Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 7: Hindsight 20-20

I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world!  

Johnny's ready for bed in a wool
cover, 30x30 flat, and padfolded
t shirt
In my year of handwashing our chosen diaper system of gDiapers and flapped inserts I didn't get very adventurous.  I tried a few other diapers -- pocket diapers with microfiber inserts, pocket diapers with all natural inserts, the Freetime -- but never prefolds or flats.  Everything I tried washed up okay, but I constantly fought ammonia stink and build up whenever I changed detergents or the universe wanted a few laughs.

So would I have opted for flats from the start if I knew what I know now about the benefits and savings of flats?

Short answer: Yes

Flats dry incredibly quickly, even compared to my usual inserts.  I hung out some flats before church this morning and they were dry, thanks to sun and wind, by the time I got back.  During the first two days of the challenge I hung the flats in our living room under a fan overnight (9pm till 7am) and they were dry in the morning.


There are some changes I would make though.   With two kids in cloth it was difficult enough to handwash a days' worth of inserts in one load -- I could only wash 12 inserts at once and they usually went through 15-18.  During the challenge I found I could only wash 6-7 flats per load because of their size (30"x30"). I would probably make some smaller flats specifically for padfolding inside t-shirt flats or covers so I could fit more in a load. My current inserts are 4 layers of fabric, so a 18"x18" flat would be just fine.  They'd probably work pretty well for a newborn too.

Izzy participated in the challenge but opted against
flats for her baby.  Thankfully baby didn't have any
dirty diapers, so Izzy didn't have any washing to do
I would use wool covers.  Wool is harder to come by and it is more expensive, but I believe it is worth every penny when handwashing.  I think it is simply amazing that you can use a wool cover for a week without washing it (unless it gets soiled).  Plus they are a cinch to wash: squeeze, soak, squeeze, hang dry.

I don't think I would use wool for a baby under 6 mos.  I can just see yellow peanut butter poo all over my wool covers 2-3x per day.  Wool usually takes a good 12 hours or more to dry for us.  A set of gDiapers or some wipeable PUL covers would be more cost effective.

I wouldn't change my T-shirt flats.  They were perfect for regular changes and uncomplicated to use.  And they were free.

As for handwashing?


Totally doable.

We handwashed our diapers for a year while balancing my 14-16 hours of school a day, my part time job and my husband's part time job.  We kept going despite my herniated disk and his carpal tunnel.  Do I miss my WonderWash?  Yes.  Its a back saver.  However, if I had to handwash our diapers again with just a bucket and plunger I would happily.

In summary, I have some changes to make to my Handwashing Guide.  And I think I'll overhaul that whole page.  Ho hum.



Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day 6: Its all about the Money

Dinosaur baby
I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world!  

I convinced my husband to switch to cloth only after doing an extensive cost-benefit analysis.  Since I am in school full time (as in 60+ hours a week), we live on loans supplemented by hub's part time job.  A dollar spent today means a dollar plus interest we have to pay back down the road.  We were out to save as much as possible by cloth diapering, but I was only willing to go so far.  I stuck to the gDiaper system so we would have a disposable 'out'.  I conceded to make inserts since it would be cheaper than buying them, but I opted for high quality fabrics for the most absorbency.  We spent about $500 on more than enough cloth diapers to take our two babies from 2 months to potty-training.

For comparison, let me outline the cost of the items I've used in this challenge:

Items Prices
6 t-shirt flats $0
2 high quality home-made flats $12
2 snappis $8
1 One-size wool soaker $25
2 gDiapers $25
2 Fashionably Green Baby Extra Deep Liners $13
2 upcycled fleece covers $2
5 gal bucket $3
Lid $1
Plunger $5
Weatherstripping (to prevent back splash) $3
TOTAL $97
Sneaky boy in his night-night diaper

Y'all... do me a favor and don't tell my husband about this table.

To be completely fair, my current stash of inserts and covers is huge by comparison since I was cloth diapering two kids at once. If we assume all other things are equal and just compare the inserts, my current homemade flappers ran ~$2.14ea while the average on the flats I've been using is $1.50 -- not a huge difference per piece, but for someone on a budget, 65 cents can make or break a plan.




Day 5: Lessons Learned

I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world!  

