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!

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