Monday, June 8, 2009

All About Cloth Diapers

I recently started using cloth diapers for my toddler, and so far I'm enjoying them. I'm using prefolds diapers with water-tight covers. With disposable diapers my kids always had problems with diaper rash, and with cloth diapers we haven't had any rashes. I don't mind doing the laundry, and my child seems to prefer the cloth because it's softer. She actually brings me her diaper to put on her, and she used to run away from me when I wanted to put a disposable diaper on her. I've used disposable diapers on 4 children over the course of 9 years, and I wish I had tried cloth a long time ago. My main motivation in using cloth is to save money and be more self-sufficient. I want to share with my readers the letter that opened my mind to cloth diapers. My niece wrote this, after much research and practice with cloth diapers. It's long, but I think it's worth the read:

"Dear Friends,

I'm really glad to hear that you're considering using cloth! I actually really love it. I don't know how much you already know about cloth diapering, so I'll go ahead and just give you the crash course. :) The brand that I use is the BumGenius One-Size Pockets.

When it comes to functionality and changing, they work just like disposables, with the convenience of choosing how much absorbency you need in the pocket. (The outer diaper is like a shell with a pocket that you slide the insert and/or insert doubler into for night/newborns.)

The other reason that I chose these specifically is because they are one-size. They have snaps on the front and on the inserts that carry it all the way through about 10 pounds until they are ready to potty train, so you only ever have to buy one stash. There are a few brands out there that have this feature, but after reading a lot of reviews, comparing the features, and asking around in cloth diaper forums online, I decided that these would be the best choice for me. I found this article after I’d already made that decision, and it really reinforced it for me.

Of course, there are a lot of other options out there. The other type that I really considered is an AIO (All In One) because they are the closest thing that you can find to disposables, virtually the same except that you toss one in the trash and the other in the wash. It's similar to the one-size in that they don't require a cover because it's built in, but with the added convenience of not having to stuff the inserts after washing. In the end I decided that was a drawback, because you can't control the absorbency.

Some other options would be the flat fold/birdeye, pre-fold, contour and fitted diapers. Most of these require folding and pinning or using snappis (a safe alternative to pinning, they're plastic snaps that hold it in place) and then using a diaper cover on top of them. They're a bit more work during changes, but they're usually a little cheaper.

Here are a couple sites that explain all the differences pretty well.

Baby Cotton Bottoms
Jardine Diapers

I have about 24 diapers, and I find myself washing every two or three days. Newborns go through about 12 diapers a day, and the number gets fewer as they get older, so I just accounted for a 2 day newborn rotation and knew that I’d be able to wash less frequently as he got older. Most companies recommend that you don’t go beyond 3 or 4 days though, because the smell likes to stick after that. ( )

I like to stuff my diapers as soon as they come out of the wash so that they’re ready to go when I need them. I keep them in some plastic stacking drawers that I slid underneath a desk with a changing mat on top. Next to the desk is a tall trash can with a foot pedal/lid and cheapo trash bags. They do make diaper genie type things for cloth diapers, but this works just as well so there really is no point.

I take the insert out as soon as the diaper comes off and drop them both into the trash can. (You can’t wash them with the insert in, because it gets all bunched up and doesn’t rinse or dry completely. I learned that the hard way.) I like to stuff the diapers so that the little tag on the insert is at the top, that way you can grab onto it and not the actual insert and avoid getting all “icky”, for lack of a better word.

I usually know that it’s time to wash when the can is almost full and I have about three diapers left in my stash. I’ll just pull out the bag and use it to carry and dump the dirties right into the washing machine, then I’ll put a new bag in the can. The washing instructions for different brands vary slightly, but they’re all pretty close in theory.

First you do a cold wash, using ¼ of the detergent manufacturers recommended amount. This removes the gunk. Then you do a hot wash, again using ¼ of the detergent. This sanitizes and kills anything that is left over. Next you do a final rinse and spin, on whatever temperature you like. This gets rid of all the leftover detergent, because if there’s any left it can make your diapers less absorbent and irritate baby’s skin. Then the diapers go to the dryer, sans any sort of fabric softener or dryer sheets, which can also mess with the diaper. You can add a bit of bleach every once in a while, I do it about once every three weeks. This just helps to freshen up the diapers a bit.

Choosing a detergent when it comes to CD’s is important. A lot of people recommend Dreft or other baby detergents, but they can be so expensive that you’d almost be better just using disposables. Pretty much any detergent that’s hypo-allergenic or marked “free and clear” are good to use. This guarantees that they’re free of pure soap, enzymes, fabric whiteners, fabric brighteners, fabric softeners or anything scented. (All of which can also jack with your absorbency.) Here’s a chart that shows a lot of different options with their pro’s and con’s. I use All Free and Clear and haven’t had any troubles so far.

