So, I have decided to go ahead and take the Flats and Handwashing Challenge this week. You can follow the link to read more about it, but it is basically a challenge to use the cheapest cloth diapering method (flats with a minimal number of covers) and to handwash and air dry them (mimicking a scenario of not having a washing machine and clothes dryer available). I will be honest. The main reason that I decided to start cloth diapering was that money was tight, and the cost savings was very appealing to me. Money was so tight that we could not afford the initial set up to get started in cloth diapering (or so I thought - more on that later). When GroVia was rebranding from GroBaby and offered up the last of the GroBaby diapers on babysteals.com, my mom helped us get started by loaning us the money for our initial stash. I had 2 children in diapers, and we were easily spending $100 per month on disposable diapers. We got the maximum that the site allows customers to buy (3 of each item), and they were being sold in sets of 4 - setting me up with 12 diapers to start. When the site was not sold out the next day, I bought another pack of 4, for a total of 16 shells, inserts and doublers. My daughter was 2.5, and my son was 6 months, so this gave us just about enough diapers for one day, and we could always use disposables as a back up if we were waiting on the laundry to finish. Once we got started and didn't have to buy disposables anymore, I used part of that money to build our stash, buy cloth-diaper-friendly laundry detergent and flushable poo liners. What I never considered (because I didn't realize it was an option) was to get flats and covers and pay a LOT less to get started. I still could have used the savings to buy the fancier diapers if I chose to do so.
Here is a breakdown of what I spent to get started for the Flats and Handwashing Challenge:
8 birdseye flats - $1.25 each from Central Street Farmhouse
10 flats - 2 packages of 5 flour sack towels from Wal-Mart - $4.87 each
5 EconoBum one-size covers (previously purchased from their B1G1 free sale which included 2 covers and 2 prefolds for $9.95), but let's err on the conservative side and use the $8.95 each retail price.
This gave me 18 flats and 5 covers for just about $65.
Now, the challenge requires handwashing and air drying of the diapers. It does allow for a camp-style washer, and this is how I have chosen to wash my diapers. You can find a great video at Dirty Diaper Laundry with instructions on how to do this here and a video of how to use it to wash your diapers here. I purchased a 5-gallon bucket for $2.88 and a toilet plunger for under $5. I drilled a 1" hole in the bucket lid to fit the plunger handle and several 3/8" holes on the sides and top of the plunger to reduce water resistance to make my washing job easier.
Because I am using a camp-style washer, I find it easiest to just use the washer to hold the diapers until I am ready to wash them rather than using a wet bag as I normally would.
A few months ago, EconoBum diapers were on sale - buy one, get one free for a cover with prefold - normally $9.95 each, you could get 2 covers and 2 prefolds for just under $10. I bought a few to try, and was quite surprised to find them just as effective and shockingly easy to use - no velcro tabs for hubby to forget to fold over, no pocket for him to forget to unstuff - all he had to do was take it off our son and drop it in the pail. Given this previous experience, it didn't come as that big of a surprise when I tried these flats and found that they perform just as well. They appear to be even a bit more trim without any issues yet with leaking or absorbency (I did start a few days early with the flats to make sure they were prepped okay - I just boiled them once - and things have been fine so far). I even have videos to upload later showing the difference between an unprepped birdseye flat and one that has been boiled.
So, before I am even very far down this journey, I have already come to the conclusion that I didn't need to spend so much to get started initially. I think there is a general perception that flats are somehow inferior to pockets, all-in-ones and all-in twos, but I think the flats are simpler and easier. You can use regular detergents if you wish, and they don't get the stink issues that are common with fancier diaper types.
In hindsight, I could have gotten started with 3 packages of flour sack towels and 5 covers for about $60. I initially bought a wet bag for about $16 online, but I found it to have a casing that sticks, and the stitching began to unravel shortly after I bought it. Not only did I mend it, but I sewed my next wet bag myself just the way I wanted it. It is a drawstring pail liner that fits most 13 gallon trash bins. It has an elastic drawstring so I can set it to hug the pail snugly and also empty into the washer easily without adjustment. I sell them here.
I also want to say that I am curious to see how I will deal with the handwashing and air drying. I love the idea of using less water and electricity. We have public water and sewer and who doesn't like lower utility bills? I do suspect that since I only have 1 child in diapers now and my stash is more than sufficient, I may line dry diapers in the future when the weather cooperates.