The Ultimate Guide to Cloth Diapers for Beginners
This is the ultimate guide to cloth diapers. Everything you need to know and more is included in this guide. You will learn the history of cloth diapers, how to use cloth diapers, all of the types of cloth diapers and just how great cloth diapers are.
Diaper spelled backward is repaid.
When we raise our children, we repay everything we’ve been given in our lives. Our experiences, love, knowledge, lives - everything goes to our children. We want our children to have better lives than we have, and that starts from the beginning.
Cloth diapers are one of the best ways to start repaying your children everything you've had the privilege of having. From the health benefits to environmental benefits to even financial benefits, cloth diapers enable you to repay your child and help to save the world they've just joined.
Want to help save the planet, keep your baby away from harmful chemicals, and save money and time? Cloth diapers are for you.
So if you're ready to be a part of the solution and not a part of the pollution, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about cloth diapers now!
Quick Jump: Ultimate Cloth Diapers Guide
- History of Cloth Diapers
- How to Use Cloth Diapers
- Cloth Diapers vs. Disposable Diapers
- The Best Cloth Diaper Brands
- Types of Cloth Diapers
- Cloth Diaper Fit Guide
- Breakdown of Cloth Diaper Fabrics
- How to Clean Cloth Diapers
- Cloth Diaper Accessories
- Frequently Asked Questions About Cloth Diapers
History of Cloth Diapers
The history of diapers begins with the Middle English word diaper, which initially referred to a type of cloth rather than its use; it was a term for repetitive, rhombic shapes that later became a term for white cotton or linen fabric of this pattern.
Today, a diaper (or nappy) is underwear that allows the wearer to relieve themselves by absorbing and containing waste.
Diapers in Ancients Times
Parents of babies born during these days had to be resourceful to make do with what they had. Milkweed leaf covers, animal skins, and other natural materials may have been included.
In certain European cultures, babies were wrapped in swaddling bands.
These "swaddling bands" were made up of strips of linen or wool that were bound closely around each leg before being wrapped crosswise around the neck. Popular cloth diaper materials of this time included: Milkweed Leaves, Rabbit Skin, Seal Skin, and Swaddling Bands.
Diapers in the 1800s
Safety pins were used to keep a square or rectangle of linen, cotton flannel, or stockinet folded into a rectangular form. Holding babies over bowls or a potty was also a standard method of infant potty training.
Diapers in the 1900s
In the 1900s, cloth diapers began to use the technique of boiling diapers as mothers became aware of bacteria. During both World War I and World War II, mothers were pulled into the workforce as most men were away at war. This led to mothers leaning on a “diaper service” that would deliver fresh cotton diapers daily or as needed, much like the milkman.
In 1942, the first removable absorbent pad used as a diaper was manufactured from unbleached creped cellulose tissue (held in rubber pants).
Marion Donovan patented the "Boater" in 1946, which was a protective covering for cloth diapers. This design is similar to today’s cloth diaper covers. Her first disposable diaper design was a traditional cotton diaper put into shower curtain plastic. Donovan also designed the first form of plastic diaper snaps that reduced the conventional and sometimes dangerous safety pins.
The prefold diaper was invented by a diaper service owner and produced by Curity in 1950. This led to the creation of the Safe-T Di-Dee Diaper. This diaper was the first pin-less, snap-on diaper and was invented by Sybil Geeslin.
Geeslin, wanting to build her own house, sold the patent, and they became the Keystone Safe-T Di-Dee Diapers. These went on to be nationally distributed, making them a household name for many families. During the 1960s, the disposable diaper became the most popular option in America. The pulp mill was introduced, and the use of cellulose fibers instead of paper improved the performance of disposable diapers.
Quick Cloth Diaper Definitions:
- Pulp Mill - a manufacturing facility that converts wood chips or other plant fiber sources into a thick fiberboard
- Cellulose Fibers - fibers made with ethers or esters of cellulose, obtained from the bark, wood, or leaves of plants or other plant-based material.
Since the 60s, disposable diapers were given many “improvements,” but as time went on - consumers began to see how bad disposable diapers are for the environment.
This led to an influx of larger cloth diaper companies being formed in the mid to late 90s. In 1995, Motherease was formed and began selling cloth diapers by mail order in the US. The owner Erika Froese had been developing her own cloth diapers since 1991 in Canada. She had been using cloth diapers in her personal life since 1981, and Froese named her diapers after one of her children. The Sandies were a one size cloth diaper that came in white color made with both cotton and organic cotton.
By 1999, more cloth diapering companies started to be developed, including both “Poochies” and “HoneyBoy!”. These entries became extremely popular, with some of them often being auctioned off or sold for $200 or more!
Diapers in the 2000s
Fuzzi Bunz first opened its doors in the year 2000. During this time, the word hyena was invented to describe moms who pursue the more desirable cloth diaper styles.
In 2003, Nicki’s Diapers was founded by Nicki Maynard. A family business founded by Nicki and later joined by her husband Jesse, this husband and wife team worked together to ensure the highest quality products while following responsible environmental and social business practices.
Nicki saw a need - she wanted to cloth diaper her first son but couldn't find the information or products she wanted anywhere. So she bought a handful of diapers and accessories and started selling them herself.
What started as a stay-at-home mom business in 2003 has grown out of Nicki's basement (and then garage, and then a tiny rented warehouse space) into a brick and mortar retail store in Madison, WI (2009) and a new warehouse and office space in early 2012. Beyond Nicki's Diapers, Nicki created the Imagine Baby Products brand, Planet Wise Inc., and Best Bottom Diapers. The company is now located in Akron, Ohio, and has the most extensive collection of cloth diapers online.
