Cloth Diapers: What You Need to Know

What are cloth diapers?

This may be self explanatory for many of you, but for those who don’t know, I’ll explain. Cloth diapers are reusable diapers that are made of an absorbent fabric. The fabric is either sewn together in thick layers or it is one large thin sheet of fabric to be folded to a desired thickness. The fabric is then either pinned, snapped, or uses Velcro to secure it around the baby. Cloth diapers may also come with some sort of waterproof fabric to be prevent any bodily waste from leaking through the diaper. This fabric is called PUL fabric.

What should I choose? Cloth or Disposables?

Cloth DiapersDisposable Diapers
• More cost effective (you spend much less $$ over time)• Less cost effective (you spend more $$ over time)
• Great for sensitive skin• May be hard on baby’s skin due to irritating ingredients
• Little to no blowouts or leaks• Blowouts and leaks are common
• Significantly less waste• Lots of waste
• Requires energy and water to clean• You can just throw them away
• Cleaning diapers is time consuming• Again, you can just toss ’em
Cloth vs Disposable Diapers

As you can see from the table above, there’s a clear winner here. But I’m obviously biased because I’ve cloth diapered with two children already 🙂 I love how much money we saved and that I didn’t have to rely on the grocery store to keep their bums clean. I love cleaning them and knowing that I’m not putting chemicals on their bodies. Its a nice perk that you don’t have to fill half a landfill either while your at it!

Stack of cloth diapers

Types of Cloth Diapers

There are soooo many options. At first when I was deciding on what I should choose I became so overwhelmed because I just didn’t know. I didn’t know what would work best for me and the lifestyle I was living. I had NO idea where to begin. Here I’m going to give you a brief overview of each kind and then give you my opinion. Take my opinions with a grain of salt since I have not tried some of these kinds before.

Before I jump in, I’m going to be explaining these diapers in order of popularity. This is definitely debatable but from what I hear in the cloth diapering community, this is close to accurate.

Flats and/or Prefolds with Covers

Flats and prefolds are typically the cheapest form on cloth diapering but are a little more intimidating for the first time cloth diper(er). A flat is a big sheet of an absorbent cloth like cotton, bamboo, or hemp that can folded into many variations to create absorbent and customizable layers. Prefold are similar but are pre-folded and sewn into place to save time. Then, once you have picked the flat and or prefold of your choice, you can then pick a cover: a diaper shaped cover that is waterproof that keeps all the yuckies contained. These are a great option if you want to save money and you have time to learn all the different folding methods for different scenarios.


Pocket diapers look almost like disposable diapers but are reusable and customizable. They have an outer shell made of PUL waterproof fabric. They are fastened closed by either button snaps or Velcro. On the inside of the diaper they are lined with a soft fabric. Both the PUL cover and the soft fabric lining are sewn together to make a diaper shape that can almost perfectly contain the diaper area securely. Between the two fabrics there is an opening where you can stuff the diaper with absorbent inserts. This is the customizable feature because you can choose between an array of fiber preferences and thicknesses. The only downside to pocket diapers is the need to stuff the diaper before you put it on the baby.

These are the diapers that I initially chose because they were so familiar with disposable diapers, which I though would be great for babysitters. If I could go back and choose again, I probably would’ve chose flats with covers because it takes less time to make a diaper, they are significantly cheaper and easier to clean.

All in ones

All in ones are just like pocket diaper except there is no pocket because the absorbant insert is already sewn into the diaper! Some people like this option because it is the easiest way to cloth diaper and the most similar to a disposable diaper experience. But you can’t customize the absorbancy because you can’t add any additional absorbent layers. This is a huge flaw because as your baby grows, the amount that they will urinate will increase over time. They also take reallllllly long to dry in the dryer because everything is sewn together.

Hybrids or All in twos

Hybrids are just like an all in one, but they have a pocket like pocket diapers. This means they have an absorbent layer that is pre-sewn into the fabric but there is also an area to slip more in when you need to. I find this to be a bit cumbersome and useless. Hybrids are also more expensive up front, so this was a big turn off as well.

Fitted or Contour

A fitted or contour diaper is like the inserts I talked about before, but are sewn in the shape of a diaper and have elastic around the leg openings and around the waist to be secure around the baby. These need to be fasted with pins or clips and don’t come with a water proof cover. These diapers also aren’t as adjustable when it comes to sizing so you will need to size every time your baby grows out of them. This can easily become vary expensive and these also are not super practical most because of the way they are secured.

Cleaning Cloth Diapers

This is probably the most unappealing aspect of cloth diapering. No one really wants to be all up in their babies poo, but it is an important aspect of cloth diapering that needs to be well thought through before deciding if its right for you family.

How do I clean cloth diapers?

Cloth diapers need to be washed in a washing machine. Preferably and non HE top loader with an in basin agitator. Finding one that is non HE is so difficult nowadays, its fine to use one that is a top loader with a full height agitator.

How often do I need to wash the diapers?

Cloth diapers need to be washed frequently to ensure they do not develop issues with absorbancy and overall cleanliness. Cloth diapers can develop awful smells and difficult to remove substances that require the diapers to be stripped and sanitized. This is a taxing process on the fabrics and can impact the diapers overall lifespan.

I recommend diapers being cleaned in between every other day or every two days. For some this just doesn’t work, but they tend to start see issues like I mentioned before. NEVER go more than five days between washing, this is just far too long.

Does detergent matter?

YES! This is one of the most important factors in a good wash routine! You need a detergent that works well with your washer and specifically is good at removing filth from soiled clothing. I recommend using the Tide powder detergent – especially if you have hard water – because it helps soften the water while also getting a really thorough clean on the diapers every single time (which is what you want).

Can I dry them in the dryer?

Short answer, yes. But it depends on the kind of diaper you use. If you are using inserts that are made of wool or any other kind of fabric that doesn’t do well in the dryer than no, you will need to air dry these which will make your diaper routine much longer.

What about solid poo, how does that work??

Once the baby is introduced to solids – usually around six months – they will start to have solid poo’s. Now you will need to find a way to remove the poo. My favorite ways to do this is by either using a good cloth diaper bidet. They make these specifically for cloth diapers which is great and can be found online. There’s also something called bamboo liners. These form a soft thin barrier between the baby’s bum and their diaper so if you didn’t have time to clean a diaper, lay one of these down and now after your baby poo’s on the diaper the liner will catch it all and so now you have a poo free diaper!

What is cloth diaper stripping and how often Would I need to?

Cloth diaper stripping is putting the diaper fabric inserts into a caustic solution consisting of mostly water and then a mixture of stripping agents such as borax, washing soda, and Calgon. these remove all the excess minerals that have built up overtime that have been causing foul odors and rashes. You should rarely have to strip cloth diapers. Stripping should only be used as a once in a great while fix for mineral buildup or if you have received or purchased used cloth diapers.

Homemade detergent in wooden scoop next to dried purple flowers.

Are Cloth Diapers for Me?

Obviously this is a personal question that depends on how much money you are willing to invest up front, how much time you are willing to use on a daily basis, and if you have the support around you to take it on. I don’t think cloth diapering is hard.. There’s some trouble shooting here and there, but really it’s more of a lifestyle change than anything else. Once you form a routine, it will become second nature!!

I hope this helped you know a little more about the in’s and out’s of cloth diapering!!

Bonne Nuit!!


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