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Cloth Diapers 101
Cloth diapering is one of the debated topics when it comes to raising babies. To be honest, there are a lot of moms (and dads) who are too scared of reusable diapers. Parents are scared to begin using cloth diapers because of the “extra” work and upfront expenses. But don’t worry! In this article, we will break down cloth diapering so that it won’t be so scary. Consider this your cloth diapers 101 class.
What are cloth diapers?
What are cloth diapers?
Let’s start with what cloth diapers aren’t. Cloth diapers aren’t the square piece of fabric with safety pins to keep it in place. As time went on, cloth diapers evolved into cute and simple to use products.
A diaper that grows with your child? Truly a parent’s dream! This “One Size” diaper is made of gentle fabric for sensitive baby skin, a waterproof outer layer, buttons to secure the diaper in place, and insert to ensure no leakage and fitted leg holes.
Innovation at its finest…cloth diapers is reusable, ethical, money-saving and child safe. The image above is what a current cloth diaper looks like. This one specifically is a “One Size” diaper. Unlike the adult version of “One Size Fits All,” the baby version has adjustments for when the child grows.
How do you know if cloth diapering is for you?
How do you know if cloth diapering is for you?
To honestly know whether cloth diapering is right for your family, we must evaluate the pros and cons.
For most parents, the biggest selling point is the amount of money saved… Cloth diapers are reusable, so you won’t be running out to the store in the middle of the night because you ran out of diapers.
Disposable diapers cost about $2,200+ in the course of a child’s use of diapers. (Based on average age of 2.5 years in diapers) It is recommended that parents buy 24 cloth diapers to begin. If you’re using “One Size” diapers, you only have to buy the diapers once. So, you would spend roughly $480 on diapers for the entirety of your child’s diapering. You are saving about $1,720 in all.
Not so much! Let’s be honest, cloth diapering parents are constantly washing their baby’s clothes, so this may not be such a big ask.
We live in a time where everything has chemicals in it…this does not exclude baby products. There was research conducted in France testing disposable diapers for chemicals. If you’d like to read the research, the PDF is available on ANSE’s website here. They found that the diapers had 60 dangerous chemicals. More people would be using cloth diapers if they knew the potential harm it can cause their child.
Beginning cloth diapering can be expensive depending on what system you go with. You could be paying roughly $500 upfront. That is a lot of money to cough up for expecting parents. Although this is a lot of money, it is worth the savings. You can always put them on your baby shower registry or buy them as you can before the baby comes.
Cloth diapering can be done on a budget or even a few pieces at a time. If money is an issue for you, but you want to cloth diaper your child, start by reading my article “Cheap Cloth Diapers For As Little As $101.28.”
Environment and Ethics:
More and more people are switching to reusable or environmentally friendly products. Since more people are demanding ethical products, companies are stepping up! They have designed compassionate and gentle diapers that are almost as easy as disposable ones. Now, there are so many options and ways to buy cloth diapers. You can even buy them on Amazon here!
How do I get started?
- Step 1: Find a “One Size” Diaper.
* Finding the right diaper seems like it would be so difficult, but it is not. You can’t go wrong when choosing a reusable diaper. Here are a few of my favorites! You can click on the cloth diaper above to look more into some of my favorites!
* I recommend “One Size” diapers and “All in Ones” for their convenience. These are both the simplest cloth diapers to use. With “All in Ones,” all you have to do is put the diaper on the baby and put the soiled diaper in the wash pile. This is the most similar to disposable diapers. The only difference is the money savings and also having to wash them. You don’t have to change inserts because they are all in one.
- * If money is an issue, I recommend Flats or Prefolds with covers.
- Step 2: Get a Diaper Hamper
* Sometimes, it is too much work to just throw the diaper into the washer, so hampers, pails, and liners are going to become your best friend. With a quick search on Amazon, you can find waterproof bags to put soiled diapers in. They come in whatever size and colors you want. The one pictured below is my Teamoy pail liner that I use in my Dekor Plus diaper pail. You can read my Dekor diaper pail review here.
Where can I buy Cloth Diapers?
Where can I buy Cloth Diapers?
There are almost endless options when it comes to buying cloth diapers. There are so many options; it sometimes becomes overwhelming to know which to choose. Here are my Top 5 go-to websites.
- Amazon.com here
- CharlieBanana.com here
- TheNaturalBabyCo.com here
- HappyBabyCompany.com here
- DiaperJunction.com here
- AdultClothDiaper.com here
The websites I listed aren’t ranked in order. Some of these diapers are high end and cost a bit more, while others are more inexpensive. No matter which diapers you choose to use, you will be ensuring that your child is wearing safe and gentle products.
