This week has been interesting. As you may know, I am taking part in the Flats and Handwashing Challenge. Lots of experimenting (but perhaps not enough), lots of aching back muscles. I have found that the actual use of the flats has been no big deal. Sure, they hold less than my fancy dipes and thus have to be changed more often, but that's okay. Brigit is not used to not having a stay-dry liner, so she "asks" to be changed more often anyway. Always keeping us on our toes, that one!
My stash includes 20 (27"x28") flour sack towels (which I am essentially pad-folding with an angel wing poo-pocket), 4 medium Thirsties velcro covers, and a big wool soaker (handknit by me) for over the night diaper. (I am also adding a smaller pad-folded Gerber Flat (about 27"x24") inside the flour sack flat for overnight. No problems so far.) Yes, I am doing this overnight, too, even though the rules state that I don't have to. :D I realize that I could technically have one more regular cover and not count the soaker, but I already had 4 Thirsties covers and the snappi/pins thing just doesn't work well for us, so my ample supply of soakers and other pull-on covers (like these Dappi ones) was kind of useless this week. Incidentally, I am also including my flannel wipes and washable nursing pads in the handwashing. I chose to only use my Dr. Brown's nursing pads and none of my Milk Diapers (which I usually use overnight) because they are thicker and I was concerned about drying time, especially if I had no direct sunshine available (which in Florida, with random thunderstorms, you just never know), I worry about mildew from the humidity and too-long drying times.
This is the routine I've worked out so far (this may still change if I happen to wash again before the challenge ends):
Pail: wet (also serving as presoak). I'm pretty much keeping it in the bathtub, and running more and more water into it as the day goes on to make sure everything in there stays good and saturated. I've also discovered that it makes washing easier if I rinse the poopy ones in the sink (it's EBF poo, so, not too nasty). I squirt 5-6 squirts of half-diluted Biokleen Bac-Out over the mess a few times a day, too.
Wash: I am using my kitchen sink, old fashioned lye soap, and a washboard that I picked up for $10 at our local flea market. So...
1. Dump soaked dipes from pail into right side of sink to drain. Meanwhile, left side of sink is filling with hot water, with the bar of lye soap sitting on the bottom of the sink.
2. Squeeze pail/presoak water out of each individual item and plop it into the hot/soapy sink. Fish out the bar of soap, lather it up (as if washing my hands) then dunk bar and sudsy hands a few times, then place soap bar at the top of the washboard on the soap lip/shelf. Washboard is now perched legs-down in the sink.
3. Agitate the hot/soapy sink fulla dipes with a wooden cooking spoon. Start taking each piece and scrubbing on the washboard. Pee dipes are scrubbed very briefly, as the swishing and dunking in hot/soapy water seem fairly adequate for cleaning them. (I may skip the actual scrubbing of pee dipes next time, and stick to swish/stir/dunk.) Poopy dipes get spot treatment with soap, and extra washboard scrubbing until the poo stains are gone (taking much less work than I expected). As each piece is processed, it is re-dunked in the soapy water, wrung out, and plopped into the right sink (which has been filling with clear, cold water this whole time).
4. Drain left (hot/soapy) sink, spray out soap residue, etc., replug and fill with clear, cold water for second rinse. Swish/knead/stir the dipes in the first rinse water (right side sink). Take piece by piece, dunk, wring, and plop into second rinse sink.
5. Repeat #4 (except don't fill another sink with rinse water unless you used way too much soap originally -- don't ask how I know that :)). This time, wring extra well, and snap out a few times to get even more water out.
6. Hang to dry on the wooden drying rack. I have two of them and ended up using both for today's wash, as I waited a little longer than before and the one rack was pretty crowded before anyway. Place rack in sunshine (not so today -- it started to storm just as I was finishing up the second rinse...so my racks are blocking the entryway now, positioned under the A/C vent ;)).
The whole process takes 1-1.5 hrs and really hurts my back (remember, my spine is a chiropractor's challenge and is easily strained by moderate physical labor). That, and my baby inevitably started to fuss/whine/cry at some point during each washing session, when I would attempt to employ various older siblings to play with her and keep her happy for just a few more minutes... She did end up on my hip for a few stages of each washing session, which made it take that much longer. I know I could have put her on my back in the Ergo, but...well, I didn't. I was afraid the double strain on my back by wearing a 21 lb fatty on my back while hunching over the sink would end up forcing me to drop out of this challenge. :(
Like I said, I may be tweaking things a little more before Monday morning rolls around... (and PS - I might add more pics later ;))