Picture of Diapers Help Your Plants Grow!
Wait .. Diapers?  How do those help your plants?  Trust me, it's probably not what you're thinking.
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Step 1: Watch the Video!

NOTE:  The results, depictions and claims portrayed in this video are based on the limited experiences I had to test ideas prior to production.  All information is believed to be true and correct at time of publication, and no information or results have been found to indicate otherwise.  Individual results may vary depending on location and application.  Use of video content is at own risk.

Step 2: Diaper Gel

Picture of Diaper Gel
For this project we'll need one of these disposable diapers.  New or gently used, it doesn't really matter. 

Now most people know that a diaper can hold quite a bit of liquid, but you might be surprised to see how much. 

I tried putting over 4 cups of water in this thing, and you can see that in just a few seconds, all the fluid is completely absorbed, without a drop left in the bowl. 

To see what's inside, let's go ahead and rip it open, and dump the contents into a bowl. 

You can see that if we add a bit more water and mix it together, we've got ourselves an amazing, fiber rich hydrogel. 

I tried packing some of this stuff into an airtight bag and freezing it overnight, to make an improvised ice pack that won't leak. 

Step 3: Super Soil

Picture of Super Soil
Now, you can use food coloring to change the color of the gels, but when working with plants it's best to leave it clear.  This way, your plants won't turn funny colors as they grow. 

One adult sized diaper makes over 12 cups of hydrogel, and the small pieces of cotton wadding break apart and mix right in. 

Now we're going to need some all purpose potting soil that you can get at any home improvement store, and a large mixing bowl to dump it in. 

Add equal parts of dirt and gel, then begin working the two together until they're thoroughly mixed. 

Now you've not got a super absorbent, super soil that's light and fluffy, and perfect for your potted plants. 
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is this good to use in a vegatable garden

SimonD514 days ago

Good idea! The absorption gel in diaper is sodium polyacrylate. If we want better effect, can also choose potassium polyacrylate. They all called "super absorbent polymer" but different application. We can find the difference from this page:

Sounds great on the surface, but doing just a little research came up with:

Just say no to water saving crystals or hydrogels

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lyonpridej10 months ago

I've wondered how it would work to use diaper gel in houseplant soil & what the amount would be - may have to find someone with a baby, so I can try it!

I have to share my first experience with this stuff. My second child was born in 1986, around the time this stuff was showing up in diapers, but most of us didn't know that, especially in the small town I lived in.

One day I was horrified to change his diaper & find this chunky, clear stuff all over his bottom & in every crack and crevasse. I didn't know what it was, so I scraped it off & put it in a plastic bag, then took him to the doctor. The doctor didn't know what it was either & was nearly as horrified as I was. He really gave my baby boy a good going over, but couldn't find anything wrong with him. He told me to watch him carefully over the next few days to see if it happened again, in which case they might have to do further testing & he asked me to save the diaper if it happened, so they could do a urine test. He kept the plastic bag to ask other doctors if they had any ideas.

Thankfully, I didn't see any sign of the stuff for about a week. Then one day there it was again! I took my son's diaper off & he was covered with the stuff and his diaper was super soaked. After changing him, I went to put the diaper in a bag to save for the doctor, but accidently dropped it. When it hit the floor, it broke open & all that stuff fell out. At first, I was even more horrified, having no idea what it was!

Finally, I realized it must be part of the diaper, so I grabbed the box and read it. In small type, out of the way, there was a claim about "new extra absorbant gel"! When I called the doctor's office to tell them what I'd discovered, they were grateful because they'd had other moms bringing their babies in with the same problem!

I know it sounds really dumb nowadays, but back then nobody had ever seen anything like it & there was really no publicity about it when it came out. The liners on the diapers weren't very good at first & those diapers left a mess of gel on baby bottoms until they fixed the problem . Sorry this was so long, I just still find the story really humorous & thought I'd share it with all of you :D

Thank you for the laughs.
A wonderful story.

Much appreciated.

that is a good story

I love your food coloring idea. I wonder if the sprouts would change colors?Somebody's gotta give it a try. Food coloring today is mostly nontoxic. You could invent a whole new industry if you could figure out a way to color plants. Seems to me people do this around St. Pat's Day to color white flowers green.

Not a new concept at grandmother used to take scraps of cloth, wrap it around bulbs before planting and when it bloomed it would be the color of the cloth. Of course, once the cloth rotted, it would revert back to original color. To color flowers, just make a diagonal cut on the stem and put in a container of food coloring. We did an experiment in biology similar to this using a stalk of celery.

LaLa19762 months ago
Pretty cool stuff!!!
carolinet3 months ago

so, if i use the gel from diaper in a pot, i won't harm the soil wouldn't i?

i like the idea of using these diaper's gel but i don't want to harm the environment

ccreswell11 months ago

So you wait until my 4 very poopy kids are all grown to share this with me???

haha! nice one.
techturtle9 months ago

LOL! I actually tested whether plants could get the water back out of the diaper gel as my 4th grade science fair project back in 1986. Obviously they could...