In the cloth diapering culture, there was also an explosion of development. As a result, a slew of small cloth diaper sewing and retail companies sprouted up.
Cloth Diapering Timeline:
- 1849 - Walter Hunt invented the safety pin.
- 1887 - Naria Allen Invented the first mass-produced diaper.
- 1910 - Rubber Baby pants are made, and more impoverished families use flour sacks as cloth diapers.
- 1930 - The popularity of hand-knit wool soakers grew.
- 1935 - Diaper Services grew in popularity.
- 1950 - The prefold cloth diaper is invented.
- 1982 - Super Absorbent Polymers are added to disposable diapers.
- 1987 - The Snappi, a diaper faster, was invented by Henni Vissner in South Africa.
- 1997 - Catherine McDiarmid started BornToLove.com
- 1999 - Poochies and HoneyBoy! Diapers were created, and the popularity of cloth diapers began to grow again.
- 2000 - Fuzzi Bunz, Stacinator, and The Diaper Pin started.
- 2003 - Nicki’s Diapers began in Nicki’s Basement.
- 2004 - Hyena Cart was created.
- 2005 - Designer Cloth Diapers were selling for $200 - $300 on eBay.
- 2006 - Cotton Babies introduce the bumGenius brand cloth diapers.
- 2008 - Kim Ormsby creates her “All in Two” diaper, GroBaby (now known as GroVia).
- 2011 - The first Great Cloth Diaper Change took place. Five thousand twenty-six babies set the first record.
- 2012 - Melissa Huynh founded LalaBye Baby.
- 2013 - SprayPal launches its diaper sprayer.
How to Use Cloth Diapers
One of the biggest things naysayers like to say about cloth diapers is, “They’re so hard to use and get used to, and they’re gross.” They couldn’t be more wrong.
Not only is cleaning cloth diapers a piece of cake but using cloth diapers is even easier. We like to think about it in three steps.
How to Use Cloth Diapers in Three Steps:
Step 1 - Wrap
This is pretty self-explanatory, but you simply wrap the cloth around your baby.
But, of course, the way you wrap the cloth diaper around your little one can vary depending on your chosen cloth diaper style.
Step 2 - Snap
Next, secure the cloth diapers with whatever type of fastener you have.
This can include snaps, hook, and loops, plastic fasteners, or old-school safety pins.
Step 3 - Wash
Once your little one does his business, you obviously need to wash your cloth diapers.
To learn more about the washing process, click here to learn exactly how to clean cloth diapers now!
How do Cloth Diapers Work?: Cloth Diaper vs. Disposable
This is the great diaper debate you’ve all been waiting for - cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers. Cloth diapers have come a long way since the dark ages, and there are a lot more pros to them than you may think. That being said, disposable diapers have evolved quite a bit as well.
Pros of Cloth Diapers
Cost Savings of Cloth Diapers
One of the most significant benefits of cloth diapers is saving them when using them over disposable diapers. On average, disposable diapers can cost an average of $1,000 per year - and you can only get one use out of them.
Compare that to cloth diapers which at the lowest can cost around $100 to get everything you need to get started, and with proper care, they can last forever!
To learn more about how cheap it can be to use cloth diapers - click here to check out our blog post about cloth diapering on a budget!
Environmental Benefits of Cloth Diapers
You might be thinking to yourself, disposable diapers aren’t that big of a deal and that there’s plenty of other ways we can reduce waste. In a way, you’re right - there are tons of ways we need to reduce waste, but 4.1 million tons of waste was just from disposable diapers alone in 2018.
Think about that for a second - 4.1 million tons of waste. That’s the same as 11 Empire State Buildings of waste or 406 Eiffel Towers of waste!
According to the EPA, the estimated generation of waste from disposable diapers in 2018 was 4.1 million tons. Unfortunately, they also did not identify any significant recycling or composting of disposable diapers - meaning all 4.1 million tons of disposable diapers are just sitting in landfills.
Since cloth diapers can last forever, they cause no waste.
Peace of Mind Benefits of Cloth Diapers
Because Nicki’s is dedicated to families and creating a sustainable community for everyone, all of our cloth diapers are made with your baby’s bottom in mind. We never use any harmful or unnatural dyes, gels, or fabrics that can lead to more irritation and possibly severe illness for your little one.
Variety in Cloth Diapers
Another benefit of cloth diapers is the amount of diversity you can get depending on what you’re looking for. Our store has over 10,000 different types of cloth diapers and cloth diaper accessories from different brands, different types of cloth diapers, various sizes, and different colors and prints.
Now, this is where things get exciting - there are literally millions of different prints for cloth diapers. From solid colors (solids) or prints featuring dinosaurs, stars, pineapples, cool patterns, there is a cloth diaper print for every baby and every walk of life.
No matter what you're looking for - cloth diapers have it for you!
Cons of Cloth Diapers
While cloth diapers are amazing, there are a few drawbacks to them that we aren’t afraid to admit. The first is that they can be a little messy if you don’t know what you’re doing. But this is easily fixed with experience and a little practice.
Another con of cloth diapers is that they will increase the amount of laundry you will do. However, since cloth diapers require cleaning to be used properly - this is to be expected, and cleaning cloth diapers is so simple, this won’t be a problem once you’re used to it.
The last con of cloth diapers is that sometimes they can be less absorbent than disposable diapers. I sometimes say this because this is only true with certain types of cloth diapers.
If you’re looking for the most absorbent cloth diapers, click here to learn about the most absorbent cloth diaper fabrics!
Pros of Disposable Diapers
One positive thing about disposable diapers is the time it takes to change your baby’s diaper. You really just take it off, roll it up and throw it away. While that’s a positive, it’s also a negative because you’re literally throwing money away, but we’ll get back to that.