1.  Flats are awesomely versatile...

Drying by the light of the moon
I use the origami fold to achieve the most coverage and avoid getting our covers soiled.  I padfold flats in our gDiapers for quick uncomplicated changes while out and about.  I use the origami fold with another flat padfolded inside all under a wool cover for overnight.

          but not all are created equal

I made two flats out of bamboo terry fabric and they are incredibly absorbent and handle anything I throw at them.  I've been reserving them for overnight and naps.  Padfolded the bamboo double terry alone holds my son overnight but is extremely bulky.

The t-shirt flats on the other hand... they are trim and great for daytime changes, but they don't hold a lot.  Even 3 padfolded doesn't work well for overnight.

2.  Flats are awesomely cheap...

I made my t-shirt flats from t-shirts I got for free.  Due to the weave of jersey fabric it doesn't need to be finished to prevent unraveling, so quite literally the only thing I did to make my t-shirt flats was take a pair of scissors to some t-shirts.  Many flats can be bought for $1 a piece.

          but not all flats are that cheap

Flats made out of higher-quality fabrics like hemp and bamboo can run between $5-10 each.  I calculated the cost of the 30x30 flats I made and they weighed in at $5 (bamboo french terry) and $7 (bamboo double terry).  That seems steep compared to the other options, but like I said they are very absorbent!  On a limited income, I think the upfront savings when compared to a quality fitted would be worth it.

3.  Flats are awesomely easy to care for...

They rinse cleanly and they dry quickly on the line.  I'm impressed.

          but the key is small loads

I'm used to handwashing 10-15 inserts at once.  I figured I would be able to do the same with flats, but the large amount of fabric flowing around makes that impossible.  Loads of 6 flats plus 4-5 wipes with the bucket and plunger seem to be a good size for me.  If I had more flats I might try 7 or 8, but no more than that.

4.  Flats are great for the bum.  No caveat.

My son had a rash when I started this challenge.  I almost didn't go through with it because of that doggone rash.  He's had it off and on since the moving process started a month ago.  I blame inconsistency.  We switched back and forth between cloth and disposable inserts during the move, I  washed our diapers in three different washing machines in that time period, and with all the craziness he wasn't getting regular diaper changes.  You can imagine I was less than thrilled to introduce more inconsistencies: new inserts, new diapering method, yet another washing system.

Well the rash is almost gone.  Maybe its the rhythm we've developed.  Maybe it was switching to a coconut free rash cream.  Or maybe, just maybe, its those flats.  A flat wrapped in a wool cover breathes wonderfully.

5.  I'd rather introduce possible cloth converts to something else

I've been carrying around a bumGenius Freetime in my diaper bag lately, not to use on my son, but as a show-off diaper.  If the Freetime were a 1950's pinup girl, the flats would be Alexandra Bergson from O Pioneers!.  The flat isn't sexy until you spend some time with it.  If I had ten seconds to make an impression, I'd rather show off the Freetime or a pocket diaper.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day 4: Musing on Handwashing

I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world!  


I knew before starting this challenge that I would not go back to handwashing unless I had a good reason.  However, after using disposables for a year and handwashing cloth diapers for another year, I know that I'd prefer the latter if those were my only choices.  Kim at Dirty Diaper Laundry talked today in her blog about being adaptable and she got it spot on -- with a little flexibility and determination you can make what seems impossible possible.

Example... when I started college in the south I got a hand-me-down manual transmission car with a broken AC and two windows that wouldn't roll down.  My brother had tried to teach me to drive stick months earlier but I couldn't get the car out of the parking lot.  The car sat at my brother's house for the first couple months of my freshman year until I decided I was ready to try again.  I got it out on the road and that was it.  When summer came the AC was still broken so I did without.  I still drive a stick, but I have no idea how I made it two summers in the south without AC in my car.

Handwashing is the same.  When people found out I handwashed our kids diapers they were amazed, but I really don't find it that amazing.  I did what I had to do, same as anyone else would.  In our daily lives we do things that would seem extraordinary to others but are ordinary to us: waiting tables, calming temper tantrums, changing diapers, cooking dinner for a family of 6, working 80 hours a week.  Its all based on perspective and when your situation changes so does your perspective.

That being said, this challenge is still not easy, nor is handwashing every day.  The plunging wears out my arms, but I know that gets better after a few weeks.  The wringing hurts my hands, but after a few weeks callouses form and that's not such a problem either.  Then there is my back.  I have a herniated disk in my back  has been flaring up recently due to moving furniture and carrying my kids around.  After the kids went to bed last night I helped my brother unload his moving truck so I ended up going to sleep last night with the diaper laundry untouched, then getting up at 6am to do laundry.  I had similar problems with the bucket and plunger over the last year, so I asked for and received a WonderWash for Christmas.  It is about 3-4 times the cost of a bucket and plunger, but well worth it for my back.

