Posted by: Amanda | May 16, 2011

Why I’m Participating in the Flats and Handwashing Challenge

From May 23-May 30, over four hundred cloth diapering families will be taking on Dirty Diaper Laundry‘s Flats and Handwashing Challenge.

The Flats and Handwashing Challenge was created in response to this article, which notes that some low-income families have resorted to leaving their babies in disposable diapers for an extended period of time, or even re-using them, in order to help make ends meet. The result? Their babies suffer from rashes, infections, and other discomforts that could be avoided.

Modern cloth diapers, while being very convenient and ultimately cost-saving, can have a hefty start-up cost and be difficult to wash.  Such diapers simply aren’t the right solution for many low income families, some of whom do not own a washer or dryer.  Flat cloth diapers, the kind of diaper that our grandmothers used, are a good solution to this problem. Flat diapers are very inexpensive, only about $1 or so per diaper; even flour sack towels, old receiving blankets, etc. can be used as flat cloth diapers. Add a few inexpensive modern diaper covers, and a family could cloth diaper their baby for less than $50 from birth to potty training! Sure, a little more work is involved in using flats, but our children are worth it.

So, from May 23-30, I’ll be using flat cloth diapers and handwashing them. More precisely:

  • I’ll be using Flat cloth diapers only (except for night time, if I’m not able to make flats work overnight).
  • I’ll be hand washing my diapers and covers. (Bathtubs, sinks, wash tubs, portable washing machines, and camp style washers are all allowed).
  • I’ll be air drying all of my diapers and covers.
  • I’ll be rotating among five or less diaper covers for the week.
  • I will not be using a diaper sprayer for the week.

Lest anyone has read the above list and concluded that anyone participating in the flats challenge will be martyring themselves , we won’t be. My family does not own a diaper sprayer, so I already know first-hand that it is not an absolute necessity to cloth diapering. I will be using liners throughout the challenge to aid in ease-of-cleanup, however. I’ll also be using my regular cloth diapering detergent. Whenever the weather cooperates, I hang our cloth diapers on the line to dry already, so that part of the challenge will not be too difficult either. I expect that the most difficult part of the Flats and Handwashing Challenge for me will be planning appropriately to be sure that we always have clean and dry diapers available.

The reasons for which I personally am doing the Flats and Handwashing Challenge are:

  • First and foremost, to raise awareness that cloth diapers are a viable option for any family; cloth diapers really can be easy and affordable.
  • I would also like to prove to myself, and others, that flats and hand washing are a good diapering solution in the case of an emergency or disaster situation.
  • There was a time when we didn’t think that we could afford enough (pocket) cloth diapers to make it worthwhile. I know now that pocket diapers are not much more convenient than any other type of cloth diaper. In fact, I actually prefer the tri-folded prefold and a cover system that we use at home. If there would have been hundreds of people who had experience with using flat cloth diapers and had written about their experiences online, there is a good chance that I would have been willing to try less-fancy, yet equally effective, cloth diapers earlier.
  • Oftentimes when I mention cloth diapering to other parents, they balk at the thought of the extra work involved. If I can hand wash and use old-fashioned flat diapers daily for a week, maybe other parents will begin to realize that the small amount of work involved in using cloth diapers is no big deal.
  • We have SUPER hard water, so I battle with stink issues. I am hoping that flats will be the answer to this problem.

This is the first in a series of posts that I will be writing to document my experience. You can read the rationale behind other bloggers’ reasons for participating in the Flats and Handwashing Challenge here.

Thanks to my sponsor, Monkey Bunns, I am able to participate in the Flats and Handwashing Challenge.



  1. Great post! I’m glad I could help! We also have very hard water.

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