This is one of those cloth diaper topics that I’m oddly passionate about... when I started cloth diapering in 2015 Flour Sack Towels really became the rage in the years following as a cheap alternative to cloth diaper absorbency and inserts. Of course, I tried it, but I just couldn’t get behind them, and even to this day, I’m still a little salty about Flour Sack Towels.
We don’t talk about Flour Sack Towels as much in 2021 for cloth diapering, they are still around and they might be a great option for you and your family, but they might not. This post was originally written for the 2017 Flats & Handwashing Challenge that was hosted by the Cloth Diaper Revival. This post is in response to todays posed question: What’s working for me? What isn’t?
- Ready, Set, Go: Flats Challenge!
- My Why – 2018 Flats & Handwashing Challenge
- I (barely) Survived Flats and Hand washing
What is a Flour Sack Towel?
A flour sack towels is modelled after thin woven cotton bags flour was stored in. They are usually made of cotton or linen to clean or dry in the kitchen. They are very thin cotton clothes that are kinda like tea towels, but less embellished and fancy. Here’s a few examples form Amazon.
They are recommended mostly because it’s a low-cost cotton item that can be easily accessed at most local grocers, Walmart, or even Ikea. They are almost everywhere, and usually cost less than $2 per towel or insert. And while I don’t love Flour Sack Towels for cloth diapering, some families do. Check out this blog below
- 7 Reasons I’m Obsessed with Four Sack Towels – ModernBottomBabies
Say No to Flour Sack Towel for Cloth Diapers
Why do I say no to Flour Sack Towels? There’s many reasons, and I’m updating this list with some modern takes and lesson’s I’ve learnt over the years.
Flour Sack Towels Are Not Very Absorbent
This will vary from brand to brand, but generally flour sack towels hold about 6 ounces of liquid. It’s a very thin weave of cheap cotton and doesn’t have the density to really hold onto liquid. For that reason, they are so easy to wash, but they really don’t stand up for heavy wetters.
We would need to use two FST per diaper change to get enough absorbency for a diaper to last more than one hour. Many families will pair a FST with a microfibre insert or other insert. This can be a great way to extend the life of both products. For the flats challenge, we need to only use flat diapers.
A more absorbent low-cost item is to source used receiving blankets because they are made of a thicker weave of cotton flannel, and tend to be a much larger size giving you almost double to triple the potential volume and hold. Many areas people will sell these for $1 used, or you can find them in bulk bins at the thrift shop.
Another option is to reuse cotton t-shirts. Again, relatively easy to source second hand for low-cost, and can really offer a better weave and absorbency. You want at least 70% cotton in the shirt.
Questioning the Cost Benefit of a FST
When I originally purchased Flour Sack Towels at Walmart, it was about $1.40 per towel in Canada… I needed two towels per diaper change resulting in a cost of $2.76 per diaper. Meanwhile, I was able to purchase OsoCozy Cotton Flats from my local cloth diaper retailer for $2.69 per flat. This made flats more cost efficient option.
Sometimes diapering products can be cheaper, and I really preferred how the OSocozy Flat folded, washed, and absorbed over the Flour Sack Towels. It also meant less to wash which was advantageous for the Flats Challenge. The cost comparison in 2021, is a little tighter…
If you only need one FST per diaper change, it is a better way to go. But, if you need two, then a Flat system might work out better. One flat is about 8-10 ounces, whereas two FST is about 12-14 ounces. So there is an absorbency difference. I consider this a bit of a nuisance conversation where you’ll have to consider your options. If you need to bulk up an existing stash of inserts, then a FST is definitely more affordable.
Inserts are expensive, even the cheapest inserts on the market cost $2.50 or more. We could probably have an entire conversation about cheap cloth diaper inserts. I know they look tantalizing good on the internet, but there are so many better quality products for a smidgen better that will last you longer and work better.
Flour Sack Towels Fit Small
If your cloth diapering a newborn, flour sack towels are the cats meow. They are a fantastic size, but as you get into bigger children and full sized toddlers, it can really be less than awesome and you might want to consider that in your stage of life.
If you’re looking for a diaper system that will last year from birth to toddlerhood, the Flour Sack Towel might not be the cloth diaper of your choice.
Flour Sack Towels are Great Cloth Diapers
Is it a terrible product? No. Flour sack towels were just a big disappointment to me. I was reading stories on the internet of parents finding success with them, and then I tried them for the Flats Challenge and it just didn’t work out. Not all products work for all people. And just because it doesn’t work for me, doesn’t mean it wont work for you.
If you’re looking for a cloth diaper that is…
- accessible at your local big box store
- perfect for light wetters
- dry incredibly quick
- super easy to wash and rinse
- great with a Snap or Boingo…
Then a flour sack towel might be the right choice for your family .
Other Affordable Flat Cloth Diaper Options
1. Receiving Blankets: Receiving blankets as diapers any day over Flour Sack Towels as diapers. Receiving blankets are easily double the absorbency and can meet a growing child’s needs.
Dislike: They hold onto the soap/detergent better, and take longer to dry.
Like: If bought off parents used, receiving blankets are an affordable price point. Plus, they often come in fun prints and colours that give your stash a little boost of creativity.
2. T-Shirt Diapers: Do I need to explain how awesome t-shirt diapers are? Go check out my blog post and report back.
Dislike: I find my t-shirt diapers do not wash up in my hand wash routine as nicely as the other flat diapers. This is especially true for uncut t-shirts. They also take forever to dry. Furthermore, the T-shirt diaper requires creative folding to shrink down for Little Miss. (But you can do it, and perhaps you have 100% cotton kids t-shirts ready for recycling, those would be great for a newborn.
Like: T-shirt diapers are dirt cheap, and T-shirt diapers are a great overnight cloth diaper for my toddler.
3. Flat Diapers: There are commercially available brands of flat diapers on the market. I love that when you purchase these products you are supporting a small or locally owned business. I love that there is a standard size and expectation that comes from flat diapers.
- 3 Reasons Imagine Stretchy Bamboo Flats Are Awesome
- Flat Cloth Diapers: HumBird Stretchy Hemp Flats
- 5 Reasons To Use Flat Diapers
- Types of Flat Diapers
My experience with Flour Sack Towels for Cloth Diapering
I don’t consider my daughter to be a heavy wetter, but a moderate wetter based on her liquid diet of breast milk. An average one-size AIO is sufficient for a 2-hour period. The flour sack towels I’m using in her diapers were like mere tissues. She quickly soaked them in an hour, and two were drenched before we hit hour two.
Over the past week of using FST for cloth diapering I felt I was in a constant state of changing diapers. And like any small child, she doesn’t like sitting in a wet diaper. So, when one or two gets quickly drenched, I have a small angry child on my hands. And that is far from a pleasant experience. The more diapers I change, the more diapers I have to wash. The more diapers I have to wash, the more tired my body gets.
Final Thoughts on Flour Sack Towels
Saying no to flour sack towels for diapers, is saying yes I want a better cloth diaper experience.
- Opt to reuse receiving blankets or t-shirts for diapers as a strategy for repurposing and rising products.
- Opt to purchase new flats, and you are saying yes to small business.
Just say no to flour sack towels for diapers, and say yes to something better.