Take the Flats and Handwashing Challenge May 23-30- Updated


>>>Scroll down for updates.  The Flats Challenge is now over.  Over 400 families participated.  Catch up on the rest of the posts by visiting the FlatsChallenge tag on my blog.  You can view the conclusions survey of participants by visiting the Survey Link.

Everyone around the country is feeling the pinch of the economy. The prices of food, gas, and even cotton are rising.  These necessary items mean that “luxury” goods aren’t as affordable.  Even worse, families can’t buy items considered necessities.  But what do you do when you have a baby (or babies) in diapers and you can only afford to feed them or diaper them? Do you let them sit in a disposable “just an hour” longer?  Or two?  or five?! What if you run out of diapers?  Would you ever scrape them out and reuse them, or attempt to dry them with a blow dryer?  Even though there are other ways (Elimination Communication-putting your baby on a potty as early as birth, or cloth diapers) to handle running out of disposables, not every parent knows of them so they might, just might, resort to those desperate and dangerous techniques. (are are according to this article, the inspiration for this challenge)  Even Pampers promoted the fact that their Dry Max diapers lasted 12 hours so the playing never had to stop! (then that line disappeared from the commercials… wonder why?) Disposable diapers are not covered by any government assistance program.  Food stamps nor WIC supply them.

Babies shouldn’t sit in a diaper, cloth or disposable, for hours and hours.

Many of you will say, “Why don’t these low income families just use cloth diapers?!”

Simple answer right? WRONG. There are many variables that make it hard for low income families to use cloth diapers.  No washer and dryer access, no money to buy enough diapers to last until going to the laundromat, no way to transport a very heavy bag of dirty diapers to the laundromat, no education about washing them, and so on.

Would I drive to the laundromat to wash diapers? I doubt it.

But when it comes down to it, if I couldn’t scrape together enough money to buy diapers for my baby, could I bring myself to hand wash diapers?  Yes.  If I were given the right information on how, yes I would.

And that is why I decided to challenge myself, and YOU, to use Flats and Handwash them for 1 Week. May 23-May 30. (This ends up being 8 days)

Why flats?

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 handwash; the thicker the fabric the more vigorous the agitation you need to get them properly clean.

My first flat application, ever.

Flats are intimidating. How does a square= a diaper?  Isn’t it hard?  Will I stick the baby with a pin?  Do I have to use plastic pull on pants?  No, No, and No.

If you watch a video or find a tutorial with step-by-step photos, it turns out that folding a flat diaper isn’t hard at all.  Even when you are clumsy with it, it works.  Trust me.  Pins?  Not that hard, as it turns out.  But you won’t have to use them.  In fact, you can fold the flat to mimic what most of you understand as the “tri-fold” and lay it in suitable covers also.  Covers?  Use any kind you want. PUL, Fleece, Wool.  They all work with flats.  Just because you are using the “old school” diaper you don’t have to use the puffy pants in addition to them.

Now that you know, will you join me?

Here are the rules:

  • You MUST use Flats.
  • You MUST handwash them.  How is up to you.  (bathtub, sink, large wash tub, portable non electronic washing machine, or camp style washer (bucket and plunger- think churning butter)
  • You MUST air dry them.  (indoors or outdoors, makes no difference)
  • You MUST limit your number of covers in rotation to 5 or less.
  • You can use any detergent you want.  (Keep in mind that you still want cloth safe detergents)
  • You can still use your nighttime diapers but I ask that you try to make flats work.  Maybe try a prefold wrapped in a flat.
  • You can use disposable liners.
  • You CAN’T use a diaper sprayer.  I thought long and hard about this one, but at an average cost of 40.00 this is one diaper accessory that is out of range for many families.  Dunk, swish, flush, or scrape!
  • You MUST start the morning of May 23 and end the evening of May 30.
  • You MUST fill out a completion survey about your experience.  Results will be published here and can be republished on your own blog.
  • You don’t have to be a blogger!  Your conclusions about the experiment will be entered into the survey at the end of the challenge.  You can share on your Facebook, Twitter, various messageboards.  But if you are a blogger please share your experience on your own blog.  Grab the button and let people know you are planning on joining the challenge.  Recruit others!  Challenge your own readers to join and fill out the completion survey.  You can blog everyday updating your experience, beforehand to let people know you are getting ready for it and explain what you will be doing, and of course, after the fact to let people know how it went.  If you hated it, say so.  If you think it was awesome and want to continue in some aspect, say that too!  Who knows, flats might be your favorite diaper!


