Cloth Diapering 101

Okay, so Cloth Diapers don’t really have anything to do with gross motor skills, and I’m definitely no expert. But, we have been cloth diapering for over a year and we absolutely love it! I get asked questions all the time, so I thought “why not post the information here for the whole internet to see?!” 

I will be the first to admit that when my husband suggested we look into cloth diapers, I was 100% against it! The thought of having to wash soiled diapers seriously grossed me out. But, after researching and realizing how much money we would save and how much more natural the ingredients were, I couldn’t say no. Plus, the longer I am a mom, the more I realize that we do a LOT of things that are just as gross as washing dirty diapers! Am I right?

Searching the internet for cloth diaper information can be completely overwhelming. There are an unlimited number of kinds, brands, styles, colors, etc. There is also a lot of conflicting information about how to care for and wash the diapers. After tons of reading, watching videos and now with 15 months of personal experience under my belt, I feel like I can provide you with some concise information. If you are thinking of using cloth diapers, I hope this information helps you take the plunge (no pun intended) and makes the transition easy for you!

What are the benefits of cloth diapering?

Some of the benefits of using cloth diapers over disposable diapers include saving a significant amount of money, decreasing your carbon footprint, less harmful chemicals, easier potty training, and less diaper rash. Here is a great blog post that goes into more detail about each of these if you still need some convincing!

When should I start cloth diapering?

You can honestly start any time that you feel ready. Some people start from day 1 in the hospital using newborn-sized cloths and some people choose to wait a little longer. Just know that for most any type/style of cloth diaper, you will have to buy a separate “stash” for newborns.  We used disposable diapers until 2 months because 1) we had gotten a ton of diapers at showers and 2) the diapers we are using didn’t fit her until that time. Since our primary reason for using cloth was to save money, it didn’t make sense for us to buy a separate newborn stash that would only be used for a few weeks, if that!  Honestly, I also wanted some time to adjust to being a mom without the added stress of cloth diapers! I don’t regret that decision and will do that with baby #2 as well, when that time comes! Also know that it is never too late to make the switch to cloth! If you plan to have multiple children, you can continue to pass down your cloth diapers and reuse with multiple babies!

What kind of cloth diapers should I use?

Here is where this topic can get tricky and REALLY overwhelming! As I mentioned, there are about a million different options here. You can use flats, prefolds/covers, all-in-ones, pocket diapers, disposable liners, etc, etc, etc!!! See….overwhelming, right? Here is another mama’s description of the different styles if you’re interested. I am just going to talk about the ones we use, because that’s all I have experience with and we love them so much, I have never had a need to research any others! I wanted the easiest and most convenient option for us and I realized that all-in-ones were going to be the best option for us. They are already assembled and ready to go and, in my opinion, are the most like disposables. We use Bumgenius Freetime All-In-One diapers! These are adjustable so they will fit her until she is out of diapers completely – hence, the name all-in-one! You can order bulk packs here. I suggest getting at least 24 diapers, because that will cut down on your laundry!

You can also get these are Target, Buy Buy Baby, etc.  They are cheaper if you buy in the bundles, and we did buy a few bundles, but we used a lot of gift cards to buy ours! Watch Target’s website, they always have specials going on for baby items like “Spend $75, get a $20 gift card” and we would always buy cloth diapers or other baby items then and then buy more cloth diapers with the gift card! 

I would recommend getting SNAPS instead of VELCRO! The Velcro is probably easier, but I’ve read reviews that the Velcro wears out really quickly and you can’t use the diapers for as long! The snaps take a minute to get used to, but I love that they are durable!

Bumgenius Freetime All-in-One Diapers

But, what about the poo?

Here is where most people put on the brakes and decide to not even consider cloths diapers. WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE POO??? To be perfectly honest, this is what almost kept me from exploring this option, too. I was completely intimidated by the thought of the cloth diaper laundry. But, believe me when I say that it has actually been super easy! If there is no poop in the diaper, it goes straight into the diaper pail! If your baby is exclusively breastfed and has not started solids, it also can go straight in the diaper pail (I know it sounds gross, but stick with me). If your baby is formula fed, fed with breast milk+formula, or has started solids, that’s when we have to add in another step. You have to dump or spray that poo into the toilet before putting it in the diaper pail. It sounds gross, and sometimes it can be, but honestly, it’s no worse than cleaning up a bad blowout (which, I might add, we have never had a blowout since starting cloth diapers. Praise!). This is the sprayer that we have. 

How do I wash the cloth diapers?

This is the washing routine that has worked best for me. You might have a little different routine depending on the kind of washing machine you have and what kind of detergent you’re using!

When I change her, dirty diapers go into a wet bag in my diaper pail (I spray first if necessary). I use these wet bags.

I bought a fancy diaper pail at first, but then I switched to just a regular trash can with a swing lid. The fancy one was too small and it trapped the smell in and made the diapers smell REALLY bad! This is what I have now and it is so much better. I put a drop of Essential Oils on a paper towel and put it in the bottom to keep it smelling fresh.

