Cloth Diapers 101
Is It Really Worth It?
Cloth diapers have been around for a while. They’ve been used for thousands of years. They went “out of style” for a while when disposable diapers came on the scene, but recently, people are starting to use them again. Me, being one of those people. I’ve done cloth diapers with all three of my children, and I’ve loved it (well, as much as you can love diapers). I’ve definitely learned some things along the way so I thought I’d share a few tips for any moms out there who do cloth or are considering cloth. It is overwhelming the amount of info out there on cloth diapers. Hopefully, this blog will be simple and clear cut. I’ve tried a lot of different options for cloth diapering, and I’ll be sharing what works for me.
I think what scares people the most about cloth diapers is the time and the (perceived) messiness. I’m here to say it really doesn’t take much more time, and cloth diapers are actually way less messy than diposable diapers. I NEVER have blow outs which is amazing. I mostly did cloth diapers for budget and environmental reasons. You can save money using cloth. Although, there is a higher up front cost ($400-$800), the cloth diapers can be used for numerous children. Also, disposable diapers take 500 years to decompose. What!? I knew it took a long time for them to decompose, but that number sounds outrageous. I checked several sites though, and they all had the same stats for the amount of time it takes a diaper to decompose. Whoa. That’s terrible. Anyways, I knew diapers were terrible for the environment so that was the second reason I opted to do cloth instead of disposables.
There are several ways and options for doing cloth diapers. I’ve had the best luck with what I would call the “traditional” cloth diapering method. It involves a pre-fold (flat, thick, multi-layer, rectangular cotton cloth), a snappi (the modern day version of a diaper pin), and a cover. There are “all-in-ones,” but I don’t like them. It’s basically a diaper made of cloth. The cotton insides and the cover are all one piece. Although convenient, they always leak. I’ve yet to find a brand of all-in-ones that is as good at being leak proof as a traditional pre-fold and cover. I’m gonna give you all my overview of what I like to buy and how I like to do cloth. Remember, there are many different ways to do cloth diapers. This is just how I do it, and what works best for me.
What to Buy
1 | Pre-folds – I buy2 dozen of infant size and regular size, 1 dozen in preemie for a newborn (if you have babies under 8 pounds). I prefer unbleached cotton “Indian” style. The other options are Chinese and bleached. I’m not sure the difference, but I’ve always gone with the “Indian” ones. MAKE SURE to get very quality ones of these. The thicker (more ply) the better. Buy from a cloth diaper store or online at a reputable cloth diaper website. I’ve bought OsoCozy brand before and have been happy with them. There are also several different ways to fold pre- folds. You can watch videos on YouTube to see some different ways. I used the “twist” fold for a couple of months. Later, I switch to the angel wing fold.
2 | Covers – 7-8 in each size. Thirsties is my favorite brand, and you can get them on Amazon. The velcro ones are the most convenient, but the snap ones last longer, because there is no velcro on them that wears out over time.
3 | All-in-Ones – I have 2-4 in each size. I know I said I don’t like these, but they are good to have around for babysitters, etc. who won’t know how to do a pre-fold and cover.
4 | Snappis – Like I said before, these are the new “pins.” These are what hold your pre-fold on. Super easy to use and there is no need to have pins anymore. I usually have 3-4 of them. There are 2 sizes so if your pre-folds are getting a little snug, you can move up to the larger size snappi and still get a few more weeks out of your current pre-fold size. You can get them here.
5 | Pail & Liner – I suggest buying a trash can or pail with a lid to put the dirty diapers in. Then you put a liner inside of it. GroVia liners are my favorite. I keep two of them. The two I have now lasted for two babies. I put my pail beside my changing table. It makes it easy to just toss the dirty diapers in. I actually bought this “trash can” and turned it into a diaper pail. It’s really nice looking in the nursery.
6 | Baby Powder – I use it every few diapers, but not every time. I’m sure every baby varies, so just try different things. I just use plain organic corn starch. If you want to buy official baby powder, make sure to buy a talc free brand.
7 | Diaper Rash Cream – Find some specifically for cloth diapers. You can look on the EWG website for non-toxic brands and ratings. I use California Baby brand.
