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Everything You Need to Know to Get Started With Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers can be daunting to get started with, but I promise, they’re worth figuring out. Mega money savers and much kinder to the environment, an initial investment of around $300 is all you need to get started, compared to the $800 expense of using disposable diapers per year.

Be patient, buy a few diapers to put on some stuffed animals for practice, and I promise, you’re gonna love it.

Here are a few things you need to know to get started.

Diapers Need to Be Prepped Before Use

Cloth diapers need to be prepped before use

Cloth diapers actually require several washes when purchased new before they can be used effectively. How well you prep new diapers will directly impact how absorbent they are, so don’t skimp on this step.


There Are a Few Different Types of Cloth Diapers

First things first, there are several different kinds of cloth diapers (and abbreviations for them) that you’ll want to familiarize yourself with:


  • Flats and Flour Sack Towels (FSTs) — This is as basic and DIY as you can get with a cloth diaper. Flats can be used interchangeably with flour sack towels, and will need to be folded and held into place by pins, a Snappi fastener, or a cover.



  • Prefolds — Prefolds are thicker and more absorbent than flats and are a bit easier for a beginner to get started with. Use them under covers to make them waterproof.



  • Fitteds — Fitted diapers can come with a waterproof lining, but most don’t. These are great diapers for those concerned with using natural fibers like hemp and cotton.



  • Covers — Covers are used over flats, flour sack towels, fitteds, and prefolds. One of the most inexpensive ways to cloth diaper is by using combination of covers and prefolds. Equally awesome is the fact that you can actually take the soiled liner out of your cover and reuse it after a quick wipedown.



  • Pocket Diapers — Pocket diapers are waterproof PUL lined diapers with what is typically a stay-dry fabric pocket, in which you put the insert of your choice. The downside of these is that they have to be stuffed before use, but the upside is that they often have a built in stay-dry liner to keep baby comfortable.



  • All In Ones (AIOs) — These are the diapers designed for people who just want to put one on and be done with it. They can be made of pretty much any material, and are typically lined with a waterproof PUL material.



  • All in Twos (AI2s)/Hybrids  — All in two diapers are like covers, only the inserts get snapped into place. These are another great quick and easy diaper to use, and like covers, can be wiped clean between messes.



You’ll Only Need a Few Newborn Diapers

Newborns outgrow diapers pretty quickly, so you won’t need a ton of them (usually 8-10 is sufficient to start). However, don’t skip this stage unless your babies are particularly chunky. Leg openings tend to be pretty baggy on the little ones, and leaks are no fun for anyone.

You’ll Need Somewhere to Store the Dirty Ones

There are a few different ways you can store dirty cloth diapers until wash day, and everyone has their own preference:


  • Cloth diaper pail — This was the route I went, because I wanted something contained and away from my pets. Diaper Dekor makes a great diaper pail with a washable liner that keeps odors in, without creating a mildew problem.



  • A laundry basket — Some people swear by keeping cloth diapers exposed to the open air to keep odors down. If this is your preference, a breathable laundry hamper is the way to go.



  • A wet pail — If your little one is of the age of eating solids, you’re going to need to rinse off poop before you put it in the washer (breastfed baby poop will dissolve entirely on its own). A bucket under the bathroom sink is generally sufficient for poopy diapers.



Cloth Diaper Laundry is a Science

Washing cloth diapers is a particular process

One thing you’ll quickly learn as you explore the world of cloth diapers is that getting (and keeping) them clean is nothing short of chemistry. Remember, we’re dealing with bacteria and poop here, and the stakes are high when these fabrics are so close to baby’s skin.

Your wash routine will depend primarily on these two factors:

  • The hardness of your water
  • The type of washing machine you own

You can’t use just any laundry detergent when washing cloth diapers in a machine, so be sure to consult this list to determine which one’s the best fit for your machine. Fluff Love University can also recommend a washing routine for you (trust me, it’s important).


Sprayers Come After Solids

Speaking of wash routines, as noted before, it’s important to realize that your washing routine is going to change when your baby’s diet does. Breastfed baby poop doesn’t need to be rinsed off of diapers prior to washing, and will break down entirely on its own in the washing machine.

When your baby starts solid foods, the poop will need to be removed from your diapers. Some people just rinse them in the toilet and keep them in a wet pail in the bathroom until laundry day, but I’m a big fan of these sprayers that hook up to your toilet’s water supply line.


Plan Ahead for Being Out

Cloth diapering during travel presents its own challenges, but with a little bit of planning, it’s actually easier than bouncing back and forth between cloth and disposables.

Get a couple of travel wet bags, and always make sure your diaper bag is stocked with a day’s diaper changes, just to be safe.


Cloth Wipes Are Actually Easier To Use

Cloth diapers and cloth wipes are easy to use!

A lot of people prefer to use disposable wipes, but in my experience, all that means is that you wind up needing both a place to put cloth diapers and used wipes — no bueno.


Instead, you can either make or buy cloth wipes (because seriously, they are so easy to make) and just keep things simple — not to mention avoid finding the odd disposable wipe in your washing machine.


You Can Absolutely Buy Used Cloth Diapers

It might seem weird, but as long as they’re properly sanitized before use, it makes perfect sense — cloth diapers were made to be reused time and time again, and there is a BUSTLING used market for them.

Join a bunch of cloth diaper swap groups on Facebook and you’ll find some incredible deals there to help you get started. I highly recommend the Cloth Diaper Swap myself. Better yet, when your kids are officially out of diapers, get them ready to re-sell and recoup some of your costs!


Get the Whole House on Board

One thing I will say about cloth diapering is that it very seldom works halfway — if your spouse isn’t on board, it’s probably going to be more trouble than it’s worth. Have a few talks about why you want to make this choice and save yourself the arguments later. Everyone has to be on board for this thing to work.


The Most Practical Way to Diaper

I’m a HUGE advocate of cloth diapering. Sure, it’s more laundry, sure, it’s an upfront investment, but it saves literally thousands of dollars and tons of diaper waste from sitting in the landfills for centuries.


Give it a try, have a little faith, and I promise, you’re going to be just as crazy as the rest of us in no time, pre-ordering new prints like they’re Gucci bags.


Have you ever cloth diapered before? Tell us your tips and tricks in the comments below!