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!
Today is the last day of the Flats and Handwash Challenge. I have to say that using only flat diapers and hand washing them is much easier than I had anticipated. Initially I was worried about three things; making flats work for us at night, having enough flats to make it through to wash day, and getting the flats clean enough with hand washing as the only option. As it turns out none of these were issues! And in addition, it didn't seem overly strenuous, or gross, or difficult. The one thing that was inconvenient was that it took a long time. I found myself neglecting other household duties. However, the blogging took a lot of time too. If I were just doing washing by hand out of necessity, the blogging wouldn't be an issue. It also took a lot of mental power, on my part, to anticipate when we would need to wash, how many diapers we had left, how many would we need before the clean ones could dry, etc. Again, though, if I were doing this for real, I think I would find a rhythm that worked. While it is not fun, I am surprised and pleased the say that I think using flats and hand washing them is a viable option. I think I am going to miss seeing them drying on the line.
On another note, I was again inspired by Janice at Mamawords. During the challenge she had dinner with her Grandma and was able to ask her about her experience using cloth diapers. At the end of her post, Janice invited others to ask their grandparents the same thing, and so I did.
I called my dad's mom, who currently lives in Massachusetts. When she was younger though, she lived in Virginia, closer to where we are now, and she commiserated about how the humidity does really effect the laundry. She said she used disposable diapers for traveling, but that when they were at home she had birdseye cotton and gauze diapers. She said the gauze were great because they were trimmer and they dried faster. I asked if she had hand washed her diapers, and she said, no. Her first child was born in '49, just after World War II, and all the inventions that people had been inventing during the war were finally able to be put into production. She got her first washing machine just after she was married. She and her mom got a washer in the same year. Neither of their houses had room for it, so they had little washing porches built to house the new washers. Even when my grandma was growing up she didn't wash diapers, as they hired a woman to do their washing. Apparently, it was the custom in the South, to send your washing out. Someone would come collect it, it would be washed, and returned to you. However, in my grandma's house, they hired someone to wash their clothes in their back yard, in a giant tub, over the fire. My great grandma did this because she was afraid of getting bed bugs from the common laundry facility.
I asked my grandma about water proofing, and she said they definitely let their babies go coverless most of the time. However, she remembers seeing a rubberized sheet about the same size as the diapers. The corners were reinforced with fabric and one would lay the diaper on top of the rubber sheet and then pin it on the baby as usual. The rubber would end up on the outside like a cover. After I mentioned that we use wool covers, she remembered that she had heard of soakers before. But, she said, "we didn't use them in Virginia because it was too hot".
Apparently they used those diapers for everything: for dusting, as towels, for polishing silver. "I miss them," Grandma, said, "instead of the ubiquitous diaper, I have used a world of paper towels!"