07 July 2011

Cloth Diapering 101

Welcome to the First Annual Freedom of Cloth Carnival

This post was written for inclusion in the Freedom of Cloth Carnival hosted at Natural Parents Network by Melissa of The New Mommy Files and Shannon of The Artful Mama. This year’s carnival will run from Sunday, July 3rd through Saturday, July 9th. Participants are sharing everything they know and love about cloth diapering, including how cloth has inspired them.


Recently, a friend of mine asked me to write this post. Though I had thought of doing something like this on and off, I generally dismissed the idea because I do not consider myself to be anything close to an expert on cloth diapers. I ask other people for advice all the time and I have had so many problems myself it seems I don't know enough to help others. Yet at the same time, I do know quite a bit, mostly from my extensive research prior to actually starting to cloth diaper Heidi and Piper. While I must repeat again that I am NOT an expert or anything close, I will consent to sharing with you everything I know and have come to love about cloth diapering. (I will also try to be as brief as possible - the real challenge!)

Types of Diapers

I have used almost every type of diaper there is so if you want to know more about a particular type, let me know. I have linked to images of each type of diaper so that you see what they actually look like.

Flats: One of the most basic types of diapers, as their name implies, is basically a large, flat piece of cloth that must be folded to fit around the baby and inside a cover. Ex: OsoCozy, Swaddlebees

Prefolds: These diapers are similar to flats with the exception of a higher absorbancy area concentrated in the center (in a strip) that contains many layers of fabric. Prefolds are my new love. I use them almost all the time and wish I had only purchased them and covers to begin with. Ex: Unbleached Indian Prefolds, Bleached Chinese Prefolds 

Pocket Diapers: Well, um, they have this "pocket" in which you stuff an insert or two. Without the insert, you can use it as a swim diaper but it has about as much absorbancy as a place mat. Ex. bumGenius, FuzziBunz, Kawaii Diapers (<--my personal preference)

AIO (All in One): This particular type of diaper has a "pocket," but the insert is already attached inside of it. You can add other inserts for extra absorbancy, but for the most part this diaper is ready to go. Ex. bumGenius, Kushies

AI2 (All in Two): The concept of these diapers is that instead of the insert already being included in the diaper, you snap it into a shell or cover and you can then remove the insert and snap in another one while not having to change covers (unless it gets soiled). As you may imagine, these are generally the most expensive diapers out there. I tried a GroVia when I did Jillian's Drawers 'Changing Diapers, Changing Minds' program and was unimpressed. But, I also have a heavy wetter which I will talk more about later. Ex. GroVia, Rainforest Babies

Fitteds: A fitted diaper is not waterproof so you need to put a cover over it; The same type of cover you would put over a prefold or flat would most likely go over a fitted. It is essentially a shaped piece of cloth that occasionally has extra absorbancy sewn in the middle.  I have many Mother-ease fitteds as well as Pooters and one Thirsties. I like the Mother-ease better than any of the others because they don't leave any marks on Piper's thighs and are just so easy to use. 


Ahh, clean diapers (and mama cloth).
When I started, I washed them all wrong. I didn't use any hot cycles because, again, I was cheap. I believe this is why I started having problems in the first place with rashes and things. Once I switched detergents for the first time, I began a new washing regimen. This is the one recommended by most people I have found and it worked well for me for a long time.

  • First, run a rinse cycle with no detergent.
  • Next, run a HOT washing cycle with detergent.
  • Then, run an extra rinse with no detergent. (This is where I would add my white vinegar.)

Occasionally, I'd run more extra rinses after the initial run, especially if I was using my mother's HE machine. The best way I found to do this or any other diaper washing in an HE machine is to run an initial rinse cycle with NO SPIN so that your diapers retain all the water, thereby making them heavy enough to warrant more water in any subsequent cycle.