Dirty Diaper Laundry Flats Challenge
<div><a title=”Dirty Diaper Laundry Flats Challenge” href=”http://www.dirtydiaperlaundry.com/take-the-flats-and-handwashing-challenge-may-23-30″ target=”_blank”><img style=”border: none;” src=”http://dirtydiaperlaundry.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/FlatsChallenge2.png” alt=”Dirty Diaper Laundry Flats Challenge” width=”150″ height=”250″ /></a></div>

I had no idea there would be so much interest in this project!  I am juggling quite a few projects right now: 2 Year Blogiversary, updates to www.clothdiaperfinder.com, my freelance work, my new website and QR project, and now the Flats and Handwashing Challenge!  I am trying to find the time to compile resources and film some how-to’s on making a washer, plus how to wash the diapers.  I am already using the flats  and covers save for the diapers I need to review.  Please check back soon for more information. >I will be contacting many of you who have already filled out the form soon with wonderful news!


The Challenge is over! There are over 400 people signed up to participate, and over to 50 bloggers posting about the Challenge each day.  We learned so much from one another through blog posts, tweets (using the #flatschallenge hashtag) and forum chatter.  Most of us hit unexpected challenges and some loved it.  Even if handwashing isn’t fun, I think it is safe to say that a few hundred moms (and even some dads) have found a new love and appreciation for flats. The impetus for this Challenge was to find out of handwashing is possible, and if it is feasible to ask anyone to do this.  The jury is still out, but there are lots of other reasons handwashing is a good skill to learn. Traveling, Camping, Emergency Preparedness, Appreciating what You Have (if you have it), and being a better Advocate. The easiest way to catch up with blog posts about the Challenge is to follow the tag flatschallenge. I have compiled many videos and posts to help everyone out who is taking the challenge.  Please refer to them for help with building a washer, folding techniques, prepping, and washing. The official hashtag to use while Tweeting about the Challenge was #flatschallenge. The first Linky for bloggers is up: Why are you Joining? Second Linky: How are you preparing? Daily Linkys and my Daily Vlogs:

If you are participated please take the completion survey.

Take the Survey

Challenge Resources so far:

After the Challenge is complete I am encouraging everyone to donate their flats (or any other diapers they are finished with) to Giving Diapers, Giving Hope.  A new foundation helping families.  Their mission statement:

We are a non for profit organization which provides education, support and cloth diapers to low income families in the continental United States (not Alaska or Hawaii) so that families aren’t wasting much needed money on disposable diapers and also to help reduce the environmental impact that that diapers have on the landfills.

Thanks for everyone’s interest and passion for this project!  It was a learning experience like no other!

Written By
More from Kim Rosas

Sprout Change Reversible One Size Giveaway (6/28) *closed*

Sprout Change is giving one lucky DDL reader their own Reversible, One...
Read More
  • Cole008

    Do Indian cotton pre folds count as flats?

  • TJ

     Hi! Hey, I just found this today….and I don’t have any flats, let alone have a hand washer set up…are you going to do this again later in the year? Or next year maybe? I’d love to participate, but I am totally unprepared! It’d pry take me a week to get ready, too, because I’d have to get flats and what-not!

    Oh, and just a note, my husband made our diaper sprayer for about $10. We bought a kitchen sink sprayer thing, a T thing (I’m so fluent in plumbing terms) and the plastic hose can with the kitchen sprayer. Works just as well for a quarter of the cost!

    If you could, would you please email me to let me know if it’s too late to pitch in or if there will be future opportunities? Thank you so much! (tj{at}measuringflower{dot}com).

  • slednmom

    I think this sounds totally doable and I am very excited but, bummed about not using my sprayer (even though I CD’d w/out it for 3 yrs LOL) 

  • Katiez1983

     My washing machine broke 2 weeks ago and I’ve been having to wash diapers in the bathtub.  Thankfully we do EC also, so there are not too many dirty diapers and no poopy ones.

    • Anonymous

      I’ll be addressing EC soon 😉

      • If you would like a guest post, I would happily share. I have a little info on “accidental” EC in my post http://crunchygreekmom.com/?p=122

  • Sportsfanstar5

    Where is the completion survey? 