When it’s time to wash (about every 2-3 days), I take the wet bag out and dump all the diapers in the washer, then turn the liner inside out and throw it in the washer, too!

I set my washer to hot water and medium water level You want your diapers to be covered in water, but still be able to rub up against each other, so you don’t want TOO much water. The analogy I like to use is that your washer should look like “stew” and not “soup.”

For my first cycle, I set it to heavy or extra heavy and use the amount of detergent suggested for a soiled load. This cycle is really just to get off all the poop.

For my second cycle, I set it to heavy and do 1.5x the detergent. This cycle is to really get the diapers clean.

Some websites and videos will tell you to do an extra rinse cycle with no detergent at the end. I started out doing that, but noticed my diapers were not very clean. I figured out it’s because I have hard water and the rinse cycle was depositing minerals back into my diapers! So, I would test your water to determine its hardness before starting your washing! I used these test strips. If your water is even slightly hard, I do not recommend the extra rinse cycle.

After the two wash cycles, I hang all of the diapers and the wet bag inside out to dry. I use this foldable rack and it is the perfect drying rack! It can fit all 24 of our diapers at once if I get lazy and wait too long to wash diapers! 

Which detergent should I use?

You want to make sure you are washing your diapers separately from all other clothes and that you are using a CLOTH-FRIENDLY detergent! Using a detergent that isn’t cloth-friendly can cause build-up on your diapers and ruin their absorbency, causing leaks. All the websites agree that Tide powder is the most popular cloth-friendly detergent. I struggled with this because we don’t even use Tide on our normal clothes because of fragrances and chemicals. I didn’t want to use it on something that’s going on my baby’s booty, so I kept searching for a better option for our family. If you already use Tide and are happy with it, then that’s a great option. I went through several detergents before I found one I loved. Finally, I discovered Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus Free & Clear and I love it! It’s cheap and works really well – almost all of our diapers still look brand new after over a year of use. I got this brand at Target, so it’s nice to be able to pick it up in the store instead of ordering it online. I’m sure you can find it at whatever local store you buy your other laundry detergents. If you can’t find it in the store, you can get it here.

But what if my baby goes to daycare?

Our daycare is so great about doing cloth diapers for us! I have 4 of these travel wet bags. I bring 4-5 diapers in a wet bag to school every day and transfer the diapers to her cubby just like if she were using disposables.  Her teacher changes her just like normal and uses the wet bag to put the dirty diapers in. Our teacher is great about dumping poop if she has time, but if she doesn’t have time, she puts the diaper (poop and all) into the wet bag. When I get home, I dump whatever poop is there and then put all the dirty diapers in her pail, turn the wet bag inside out and put it in the pail, too. Wash and dry these wet bags just like the big ones. If you don’t make a big deal out of the cloth diapers, your daycare will probably have no problem using them. If you use an all-in-one or already have your diapers assembled and ready to go, then the cloths are basically no different than disposables for another caregiver! If your daycare is completely against cloth, then you can always opt to use cloth at home and disposable at school.

What’s in my diaper bag?

As we have gotten further into our cloth diaper journey, I am much more flexible with using disposables. I always have disposable diapers in our diaper bag and use them about 80% of the time if we are out and about for an extended period of time. When I do use cloth in our diaper bag, I always keep a ziplock bag or a travel-size wet bag in there as well to put the dirty diaper in. These are also great to have on hand for blowouts or dirty clothes. 

Additional resources:

When I first started cloth-diapering, I naturally had a lot of questions and I searched the internet high and low for good information. What I found is that many websites contradict one another and it is sometimes hard to know which one is correct. Luckily, I found a few staple websites that had accurate, easy-to-understand information. Now that we are 15 months in, I don’t have as many questions, so I don’t have to reference these as much. But, I wanted to provide them to you for easy reference:

  • I watched SO many YouTube videos about cloth diapering. There was one particular series of videos that I found helpful. I’ll attach the playlist here and then you can browse through them.
  • Fluff Love University – this website has indexes for which laundry detergents are cloth-friendly and which brands work best for your type of washer/water. They also have washing routine instructions and other good information.
  • All About Cloth Diapers – they have great general information as well as info about washing routines.

My biggest piece of advice about being successful with cloth diapers is to GIVE YOURSELF GRACE to use disposable diapers if you need to! I always have a package at home (and a few at school) to use if needed. If I go too long without washing the diapers, I use disposable. If we are going to be away from the house all day, I use disposable. If we travel out of town for the weekend, I use disposable. It has made all the difference for me! I remember feeling really overwhelmed when we first made the decision to use cloth diapers, but I am so glad we stuck with our decision. It has become second nature to me and I feel so good about what I am putting on my baby’s bottom! Plus, the saved money is a double added bonus!

If you have been considering cloth diapers, I would definitely encourage you to take the leap! Other than the multitude of benefits, there is absolutely nothing cuter than a cloth diaper baby butt!

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