Introduction: Diapers Help Your Plants Grow!

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.

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. 

Step 4: Potted Plants

Picture of Potted Plants

In the event of an extreme overwatering like this, you might expect that your plants would drown, or begin to rot. 

But with the hydrogels infused in the soil, you can see how the excess water is quickly absorbed, keeping the soil damp and fluffy, and possibly saving your plants as a result. 

Now the reason this mixture will hold so much liquid is because of these super-absorbent water crystals. 

They'll hold over 500 times their weight in water, and if you want to separate them out, try ripping apart the wadding in the diaper, and shaking it upside down over a piece of paper.  The cotton fluff should blow away, and you'll be left with just the crystals.

Go ahead and throw a little soil into the pot first, then help your plant get comfortable. 

To hold it firm in place, just keep packing more soil until everything sits tight. 

You can finish up by giving the plant a bit more water, and now with the super crystals in your soil, your plant can go twice as long between waterings, saving you time, and resources. 

This diaper gel can work on your existing plants as well.  As the gel expands and contracts, it will naturally aerate the soil as it does. 

Just grab a knife and a spoon, and gently nestle them down between the roots, and spread them apart to form a gap. 

Now you can drop some gel down to the roots, work the soil back together, and continue around the pot until all your water-gel is used up. 

Step 5: Seed Starters

Picture of Seed Starters

If you're looking for a lazy way to get your seeds started, just dump them into a batch of the grow dough, and give it all a good mix, or you could even just sprinkle the seeds on top. 

Fill a container of your choice, add a bit of water, and find a place that you can set it and forget it. 

Over the course of a week, your seeds will automatically sprout and begin to grow, without any extra effort, or any extra water. 

For one final idea, you can help preserve your fresh cut flowers, by adding sugar, vinegar, and a bit of bleach to some warm water. 

This will create a homemade flower food, and when you add your slush powder, you'll see it absorbs the solution and slowly grows up to 60 times its size. 

By agitating the gel you can create an awesome effect that looks like crushed ice. 

Not only does it look cool, but it's slowly releasing water as the flowers need it, and feeding them at the same time.  The gel is completely non-toxic. 

Step 6: Gardening

Picture of Gardening
It's biodegradable, and environmentally friendly, so it's a great option for working into your garden. 

Not only will this save you on watering costs, but it will also last quite a few seasons before it needs to be replaced. 

Well now you know how to take an ordinary diaper, and convert it into an extraordinary super soil, that will help keep your plants happy, and hopefully keep you happy as well. 

If you liked this project, perhaps you'll like some of my others.  Check them out at


lyonpridej (author)2014-05-04

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

freewheeler (author)lyonpridej2017-10-20

we're glad you shared that humour and human story.

Thank you for the laughs.
A wonderful story.

Much appreciated.

dsantil71 (author)lyonpridej2015-01-23

that is a good story

Johnson Selva (author)2016-10-27

Wonderful idea dude...

oktams (author)2016-05-03

Yes...this is done to help keep soil moist BUT its also used to keep the water from pouring out the little hole on bottom of pot. Instead it soaks into the diaper. Best use for this...when you are going to use the coconut liners in basket put the liner in then diaper then soil! Love it!

ArifSae (author)2016-02-28

Good idea, used this on my plants before leaving for vacation, lets see how it works out.

Kuntakinta (author)2015-11-18

thank you for this instructable I will use this for my plant project any show a before and after picture!!!
I'm so happy you shared this who knew diapers can help your plant grow and that it had crystals in it!!!!!

durga24 (author)2015-09-07

how long we dont have to pour water to the plants if we use hydrogel?

melvenia.glover (author)2015-03-17

is this good to use in a vegatable garden

SimonD10 (author)melvenia.glover2015-06-15

first of all,the polymer in diaper is "sodium polyacrylate" --it will let the soil hardening under some condition.

second point ,it's so expensive get enough polymer for the whole garden from diapers.

So I suggest you can just buy some "soco polymer"--it's also call super absorbent polymer and professional used in agriculture. (Sodium Polyacrylate is usually used in diaper&sanitary towel)

SimonD5 (author)2015-03-12

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:

jiminashland (author)2015-03-08

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

Just say no to water saving crystals or hydrogels

Horticultural Myths

Looking for the newest myth-information? Check out our blog The Garden Professors.

You'll find science-based information from four horticultural professors from around the country.

Ricardo Furioso (author)2014-04-16

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.

Beccatoo (author)Ricardo Furioso2015-01-24

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.

LaLa1976 (author)2015-01-22

Pretty cool stuff!!!

carolinet (author)2014-12-08

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

ccreswell (author)2014-04-15

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

amohd yusoff (author)ccreswell2014-08-31

haha! nice one.

techturtle (author)2014-06-20

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...

Ramireex (author)2014-05-24

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

everettevans11 made it! (author)2014-05-17

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_bloke (author)2014-05-03

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

aitchren (author)2014-04-15

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

farfl (author)aitchren2014-04-29

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

evacooper (author)aitchren2014-04-16

that is what i'm wondering...

grannyjones (author)2014-04-25

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

jadziastonka (author)2014-04-24

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

FirstSpear (author)2014-04-18

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.

mizginny (author)2014-04-15

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.

Spikeshome (author)mizginny2014-04-16

Who the heck said anything about injestion?

tovey (author)Spikeshome2014-04-16

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.

tigerbomb8 (author)2014-04-12

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

enarmory (author)tigerbomb82014-04-13

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

sbrown9578 (author)enarmory2014-04-16

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.

sbrown9578 (author)2014-04-16

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

sewgram (author)2014-04-15

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.

ericCycles (author)2014-04-15

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.

Eromanga (author)ericCycles2014-04-15

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.

feeserrm (author)ericCycles2014-04-15

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.

helenindenver (author)2014-04-15

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!

dark_master_999 (author)2014-04-15

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.

dark_master_999 (author)2014-04-15

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

Sinestro1982 (author)2014-04-15

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.

valkgurl (author)2014-04-15

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

ClareBS (author)valkgurl2014-04-15

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

bloveds (author)2014-04-15

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.

kbd517 (author)2014-04-15

I'm sorry- I truly hate to be negative. Your facts and presentation are fine, but diapers as the gel source means destroying diapers, which are already tough on the environment. If you want to cut open a peed diaper and dump that in the garden, great, as the urine is beneficial, too, and since it's locked in the gel, it'll be released slowly so there won't be nitrogen burn. Just get a product called "soil moist." I've been using it for years- as an indoor and outdoor soil amendment, AND to grow various cuttings like pothos and "lucky bamboo." It's the same stuff as in the diapers. and it works *really* well! If you use it for cuttings, etc, you can put it in clear glass and mix in some "glass gems" for a really pretty effect :) I hope this doesn't seem too negative- my only criticism is the material source- everything else is good :)

melliott11 (author)kbd5172014-04-15

Not a negative comment at all, a very environmentally responsible and realistic one. Disposables aren't going anywhere, especially the adult ones--

melliott11 (author)2014-04-15

I am so relieved! I won't even mention what I thought was going to be used in this...and I truly like the idea of getting another use out of the "gently used" ones.

About This Instructable




Bio: Random Weekend Projects
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