Everything you need to know about cloth diaper basics and how to get started, from choosing your style of diaper, diaper care and more!
When I decided to switch to cloth diapers I knew it would be important to start with a little research and just go over cloth diaper basics.
At first I was overwhelmed by all the different types of cloth diapers.
I wanted to make sure that I would be investing in the right kind of cloth diaper.
I want to make this easy for anyone else out there making the transition from disposable diapers so I made a simple list of the more popular types of cloth diapers (in North America).
Hopefully it can help you chose the best cloth diaper for your lifestyle.
Types of Cloth Diapers
Flat Cloth Diapers
Flats are the style of diaper most people think of when they think Cloth Diaper.
They are the style of Cloth Diaper my mother used – large squares of absorbent single layer cloth that need to be folded and pinned.
These are the cheapest style of cloth diaper and are also the easiest and quickest to wash and dry.
The problem with flats is that they need to be folded before use.
Some people use covers with Flats but that is not necessary if the baby is changed often and depending on the material used.
Pre-Folded Cloth Diapers
Pre-folds are similar to Flats except that they are multiple layers of absorbent cloth.
They also need to be folded and pinned to use and are also very inexpensive to use.
These may require waterproof covers to help prevent leaks.
Fitted Cloth Diapers
Fitted Cloth Diaper are similar to Pre-Folds except they are contoured and have elastic around the edges to achieve a snugger fit.
They usually have a built in closure system such as snaps or Velcro.
Pocket Cloth Diapers
Pocket Diapers are also contoured and have closure systems built in.
The outer layer of a pocket diaper is waterproof with the inner layer sewn in such a way as to create a pocket which is then stuffed with an absorbent liner.
All in One Cloth Diapers
All in Ones are the simplest Cloth Diaper to use as they are most like disposables but can take significantly longer to wash and dry than other styles. A
ll in Ones have a waterproof outer layer with an absorbent inner layer sewn in with snaps or Velcro built in.
All in Two Cloth Diapers
All in Twos consist of a waterproof diaper cover with an absorbent insert which can either snap into the outer layer or lays inside the cover which ban be removed when soiled and requires only the insert to be changed throughout the day.
One Size Cloth Diapers
One-size diapers use snaps to adjust the fit to cover sizes from birth to potty training and can be either all-in-ones/twos or pocket diapers.
This is an economical option due to how long they can be used.
Snaps or Aplix?
Once you have chosen a style (or more!) the next decision to make is the closure style. That is Snaps or Aplix (Hook and Loop or Velcro).
Both closure systems have advantages and disadvantages and there is no real clear cut winner here. Each Mom is going to have their own preference.
Aplix closures are easy to put on and adjust to the right size. This makes for simple and quick diaper changes.
Unfortunately this also means it is just as easy for a toddler to pull off on their own.
This could potentially lead to unfortunate events (use your imagination here.)
Some aplix style systems may not be made well as far as laundry tabs go and you will find yourself pulling apart huge diaper chains resulting in messy looking pilly diapers.
This, of course, can be fixed simply and cheaply by purchasing and cutting bits of velcro to cover the aplix during the wash cycle.
Snap closures are great because there is no worry about diaper chains in the wash. They are also not quite as easy for little ones to pull off.
However, while they are not difficult to deal with, they are not as easy to close as aplix.
You will also want to check that on One Size diapers that the snaps are not exposed inside the diaper.
Exposed snaps can dig into skin which is not very comfortable. Ensure the snaps are hidden inside.
Another worry about Snaps is that they may break off and become a choking hazard.
To prevent this, check the snaps before use to make sure they are not in danger of this happening.
How Many Cloth Diapers do I Need?
Newborns go through 10 to 12 diapers per day. That’s a lot. Which means you will need enough cloth diapers that you aren’t a slave to your laundry pile.
You will need roughly 24-36 cloth diapers at the newborn stage, but fewer are necessary as your baby gets older.
How to Prepare Cloth Diapers for Use
Ok, so you’ve picked out some cloth diapers you like and you are ready to go now, right? Nope! Now you need to pre-wash all your fluff before use.
Every manufacturer will have their own variation of pre-use care but why not keep it simple?
So, as I was saying, pre-washing.
That is your next or I guess first step.