  • KelleyD

    I am hoping that you will do the flats challenge again {Maybe a yearly event?} I wanted to do this, but we just moved two weeks ago, and was not about to add the work of handwashing to the crazy we already have going on with the move.

  • I feel as if Ive already completed this challenge. My husband and I do not have or make alot of money and try and provide the best for our unexpected son. For the past 11.5 months we have been using cloth diapers and have washed them by hand in either the sink or bath tub with home made (cloth diaper safe) detergent. Our apartment does not have a washer and dryer. Since we could only afford 6 diapers we wash them as used. We dry them with help from the great Florida sunshine we have. Since he was born we have not spent anything on diapers for him and I am so thankful that we kept to it because it makes me realize what good we have done for the enviroment and the bruised knees are proof of our work. We are now due with #2 in December and will be doing the same. Now its just a matter of getting a hold of a few more. 😉

  • Here’s my blog on my week in the challenge: http://crunchygreekmom.com/?p=122

  • Mangos5

    I love it.  I love it. I love it. When I used flats that was all there was with my first and then the preformed ones came into vogue for my second and third. I remember a friend saying they take so long to dry in the dryer or even when hanging out. I loved sitting and folding flats. You could use them for all ages and sizes. Folding has become a lost art. With all the “junk” that they must put in to disposable diapers now to make them keep the skin dry it must be aweful stuff. I remember going in to the bathroom to rinse out a dirty diaper and there with two others already in the toilet. That is just part of the whole mothering experience. There is nothing cuter then a baby waddling down the hallway in a cloth diaper.

  • I did this for almost a full 2 years. I’m glad that others see the need for advocacy with the government programs. I didn’t have internet or tv for a while & had to find my own way. when we first moved in to the house that we were living in we didn’t even own a Washer & dryer & the laundry mat was in the next town. I was pregnant with two small little ones, so walking for laundry wasn’t an option. LOL I learned self reliance & perseverance, thankfully walmart had some flats & some that were three thick for about a dollar each from GERBER I had saved to buy the snaps that I later put on for only the night time & early mornings. I didn’t like the vinyl pants that went over them so I started doubling up on the three layers I’d use one tri folded down the middle of the other one. washing was never fun for me. because lets face it no matter how poor or Earthly someone is it is always gross to have to touch & deal with clumps of poop. needless to say I cried tears of joy when my middle child was officially potty trained. we are doing much better now but I sadly had to stop using cloth diapers because of pressures from other people involved that just didn’t understand, & my youngest is too big  for the ones I was using. sadly he was born with issues & may never be potty trained fully if at all. I’ve recently been looking into cloth diapers once again & am thrilled & in awe of the community I had no idea. my youngest will be three the day after Christmas, & I’m wondering are there any out there big enough? & leak proof enough to not ruin his very expensive special needs equipment? again I am new to the fancy ones so I’m unsure about the leak protection that is offered.  I’ll end this comment with a very big thank you to those who are fighting to make this a movement & more known to everyone & a god bless to those that are trying to just get through the day. ~K~

    • Anonymous

      Wow, with no information you still made it work! That is amazing!

      How many pounds is your 3 year old? There are special needs cloth diapers out there, and I think a brand called Snap EZ makes larger sizes for special needs and adults. If they have PUL they are waterproof and should work as long as they are made absorbent enough for his output. I hope that is some direction for you.

      Good luck!

  • Hi! I was wondering if there was any chance of making this an annual thing? Last year my DD was only 2 weeks old and I could barely see straight, much less figure out washing flats 🙂 I’m thinking about just doing it on my own, but I’d love to link up with everyone.

    • Anonymous

      It might be. There have been a lot of requests!

      • I’d love it to be an annual thing as well.  I’m sure some of my experiences this year will be different since last year my daughter was just getting starting on eating solid food, so her poop was difficult to rinse off at time [especially in the toilet], but now I don’t use the a sprayer nearly as much since it just plops in the toilet.

      • Anonymous

        There is definitely a lot of interest. I’m thinking of how/when we can do it again so keep checking or like my facebok page to stay updated. http://facebook.com/dirtydiaperlaundry

  • Pingback: The Flats and Hand-washing Challenge « Funkylindsay()