Ramireex10 months ago

I love your 'ible. You are great for taking the time to do this. Thanks!!!!

everettevans11 made it!10 months ago

So this is one of the first things that I have ever made from Instructables and I made it with my wife to get her more interested in doing D.I.Y. type stuff... That and she forgets to water my plants while I'm underway all the time in the navy. We used a newborn size diaper and what you see in this picture is 2 1/4 cups of warm water being held... this is also after only 3 min...

diy_bloke10 months ago

my preliminary results with diapers are not overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Still there is Professor van Cottem who knows a lot more than I do and who proclaims they are great for soil improvement

aitchren11 months ago

Very clever indeed! But are we sure that diapers are "biodegradable, and environmentally friendly?"

farfl aitchren11 months ago

Disposable diapers are not biodegradable nor environmentally friendly. They are quite a problem, in fact.

evacooper aitchren11 months ago

that is what i'm wondering...

grannyjones11 months ago

hydrogel can be used as a heat shield when soldering pipes in a tight space

jadziastonka11 months ago

Well too bad its toxic but its such a good idea.. ;p

FirstSpear11 months ago

Just done some Googling about this. The main points are the toxins and potential soil pollution. The nappies (UK for diapers) contain dioxins, Tributyl-tin (TBT) - a toxic pollutant known to cause hormonal problems in humans and animals, and polyacrylate - possibly linked with toxic shock syndrome. The quantities of any nasties are negligible in individual nappies, but in quantity...
Given these points, it seems fine to use them in containers for non-edible plants, so that garden soil is not contaminated, and chemicals are not ingested (my opinion after reading, and not directly stated in anything I read).
It's a good idea, and I'm certainly considering using them in my containers as even here in usually cold, wet northern England my plants did wilt last summer when I was away for a day or three, and gardener sites don't display any great enthusiasm for those products specifically for garden soil use. (Concerning my wilting plants. Initially I drilled drainage holes in the bottom of my containers, I've now begun to drill holes some inches up the sides to leave a good depth of water in the bottom which will, hopefully, help keep the soil above wetter for longer - this summer will tell me if it's worked.)
Interesting subject. The following US article is quite detailed, the BBC's is brief.

mizginny11 months ago

I think you might want to investigate all of the chemicals that are used in making these diapers and whether you want to ingest them in your body.

Who the heck said anything about injestion?

tovey Spikeshome11 months ago

He may be thinking about using this with vegetables that could absorb the compound. Probably best to not do that and only use it with plants that one will not be eating.

tigerbomb811 months ago

It is cheaper to just buy the crystals from a garden centre..

But if your kids has just been potty trained and you still have a big box full of diapers nothing to do with them, or the diapers you change just because they wore it all day and not because it's dirty this would be a great thing to do with them

Donate them to a homeless shelter or food bank. No one ever thinks of the pets or baby necessities, so when these items are available it is a welcome relief and a lot of babies with sore bottoms thank you, now they can have something dry. Pets will also thank you ,now they will have full bellies too :) P.s don't forget baby food.

sbrown957811 months ago

What about the insects in the soil, especially the worms? Will it harm them or maybe benefit them as well?

sewgram11 months ago

Last summer I started my tomato plants from seed and also a large group of flowers from seeds. I just removed the lining from one of my grandsons diaper, wet it, added some liquid fertilizer and then placed the seeds on the surface. I then placed it in a warm spot near the window and my seeds germinated and when large enough I transplanted them in the yard. I mixed the water crystals into the soil before planting them and my tomatoes and flowers grew beautiful with little care.

ericCycles11 months ago

I was under the impression that hydrogels were problematic to use as soil because they changed volume so much during hydration/rehyrdation, causing delicate root systems to be broken.

I tried the artificial water crystals but they don't seem to last very long or work that well. What has really made a diference in my garden is using coconut coir. The only downside I've heard about is that they may retain just too much water for some plants but my garden is coping just fine and is doing so much better than when I used the water crystals.

Yes. The stuffing in diapers and those potted plant beads are both made from super absorbent polymer. I'm not really a gardener but it is probably cheaper just to get those, and it seems reasonable that they might have other things in some of those beads that help plants grow.

helenindenver11 months ago

is this gel safe for growing vegetables? I'm in Colorado where we are always looking for ways to conserve water; this could be quite useful!

almost forgot it, you can dissolve some fertilizer or use liquid fertilizer in water and use that water in the dry hydrogel, like you did with the flowers.

and to finish, the hydrogel fully degrades around 10 years when used in roots.

well, the gel in the diapers is made of sodium wich is harmful for plants. the hydrogel used in agriculture is made of potasium, so when the hydrogel starts to degrade, the plant can use the potasium left.

by the way, the gel beads cannot be used for plants because it has regular shapes that doesnt let the roots grow over them. the agricultural hydrogel has irregular shapes and varies in form and size to emulate the texture of the soil, so the roots can grow trough them like in real soil.

hope i dont sound rude or something, and sorry for my really bad english

Sinestro198211 months ago
I've got a huge bin full of the hydrogel/fibre mixture from disposable nappies, both used and new(my son outgrew the size he was in). Plus half a dozen bags full of wet nappies in the garage & am going to try using hydrosoil on a full garden bed for veggies. Will be awesome for use here in Australia especially during summer.

I tested a cup full of it by purposely drying it out. I emptied the cup onto a concrete slab which sits in full insanely hot sun(we have a hole in the ozone above Tasmania, so the sun is muuuuuch harsher here) and it took 2 full days dry out, which is amazing when you consider that not only was the sun hot but it was pretty much sitting on a hot plate as the concrete slab it sits on gots crazy hot as well. After it was dried out I notice that every day the dew forms on it, the gel absorbs that tiny amount of water and manages to hold it for the entire day. I check it in the morning and there is a moisture ring around the gel...and it's still there after 10 hours of crazy heat. Truly amazing stuff indeed.
valkgurl11 months ago

Now if we could all compost all of those baby diapers----

ClareBS valkgurl11 months ago

There's a company in New Zealand that collects and composts baby nappies (diapers).

bloveds11 months ago

I love this idea. I used to use the gel beads, but they are hard to find. I live in PA and all we have here is clay soil. I also have houseplants, that, when I water them, all the water goes to the bottom. I have to have really deep saucer to catch the water they need. This will help immensely.

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