they have signed on to only use flat cloth diapers and handwash them for 7 days.  That’s why we say “No Washer.  No Dryer.  No Problem.”  On the surface this event may seem like fun and games (well, as much fun as handwashing dirty diapers can be!) but the goal is to prove that cloth diapers are possible in almost any situation.  1 in 3 families struggle to afford diapers for their babies but flats are the cheapest diapering option available and they are easily handwashed and air dried, unlike other styles of cloth diapers.

If you have decided you would like to participate but think you won’t have time to get prepared, have no fear!  I’v got some tips to get you started.  You can sign-up and read the rules on the announcement post: Rules and Sign-up.

Even though you won’t have time to take advantage of the sales offered by our retail partners you can still find flats at your local big box store.  You heard me!

Supplies you might need are listed below that you can still get this weekend.


Target sells “Flour Sack Towels” in their kitchen department.  These sell in packs of 4 for $4.00.  They are thinner than your traditional birdseye flats but they will work, though they won’t wash up perfectly square and are a bit smaller than the standard flat size.  You may need to double them up depending on how heavily your baby wets.

Wal-Mart has an equivalent for the same flour sack towel, same rules apply.

SAM’S Club also sells them in larger packs of 12 (Baker’s and Chefs brand) and these are rumored to be the best quality.  They will cost an extra .10  per flat and are 12.94 for the dozen.


Ikea sells “burp cloths” that are by far my favorite flats.  They are a bit more a piece, about 1.50 each and sold in packs of 2, but if you want to keep using flats after the challenge these are perfect and cute.


For an even cheaper alternative you can hit up your local thrift stores or raid your husband’s closet for XXL T-shirts and cut them along the seams to make 2 flats.  They shirts have to be 100% cotton.  I have a full tutorial for this- Cheap and Easy DIY T-Shirt Diapers.   If you get the shirts on sale for .50 each then you have two diapers for less than a dollar.  WHAT?!  Mind blown, right?

To get a camp style washer ready you will have to get a few supplies unless you have them already- but it isn’t hard.  Run to the dollar store for a plunger and find a 5 gallon bucket at a hardware store for about $5.00.  Instructions for making one: Make a Camp Style Washer for Cloth Diapers

And a few tips I shared last year about handwashing should help as well:

  • If using a plunger/bucket washer wear rubber gloves to prevent sore hands and callouses.  Also use gloves for wringing diapers as this can also cause soreness and chaffing.
  • Roll your covers in a dry bath towel and apply pressure (by kneeling) to take out as much water as possible to expedite air drying.
  • Line dry your flats in a well ventilated area if at all possible.  Outdoors if it isn’t humid or indoors under exhaust or ceiling fans.
  • Iron your flats if you need them to dry faster.  This can also kill leftover bacteria that may not have washed out.  Think of it as sterilizing while making them pretty too.
  • Use a light hand with the detergent- too much and the extra rinses will be time consuming.  Remember the volume of you washer/sink is likely a lot less than your washing machine.
  • Rinse with warm water.  According to a laundry expert warm rinses=easier to wring out more (or spin out more in machine)
  • Let the water work for you- if you can leave soiled flats in a SAFE place to soak then do so to remove waste.
  • Practice EC!  Nothing like handwashing diapers to make you more observant of your little one’s cues!  Let your baby go coverless and you might just notice a pattern to their pees.  Start putting them on a potty, cue them, read to them, and just see what happens.  One less pee/poop in a diaper= one less diaper to wash.
  • Don’t use wet bags.  Store dirty diapers in your bucket or sink because handwashing the bags will take valuable space.
  • Wash daily or at every change.  Washing larger loads means harder work, longer work, and the potential for the diapers to get less clean.
  • Beat the crap out of your dry flats to make them soft again.  Air drying=stiff.  Wring, snap, and roll your flats and this will remove the crunchy feeling.
  • Got stink?  Probably not enough detergent or not washing long enough.  Set a kitchen timer because a few minutes handwashing can feel like a lot longer.

Now you are ready!

If you plan to blog along there will be a prompt for each day of the Challenge to write on.  They are as follows:

Monday:  Why did you decide to take the Flats and Handwashing Challenge?

Tuesday:  How did you Prepare?  List your supplies, where you bought them, how you made them, how much you paid, etc.

Wednesday: Open Topic Day

Thursday: Thoughts on Handwashing- How am I doing?

Friday- What is working for me?  What isn’t?

Saturday- Open Topic Day

Sunday- What did I learn/ How did it go?  Do I think others could do this and how could they make it work?

You will have the chance to add a link directly to your post (not your main blog address) each day.

Add your main blog link to the linky if you plan to participate in the link-up each day!  

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Sign-ups Open Now for the 3rd Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge May 20-26

This post may contain affiliate links.


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.

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