Recently, however, the fabulous Melissa at The New Mommy Files: Memories, Milestones and Mishaps turned me on to a different washing method when she commented on one of my problem posts. Since switching to that routine, I have had far fewer problems! For most people, I still think the first routine I listed would work just fine, but if you find you are having smelly issues or something else, try it this way:

  • First, run a COLD wash WITH detergent.
  • Next, run a HOT wash with NO detergent but about a cup of vinegar.
  • Then, run a rinse cycle with nothing but water. (Optional) 
I've even gone one step further with this method and started washing my diapers with detergent twice, once with cold and a second time with hot and then rinsing with vinegar and rinsing once more without anything. This has virtually eliminated any of the problems I had with them! *Knocking on wood furiously*

I realize this sounds like a lot of washing and believe me, I know. But being someone who has had so many diaper issues, I am willing to take the precautions necessary to prevent more of them in the future. Like I said, most people would probably be OK with the first routine, so I would definitely tell anyone to start with that. And no, I have never noticed a difference in our water bill, probably because I do at least 14 loads of laundry a week (including diapers) so it really just doesn't matter.

Note: Exclusively breastfed infant "waste" needs no treatment before being thrown in the washer. It is completely soluble and will absolutely come out. As your child gets older, you might have to dunk the diaper in the toilet to remove the majority of the soil, use a diaper sprayer or diaper liners. However, I recently met someone who doesn't do any of those things and simply throws everything into the washing machine. I do not have a diaper sprayer but have used liners (when I remember). I chose the type of liner that can be used multiple times (with pee) before it biodegrades. Otherwise, I dunk in the toilet.


I have probably gone through more detergent than anyone I know, thus I can give you a bit of an opinion about them. Here are the ones I have used so far (on diapers):

Rockin' Green
Country Save
Soap Nuts (FYI: If you have a latex allergy, you may also be allergic to Soap Nuts. Somehow, they have forgotten to tell people this as The Artful Mama unfortunately discovered.)
All Free and Clear
Allen's Naturally

While most people are in agreement that you *should* use a different detergent on your diapers than what is readily available in the stores, Jillian's Drawers themselves actually recommends regular Tide for cloth. I have not yet wrapped my head around this, but that's probably because I have such sensitive children.

For anyone starting out, I first suggest trying the homemade. It's cheap, easy and will probably be good for just about all of you. If you find your diapers are having issues and stripping (which I will speak of below) doesn't work, I would suggest going to either Rockin' Green or Allen's. If any of your family members have sensitive skin or you know for sure your child does, go with Allen's. It is the one and only detergent that works for us because of how sensitive Heidi and Piper are.

In terms of line drying vs. dryer, I dry all the pocket diapers, PUL covers and microfiber inserts on a drying rack that I have placed in a sunny spot in my dining room. Whenever possible, you should give your diapers the time to sit in the sun as it is one of your best defenses against stink, ammonia or any other problem you could encounter. Since I am not allowed to hang them outside (apartment rules), this is the next best option. I dry all my prefolds, wipes, diaper bag, hemp and fitted diapers in the dryer.

Quick Notes:
DO use as much water as possible when washing diapers, every time.
DO dry them in the sun whenever you can. If they become hard (hemp, prefolds), throw them in the dryer for a few minutes to soften them up.
DON'T use dryer sheets; they might cause build up on your diapers.


Every so often, you might find you need to strip your diapers. In fact, you should probably strip them about once a month anyway as a precaution (or even more often). Essentially, the process of stripping diapers is simple: they need to spend some time in really, really, really hot water. Some people literally boil their diapers in a pot of water on the stove. This works, obviously, since women have done this for a long time. I am so very fortunate right now to be living in an apartment where our hot water is literally boiling hot so my diapers get that awesome heat power every time I wash them. Some people actually turn up the temperature on the water heater just for this process (but must remember to turn it down). Others will boil water and dump it into the washing machine along with the diapers. In any case, all you really need to do is let them sit in it for a while.

There are other ways, though, utilizing detergent such as Rockin' Green or RLR, which is a laundry treatment of sorts. You can also strip with a washer full of hot water and a squirt of blue (original) Dawn. However, even if you are using a detergent for stripping, you still want to have them sit in extremely hot water. I primarily use RLR to strip my diapers as it has been the best for getting rid of anything I've come across such as stink, ammonia and the rashes Heidi and Piper got. (FYI, if you decide to purchase RLR, don't buy it from the amazon link I posted. That was just to show you what it looks like. You can get it for a lot cheaper in a number of different places, including PathMark!)