Another positive that other outlets like to talk about is how easy disposable diapers are easier to travel with because you just throw them away when you’re done, and you don’t have to bring them home with you.
Also, away from the horrible environmental effects (which we’ll talk about in a moment), traveling with cloth diapers is extremely easy and stylish with cloth diaper wet bags.
Cons of Disposable Diapers
Environmental Impact of Disposable Diapers
4.1 Million Tons of Waste. Look at the slideshow above. Do it. Are you okay with this? The environmental impact cannot be stressed enough.
Picture the One World Trade Center in New York City. Now picture 8 of those in a row and being made of dirty, disgusting disposable diapers.
THAT’s the impact made every year on the environment from disposable diapers alone. They’re the 3rd largest consumer item in landfills today as well.
On top of that, do you know how long it takes for one disposable diaper to decompose? 500 years. So, in theory, if Christopher Columbus had worn disposable diapers (which he probably did because you know he wasn’t that great), his poopy diapers would still be intact in a landfill today.
In short - disposable diapers, when compared to cloth diapers (and factoring in the water and energy used to clean the cloth diapers), weigh a heavy toll on the environment.
Compared to Cloth Diapers, Disposable Diapers Use:
- 3.5x more energy than cloth diapers.
- 2.3x more water waste than cloth diapers.
- Up to 30 times as much land for growing or mining raw materials than cloth diapers.
- 90x more renewable raw renewable materials (cotton)
- 8.3x more non-renewable raw materials (oil)
If you want to destroy the Earth and have nothing left for your little one to grow up in, then disposable diapers are your cup of tea.
Cost of Disposable Diapers
The cost of using disposable diapers is 8x higher than cloth diapering your child. On top of that, cloth diapers can be reused from child to child if properly taken care of, so they can often be a one-time investment.
Not thinking about having more than one child? Cloth diapers can be resold very quickly on multiple different platforms, so you can easily get your money back on the investment.
Higher Gas Price from Disposable Diapers
You might be thinking to yourself - “What? That’s just not right.” we implore you - keep reading - we can show you exactly how disposable diapers lead to higher gas prices.
Remember when we mentioned that disposable diapers use 8.3x more oil than cloth diapers? Oil is the raw material for polyethylene plastic in disposable diapers. On average, it takes one cup of crude oil to make the plastic for one disposable diaper.
So if you use the average 30-month usage of about 6500 disposable diapers for one child - it takes about 1,625 quarts of oil.
So assuming that one step further and factoring in how many disposable diapers are made in the USA year - the United States destroys around 250,000 trees and uses over 3.4 million gallons of oil every single year to manufacture disposable diapers.
To put that into perspective - that amount of oil could have powered over 5.2 million cars for the year.
The next time you see $3 or higher at the gas pump - you can thank disposable diapers.
Disposable Diapers are Poorly Made
Because they’re often made in poor conditions and exceptionally cheaply, disposable diapers will fall apart on you as you try to secure them. They also fall apart as they become weaker with the addition of solids and liquids from your little one. This leads to you dropping it as you’re trying to change diapers - leading to shit everywhere.
Disposable Diapers Can Cause Cancer
On average, about 50 different chemicals are used in disposable diapers that aren’t used in cloth diapers. Since babies’ skin is susceptible, it’s extremely easy for them to absorb these chemicals. Here are just a few of the horrible chemicals used in disposable diapers.
Most disposable diapers contain dioxin - the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals. What is dioxin?
Dioxin is a byproduct of the paper-bleaching process used in the manufacturing of most disposable diapers. Dioxin has been found to cause congenital disabilities, skin disease, liver disease, immune system suppression, and genetic damage in testing done on lab animals.
In fact, dioxin was found in 4 brands of diapers and four brands of tampons in a 2002 study. The fact is there - dioxin is in disposable diapers.
Now, some people may not think it’s anything to worry about, but I have one question for you - is dioxin something you want to touch your baby’s bottom every day? It’s highly carcinogenic - even in minuscule amounts.
Another one of the dangers of disposable diapers has to do with the inner padding of each diaper. These are made with super absorbent polymers that contain a chemical called Sodium Polyacrylate or SPA for short. Because these are contained within the diaper, they are considered to be non-toxic.
But if there is even the smallest cut or amount released in the disposable diaper (because they are poorly made and often have defects), the following reactions can happen to your baby:
- Skin irritation, rashes, fever, staph infection
- Irritation if inhaled accidentally
- Stick to your baby’s skin and genitals - leading to an allergic reaction
- Can kill a child after ingesting as little as 5 grams of it
- Can cause urinary tract infections in baby girls
If that wasn’t enough for you - there’s more. Phthalates are found in the plastics of all disposable diapers. What are phthalates, you ask? They’re plastic softeners that have been banned in children’s teething rings and other toys because of how toxic they are.
Phthalates often act as endocrine disruptors. These will mimic human hormones and send false signals to the body. Children are susceptible to endocrine disruptors as they are developing their nervous and reproductive systems.
Since disposable diapers are made with soft plastics to keep their shape - these are impossible to avoid.
Some disposable diapers have tributyl tin in them. Tributyl Tin or TBT is used in the dyes of disposable diapers.
TBT spreads through the skin and can have hormone effects on your little one, much like phthalates can. TBT also harms the immune system and impairs the hormonal system, with many experts speculating that it could lead to sterility in boys.
Other Random Things in Disposable Diapers
But wait - there’s more in disposable diapers.
Here’s a list of a few more toxic chemicals that can lead to asthma and other health issues in little ones:
- Methyl cinnamate
Is that what you want against your baby's bottom every day?
Best Cloth Diaper Brands
Another great benefit of cloth diapers is the variety, and that starts with the brands. Here at Nicki’s, we only supply the best cloth diapering brands for all of you.
