Flats Challenge, Day Five

It's hard to believe, but it's already day five of Dirty Diaper Laundry's Second Annual Flats and Handwashing Challenge!  That means nearly 500 participants are 71% done with a week of using flat diapers and washing them by hand.

It's been quite a learning experience.  For one thing, I've learned that a single hemp flat is almost absorbent enough to handle my heavy wetter overnight.  I missed updating yesterday - even getting her up right away let the diaper bag fold leak enough to send the crib sheets back to the washer, but not as much as on Day Two.  I suspect the issue is the very loose leg cuffs of her soaker more than anything else.  Last night, we added a bargain flat in the jelly roll... but my husband forgot to use the wool soaker instead of a PUL cover, so the experiment continues...

Using the hemp diaper overnight also results in a lot less ammonia stink in the mornings compared to the prefold that was Sunshine's regular routine.  And for some reason, I'm noticing a lot less wicking onto her pajamas.  So either the hemp holds liquid better than cotton, or it's smaller bulk reduces the contact between it and the clothing.  Given that we've had some rather impressive coverage failures with the soaker (see Day Two for one of the subtler ones), and the way the soaker itself is hardly damp in the mornings, I'm inclined to think that hemp's liquid-holding capacity is a large part of this.

Other things I learned:

  • The nine minutes or so of monotonous plunging with the bucket washer go a lot faster if you practice reciting something you are committing to memory.  For instance, I'm trying to memorize the book of James.  In the King James Version.  The nearly two chapters I've completed take just about nine minutes.  If Bible memorization isn't your thing, there are some lovely long Shakespearean soliloquies.  Or some stirring poetry, like Lepanto.
  • It's much easier to move the plunger around if there are several inches of water over your diapers in the bucket.  For instance, this load needed water to within 2-3 inches of the bucket rim:
  • Something about this week has really been excellent for Sunshine's skin.  The rash we've been battling for weeks started clearing up the first day, and is now all but gone.  Maybe she was sensitive to the stay-dry fleeces and microsuedes that are usually against her skin, or maybe my old detergent was irritating her.  After we finish up the challenge, I'm going to continue with just flats and prefolds in the old detergent.  If the rash flares back up, I'll know what it is.
  • The birdseye flats (we're not supposed to name brand names for this challenge) that you can get at big box stores are both quantitatively (in dimensions) and qualitatively (in absorbency) inferior to brands of flats you can get at a specialty cloth diaper retailer.  You can see the size difference in the picture below (the bleached bargain flat is nearly as small as the prefold hanging to the left).  Quality is harder to photograph, but in person it's very easy to see how much looser the weave is on the bargain flats.  Works well for infants, but not older babies.
  • The bucket washer isn't as forgiving about the little solid specks left over from a "rear end event" as a machine washer.  Heavily soiled stuff should probably get a cursory scrub in the sink or toilet and flushed pretty well before going in the bucket. 
  • An old undershirt makes a pretty decent diaper, even for heavy wetting times.  (I want to try it overnight before the challenge ends.)  But it dries about as slowly as a prefold.
  • No matter how calm the weather has been, the wind will pick up the minute I start putting diapers on the line.
  • I will always drop something when using the clothesline.  If I'm lucky, that something will already be dry.
  • Using a chance to sit in the car makes an excellent potty reward.  Seriously, it's better than candy.
  • Knitting up a soaker takes a lot longer on US 7 needles than US 8 needles.  At this rate, I estimate I'll be done about the time the challenge ends.

There's eighty-some other bloggers participating in this, and they're learning lots too!  Click on the links below to find out what:


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