Another thing that you may occasionally have to do is strip the diapers. If you notice that you’re having absorbency or leaking issues it’s most likely because of A: poor fit or B: you’ve got a bit of detergent build up. It’s easy to fix. You just run a super hot wash without any soap. You may notice bubbles in the water, and that’s a good thing. It’s the soap escaping the diaper. Run one or two hot washes, and then rinse, rinse, rinse. It should solve any problems.

You may be wondering about what to do with the poop. If you breast feed, then don’t have to do anything. Breast milk poo is water soluble, and will get perfectly clean in the wash. (Don’t worry about disinfecting your washer. If the diapers are clean, your washer is clean.) If you use formula or have moved on to solid foods and therefore have solid poops, you’ll just want to knock it into the toilet. You can do the old fashioned dunking in the toilet, or you can invest in a sprayer.

I don’t have one yet, but I plan on getting one as soon as my baby starts producing solids. I’ve shopped around a bit, and this is the one I’m going to go with: Pretty much every CD site and user I’ve talked to recommends it. You just hook it up to the water in your toilet and mount it on the wall next to your tank.

Another accessory that I do have is a tote. I have a small one that I toss into my diaper bag. It holds your dirties for you when you’re out and about. A good plastic bag would work just as well, but I like these because they hold in the smell and wetness really well. You can also get a large one for your nursery can.

They also make odor removers that you can use to spray on the diapers or in the pail. I’ve used this one and it works pretty well, though it’s not a necessity. There’s also something out there called dio disks, that sit in the bottom of your pail. Supposedly they work nicely.

Something that I’ve considered using but haven’t had a chance to try yet is a diaper liner. It’s just a thin liner like tissue paper that lies between the diaper and the baby. Most are flushable, so you can use it to just dump the poop into the toilet without having to mess with any water. You have to use one if you need to use any bum rash cream, to protect the diaper from the cream.

The idea with cream is that it creates a slick surface, redirecting wetness from your baby’s bottom. Once the cream comes in contact with the diaper, it does the same thing, redirecting the wetness and causing the diaper to be ruined and lose absorbency. (I’ve just kept a couple disposables on hand to use in case of a rash.)

A side note about rashes and cloth diapers; When I was researching what diapers to use, my mom was VERY against the idea of cloth. Her reasoning was that babies always get more rashes with cloth. In actuality, you just have to change slightly more frequently and pay closer attention than you do with disposables. It’s OBVIOUS when a disposable is wet. Most of them even change color to alert you. With a cloth diaper, you have to actually check it every few hours to see if it’s wet. Also, disposable diapers have a lot of chemicals in them that increase the absorbency, making them last longer than natural fabrics.

If you aren’t alert to what’s happening in the diaper, it can be easy to leave it on too long, thus resulting in a rash. Since I’ve only had one rash since I switched to cloth, and that happening on a day that we were on the road a lot and waited a couple hours too long for a change, I’m pretty convinced that the rashes my mom experienced were because of her own inattention, not because of the diapers themselves. I honestly haven’t noticed that much of a time difference in how long I could leave them on, you just have to pay a bit more attention.

Here are a few other brands that I’ve heard are really good:


This is the bumgenius customer support page, which covers a lot of issues:

Here is the cottonbabies website. It’s the company I ordered everything through. They carry a lot of other really great brands too.

And here is the cottonbabies resource page. This is what I always refer to whenever I have a question or can’t remember something:

Finally, here’s where I got my start with cloth diapering. It’s myspace group called Better Baby Buttz, run by the stay-at-home-mom who founded rumparooz. There’s a lot of great information on there, and all the members are moms who use cloth diapers. I’ll often go on there if I have something that’s not working or confusing me, and the ladies are all very nice and helpful!

Best of luck!"


  1. The best way to clean cloth diapers is to pre-rinse them off in the toilet using a Hand Bathroom Bidet Sprayer. So convenient and if you are trying to help the environment (and your pocket book) you can give it a double whammy by virtually eliminating toilet paper use at the same time as you benefit from using it on the diapers, by using it on yourself. I think Dr. Oz on Oprah said it best: "if you had pee or poop on your hand, you wouldn't wipe it off with paper, would you? You'd wash it off" Available at they come in an inexpensive kit and can be installed without a plumber. And after using one of these you won't know how you lasted all those years with wadded up handfuls of toilet paper. Now we're talking green and helping the environment without any pain. One review:

  2. We used fuzzibunz and WAHM diapers and found they were both good... WAHM diapers were much cheaper and if I had found them first would have saved a bit of money though we did get the fuzzi on sale for way less than you can get them now... I think they were about $12-13 and now run closer to $20.

    Having the support of my DH was definitely helpful but a lot more doable than I remember it being with my baby brother who had the type of diapers that had to be pinned (back in the early 80's).