Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cloth Diapering 101

Since I started using cloth diapers for my son when he was a couple months old, I have had several friends ask me for information about cloth diapering.  Recently I decided that it might be a good idea to do a post about it so that I would always have it handy to link people to if they asked for information.  This will not be a complete guide to cloth diapering by any means, but I do hope that it will help those who don't know anything about it and want to become more familiar with the basics!  So, I will give a basic overview of modern day cloth diapering and my experience with it.
First off, let me just say that I personally love cloth diapering!  Of course it is a bit more work than using disposables but it's really no big deal once you get the hang of it! 
Ok, I am going to list a few reasons why I chose to cloth diaper:

1) Cost.  Obviously, it is much more cost effective to use cloth.  I have read that you can save up to $2,000 by using cloth diapers for two years.  Of course, this is dependent on variables like what type of cloth diapers you use, etc...  But, you have to admit that is a huge savings!  And with us being on one income, I am always looking for ways to save.  This was a no-brainer!

2) It's "green!"  If your kid goes through 6,000 disposable diapers before it's potty trained, that is a lot of diapers ending up in a landfill for hundreds of years!  I like the idea of saving waste by using cloth.

3) Health.  Disposable diapers are made with chemicals.  I'm not going to get on a soapbox or get into stats (it's easy to look this stuff up on your own) but there is research that these chemicals are not the safest for babies.  Of course I don't think anyone who uses disposables is bad for doing so, I do use and have used them on Hayden.  He wears disposables at night for bedtime.  I just like the idea of keeping him in them as little as possible.   

Now that we have established a few good reasons for using cloth (other than the fac that they are super cute and fun) I will explain a bit more about them.  There are four main different types of cloth diapers on the market right now.  They have come a long way from the ones our mothers and grandmothers used! 

1)  Old Fashioned flat diapers (a.k.a. prefolds.)  This is probably what you think of when you hear "cloth diaper." 

This is the most affordable cloth diapering option.  They are used with pins or this fastener called a snappi.  Snappis are much more convenient than the pins.
Prefolds need to be covered with a waterproof diaper cover to prevent leaks.  There are several brands of covers such as Thirsties, Bummis, etc...  I love Thirsties covers and have never had leaks using them!

2)  Fitted diapers  Fitteds are contoured and fasten with snaps or velcro and they also, like prefolds, require a cover to prevent leaks.  A popular fitted diaper brand is "Kissaluvs."

3)  All-In-One (AIO)  The AIO cloth diaper is a diaper and cover in one. 

The AIO goes on just like a regular diaper.  They fasten with either snaps or velcro and are very easy to use.  They are the priciest of cloth diapers at just under $20 a piece for a one-size.  A popular (and my favorite) brand of AIO's is BumGenius.  The best thing about AIO's is convenience.  No covers to mess with or inserts to 'stuff.'  Just grab the diaper and go! 

4)  Pocket Diapers  Very similar to an AIO in that when you put the diaper on, it is one piece but the pocket diapers have removable inserts.  The removable inserts make washing easier, drying faster and you can also easily add more inserts to increase absorbency.  These are my favorite diapers.  I think they also come cleaner than the AIO's that don't have removable inserts.  I also love that you can add inserts if you need more absorbency.  BumGenius also makes a great pocket diaper. 

If you have never tried cloth diapering before, I would suggest trying all 4 kinds of diapers before deciding on which kind to purchase a "stash" (stock pile of diapers) of.  You may be surprised at what kind you like best and it's just a waste if you buy several of one kind and end up not liking it.  There are pros and cons to each kind so do some research and 'test drive' a few before purchasing several.  There are some shops that rent kits of several types of cloth diapers so that people can try them without a large financial commitment.  This is a great idea and I would recommend it to anyone new to cloth diapering. 

Where to buy:

Most larger cities should have local natural baby or cloth diapering shops.  These are great because they usually offer classes and you can stop in for advise/ideas on what products to buy.  Do a google or white pages search for a shop in your area!  There are also places like Diaper Swappers where you can buy used diapers at great prices.   Also, websites like Cottonbabies  that offer free shipping and have 'seconds' sales where you can get slightly imperfect diapers at greatly reduced prices!  Sometimes, you can't even tell what the 'flaw' in the diaper is.  It's a great way to get the more expensive diapers at a cheaper price. 


There are many webistes offering instructions on washing your cloth diapers and they vary slightly.  Here is what has worked for me:  Wash hot using about 1/2 the usual amount of detergent and 2 rinse cycles.  Detergent can build up in cloth diapers and cause an ammonia smell.  To avoid this, it's best to use 1/2 the usual amount for whatever size load you are washing and do two rinse cycles.  Some people choose to wash one cycle cold with soap and one hot cycle without as well as 2 rinse cycles.  If you do end up with a build up of detergent in your diapers (they will have a strong ammonia odor if the child pees in the diaper) then you can 'strip' the diapers by washing them with no soap in the hottest water possible (set your water heater to the hottest setting but be SURE to change it back) for several cycles until you no longer see soap suds in the water during the wash.  Do NOT use bleach on your cloth diapers especially the AIO's, pocket diapers or covers as it will eat away at the laminate coating that prevents leaks.  Even with prefolds, it's best not to use bleach because your baby is exposed to those chemicals.  If you promptly rinse your diapers and wash on hot you shouldn't have a problem with staining.  If you do get stains, sunning them outside is a great (and chemical free) way to rid your diapers of stains.  Also, you do not want to use the "Free and Clear" detergent for the covers or AIO's with the laminate coating.  I personally like Tide detergent for diapers.  I love the smell and it cleans well.  They also make detergent specifically for cloth diapers.  One brand is Rock in Green.  I have never used it but would love to try it.  
As far as drying, you can dry prefolds and inserts in the dryer but it's recommended to not put Thirsties covers, or BumGenius pockets in the dryer because it can break down the laminate coating over time.  I like to hang my diapers on a clothesline (weather permitting.)  They dry quick and smell great :)   

Well, there you have it.  A crash course in basic cloth diapering.  I hope this was helpful for anyone curious about cloth diapering.  And if you are a seasoned cloth diapering mama and would like to share advise, maybe something that I didn't cover, feel free to comment below! 

Happy Diapering!

All photos taken by Kristen (blog author) unless otherwise stated. Do not copy/save or print without permission. Thank you!


  1. I used cloth diapers my six oldest children for the most part. I used the prefolded and the all in one type. I'd have a hard time trying to decide which one I liked the best. (For a short time I even used a diaper service! Believe it or not, it was still cheaper than throw-aways!!) With children #7-14 I went to disposable. The convience over the savings was worth more since we went back to home schooling with 5 scholars and a preschooler!

    I really enjoy your blog!

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  4. I did some cloth with Emma, and would like to go all cloth, possibly in the future. Here's my question though (which is where I get stumped) how do you rinse the poopy diapers? I could never seem to get a good groove on with that. I was just putting them in a bucket to soak before washing...what do you suggest doing?

  5. If it's solid poop, you can just shake it off into the toiled and give it a quick rinse when you flush. But if the poop is runny (as it is with young babies) you have to spray the diaper off. They make sprayers that attach to your toilet so that you can spray them off in the toilet. I would even use the sprayer in our sink and scrub the sink after. Hope this helps :)


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