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diaper crystals for plants

Diapers Help Your Plants Grow!

Introduction: 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

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

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

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

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

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 www.thekingofrandom.com

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62 Discussions

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 😀

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

Laidback Gardener

Welcome to Larry Hodgson’s world

No Diapers for Houseplants!

There is a video circulating these days (How Can Diapers Help Your Plants Grow?) that several people have sent me. It suggests that you can cut open a disposable diaper, retrieve the absorbent crystals inside and add these crystals (hydrogels) to the potting mix of your houseplants. And it seems to make sense: after all, hydrogels are said to absorb 500 times their weight in water. Thus, the crystals ought to absorb water and release it slowly, keeping your plants moist longer. The video claims it cuts your watering needs in half… and who doesn’t want great results with less effort? Plus the video seems very professional, the narrator is compelling and enthusiastic, the video seems to show you exactly what to do… so far, so good! But there’s a catch: it simply doesn’t work!

You should know hydrogels absorb water very well, but are not so good at releasing it. After all, disposable diapers are designed to absorb liquids but not with the idea that you’ll then expect them to dry out for future use. Thus, a plant treated with these crystals will have approximately the same watering needs as a plant growing in a more traditional growing mix. This is confirmed by test after test: there is little to no difference in the frequency of watering when you compare ordinary potting soils and the same soils with added hydrogel crystals. In fact, in some tests, the plants growing in hydrogel mixes dried out more quickly than those without the mix. (The difference was minor, but still!)

I tried a very small-scale experiment with hydrogels about 20 years old, when hydrogels first came on the market. Only two plants, so it wasn’t a thorough test. Still, I saw no difference in either the amount of water needed for the two plants nor any difference at all in frequency. I haven’t used hydrogels since!

Of course, that may be a mistake. There are modern hydrogels designed for horticultural use that are likely better for plant culture then chopped up diapers. Even so, though, if you read scientific reports on the subject, the results are not very conclusive. It would appear hydrogels work (a bit) under some circumstances and not at all in others.They seem to operate best when used in the ground (and not so well in pots) using very drought sensitive plants. Plus there are questions about what happens to them when they degrade (they don’t last forever).

My conclusion? Keep diapers for baby and use normal potting soil for your houseplants…

Colored hydrogel crystals at a trade show: they’re being used here for houseplant cuttings.

But what a minute! Just because crystals harvested from diapers are essentially useless as a watering agent for container plants doesn’t mean they have no useful functions. In the video, you’re shown how to use hydrogels to keep cut flowers moist and that will work. Not mentioned is the fact you can root cuttings in them as well, although eventually you’ll have to move them to real soil. And you can color hydrogel crystals as per the video with food dyes, turning them color of your choice. You’ve probably seen hydrogels, often in the form of gelatinous beads, used this way in plant shows and county fairs, but crystals extracted from diapers will give a similar result.

There are a few other inconsistencies in the video; you see plants potted into containers with no drainage holes (not very good horticulture!), a strange tip about mixing seeds with a hydrogel/potting mix blend (you’d get the same results in potting mix alone… and what a waste of seeds too!), and a few others.

The most surreal point in the video is when it recommends not adding food coloring to the crystals in potting soil so “your plants won’t turn funny colors as they grow”. Well, actually, you can pour all the food coloring you want into soil with or without hydrogels and the dye simply won’t change the plant’s color. Plant roots cannot absorb food coloring directly, they must wait until it is broken down into simpler molecules, and by that stage, the color has been lost. So your plant will keep its original color regardless of any color added.

Cut flower carnations soaking in colored water will change color.

That said, you can do a neat little experiment by coloring flowers, not plants. If you put cut flowers in hydrogel or water stained with food coloring, the flower will take up the food color. That’s because the colored water passes directly into the flower stalk where vascular tissues carry it to the flower’s petals: there are no roots to act as filters. This phenomenon is observed more easily with white flowers, as they have no pigments to mask the dye. This technique is widely used in the floral industry: you’ll find plenty of dyed flowers in almost any florist shop.

So, a fun video to watch and very thought-provoking, but somebody forgot to do their homework!

There is a video circulating these days (How Can Diapers Help Your Plants Grow?) that several people have sent me. It suggests that you can cut open a disposable diaper, retrieve the absorbent crystals inside and add these crystals (hydrogels) to the potting mix of your houseplants. And it seems to make sense: after all, hydrogels are said to…