Flats, handwashing and Cloth for a Cause – #Flatschallenge

Starting Monday May 20 we started Dirty Diaper Laundry‘s Third Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge switched to only using flat cloth diapers and handwashing those diapers for 7 days.


What did I learn?

The goal of this challenge is to raise awareness that there are babies out there without clean diapers, who are in potentially 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.   Flats and handwashing is the cheapest way to diaper a baby.  Flats are the most affordable of cloth diapers and the easiest to get clean with handwashing.

Is it doable?




Is there another way to make diapering affordable?  Yes.


Our founder Samantha Pearl Kealing found herself in this position, buying tea towels and improvising covers to be able to diaper her son.  She decided that there had to be a better way and started the diaper lending program.   It allows families to get into cloth diapers without having to put out the upfront costs to buy a cloth diaper stash.  It also helps reduce waste by keeping disposable diapers out of landfills, as well as providing a recycling service for used cloth diapers.

Diapers in the sun

Will we be adding flats to our diaper lending service?  In certain circumstances, for sure.  If we had a family without access to a washer and dryer we could set them up with a full stash of flats.  I found the average wash time for me was a half hour and it was doable after my children went to bed.  My stash was also built on what we would loan as having sufficient flats so that one doesn’t have to stress about flats drying over night.   If we were to do a loan, I ‘d recommend 5 -6 covers as that is where I found we were running low at the end of the day if all covers became wet or dirty.


Would I recommend flats in other circumstances?  I know a lot of people fall in love with them during the challenge, but honestly, I can’t wait to go back to my regular diapers.  I have a lot of trim, but super absorbent bamboo and hemp inserts that do an excellent job of containing my super soaker without hourly changes.   On Saturday, the high number of leaks even with double stuffed flats was enough to make me cheer for the end of the day.


I’m very grateful to Dirty Diaper Laundry for issuing this challenge.   I’ve learned a lot and will be better able to serve Cloth for a Cause from the experience.


Cloth for a Cause, making a difference where it all begins.




Day 5 – What’s working for me? #Flatschallenge

We are now 5 days into  Dirty Diaper Laundry‘s Third Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge.   The end is in sight and a routine has been figured out.

So what is working?  

For us, washing once a day seems the easiest and is working well.   Yesterday was also one of those days that you just want to curl up with a big bowl of chocolate and definitely NOT start washing diapers at 10pm once both kids are asleep.  But I put the earphones on, turned up the music and had a great unwind washing diapers.  No seriously.   It really did leave me in a good mood.  I could see doing this daily, even after a long workday.  Just a little me time, or me and the diapers time.

The long soak in the bathtub really helps get the pee out, and shortens wash time.  I tried a quicker soak in the diaper pail last night and it resulted in needing more detergent and wash time, which then resulted in more rinse time.

Now that I’ve listened to the advice given and have been rolling the PUL covers and wetbags in a towel, hang drying is going well.  Everything is dry by morning and ready to go.

Using  Jo’s fold to make pads to put in the covers is our go-to diaper.   Thursdays are my son’s social day and his dayhome provider agreed to try flats.   She said that with the pads already made, it was easy to put on and not much different than the pocket diapers we normally send.


Helping unload the drying rack

What is sort of working?

I’m still trying to figure out the right absorbency with flats.   Sometimes 1 flat is enough, other times both kids need to have 2 flats.  Nap time is easy, but other times of the day I guess based on the amount of liquids and whether we are going out.   We’ve not had too many leaks this week after the first day or two.   I did do all pads as double layers for daycare day to minimize leak issues.  She did have one, but it was with a velcro cover and as the velcro is starting to go, they tend to loosen which cause leaks.

I’ve also learned that when making pattern flats to not use fabric with large brown patterns.  You keep thinking that there are poops in there.  Not too bad if you are doing a quick diaper check, but yesterday it resulted in four kids being brought inside for what turned out to be a clean and dry diaper.   The sun through the cover just made one of the dogs look like a poop.

See those brown dogs? Cute, right? Just not a great idea on a flat diaper.


So what is not working?

Snappi’s.  I just can’t get those suckers to stick so I’ve given up on doing any fancy folds.

It was in the list of tips, but I did still try using my normal pail liner in the diaper pail.  Yeah, it was in the list for a reason.  I know now to put them right in the pail and rinse it out at night.