Why do you need to pre-wash Cloth Diapers?
Well think about it working the same as when you get those brand new bath towels.
How many of you have tried just using them instead of running them through the wash once? Right. Unlikely you made that decision again.
From my own experience what happens is this new towel works quiet well at moving the water around on you but not so effective at soaking up the water.
Cloth diapers work the same way and will only repel water if not properly cared for before first use.
How to Pre-Wash Cloth Diapers
To ensure maximum absorption and the removal of all chemicals used in the manufacturing process it is best to pre-wash through a minimum of 3 cycles although some manufacturers will say only once is enough.
To start use 1/4-1/2 the amount of detergent* you would normally use in a load. Run a second rinse cycle. Dry the diapers.
Air-drying will extend the life of your diapers but it is safe to dry on low in the machine. Then repeat a minimum of 2 more times.
*Ensure your detergent is cloth diaper safe or made for cloth diapers.
What Cloth Diaper Basics do I Need?
Cloth diapering is a lot easier with the right accessories:
- A diaper pail for storing diapers before washing
- A waterproof “wet bag” for when you are on the go.
- A stack of Fabric baby wipes.
- Cloth diaper-safe detergent is a must.
Some nice to haves include:
- A Diaper sprayer to help get solids off.
- Biodegradable diaper liners
How to Wash Cloth Diapers
Once you have changed your baby, you need to place the soiled cloth diaper place them in a holding container.
Some parents use a wet pail filled with water so that the diapers can pre-soak before the wash. Others drop the diaper into large wet bags designed for this use right after a change.
Follow these basic steps to launder cloth diapers:
- Remove any inserts from the diapers. Reusable inserts go in the wash too
- Fill the washer to the highest water level allowed.
- Start with a cold rinse and no detergent.
- Next, run a regular wash cycle on the hottest setting using your detergent according to the instructions on the diaper detergent package.
- Run the diapers through another cold rinse.
- Hang to dry for best results.
If your diapers are stiff after drying, you are using too much detergent or are not rinsing enough. Cut way back for best results, this can affect the diapers ability to do its job.
Update February 10th, 2021
We ended up mostly cloth diapering both babies until they potty trained. I say mostly because we did keep packs of disposable diapers for when having a toddler and a newborn would just get to be TOO. MUCH.
I hope these cloth diaper basics help you out!
Do you cloth diaper your baby? Share some tips for new mamas in the comments below!
Elizabeth Lampman is a coffee-fuelled Mom of 2 girls and lives in Hamilton, Ontario. She enjoys travelling, developing easy recipes, crafting, taking on diy projects, travelling and saving money!
Sunday 3rd of November 2013
I bought a velcro cover because the sizing was just amazing for my little chunk. Never had a diaper fit so well, but within minutes she was crying in discomfort from the irritation of the velcro scratching her chunky thigh. Something about the way the diaper positioned against her skin while she moved about. Great diaper, best fit ever, but velcro is not for us.
maryanne @ mama smiles
Monday 8th of October 2012
I'm all about snaps! I love that kids can't undo them on their own, and they don't get junk stuck in them (much more irritating to me than the velcro coming undone in the wash!
Saturday 6th of October 2012
I always liked aplix, it was easier when they would squirm during diaper change time to quickly close it. Great series of posts, very helpful!
Sunday 7th of October 2012
Thanks Isra! I think I'm going to get a few Aplix for my own stash. All I have are snaps and it can get extra frustrating when she is doing her impersonation of a fish out of water.
Journeys of The Zoo
Saturday 6th of October 2012
I've always found cloth diapers to be some confusing. Thanks for breaking it down for me in manageable chunks.
How are you liking the cloth? Comments on whether 6 months was a good time to get in? I just never got around to it with my litter. Now, we're toilet training so I can't be bothered.
Besos, SarahZookeeper at Journeys of The Zoo
Sunday 7th of October 2012
I'm really loving our cloth journey so far. The disposables were causing diaper rashes and even little cuts on her back from rubbing. The cloth just looks so much more comfortable. Plus they make her clothes fit. Bonus!
As far as starting at 6 months... yeah definitely worth it and doable. I wish I had started sooner but with the next one I plan to cloth diaper right away (if we are blessed with a full term pregnancy anyway.)