A Complete Guide to Cloth Diapers

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A-Complete-Guide-to-cloth-diapersThis wonderful post on clothes diapering is in thanks to a reader!

Most people have one of two opinions when asked about cloth diapers-they either love the idea, or hate the idea. In all reality, the ones with the negative ideas about cloth may have no idea how the cloth diaper has changed over the past 10-20 years…All they can relate to is the vinyl pants and the super thin prefolds that would leave a mess everywhere the child went. I must admit, when I thought about using cloth, I was skeptical at first. My sister in law gifted my son with a stash of cloth diapers when he was born, and even though those particular diapers didn’t work for him, I fell in love with cloth and decided to find some that did.

I want to stress two really important points right now, before we go any farther: I am not an expert, and what works for me (or doesn’t) may or may not work for you and your child. What I am trying to show you is that there are cheap, dependable alternatives to disposable diapers, and that they are worth trying!

The cloth diaper business is, to put it mildly, BUSY! There are so many different types of cloth diapers now that if I tried to explain every kind to you, I would lose you at about this point right here. What I want to focus on is the two main types of diapering: prefolds and covers, and what is called the pocket diaper (that most closely resembles a disposable).



These are NOT the prefolds and covers that you and I grew up with! Even though the good ol’ dependable Gerber prefold is still being sold, for cloth diapering purposes, I don’t recommend using these. You will give up as soon as you get started. There are many different companies that make India and Chinese prefolds, and they run the gamut of prices. I find that Green Mountain Diapers are affordable and highly respected and sought after in the prefold category. I have some “no names” that I got from a local distributor, and so far from what I can tell, they all about work the same. You have the option of getting bleached or unbleached, and organic….But I can tell no difference in how they work based on bleaching or not. That is simply a matter of personal preference.

They require a few washings to make them absorbable, but you will have to prep any diapers you buy…there should be instructions from the manufacturer when you buy ANY cloth diaper, so be sure to read the directions carefully and do exactly as they ask you to! I love prefolds because they work great with our super hard water situation, and that they are the cheapest way to cloth diaper, period. The negatives to prefolds is that you have to learn how to fold them around your baby, you must secure them somehow (either pins or Snappi’s) and you also have to use a cover.

Speaking of covers, I have only found two that work for me: Thirsties and Rearz covers. These diaper covers are made out of PUL (polyurethane laminate) and are a waterproof barrier between your child’s clothes and the diaper. The Thirsties cover is literally bulletproof- my son is an extremely heavy wetter, and these covers keep all that in and off of his clothes. I also have heard that they are wonderful for containing the poop from babies who are breast fed, as it is extremely runny and hard to contain. The Rearz cover is equally as bulletproof, and somewhat cheaper than the Thirsties- their only draw back is they are sized really, really big (my son is 28 lbs. and is still in a Medium cover)I usually keep about 5 covers in each size for diapering-but I am at home all day with my son.

Each cover is reusable after diaper changes (unless extremely soiled or wet) so I usually use one a couple times, then hand wash it and hang to dry while using another. If your child is in some sort of childcare setting, then you may need more covers that that, or you may have to do pockets for your childcare provider.


diaper2Pocket diapers are the easiest way to cloth diaper, PERIOD. This diaper is structured exactly like a disposable, but with a few different parts. It has an opening in the front or back in which you “stuff” an insert (made of many different materials, but most commonly terry, hemp, or bamboo) to hold the mess. It goes on exactly like a disposable, making it very husband/grandparent/daycare friendly. The only difference is you don’t throw it in the trash :) the pocket diaper is sometimes also an AIO (All In One) diaper, meaning the inserts are sewn directly into the diaper, which makes washing even easier (you don’t have to get your hands dirty pulling out the soiled inserts) The outside of the diaper is also covered in PUL or TPL, making it as waterproof as a disposable. If properly prepped, washed, and taken care of, you should have no issues with leaks from cloth- making them just as sanitary as disposables. Whatever type of pocket diaper you chose, there should be directions on “prepping” them before use. PLEASE (for your own sanity) follow these instructions! It may also hinder you should you need to return them, and have cared for them in a way contrary to how they recommend!


There are a few “musts” that I feel you need in order to make cloth diapering easy and convenient on everyone: A wetbag (for storing soiled diapers, especially in your diaper bag), a “cloth diaper friendly” detergent and diaper rash cream, and a diaper sprayer.

The wetbag is a must if you are out traveling: you can use a plastic grocery sack, but I always have one that leaks and makes a huge mess. The wetbag is a bag made of PUL material that keeps wetness and odors in, and out of your diaperbag! Save yourself the aggravation and buy a bag! I don’t use it at home, I have an old drywall bucket as my diaper pail, but I HAVE to have a wetbag for going out! You don’t have to have a huge one, just one to hold a couple diapers…you can google these to find a company that makes them, and shop for the best deals. They usually run anywhere from $10-30 dollars, depending on size and pattern.

The detergent is what is really going to make or break you with cloth. It cannot have any conditioners, fragrance, dyes, etc… in the detergent. All of these break down the diaper materials, or lead to build up on your diapers that will cause the diaper to repel the urine and hold in ammonia odors and stains. I have used many, many detergents, and it is going to be a trial or error most of the time to find one that works great. Here is a link to a site that talks about the many different detergents- I don’t have enough room to discuss it in this basic post. Keep in mind also that if your children have sensitive skin, you may already be using a CD friendly detergent, and may not even need to buy another kind!

The diaper rash cream is the same problem: you have to find one that will not lead to build up on your diapers that you won’t be able to strip off. There are two that know of that are CD safe: There are also many made by work at home moms that are great, but a tad bit more expensive. Keep in mind, though, you shouldn’t have to use as much with a baby in cloth as you would one in disposables, and I am still using some I got for a shower gift, and my son is 18 months old! Definitely worth the price if you know it is not going to ruin your diapers!

You may need a diaper sprayer, if your child has runny poop that you will need to rinse off the diaper before putting in the diaper pail. I use my infrequently now, but my next child may be totally different, in which case I would say it is a must! You can find these by googling them, and finding the cheapest one…I have a Bumgenius one, and it is wonderful! In a pinch, though, you can simply hold the diaper in the toilet, and flush a couple times, rinsing the mess off into the toilet.

I know it seems like a lot to process, but cloth really is a cheaper, more earth friendly option to diapering your child. The up front costs sometimes seem daunting, but in the long run, you will spend nearly 3 times that amount on disposables, with only a full landfill and nothing else to show for it. If kept in good condition, you can resell your diapers and get some of your money back that you invested! And each subsequent sibling can use the diapers; lowering the price even more…I fully intend to use the same diapers on my next baby.

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  1. Thereasa Gargano says

    I raised 4 children on a diaper service and/or cloth diapers of my own. I never liked disposable. The first one I used was back in 1973 they were called Kimbies and you still used diaper pins. they were horrible. Obviously, the industry like any other has come a long way but I still reccomend cloth over anything else.

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