As we spoke about before in our history of cloth diapers, Nicki’s Diapers is a mom-designed brand striving for quality at an economical price. Nicki’s offers every kind of cloth diaper you will need from birth to potty training, including many organic options! In addition, for every Nicki’s item purchased, one will be donated to a baby in need.
Community and family always have and will always be a leading value for Nicki's Diapers. The people who work at Nicki’s are family, lifelong friends, and community neighbors. Employees are encouraged to take advantage of the flexible schedules allowing them to work around family time and school schedules.
To further promote family values, employees are welcome to bring their young children to work whenever they need! Whether big or small, all business decisions are evaluated with our planet’s health and social harmony in mind - whether it be environmentally conscious supplies for shipping orders or reducing the number of waste products leave behind.
Besides strong family and environmental values, Nicki's Diapers strives to provide the utmost customer service to their community of customers. Fast and often free shipping, a 15 Day Wash program, Nicki's Rewards, free gifts, giveaways, and the largest selection of new and gently used diapers anywhere make Nicki's Diapers the most customer-friendly cloth diaper company.
Best Bottom Diapers
Best Bottom Diapers is another one of the best cloth diaper companies in the world. They understand that cloth diapering can be overwhelming, so - they’ve simplified cloth diapers with their innovative and economical cloth diapers that feature premium materials made in the USA.
The highest quality materials available have been selected, with as much of the raw materials made in the USA as we could find. All of our products are proudly handcrafted at local factories, helping to support the local economy while reducing our environmental impact.
Their revolutionary diaper system has been designed with years of cloth diapering experience in mind. They’ve taken all of the pros of all different cloth diaper types without any of the cons.
The Revolutionary Diaper System
Designed with years of experience, this reusable diaper takes the pros of all the different diapering systems and eliminates the cons.
How It Works:
- Adjust the snaps for the desired size
- Snap insert into reusable diaper
- Put the cloth diaper on the baby, and you're done!
When your baby’s cloth diaper needs to be changed - remove the soiled insert and snap in a new one. The shell can be used multiple times between washes, so give it a quick wipe and you're all set.
What began as Montana’s Diaper Store, an online retail site operating out of founder Kim Ormsby’s laundry room, has quickly grown into the inspiration that would revolutionize the natural parenting industry. In 2008, Kim created a line of eco-friendly parenting products to solve parents’ daily issues while nurturing their babies and developed The Natural Baby Company.
The Natural Baby Company found great success, particularly with the 2009 launch of GroVia, a modern, eco-friendly diapering system that took the market by storm. Since the launch of GroVia, the system has changed many lives. It compelled us to grow as a company. It pushed us to grow as families. It’s forced us to grow as parents. And it gave us the opportunity to expand our babies into healthy, mindful children.
Grovia’s mission is to provide the best products they can, at the highest quality for healthy, environmentally friendly parents worldwide. In addition, they strive to empower our employees and customers with the knowledge necessary to make a positive impact on the planet through natural parenting.
The mission of Thirsties, Inc. is to make it easy and affordable for every family to choose cloth while simultaneously investing in our local economy and sustainable business practices.
Thirsties Diapers is committed to sustainably building their business by focusing on the health of our babies and the environment. Only the best USA-sourced components are chosen for our products to reduce our carbon footprint, help support domestic textile mills and our local economy, and ensure that Thirsties diapers will last wash after wash.
They are committed to creating only the highest quality products and are dedicated to providing exceptional design and unparalleled performance while saving you money.
They’re very proud of the fact that all Thirsties products are manufactured in Colorado, USA, by a group of very talented individuals, many of whom are moms who work in the comfort and convenience of their own homes.
Imagine Baby Products
Imagine Baby Products has high-quality, economical, and responsibly sourced products for every stage of your cloth diaper adventure, whether you're a seasoned cloth diaper guru or just getting started.
Imagine Diapers offers a whole lineup for even the tiniest newborn baby! With several types of cloth diapers to choose from, each family is sure to find a diaper style that works best for them!
The mission at Kanga Care is to provide high-quality diapers while reducing landfill waste every day, working towards making our planet a healthier, happier place.
Their most famous cloth diaper is the Rumparooz One Size Cloth Diaper - the first cloth diaper containing their pattened inner gusset leak-proof technology.
Types of Cloth Diapers
Speaking of variety - there are tons of different types of cloth diapers for you to choose from. It couldn’t be easier to find the perfect cloth diaper for any situation.
All in One Cloth Diapers
An easy-to-use, one-piece cloth diaper, All In One Cloth Diapers, have absorbent materials sewn into a waterproof shell, making this cloth diaper as easy to use as a disposable diaper! All in One Cloth Diapers are widely available in both One Size and Newborns in “snap” and “hook and loop” closures.
Pros of All in One Cloth Diapers:
- Easy to use
- Caregiver Friendly
- No stuffing or folding required
- Stay Dry Options
Cons of All in One Cloth Diapers:
- Longer dry times
- Some families may need to boost their absorbency with a doubler
- Must be washed after one use
All in Two Cloth Diapers
In between all in one and prefold/cover diapers, All in Two Cloth Diapers are made up of a waterproof cover and absorbent material that can be detached.
In addition, most All in Two Cloth Diapers feature a wipeable shell that you can reuse up to three times before washing. While all in twos take a little assembly, the added benefit is an improved drying time as compared to all in ones.
All in Two Cloth Diapers are widely available in One Size options and limited newborn options in both hook and loop and snap closures.