8 | Wet Bags – These are for “on the go” in your diaper bag. You’ll need a small one for wipes. You’ll get your wipes wet and put them in the small bag. You’ll need a medium one for dirty diapers. Here is the brand I’ve bought.
9 | Wipes – I’ve bought a couple of brands, and the ones I love best are old white t-shirts that I cut in 6×6 squares. I also keep a peri bottle like this one full of water and use it to wet my wipes.
10 | Detergent – There are several good detergent’s out there. I use Allen’s Naturally. Here’s where I’ve found the best price.
11 | Vinegar – You’ll need this for washing, and you’ll need to buy it by the gallon. I usually get it at Target or CostCo.
Washer – Top loaders are the best, because you can soak your loads. Make sure to “strip” your washer before washing any diapers for the first time. Do this by running several empty loads on hot and pour in a few cups of vinegar. Once you do this, make sure to only use the detergent you decide on. It’s best to just switch your entire family’s laundry to this detergent that way you won’t have to “strip” your washer ever again. Washers get a build up of detergent inside them.
Prepping Diapers – When you first get your pre-folds they will need to be prepped. I wash mine about 6-8 times on hot. I’d wash 3 times and then dry them. Repeat. You can use detergent on some of the loads, but it’s not necessary on all of them. How you can tell if they are “prepped” is by running a dry one under water in the sink. If it absorbs the water immediately, then they are ready… if water rolls off, they need to be washed more.
Washing Your Diapers – Fill the washer with cold water and 1-2 cups of vinegar. Let your diapers soak. Anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours. Let that load go through the cycle. Redo another cycle on hot this time and using detergent. Do an extra rinse. Side note: make sure that if you have Velcro covers that the Velcro strap is attached to other Velcro on the diaper. Otherwise it will stick to the other covers and “pick” at them. This will make more sense when you see one!
Dryers – Do not dry your covers, all-in-ones, pail liners, or wet bags. Do not use dryer sheets. These “waterproof” your diapers. Bad idea. I use wool balls like these for anti-static.
Clothing Line – The BEST thing for cloth diapers. DO your best to hang your diapers out to dry whenever possible. It sanitizes them, and it takes out any poop stains.
How Often? – Try to do your diapers every 1 ½ days – 3 days. The more often you do them, the less likely they are to stink. If you wait 3 days, you are asking for trouble. If for some reason you do go 3 days, just do an extra cycle… cold cycle, 2 hot cycles, and an extra rinse.Stinky diapers: I’ve not had any problems with this, but I am religious about never going any more than 2 days without washing. Most of the time I do them every day or every day and a half.
Stinky Diapers – If your diapers do get stinky, do some research online. I wouldn’t recommend using bleach. People do it, but I’m just not a fan of bleach for anything. I’ve boiled them before and that has helped a lot. The biggest key is to dry them on a clothes line as much as possible. That keeps the stink out.
Circulation – Watch that the blood is flowing to their legs okay the first few weeks you use the diapers on your newborn. Newborn’s circulation can be cut off very easily. When we tried a pre-fold and cover on my daughter the first week, her leg went very purple in her pajamas… if we hadn’t check her, we would have never known her circulation was cut off. We had to wait until she was about 4-5 weeks old to use the cloth diapers. This definitely doesn’t happen to many babies, but just keep an eye on their legs.
Sprayers – I tried a spray nozzle made specifically for diapers and attaches to the side of the toilet. You spray the poop off into the toilet and flush. It worked great, and I had less poop stains…. BUT my toilet started stinking quickly because poop squirts would get all around the bow I also now had a dripping wet dirty diaper to get to the diaper pail. Some people like the sprayers, I’m not a fan of them. As long as your do laundry at least every other day and you have a clothesline to use the sun to get stains out, I wouldn’t suggest a spray nozzle. They are more hassle than they are worth.
Clothes – Cloth diapers make baby butts big! Pants are made for disposables so some pants will be a little snug in the rear end if you do cloth. Jeans are especially snug, because they don’t have much stretch to them.
I hope that helps gives some of you all a starting point for cloth diapers. It can feel overwhelming at first, but it really is very simple! Once you get into the routine of it, it’s so easy and so do-able!