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!
My parents brought my grandma over for dinner. I was really looking forward to talking diapers with her as well as letting her know about The Flats Challenge. When I told Grammie that I was participating in a challenge that required me to use flat diapers and handwash them, she laughed and said “Oh for Heaven’s sake!” I was glad to give her such a chuckle… I basically interviewed her about her diaper use and I’ll share her answers here with you.
Grammie used flat diapers and handwashed them for three children while her husband was away with the Navy most of the time. She used pins to fasten them and she was very enthusiastic to share her wash routine with me. She had a large double sink in the garage where she did her washing. After diapers were soiled, she added them to one side of the sink to soak. I asked her if she added anything to her wash and she said that all she used was either Ivory soap (for her first son with very sensitive skin) or castille soap. I asked her if she had a washboard and she said “Nope. All I had were these (rubbing her two fists together as if she had material clutched in her hands).” When it came time to wash, she would drain her soak sink and fill both sinks with water. She washed in one side (with either her bar of Ivory soap or Castille soap) and then rinsed in the other. She liked to use hangers and pins to hang her flats dry when living in humid climates and used her outdoor clothesline when she could. I asked her if she ever boiled her diapers and she said that she did a few times but not regularly. She then shared that her own mother boiled ALL white wash (sheets, clothes, diapers, etc). This makes such good sense to me. When you are living in the country, without an internet to look up how to sanitize your diapers, what method would you use? If my mother used to boil all white clothes, you can bet a boiling pot is one of the first places I’d turn to. I don’t know about you, but as soon as Grammie said that her mother boiled all her whites, I immediately pictured a huge cauldron on an outdoor fire next to a burdened woman in a dress buttoned up to her neck with a huge wooden spoon stirring her laundry. I wonder how far off I am?
How lucky are we? Many of us participating in the challenge are complaining of how hard it is on our wrists and hands to wring out our handwashed diapers. Grammie made a point of telling me how she remembered running her fingers through the wringer many times. Ah yes! Hence the saying “___ put me through the wringer!” Painful! I’m not sure when Grammie got an electric agitator, wringer and press, but she did. I need to go over to her house and check out the laundry press (large iron) that she says is still in her garage. Her routine changed when she got these modern new appliances but it was still nothing like what we have now. She rinsed her wash, then put it in the agitator with detergent/soap, rinsed her wash in the sink, ran it through the wringer and then hung it to dry. The process was still quite a bit of work and was very time consuming but required a bit less elbow grease.
I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this conversation with my grandma. She seemed very impressed with my wash routine and ingenuity with my makeshift washboard. She also LOVED the upcycled baby gate drying rack. She made sure both my parents had seen it before they all left. I wish I could interview my mother’s mother about her diapering experience but she left this world many years ago. She had 5 kids, 2 of which were a set of twins. She was an OG “crunchy” momma and she had the boobs to her knees to prove it! (Love you Nanny!) She handwashed flats as well from the pictures I’ve seen of my mom and uncles in diapers.
I feel so connected to both of my grandmothers through this process. I know it’s completely different but I also love seeing the spark and amazement in Grammie’s eyes when I show her the world of modern cloth diapers. If you ever get a chance to ask your mom (my mom used cloth diapers as well and washed them with a washing machine) or your grandmother about their cloth diapering experience please write it down in an email and send it to me or the RDA! There are many RDA circle leaders that are very interested in the history of cloth diapers.
I couldn’t go this entire challenge with just pad fold flats and not try some of the fun folds out there! So below is the Anteater fold with a trifolded terry cloth doubler in DS’ wet zone. I’m also adding a pic of him fastened into the diaper.