Pros of All in Two Cloth Diapers:
- Easy to use
- Lower start-up cost
- Comprehensive options for insert materials and sizes
- Less to pack in the diaper bag
- Can be used with prefolds and flats
Pros of All in Two Cloth Diapers:
- Will need to update the insert size as your baby grows
- Not as easy for caregivers
Pocket Cloth Diapers are simple, caregiver friendly, and allow you to stuff absorbency to suit your child's needs. Pocket diapers are named because they feature a pocket that will enable you to slide an insert into it.
Pocket diapers are widely available in “stay dry” options that keep your baby’s delicate skin dry to the touch. In addition, pockets are available in One Size options in both “snap” and “hook and loop” closures.
Pros of Pocket Diapers:
- Easy for caregivers
- Can be stuffed with prefolds or additional inserts for overnight use
- Stay Dry options
- Affordable Brands (Nicki’s and Imagine) are available
- Great for beginners or those overwhelmed with all of the different systems
Cons of Pocket Diapers:
- Can be bulky
- One time use before washing
- Most options come standard with microfiber, while many parents opt for natural fibers
- Stuffing on wash day can become tedious
Cloth Diaper Covers
The most versatile and affordable diapering system! A Cloth Diaper Cover is a waterproof part that goes over a cloth diaper. Cloth Diaper Covers can be used with any absorbent diapering system- flats, prefolds, inserts, and fitteds.
These waterproof covers are breathable and fashionable, making them an excellent leak stopper for any adorable photoshoot. Cloth Diaper Covers are available in both one-size and newborn options in snap and hook and loop closures.
Pros of Diaper Covers:
- Wipeable for use up to three times before needing to be washed
- Affordable - you will only need between 8-12 covers
- Can be used with any absorbent system
- Paired over a disposable, you can stay leak-free
- Easy to hand wash and hang dry
Cons of Diaper Covers:
- Steeper learning curve
Fitted Cloth Diapers
The ultimate solution for those heavy wetters and overnight solutions, Fitted Cloth Diapers, are one part of a two-part system. Fitted Diapers are comprised of absorbent materials. They look like a diaper, are shaped like a diaper, fasten like a diaper, but they need a waterproof cover to work as a diaper.
Fitted diapers are made from natural fibers to maximize absorbency. Daytime and Overnight fitteds are available in sized, newborn, and one size options in snapless, “snap,” and “hook and loop” options.
Pros of Fitted Cloth Diapers:
- Highly absorbent Made from Natural Fibers
- Great for naps, long car rides, and overnight
Cons of Fitted Cloth Diapers:
- More expensive
- Long dry times
Perfold Cloth Diapers
Another great economical option, prefold cloth diapers are rectangular diapers with more layers of cotton (or chosen fabric sewn into the center, and less on each side.) While prefold cloth diapers are slightly more bulkier than flat cloth diapers or cloth diaper inserts, the extra absorbency is something that is worth the different thickness.
If you’re on a budget (or even if you’re not), prefold cloth diapers are one solution that works for nearly every baby!
Ranging from XS (newborn) all the way to XL to fit your toddler, prefold cloth diapers are available in cotton, organic cotton, unbleached cotton, bamboo, and even hemp!
Pros of Prefold Cloth Diapers:
- Can be used in all in twos, covers, and pocket diapers
- Easy to hand-wash Bamboo and hemp options work for heavy wetters and overnights
Cons of Prefold Cloth Diapers:
- Will need to update size as baby grows
- Must be washed and dried 3-6 times before first use
- Should be paired with a fastener
- Different folds make require practice
Flat Cloth Diapers
Flat Cloth Diapers can be a one-time expense when appropriately used—no need to size up or down for the age or weight of the baby. Flat Diapers can be folded down small enough for a newborn and folded to fit that older toddler!
Flat Cloth Diapers can take a bit of time to fold, but you can just tuck that piece of fabric into a pad and lay it in your favorite cloth diaper cover or stuff it into a pocket.
Also, Flat Diapers are the easiest diaper to hand wash and wash up quickly and easily in your washing machine. Flat Cloth Diapers are available in sized and one-size options in fabrics from organic cotton, bamboo, and even stretchy hemp!
Pros of Flat Cloth Diapers:
- One size option will fit newborns and toddlers
- Natural fibers
- Easy to wash and dry
- Wide variety of folds to suit your baby
- Can be used in all in twos, covers, and pockets
Cons of Flat Cloth Diapers:
- Needs to be folded
- Should be paired with a fastener
- Different folds require practice
Cloth Diaper Fit Guide
When embarking on your cloth diaper journey, your little one must have the best cloth diaper fit possible for many different reasons.
Cloth Diaper Pro Tip: Check the Sizing Charts
Most cloth diapering companies come with a sizing guide for their products. These usually are accurate, but you have to consider how different each baby is and the difference in the type of diaper and thickness of diapers. As an example, below is the sizing chart for Best Bottom's Cloth Diaper Inserts!
How Should Cloth Diapers Fit?
The perfect cloth diaper fit sits right at or slightly above the small of the back. The diaper should lay flat against the baby's body without any leg gaps. There shouldn’t be any extra fabric. The wings will be completely tucked, and the fabric around the rise will be tucked up and under. All absorbent materials will be inside and not visible.
With virtually all cloth diapers, when you wrap the cloth diaper on your baby, start at the small of the back, and hot dog roll the front - you want the elastics to be in the underwear line. Once you have that in place, pull the wings up and over the thighs. This should get you a near-perfect fit every time! If your cloth diaper is stretchy - use that stretch!
Benefits of a Perfect Cloth Diaper Fit
This is probably the most important aspect of having a good fit. If there are gaps around the legs or more than a 1-2 finger gap around the belly, you’re going to experience leaks. This can also happen if your cloth diaper is too tight, though, so always make sure that you’re adjusting the rise and waist as your baby grows.
