Flats and Handwashing Challenge – Day 4


Check out the rules here!

Check out the rules here!

The Flats and Handwashing Challenge is an annual event started in 2011 by DirtyDiaperLaundry.com  to raise awareness about how cloth diapering can be done economically and with minimal resources by almost anyone. Cloth diapering can allow families to allocate more resources to food and other necessities, without worrying about affording a product that is literally designed to be thrown out.

Day 4:  What is my washing routine?

 So far I’ve had three hand washing cycles since starting the challenge. What I’ve been doing is working well for me, though I have a couple of ideas that I may try out.

When I take off the dirty diaper, I wipe down the cover if I’ll be reusing it before washing. If not, it goes in the 5 gallon bucket washer. I also unfold the flat so it is a single layer again. (Grabbing one corner and letting it drop usually does the job.) This also goes into the bucket. When I have a “load” of diapers (aka: the bucket looks full enough, or it’s been 24 hours) I start washing.

I should mention that I have an exclusively breastfed baby right now, so this works, but when he starts solids all bets are off! I have no experience with “solid” bowel movements, though I’m assuming aside from needing to “plop” into the toilet, those diapers may need a bit more attention before working in this routine.

I start with a cold water rinse. I fill the bucket of diapers (and covers and wipes) with cold water, then I agitate with the plunger (with or without the lid on) about 60 times. I let it sit for a bit while I go do something else for a while…at least 10 minutes, but up to 30 minutes. When I come back to it I agitate 60 times again, and dump the whole thing into the bottom of the tub. As I pick up each item I squeeze the water out (not excessively, just ball it up and squeeze, then open it back up) and put it back into the bucket.

Soaking before the final round of agitation and squeezing.

Soaking before the final round of agitation and squeezing.

Once everything is back into the bucket I add 1 tablespoon of detergent. For this challenge so far I’ve been using my doTERRA (affiliate link) OnGuard brand liquid detergent because it’s the liquid I have, and I thought using powder (Nellie’s is what I use in our washing machine) would be tricky. The bucket is then filled up with hot tap water, and I agitate 60 times. Once more I let it sit for a bit while I go do something else. When I come back to it I agitate it 60 times again, and dump everything out into the tub again. After I squeeze each item it goes back into the bucket for a rinse.

The end rinse goes just about the same as the first. Fill the bucket of diapers with cold water, agitate, wait, agitate, drain. The exception is that I squeeze water out more thoroughly, and “snap” the diaper to get a bit more water out of it. When I “snap” the diaper I grab two adjacent corners and shake it out. I’ll also snap the wipes, but not the covers, since I don’t want to damage the elastic.

To hang them to dry, I start by stacking the “snapped” diapers laid out flat on a large bath towel. I roll them up in it (like sushi or cinnamon buns) and set the roll on the edge of the tub. I then kneel in various spots along it until the towel feels pretty wet. Then I hang everything on the drying rack, including the towel. (I lay the towel across the bottom to collect any drips, especially from the covers, since our bamboo floors wouldn’t take too kindly to having puddles sitting overnight!)

Flats Handwashing Challenge 004

A full load of diapers hanging on the drying rack in the nursery.

I’ve been asked if the diapers that are hung to dry get as stiff as cardboard. I have to say that for the most part they don’t, but if they are a bit stiff, “whipping” them or crumpling them up as you take them down helps a lot with that.

One idea I had, though haven’t tried out yet, is at least for the first two cycles of squeezing out water, putting the diapers in a milk crate in the tub, and stomping the water out. This might save my hands a little bit, but it means I have to clean one of our milk crates, and make sure my feet aren’t dusty when I do it. Since we live in a desert with red dirt everywhere, it probably won’t happen. It would also make running out of the bathroom to check on something a lot harder since my feet would be wet! It’s an idea anyway that might work for some.

I was worried about the agitation and squeezing making my arms and hands sore, but I don’t really feel it, even after a few days. How would you hand wash anything?

If you want to watch something amusing, here is a video of one full agitation cycle. 60 strokes takes about 2 minutes.

To read other people’s experiences with the challenge, check out DirtyDiaperLaundry.com’s post and the link-up at the bottom of her post. (Apparently day 4 isn’t up yet..I’ll update the link later.)


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12 Responses to “Flats and Handwashing Challenge – Day 4”

  1. Mama's Happy Hive Says:

    This is a real challenge! I am not sure I am as brave. 🙂 Great job!

    • AmyKathryn Says:

      I wouldn’t say I’m brave…after all if I get lazy or have something come up I still CAN use my washer & dryer, as well as the modern cloth diapers. Even this weekend when I’ll be away from Sabbath morning to Sunday evening and traveling with only flats & covers I can’t say I’m too brave since again…if I HAD to I could stop and buy diapers, though I likely won’t. Brave are the women who have no choice and do this all the time while keeping their family healthy and happy.

  2. Lizzie-Beth Says:

    LOL “after solids all bets are off.” I don’t blame you! I feel like im constantly doing laundry so I give you props for doing this at all. 🙂

    • AmyKathryn Says:

      Other than diapers I usually do one load of baby laundry per week, two loads of grown up laundry, and a load of sheets. That all typically gets done in one day unless my schedule gets interrupted, but so far that works. We’ll see what happens in a couple of months! Thank you.

  3. KT @ Cup of Tea Blog Says:

    This is quite the process! Do you find that this process is more effective at cleaning than the washer/dryer?

    • AmyKathryn Says:

      In some ways it is, such as if there’s poop stuck in seams I can work it out, where our high efficiency front loader might not get it. I think they do get at least as clean washing by hand. Since the challenge is to show the feasibility for families who might not have regular access to a washer and dryer, not to say that hand washing is better, I feel it does well enough.

  4. AmyKathryn Says:

    Yes, it is quite satisfying. I was just telling my husband that I think part of the reason I’ve been enjoying this challenge is that it’s a project that has a clear start and finish, and has very visible results as you go.

  5. Michelle S Says:

    Kudos for you for cloth diapering your baby! You are one BRAVE Mama. As for me, I’m a chicken using disposables!

    • AmyKathryn Says:

      It’s really not brave…we used disposables for a few weeks while I recovered from my c-section and dealt with so much poop in places it didn’t belong! At least the cloth diapers contain it, and I expect it. It’s really not difficult. 🙂

  6. Annemarie Says:

    Just catching up after an exciting weekend. This was really inspiring, Amy! It helps to have someone willing to try the hard stuff, makes the jump seem less scary.

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