I’ve learned that I really don’t like rubber gloves.  I need them for the ick factor and to be able to use hot water, but they are irritating my hands.  And they smell funny and make my hands smell funny.  If I were doing handwashing on a long-term basis, I’d invest in a different type of water proof  glove.

Hanging to dry outside is also not working for us.  It’s caterpillar season and the season that the tree over our deck drops a lot of stuff.  I’ve put out diapers for a quick morning bit of sunshine, but that is it otherwise I feel like I need to wash them again when I bring them in.

Quick morning sun before the caterpillars are out

Handwashing – how is it going? #Flatschallenge

Let’s check in with Wanda, our CFAC representative in Dirty Diaper Laundry‘s Third Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge.

How is the handwashing going?

I think it is going well!  I’m glad that I didn’t get a camp washer, plunger or washboard as the bathtub is working the best for us.   I throw the diapers in to soak in the bathwater while getting the kids to bed.  That means that they are in there at least 45 minutes before I come back.  And judging by the barnyard smell, its a good way to get the pee out.

I do prewash the poopy diapers and wipes separately in the sink or dishpan at some point during the day.

Presoaking in the bathwater

Once the diapers have done the presoak, I do a batches of 6 flats in hot water washes with a sprinkle of detergent before rinsing under the tub faucet.  I let the tub refill while doing the rinsing to do another swish in the tub.

I bet you are wondering how long it takes me.  I really don’t know, to be honest.

My baby is being a bit weird about bedtime this week and will seem like she has gone to sleep, only to be back awake 10 minutes later.  So there is a lot of extra soaking time as I’ll just start washing and then go back to put her back to sleep.

Or like last night, when all else failed, I put her on my back to get the job done.   There was a lot more tub stomping for rinsing than Tuesday night.

Getting diapers done with the baby who won't sleep

Drying is going well.  I haven’t worried too much about getting all the water out.  We normally hang to dry and our system seems to be working.  Tuesday nights diapers were a little damp so I put them back outside in the morning.

The biggest surprise for me is how much water PUL absorbs.  Given its waterproof nature I expected to basically pick it out of the water, give it a shake and it would dry quickly.  But definitely not.  The wetbags and covers hold a LOT of water!  I don’t really want to wring PUL, so last night I did the rollup in the towel trick with the covers and they dried over night no problem.

Do I look sleepy?

What About the Poop? #FlatsChallenge

One of the most common questions that people have when asking about cloth diaper use is “What about the poop?”  After all, no one (okay, most people) really relishes the idea of ending up with feces all over their hands.  It’s just… gross.  When using flats and handwashing them, it seems like wearing poop is inevitable, right?

Wanda, our CFAC representative in Dirty Diaper Laundry‘s Third Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge, will tell you otherwise.

So, Wanda, do you touch a lot of poop?

No, not really.   I’m lucky in that I have a diaper sprayer so that anything that doesn’t roll right off the toddler’s diaper gets sprayed off.  If I’m not overly carefully, it might get all over the toilet bowl, but hey, it’s a toilet.  That’s where it belongs.

What About the Poop? #FlatsChallenge (Cloth for a Cause)

So hard to capture a toddler on the go!

My daughter likes to store and blow.   Last week it was 14 days of hoarding before she blew.  And she blew and she blew and she blew.  Like 3 big diapers over 3 days.  But with all the different cloth diapers in my stash it stayed contained.  The only time I had a blow out was when she went before I got her out of her night-time disposable.  And I think that there was more in her sleeper than in her diaper, which meant it ended up all over me and the change table.

What About the Poop? #FlatsChallenge (Cloth for a Cause)

This one is a little easier to capture in a picture.

I use double layer flannel wipes that are 8”x8” so you get good hand coverage and I find your hand stays clean while cleaning up that kind of diaper.

I was thinking that with the handwashing challenge this week that it would be a week of touching poop, but so far I’ve not had any on my hands.   My son is being very helpful with having firm roll off the diaper poop.   My daughter had stored up for a week so yes; the very first flat on Monday morning was a poopy one.  But the diaper held it all in!   She gave me another good one yesterday which let me hone my washing technique.   I folded up the cover with the pad and the wipes still in it and dumped it in the bathroom sink to soak.

That gave me time to get the rubber gloves and do a prewash in the sink before adding it to the presoak in the tub that night with the rest of the day’s diapers.

So at this point of the challenge, I’ve not yet had poop on the hands.  Yeah!

See the flat poking up out of the pants? This was a fun sandy load to wash.