If the fit is too tight or too loose, it’s not going to be very comfortable for your toddler or growing baby. Think about it like this - do you really want your underwear to be so tight that you can’t breathe?
Troubleshooting Cloth Diaper Fit Questions
Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about cloth diaper fit to help you out!
Cloth Diaper Fabrics
Understanding the difference between all of the different diaper fabrics can be challenging to say the least. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide on all of the cloth diaper fabrics. This list includes both waterproof diaper fabrics and non-waterproof fabrics.
Microfiber Cloth Diapers
Microfiber cloth diapers are very absorbent (it can bear up to seven times its weight in water), rendering it an excellent moisture absorbent. Microfiber cloth is made from synthetic materials-typically a polyester-nylon blend.
Absorbency of Microfiber Cloth Diapers
Microfiber is the quickest cloth diapering fabric to absorb, but not as absorbent as hemp or bamboo. Microfiber cloth should never directly touch a baby’s skin. A layer of natural fibers, chamois, or fleece must be on top of the microfiber. This prevents a baby’s skin from drying out or becoming irritated.
Pros of Microfiber Cloth Diapers:
Cons of Microfiber Cloth Diapers:
- Not eco-friendly
- Cannot Touch Skin
- Needs to be replaced every 1-2 years
Cotton Cloth Diapers
Cotton is a smooth, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or defensive case, around the seeds of cotton plants in the genus Gossypium, which belongs to the Malvaceae family of mallows. The fabric is almost entirely made up of cellulose.
Typically, the fiber is woven into yarn or thread and used to create a smooth, breathable textile.
Absorbency of Cotton Cloth Diapers
Cotton diapers absorb slightly slower than microfiber but are more absorbent. Cotton diapers absorb an ounce or two more. Cotton diapers are a budget-friendly natural fiber option.
Different Types of Cotton
Cotton Terry - a loopy type of fabric similar to a dish towel-soft, gentle, and locks onto moisture. This fabric does a great job of locking onto moisture.
Cotton Muslin - a loosely woven fabric that quilts up after prepping and is very soft and breathable.
Organic Cotton - softer than bleached cotton as it doesn’t undergo any chemical processing. The cotton used was grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment.
Bleached Cotton - what your typical cotton t-shirt is made of. It’s still soft and breathable, but through bleaching, it is now white.
Unbleached Cotton - nearly as soft as Organic Cotton, but the cotton used was not grown using organic methods.
Birdseye Cotton - a fabric that is made on a dobby loom, which results in a small, repetitive woven pattern that resembles diamonds or, more commonly thought, the eye of a bird. These diamond pockets lock onto moisture.
Organic Cotton Velour (OCV) - a feel-dry material. This ultra-soft fabric will allow your child to feel dry, but the skin may retain some moisture to the touch.
Pros of Cotton Diapers:
- Can be eco-friendly
Cons of Cotton Diapers:
- Can be expensive
Bamboo Cloth Diapers
Bamboo cloth is a natural fabric made from bamboo grass pulp. The bamboo used to make fabrics (not to be confused with Panda food) is readily replenished and grows without pesticides. Bamboo is one of the most environmentally friendly plants because it grows rapidly, needs no pesticides or irrigation, and biodegrades faster than oil-based synthetics.
Absorbency of Bamboo Cloth Diapers
Bamboo cloth diapers absorb more than cotton and microfiber but slower. Bamboo cloth diapers are soft, gentle against a baby’s skin, and are the middle ground for affordability and absorbency.
Different Types of Cotton
Bamboo Terry - a loopy type of fabric similar to a dish towel-soft, gentle, and locks onto moisture. This fabric does a great job of locking onto moisture.
Bamboo Viscose - a soft looped fabric similar to terry, but much much smoother- like butter. It’s important to note that most Bamboo Viscose is looped, but some forms will be flat and textureless.
Bamboo Jersey or Woven Bamboo - a woven fabric with a thick, soft, and tight weave.
Organic Bamboo Velour (OBV) - a feel-dry material. This ultra-soft fabric will allow your child to feel dry, but the skin may retain some moisture to the touch.
Birds Eye Bamboo - a fabric that is made from bamboo and cotton blend on a dobby loom, which results in a small, repetitive woven pattern that resembles diamonds or, more commonly thought, the eye of a bird. These diamond pockets lock onto moisture.
Pros of Bamboo Cloth Diapers:
- Soft and Durable
Cons of Bamboo Cloth Diapers:
Hemp Cloth Diapers
Hemp is sometimes referred to as a "super fiber" for the environment. Hemp fabric is constructed from the fibers of the cannabis Sativa herbaceous plant. It's a high-yield crop that yields much more fiber per acre than cotton or flax.
Absorbency of Hemp Cloth Diapers
Hemp diapers absorb the slowest out of all cloth diapering fabrics but also are the most absorbent. Because hemp diapers absorb more slowly, it’s best to be layered underneath a faster absorbing fabric such as microfiber or cotton. All hemp cloth diapering products are blended with other fabrics, such as cotton.
Different Types of Hemp
Hemp Jersey - a woven fabric that is mega absorbent and smooth.
Hemp Fleece - mega absorbent, can be slightly textured, and often includes cotton. This fleece should not be confused with the stay-dry fleece; however, hemp fleece does offer feel dry capabilities.
Pros of Hemp Cloth Diapers:
- One of the most ecofriendly fabrics
- Extremely absorbent and durable
Cons of Hemp Cloth Diapers:
- Can be bulky and slightly scratchy
- Not all hemp fabric is soft and flexible
Stay Dry Cloth Diapers
Stay Dry fabrics are moisture-wicking materials that can be used in cloth diapers to keep the skin feeling dry.
Different Types of Stay Dry Fabrics
Microchamois - 100% hypoallergenic that feels similar to fleece, but has a softer feel.