RNG, SAVE ME FROM THE SUDS!
Meanwhile my wipes have been sabotaging my diapers.  I think I used too much baby shampoo in my wipes solution and it hasn't been washing out very well.  I ended up filling the bathtub all the way then swishing the 6 flats, draining, wringing, and repeating.  I finally got all the soap out.  I then took all the wipes in my wipes container and rinsed them to prevent further build up.

I did finally run out of detergent too.  Our Rockin Green is still in USPS limbo.  I tried the bumGenius detergent sample on my covers but it was too sudsy and didn't wash out very well.  I didn't have time to run to the store so I worked with what I had at home.  I mixed equal parts borax and baking soda, added 1Tbs to my wash cycle, and held my bar of soap under the faucet for 5 seconds as I filled my bucket with hot water.  It was very scientific.  I finished off by rinsing with some white vinegar.  Everything rinsed out easily and my diapers smell clean so I guess it worked!

How is the challenge going for you? Do you have any tips on handwashing you've learned that you would like to share?


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 3: What do I do with those flats?

I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world!  
Flats are something else.  I was initially intimidated by the concept of all the folding that goes into flats and prefolds so I opted for flapped and fold-to-fit inserts that we could lay in covers when we started cloth diapering.  These also have the bonus of being easy for anyone to use.  I did padfold some flats for the hubs to use in the gDiapers today since I spent most of the day hiding in my study hole.  I didn't even expect him to use the flats today, so I hadn't showed him any fancy folds.

I have tried the origami fold on my son with the 'square' flats I made and after I jelly-roll the legs it works quite well.  I think I like the looks of the anteater fold so I might try that tomorrow.

The t-shirt flats I made don't really lend themselves to any particular fold.  When I searched online for tips on making t-shirt flats I didn't find much besides the suggestion that I use XL and larger shirts.  I was aiming for a 30"x30" square for my 25lb 34" 15mo old son and even the one XL shirt I had didn't really lend itself to those dimensions, although I went ahead and cut off the sleeves, then cut the shirt in half.  I've been using that one padfolded in a cover.  I was also working with one large and one medium size shirt and decided I wanted to try something different.  I know its not square, but its one layer and easy to make.


1.  I cut the t-shirts up the sides and across the shoulders to make two 'flats'


2. I folded one side in so that the center of the shirt was about halfway between the edge of the fold and the sleeve seam

3.  I folded that side back so that the fold I just created lined up with the center of the shirt


4. I then did the same on the other side


5.  I folded down the top to thin out the 'wings' formed by the sleeves


6. I folded the center up to achieve the appropriate rise for my son


7. I folded the center up and the wings over, then snappied!


One happily cloth diapered bum!  This is my Great Cloth Diaper Change tee from last year.  I bet our sponsors never thought they'd be getting this kind of publicity!  I folded this shirt so that the graphic on the back would be centered, but it could also be folded in thirds if you don't care.

My kids found plenty of other ways to use our flats.  They had a blast burning off energy before bed!  



I've grown fond of all our flats, though I've noticed the medium t-shirts don't have quite the right rise if I fold down enough to get plenty of absorbent layers for a change.  Large seems to work the best right now.

 If you are taking the challenge, how are you using your flats?  Are you enjoying them?



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day 2: What does it take?

I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world!  

Besides Hulk arms and a strong stomach?


I had magnificent plans to make all the covers and flats I would need for the challenge from what was left of my stash of diaper fabrics.  Instead I spent last week unpacking boxes and shushing my husband as he cursed at Ikea.  At 1am Sunday I had one flat made so I scrounged what I could and this is what I came up with:

My Super Duper Flats and Handwashing Challenge Materials List


The bright green is a homemade flat, the others are t-shirts
2 homemade flats from extra bamboo diaper fabric
6 T-shirt flats from my ridiculous stash of free-but-not-appropriate-for-grown-up-school t-shirts

Snappis we already had to secure the diapers

1 Covered Caboose side snapping OS wool cover(my favorite for handwashing)
2 upcycled fleece covers I made months ago and never used
gDiapers from our everyday stash

Our usual wipes

Never too young to pull
their weight
Our original bucket and plunger that we used for 6mos+ -- I would use our WonderWash but I gave it to a friend who is expecting the day before we moved

2 FROST drying racks we currently use to dry our diapers -- although I have my doubts after putting together our new wardrobe, I generally <3 IKEA. 