Note: Your diapers need to be clean before you start stripping them.


Yes, it's true: you will have to spend money on cloth diapering. The initial cost is one of the main reasons it took me so long to make the switch from disposables to cloth because it is so daunting. However, the savings will add up in a matter of months and if you have more than one child, this could be the best investment you ever make (at least in the first few years of their lives).

To sum up everything I spent money on in the beginning (my blunder, wet bag, diaper pails, trial package and Kawaii diapers), I spent around $300. I believe the general rule of thumb to follow is to expect to spend anywhere between $200 and $500, depending on the style you choose and the number of children you are diapering. As you may know, I ended up switching styles at one point during my cloth experience (see the blunder) so I sort of lost track of how much I ultimately spent on diapers. However, the new diapers I "purchased" did not require me to spend very much money at all due to my ability to trade in/sell some of my other diapers and some clothes to the store I purchased them at.

When you look at that number, please remember that it was for two children, not just one, and I do not believe I have gone too far over the initial $300 when purchasing more cloth (which I didn't do much of). Yes, there have been times in the past year since I started cloth diapering that I had to purchase disposables, but that was only in the rarest of cases. Otherwise, the savings from using cloth for over a year has come back to me over and over again, especially since I am using these diapers on two children.

You can do this! Cloth diapering is like eating potato chips: you can't ever just have one chip and once you start, you will never want to go back! I know this post ended up being a lot longer than I wanted it to be and still there feels like so many things I forgot to mention. Therefore, if you have any questions at all, I will do my absolute best to answer them or I will find someone who can. Happy Diapering!


freedom of cloth carnivalVisit
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for the most up-to-date news on the Freedom of Cloth Carnival!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants on the following themes. Articles will go live on the scheduled theme day:
  • Sunday, July 3rd, 2011: Cloth Related Recipes — Writers share their best cloth-related recipes and tutorials.
  • Monday, July 4th, 2011: Choosing Your Cloth Style — Today’s posts discuss parents' individual journeys to finding the cloth diapering "style" that best suits their families.
  • Tuesday, July 5th, 2011: Cloth Diapering Must Haves — Parents talk about the most important items in their diapering “stash” and why they love them.
  • Wednesday, July 6th, 2011: Wordless Wednesday, Inspired by Cloth — We asked parents to share their favorite cloth-related photo with us and turned them into a fluffy Wordless Wednesday photo montage on Natural Parents Network. Link up your own Wordless Wednesday post there!
  • Thursday, July 7th, 2011: Cloth Through the Stages: From Infancy to Potty Independence — Today’s participants explain how cloth diapering has served their families throughout one or more stages of their children’s lives.
  • Friday, July 8th, 2011: Cloth Troubleshooting and Laundry Day — Seasoned cloth diapering parents share their best tips and tricks for handling common cloth problems and tackling the diaper laundry.
  • Saturday, July 9th, 2011: Inspired by Cloth — For today’s theme, we’ve asked writers to explore the ways cloth diapering has inspired them to become "greener" overall.


  1. Thank you soooo much! I just printed this one out! :-) I really hope I can make this whole cloth diaper thing work!

  2. I love that you printed it out lol.

    You can always ask me if you have questions and I will be happy to answer to the best of my ability or direct you to a source that has better answers than I do :)

  3. Woohoo....you linked to my site! I feel special! ;-) I have a feeling I'm really going to like the pre-folds too...

  4. You are special! You're fantastic!! :) I'm sure you'll totally fall in love with them ;)

  5. aww, you're not too bad yourself! ;-) I better love them because I just ordered a crap-load of them (pardon my unlady-like language)!! :-)

  6. This is fantastic, Amanda! Simple, succinct, but packed with great information. Must. Bookmark.

  7. "Cloth diapering is like eating potato chips" hahaha! Or, you know, crack. I mean baby carriers. Just kidding-about the crack.

    This is a great breakdown of washing cloth diapers. I'm in awe of how you managed to do this with two in diapers. And Tide on my diapers *shudders* No way!

  8. Crack, baby carriers, cloth diapers....all the same thing :)