Fleece - created by spinning very fine fibers into a light cloth and brushing it into a soft, dense fabric.
Pros of Stay Dry Cloth Diapers:
- Keeps baby’s skin dry to touch
- Less likely to stain
Cons of Stay Dry Cloth Diapers:
- Synthetic Materials
- May become pilly over time
How to Clean Cloth Diapers
Cleaning your cloth diapers is a lot easier than you think. Cloth diapers have come a long way, and that includes cleaning them!
How To Wash Cloth Diapers:
- Start with a cold water rinse/wash with no detergent. This will rinse out any urine and solid residue.
- Next, perform a hot water wash cycle with detergent. Do NOT use the sanitary process, and be sure your water heater is not set above 120 degrees as temperatures warmer than that can damage your cloth diapers.
- Now, do a second cold or warm rinse. Optionally you can add 3-4 drops of Lavender Essential Oil, a natural antiseptic.
- Toss in the dryer on tumble/low
Cloth Diaper Cleaning Pro Tips:
- Adding a dry towel or wool dryer balls will lessen the dry time. Cover and pocket diaper outers should be hung dry.
- Ammonia smell is usually linked to insufficient detergent being used, and sanitizing them is almost always required to kill any ammonia-causing bacteria. Sometimes sanitizing needs to follow a strip.
- Barnyard smell is linked to detergent build-up.
- Borax is never recommended and can cause extreme damage to the cloth. It avoids most, if not all, warranties.
- Rockin Green is not recommended.
- Covers/Shells need not ever be treated-only absorbent materials
Before Washing Your Cloth Diapers
Each diaper manufacturer has its own guidelines for care and use, including detergent recommendations. Please check with your manufacturer to avoid problems with warranties! Generally speaking, we DO NOT recommend using bleach, stain removers, borax, Biz, Bac-Out, Biokleen, or Oxy-Clean as they may damage your diapers.
Cloth Diaper Washing Tips
- Dump any solids (use flushable liners to make it even easier!) or spray with a diaper sprayer before putting in a dry pail, wet bag, or wet hanging bag.
- Breastfed newborn poop is water-soluble and can be put directly into the washer.
- Attach hook & loop closures to laundry tabs before washing to prevent snagging.
- Line/air drying diaper covers and pocket shells can help extend the life of the hook & loop closures as well as the elastic (bonus- saves energy!).
Frequently Asked Questions on How to Clean Cloth Diapers
We often get asked tons of questions about cleaning cloth diapers - here are the most frequently asked questions on how to wash cloth diapers!
Cloth Diaper Accessories
Along with all the fantastic benefits of cloth diapers and different types of cloth diapers, there are a ton of varying cloth diapering accessories that can help you with your cloth diaper journey, and they’re a ton of fun.
While you don’t need any of these cloth diaper accessories - you will want them as they make everything so much easier and more fun!
Cloth Diaper Wet Bag
Wet bags are critical to your cloth diapering experience. These are what will hold your soiled or extra cloth diapers, cloth wipes, and baby balms or lotions. Wet bags are designed to contain messes and make cleaning even more straightforward. With so many different brands, styles, and prints, we made it easier for you to find the perfect option.
What Are Wet Bags?
A wet bag is a reusable bag made of PUL - the same fabric that allows your cloth diapers to contain wetness. It's a reusable, durable, and leak-proof bag that zips closed to keep odors (and liquids) out.
Depending on the size, wet bags will accommodate anywhere from 3 to 15 cloth diapers. When you're away from home, a wet bag is a convenient place to hold your dirty cloth diapers.
Why Do You Need Wet Bags?
While wet bags are necessarily a need if your budget limits you significantly, they’re honest to gosh lifesavers. When you’re on the go, you’ll need to place to contain the wetness and smell of dirty diapers.
Wet bags do all of those things and more!
Some brands even have two pockets- one side to keep your clean diapers handy and dry and another pocket to store your dirty ones.
Even if you’re not going out much, wet bags can be used as a diaper pail, especially if you’re tight on space. Hang a larger wet bag on the door handle, and you’re set without taking up any precious floor space.
Wet Bags Also Double As Normal Reusable Bags
Away from storing dirty cloth diapers, wet bags have millions of different uses - here are just a few!
- Breast Pump Part Storage and Travel - A wet bag is ideal for holding your pump and all of the pieces if you're a breastfeeding mom who pumps her milk. If your bag has a dry bag compartment, you can store the pump there while the rest of your belongings are kept in the wet bag section. In between pumping sessions, I just keep my wet bag with the flanges in the fridge. At the end of the day, I’ll wash the pumping parts, and the wet bag goes into the diaper pail.
- Toy Storage - Store your child’s toys, games, cars, puzzles - whatever is easy to grab, easy to clean wet bags. As wet bags are available in many different colors and prints, it’s effortless to organize all toys into wet bags that make it easy for your child to organize and clean up.
- Trash Collectors - Many wet bags have a snappable handle that allows you to attach the wet bag to your car’s headrest. As wet bags zip shut, it’s a perfect way to keep your car clean on the go without risking a leak or other fail. Just empty out the bags every day or so, wash, and hang back up!
- Swimming and Other Wet Gear - Toss damp swimsuits and trunks into a wet bag after you and your kids have finished using the public pool, bath, or beach. It works just as well as a laundry bag for flying!
- Snow Fun - Whether you're going hiking, snowboarding, sledding, making a snowman, or doing some winter sport away from home, keep everyone's coats, helmets, scarves, and even boots in a rain bag, so they don't get wet in the vehicle.
- Traveling - Keep your travel toiletries, such as toothpaste and toothbrushes, shampoo and conditioner, contact solution, and so on, in a wet bag to keep the rest of your luggage clean and dry.
