Since we’re using only flat diapers this week, I thought a post which compared the absorbency of “flour sack towels” (or FST, as they are often abbreviated) against other flat diapers would be helpful.
First of all, here’s a simple absorbency scale I made based on our experiences over the years of using many types of flat diapers. Do you agree with the rankings?
Flour sack towels aren’t really diapers, of course. But they are a simple and cheap way to get started with cloth because you can find they at nearly any big box store and they cost a dollar or less apiece. How absorbent are they, though? Compared to other flats, I would say that FST score pretty low, unless they are doubled up. Ingrid can barely go 1 hour before she saturates 1 flour sack towel. Two FTS’s together will work for maybe 4-5 hours max; overnight it’s too bulky/clumsy to use 3. Everyone I’ve talked to who actually uses FST’s overnight has to add some sort of double or insert to the towels.
I’ve found that 2 FST’s folded together equal the absorbency of ONE of our bamboo flats, so I prefer to just use the bamboo flat. Why not use one diaper instead of two? It’s trimmer, not that much more expensive, and one less diaper to launder. 😀
In terms of softness, bamboo flats have an edge over FST’s and plain cotton flats.
You might be wondering, if other flat diapers are softer and more absorbent, why would someone choose to use flour sack towels? I think there are many answers to this question. Some thrifty mothers take a lot of pride in being able to say they didn’t spend more than a dollar for their baby’s diapers. If using something they already have, or were given, then it means you’re diapering for nearly free (because of needing covers).
And some people just prefer the fabric with its thin, semi-sheer look and feel. You could argue that since it’s so lightweight, it’s even easier to clean and dry than regular flats.
There’s also a little bit of old-fashioned romance when it comes to flour sack towels. After all, they were the invention of creative housewives in the early 1900’s who discovered that empty cotton flour bags could be cut up and turned into household items like clothing, linens and yes, diapers.
However, keep in mind that modern “flour sack towels” aren’t much like the originals (this has been confirmed for me by several women who actually made and used real flour sacks). Real FTS’s were made of sturdy, tightly woven cotton because it had to keep the flour (or grain) inside fresh and protected from vermin. The FST’s you pick up at Wal-Mart and Target are much thinner, and semi-transparent. These photos compare a modern FST with 100% cotton birdseye fabric:
Here are how the prices of flat diapers stack up:
- Flour sack towels are $1 or less each
- Cotton flats are $2 each
- Bamboo/cotton flats are $3 and up each
- Luxury bamboo terry flats are $8 and up each
- Hemp flats are $9 and up each
I understand that for someone on an extremely limited budget, or who already has towels or receiving blankets in the house, purchasing “real” flats may not be the best option. Or, for reasons mentioned above, you may just love FST’s despite the drawbacks.
Flour sack towels can also work as doublers, since they are thinner than other flats when folded up, or for tiny newborns who don’t need a lot of absorbency. You can also stuff them inside pocket diapers, but again, I want to stress that they just aren’t as thirsty compared to other options.
For overnight use, I’ve had great results with 2 bamboo/cotton flats folded together. This holds Ingrid (who’s 22 months) all night long.
There are a lot of different flat diaper folds; I was able to keep it simple this week and pad fold Ingrid’s diapers because she’s very “regular” at 22 months.
What about diaper fasteners? Experiences may vary, but for us a Snappi or Boingo works best on cotton flats and bamboo flats. They will grip our FST’s, flannel blankets and hemp fabrics, but just not quite as well.
Do you use flour sack towels as diapers? How do you have to use two at a time or double them up for enough absorbency?
If you love flour sack towels, make sure to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss my post about hand-dying flat diapers!