Pretty shower curtain -- To hide the diapers soaking in the bathtub
Rockin Green detergent?


.... Sh*t.


I used Rockin Green while hand washing and we still use Rockin Green on all our laundry -- no problem, right?  I noticed we were getting low last week so I ordered a couple more bags on Amazon.  With our awesome Prime 2-day shipping they were supposed to arrive yesterday.  They didn't.  I forgot to change the shipping address on my Amazon account so they are currently being "held [hostage] by carrier" in our old city.  I have enough Rockin Green detergent for one more load of hand washing, a sample of bumGenius detergent, and some borax and baking soda.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the postman.

As for how its going so far... as I was washing last night I realized I should have stripped the t-shirts.  Sure enough Johnny has had a wonderful rash at every change with the t-shirt flats.  He has the bright green flat tonight (fingers crossed it will hold him all night) so hopefully that rash will clear up.

If you are participating in the flats challenge, what are you using?  How is it going so far?




Monday, May 21, 2012

Day One or You CRAZY Girl!?!

I am taking part in the Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  For 7 days I will be using only flat cloth diapers and handwashing them in an effort to prove that cloth diapering can be affordable and accessible to all.  You can learn more about the rules and why this challenge was started by visiting the announcement post.  This year there are over 450 participants from all over the world!  

Blur boy in his awesome-possum t-shirt flat
Yes I am.

Just one week after gaining my independence from a year of callouses, poopy backsplash, and Hulk-esque biceps here I am again, by choice.  I've officially lost it.

Actually I do have a few good excuses to be here.  For one I've always been curious about how well different diapers wash up in the hand washer.  Despite hand washing for a year I've never tried flats and hubs won't let me bring anymore diapers into the house without a good excuse.

Secondly I want to prove a point: if you set your mind to it you can cloth diaper your baby.  Obstacles are only as big as you make them.

Lastly, as you may have guessed I am a masochist.

If you aren't taking part in the challenge, its never to late to start or you can check out all the other bloggers participating.  If you already are, check out my guide to hand washing if you need some pointers :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Flats Challenge

Not minutes after we signed the lease for our new house, we were at Sears looking for a washer and dryer.  I haven't lived in a house or apartment with an in-unit washer or dryer since I left home for college years ago, not counting the one summer I spent at home.  Since we moved in last week I have done countless loads of laundry, including diaper laundry.  Its heaven in two metal drums!

And now that I've enjoyed a week without handwashing diapers, the Flats and Handwashing Challenge starts Monday! When I first heard about the date, I thought to myself "I've been hand washing for a year -- I think I'm excused".  Then I thought on it longer -- always a mistake.

One year ago when I was staring at a pile of cloth diapers I wanted to love and a crazy-expensive-barely-working-cause-the-coin-machines-sucked washing routine, the first Flats Handwash Challenge was being blasted through the cloth diapering blogosphere.  It was from the tutorials inspired by the challenge that I learned how to make a camp washer and it was the challenge in the first place that showed me I might be able to make cloth diapering work for my family.  I may not have been the target audience -- although I might have been guilty of not changing my daughter's disposable as often as I should have cause, darn it, its hard to tell when those things are wet -- but the information gleaned in that week-long challenge helped make cloth diapering possible for my family.

So yes, I will be participating in the Flats and Handwashing Challenge by Dirty Diaper Laundry.  I'll be forgoing diaper laundry in my pristine, beautiful ELECTRIC washer for a week, and I promise I will not cry in a corner about it (okay, maybe a little).  Partially as a thank you, partially because I want an excuse to compare flats to our diaper inserts.  And partially because I want to show other mothers that you can make anything happen if it is important to you.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Earth Day Diapers

In between my studies I like to get crafty.  I love designing logos, painting, and sewing.  Our house is a little overflowing with things so I've had to find excuses for my 'creative expressions'.  My most recent excuses have been the old serger my Grandmother recently gifted me and the raffle for my local Great Cloth Diaper Change event.

Painted bumGenius Pocket.  Our drying rack was invaluable for this endeavor

Painted gDiaper -- our diaper of choice.  I also used the serger to make some inserts for it.
Broke in the serger making washcloths, hankies, and diapers for Izzy's babydoll.