The Flats and Handwashing Challenge – What’s in the stash? #flatschallenge

When preparing for Dirty Diaper Laundry’s Third Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge, we had a different sort of challenge in mind.  While some participants are buying cheap towels from a big box store or using receiving blankets, we worked it a little differently.  Wanda, our challenge participant, is a board member of Cloth for a Cause and a crucial part of our organization.  Because our organization loans out cloth diapering packages to struggling families, Wanda used exactly what a recipient family would receive if they were to get a flats package.

So How Did She Do It?

After discussing with our local chapter president, we decided that each child would have 15 – 20 flats, 3 – 4 covers, 2 snappies and 20 wipes. In addition we usually provide a pail liner and a couple of wetbags.

I had most of what I needed on hand except for flats. There are meters of flannel and flannelette in my sewing room waiting to be turned into wipes for the diaper loan program so the easy answer was to make flats. Without too much attention to detail I ripped and serged 20×20 squares for my 5 month old daughter and 24 x 24 squares for my 26 month old son. These will be turned into wipes for our diaper loan program after the challenge is completed.

So what do I have?

The Stash

4 – 27”x 27” receiving blankets from using with my children

10 – 20”x20” flats from Fabricland bargain center flannelette ($1.50/m)

7 – 24”x24”ish (not all are square) Fabricland bargain center flannelette

8 – 20”x20” from diaper quality flannel donated by Creedation Wear

6 – 24”x24” from diaper quality flannel donated by Creedation Wear

From my existing stash I’m using 2 small snappies, 2 large snappies, 1 Jamtots pail liner, 2 Alva wetbags and 40 wipes.

For covers, I’m using from my existing stash 2 Thirsties diaper covers size small, 2 Bummis Super Whisper size smalls, 1 Bummis Super Whisper size medium, 1 Bummis Superbrite size medium, and I borrowed 2 Thirsties Duo wraps size 2 from a friend.

I’ve opted to not make a camp washer. I’d like to say there is a real reason other than sourcing a 5 gallon pail seemed like too much work. But no, that really is the reason. I debated on getting a plunger or something to use as a washboard, but when I arrived at the store without my wallet, I decided to just use what is on hand in the house.

My first load yesterday was in the laundry sink using a paint tray as a washboard. The second load was in the tub. I dumped the diapers in the bathwater and let it soak until the kids were in bed and then did a wash in a dishpan with the rinse in the tub.

First load in the laundry sink

First load hanging outside to dry
We already hang dry all of our diapers so we have several options for indoor and outdoor racks.

The Flats and Handwashing Challenge – Fluff For All! #flatschallenge

Today is the start of a new challenge for some of us at Cloth for a Cause.  Kim Rosas of Dirty Diaper Laundry has issued her third annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge.  Wanda of Vancouver Island has accepted this challenge on behalf of our organization.

The Flats and Handwashing Challenge is an important event.  Some of the obstacles preventing people from using cloth diapers is lack of access to washing machines and lack of funds.  The lack of washing access is also one of the key reasons why people insist that they can’t use cloth.  The Flats and Handwashing Challenge exists to prove otherwise.


Flats and Handwashing Challenge Goals

Cloth Diapering Can Be Cheap

Seriously, you can get tea towels from a big box store that will work for around $3 on sale.  You can use a t-shirt to make flats.  You don’t actually need anything specialized other than a cover… and you’d only need like six of those.  Any obstacle with cloth diapering can be overcome with a little ingenuity.  And, really, there’s that old saying that “necessity is the mother of invention.”  Even if you can’t get assistance from a cloth diaper lending organization for one reason or another, the Flats and Handwashing Challenge will hopefully demonstrate that it’s still doable.  Poverty does not need to be a barrier to using cloth diapers, and it can actually ease the burdens of poverty.

Cloth Diapering Can Be Done Without a Washer

One huge barrier to some of the impoverished is that they do not have affordable access to washing machines.  Some are using coin laundry.  Others are homeless, so there are even less access to washing machines.  The handwashing aspect of the Flats and Handwashing Challenge shows that even little to no washing machine access makes it possible.  This is a huge advantage to those who find themselves in the situation of reusing disposable diapers due to lack of access to any sort of diapers in their budget.

Are you taking part in the Flats Handwashing Challenge?

Of course, the primary reason for Cloth for a Cause to take advantage of this challenge is to bring awareness to the needs of the struggling.  You can also help by donating to your local Cloth for a Cause chapter.  Since we are now officially a registered Canadian charity, that means tax receipt potential!