Flats Challenge, Day Four

The Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry is now on day four!  Do you know what that means?  It means that it's halfway done!  Nearly 500 participants including myself have committed to give their regular diapers and their washing machines a rest for the whole week.

You may be wondering what I am doing to give my washer it's much-needed vacation.  To answer that, I'd like to title today's post:

I Haz A Bucket

That's right: I made myself a camp-style bucket washer.  It only cost $8 - $4 for the plunger,1 $3 for a five-gallon bucket, and $1 for the bucket lid.  You can buy a specialized agitator (i.e. fancy schmancy plunger) from Amazon for $22, but I'm not sure why you would.  I assume it's a bit less floppy and more durable, but I can't see how that is worth an extra $18.

One of the great things about a bucket washer is its play value.  The components are good for:

and peek-a-boo.
Hide and seek,
rolling it around,

Once I pried the components away from the kids and made them cry, I grabbed a drill, a 1 1/4" hole cutter and a 3/4" bit.  (DDL's tutorial recommended a 1" bit for the bucket lid, but A) I didn't have one and B) my plunger turned out to have a wider handle than hers.)  I also used an empty box to keep the drill from accidentally scratching the floor.

 Some of the holes in the plunger remained attached on one side, but a utility knife took care of those easily.  And ten minutes later... VOILÁ!
It's great because it also doubles as a wet-2 or dry-pail for storing the dirties.  My wash routine happens about once a day and consists of a cold soak with two minutes of agitation, then a hot wash with a healthy squirt of dish soap (not too healthy, though, or you'll end up doing about twelve rinses like I did my first time) with five minutes of agitation, followed by a warm rinse and two more minutes with the plunger.  If the water doesn't run clear and suds-free, I get to repeat the third step.  It's a great biceps workout, and good for doing a bunch of diapers at once.  If you're lucky, you might even have some helpers to spell you on the plunger.

If you're luckier than I, your helpers will actually be helpful.
The bucket washer is working great for the most part.  But it's not getting out the lanolin that I've been using for ointment like my washing machine would.

See?  Lanolin smears.
So I needed to strip the three diapers with the worst spots.  One was Sunshine's overnight hemp diaper, so I had to wash it out before starting the stripping process.  Not wanting to use the bucket for just one diaper, I thought I'd try handwashing it in the sink.

It was surprisingly easy and relatively quick; the main drawback being that one's hands have to be in contact with the uncomfortably hot water.  I don't think I'd want to do a bunch at a time, though.  And like bucket washing, sink washing is also fun for the whole family.

I decided to strip the diapers using the same method by which I prepped them.  (Prepping natural fiber diapers to remove the oils that impede absorbency normally takes six or so hot machine washes, and I didn't think my biceps would be up to repeating that process in a bucket washer.)  I filled my 8-qt stockpot with water, brought it to a boil, and added a squirt of dish soap.  Then I tucked in my diapers (I wouldn't put more than four in my stockpot) and boiled for ten minutes.  It turned out to be much faster than by machine.  So long as the diapers stand up to boiling, like flats or prefolds, I will continue to prep them by this method, even after the Challenge is over.  It is A Better Way.

Once the prep/strip is over, I rinsed and wrung out the diapers and went to hang them on the line.  Line-drying has actually been one of the more challenging aspects of this week.  Mostly because every time I hang out some diapers, this happens:

I also manage to break a clothespin each load.  I have now learned an important lesson about how leaving plastic clothespins outside between uses allows the UV rays to weaken the integrity of the plastic.  But it's not all bad; I have help with the drying too.

I'm getting my cotton flats to dry in two hours or less, under calm conditions, which is pretty neat.  The 30 mph winds (did I mention line-drying has been challenging?) we had yesterday let the hemp flat dry in that time too.

While drying, the diapers also make an excellent playhouse.

1. It should be noted that I didn't have to spend money on the plunger.  We already had a used one.  My initial reaction was, "Ewwww!  I can't use something that's been in the toilet to clean my diapers!"  But by the time I'd bought the new plunger, I'd realized that since the diapers are covered in toilet contents anyway (not to mention the toilet is where the solid bits are swished off), that it didn't matter where the plunger had been.  But I decided I liked the grip on the new plunger's handle too much to bother taking it back to the store.

2. If used as a wet pail, the lid must be fastened securely for safety reasons.

Click the links to see how other bloggers are giving their washers a break too:


  • Jenney | 5/24/2012 1:08 PM

    First off, kudos to you for having so many great pictures with your post. Mine was BORING.
    Secondly, why on EARTH did I not think of the fact that our normal plunger would be fine for the challenge? You are so right about it not being any dirtier than the dirty diapers. DUH. However, holes in our "normal" plunger may have been a drawback when the toilet needed plunged. HMMM

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