Pail Liners for Diapers
Because you’re not going to wash immediately after every use, pail liners are waterproof bags that are used to hold dirty cloth diapers until laundry day.
Think about pail liners as a fancy garbage bag that looks better and is able to keep all of the odor contained from the dirty cloth diapers. Pail liners are a simple way to make your cloth diaper experience much more pleasant. If you have a pail liner, you can basically remove it from the diaper pail, carry it to your washing machine, and turn it inside out, depositing the contents and the bag right into the machine.
We highly recommend that you purchase two pail liners. If you have two, you can put one in the wash with the dirty diapers, and you can re-line your pail right away with the clean one, so you're ready to store your next diaper.
Click here to check out our cloth diaper pail liners now!
Types of Pail Liner Construction
- PUL or TPU - Most pail liners are made with this type of fabric. Both are forms of polyester that are treated with laminate to make them completely waterproof. This is the most popular style because they can be easily washed with the rest of your cloth diapers.
- Nylon - This is another popular option for pail liner, but it has a few drawbacks. Nylon isn’t 100% waterproof, and it’s unable to be machine dried.
Cloth Diaper Pro Tip:
Never line a pail with a woven material like cotton. It will absorb moisture and retain smells, and it won’t be waterproof. Stick with PUL, TPU, or Nylon!
Cloth Diaper Sprayer
A cloth diaper sprayer is a tool that makes sustainable diapering a reality for many families. It’s a water spraying wand that hooks up to your toilet and can be used to rinse diaper contents directly into the toilet, eliminating the soaking or dunking steps.
Cloth diaper sprayers are easy to use. They work just like the water sprayer attachment at your kitchen or laundry sink. Installation is pretty simple. You won’t need a plumber, and most kits come with everything you need to install.
Each one has a slight learning curve, so when you first use your sprayer, don’t open the valve all the way. You’ll want to perfect your spraying aim at a lower pressure, so you don’t spray baby poop around your bathroom. Once you get the hang of it, you can use more water pressure.
A Few Things to Consider with a Diaper Sprayer
- Ease of Use
- Adjustable Pressure
- Warranty & Customer Service
Wool Dryer Balls
Simply put - a wool dryer ball is an eco-friendly alternative to dryer sheets and liquid fabric softener. They are natural and biodegradable and can be used on both your cloth diapers and your regular clothes.
These wool dryer balls help prevent laundry from clumping in the dryer. The dryer balls also hold onto the heat from the drying process. Keeping the laundry from clumping up increases the airflow between your clothes to allow them to be surrounded by the warm air.
Shorter Drying Times = Saved Money
More importantly, wool dryer balls help to soften the fabrics of your clothes. As the dryer balls roll around the dryer, they will continually agitate the fibers in your clothes. In addition, wool dryer balls will help take care of static cling.
How to Use Wool Dryer Balls
- Wash Your Clothes Like Normal
- Put Your Wet Clothes Into The Dryer
- Put In Your Wool Dryer Balls (Normal Sized - 8-12, XL Sized use an additional 3-4)
- Start The Cycle as Normal
Cloth Diaper Pro Tip:
If you want a scent as you get with your normal fabric softener or dryer sheets, you can use a drop of essential oil on each ball to add an all-natural fragrance of your choice.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Cloth Diaper
Our customer service team is asked thousands of questions a day about cloth diapers. With that in mind, here are a few of the most frequently asked questions about cloth diapers.
Do you really save money using cloth diapers?
Yes! On average, disposable diapers cost 8x the amount that cloth diapers cost and disposable diapers lead to higher gas prices!
How many cloth diaper do you need?
Typically, having 2-3 day's worth of cloth diapers will work best. As a minimum, we recommend 37 for a newborn, 25 for infants and 21 for your toddler.
How long do cloth diapers last?
Depending on how you treat them, they can last forever! But, we have found on average they last two to three years and can be used for multiple babies.
Which cloth diaper insert is best?
For us, bamboo cotton is the best as it has the best absorbency and they're incredibly soft!
Do cloth diapers need inserts?
No, you don't need inserts for every type of cloth diaper. Check out the above section about cloth diaper types to learn more!
Can I put my cloth diapers in the dryer?
Yes! Cloth diapers can go into the dryer but, we recommend using a very low heat setting to avoid damaging them.
Are cloth diapers sanitary?
Do you clean your underwear? Cloth diapers are just like baby underwear! So yes, they are very sanitary as long as you clean them.
Do cloth diapers work overnight?
Cloth diapers can be used overnight and in fact, we make special ones just for this purpose. Click here to check out the overnight cloth diapers!
I just got my stash of cloth diapers together, do I need to do anything before my baby wears them?
If your diapers contain synthetic fabrics such as microfiber, micro-fleece, etc. they only need to go through a regular wash cycle!
1.) Hot wash with line 1 of detergent (we recommend Tide Original Powder)
2.) Cold Rinse to ensure all detergent is out.
3.) Line or tumble dry on low heat.
How do I store dirty cloth diapers/inserts waiting for wash day?
We suggest spraying dirty diapers off and keeping them in an OPEN laundry basket with a pail liner to store dirty diapers in until it’s time to wash. However you may find a system that works better for you! We do encourage you not to keep dirty/wet diapers in baskets with lids or in bags that are sealed closed to prevent mold and bacteria from forming.
Why are my diapers leaking?
Typically we see leaks when diapers were not correctly prepped before use. Leaks are also typical if you use liquid detergents in your wash routine.
I have a big baby can I still cloth diaper?
Yes! Best Bottoms BIGGER All in Twos are great for babies with rounder belly and chunky thighs! The bigger can fit babies 10-45lbs
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