Types of Cloth Diapers
There are a handful of different cloth diapers. The diapers listed are going from easiest to use to more difficult to use. Although I believe that All in Ones are the best for beginners, you can’t go wrong with cloth diapers. Here is a guide to breaking down the terminology of cloth diapers.
All in One:
This diaper has everything a disposable diaper has, but it is reusable. One of the best qualities the All-in-One diapers has to offer is the fact that they grow with your child! The picture below demonstrates the different sizes the diaper can contort to.
According to the makers of the GroVia O.N.E cloth diaper, “The GroVia O.N.E diaper is a true all-in-one diaper (fits 10-35+ pounds) that comes with everything you’ll ever need to cloth diaper: enough absorbency that you won’t need boosters or doublers (even overnight), two built-in, interchangeable closure options, plus heavy-duty construction that is built to withstand time.” They also give an in-depth description of how to clean the diapers. You can find the Grovia ONE here on on Natural Baby Company’s website or on Amazon here.
All in Two:
Similar to the “All in One,” this diaper has everything you need. Instead of having everything you need in one seamless part, the “All in Two” come in two parts. The two parts comprise of the waterproof outer layer and the absorbent insert that attaches to the outer layer. Again, this is a straightforward product to use.
The pocket in an interesting type of cloth diaper. Instead of having everything in one, this diaper holds everything within a pocket. You add inserts into the pocket for absorption.
These diapers look just like the previously mentioned diapers, but they are different. These diapers do not have a waterproof layer. This means you’ll have to get a diaper cover.
The prefolded diapers are like fitted diapers. The major difference is the lack of clasps. These diapers have many absorbent layers and are significantly cheaper than the previously mentioned diapers. The folded diapers must be worn under a diaper cover.
The most similar to the original diapers, the flat diaper offers the user the opportunity to take a step back in time. This is what the original diapers were. These diapers are only a single layer and must be paired with a diaper cover.
How to wash cloth diapers?
No matter the type of cloth diaper you decide to use, you must wash the diaper before putting it on your baby. There are two types of washes I’m talking about here, there is the wash when you get them called “prepping.” Prepping just means getting them ready for your baby to wear! Then there is the regular washing after use.
One question that I get a lot is, “How do I prep my new diapers?”. So I am going to cover some general prepping guidelines briefly. The first thing you want to do is figure out if your diapers are synthetic fiber or natural fiber. Natural fibers are your hemp, bamboo, cotton, etc.
For synthetic fibers:
Simply wash the diapers once on hot with a little bit of detergent, and you are ready to go!
For natural fibers:
Natural fibers will typically take a little more effort. You need to strip the natural oils from the fabric for them to reach maximum absorbency potential. To do this, wash the diapers on hot 3-5 times. Then dry in the dryer on high heat. I just use a small amount of detergent on the first wash, then just use water for the rest. You will want to read the labels on the diapers! Sometimes these diapers will come pre-prepped. If the diaper is pre-prepped, just wash it once like a synthetic.
There is an alternative way to prep a diaper if you don’t have or want to spend the time washing 3-5 times. Alternatively, you can boil them on the stove for 30 minutes. Then remove them and wash them on hot once and dry in the dryer. It is a bit faster and still gets the job done! WARNING! DO NOT BOIL ANYTHING WITH SNAPS, VELCRO, or PUL! This should just be done on prefolds or flat diapers.
What about pockets, All-in-Ones, and covers?
Most of these diapers will have specific instructions from the manufacturer listed on the tag or in an instruction booklet. Typically, they are just going to require one wash and will be ready to go.
I forgot to prep my diapers! Now, what??? Don’t worry, the diapers will get more absorbent as you wash them, and no, it will not harm your diapers OR your baby if you forgot to prep the diapers. However, you can expect a less than reliable diaper in the absorbency department! I will admit there have been diapers I have been so excited to use that I didn’t prep them. No harm done! They just get softer and more absorbent each time I wash them.
Good news is prepping only has to be done once! You can then expect your diapers to only get better over time!
Everyone’s wash routine will be different. What works for me, may not work for you. It depends on water hardness/softness, ph in water, and type of washer. This is a basic wash routine. Try it, if it doesn’t work for you, reach out to us, and we will help you find a wash routine that fits you and your circumstances.
Top Loading Washer
- Cold rinse with no detergent.
- Hot wash with the highest water setting on the longest cycle with 1/2 the amount of detergent you would normally use. You may need to experiment with using more or less detergent depending on your washer, how many diapers you are washing, and your local water conditions.
Front Loader or HE Washer
Since front loading or HE machines use much less water, wash no more than 12-15 diapers per wash.
- Cold wash with no detergent.
- Hot wash with the highest water setting on the longest cycle with 1/4 the amount of detergent you would typically use. You may need to experiment with using more or less detergent depending on your washer, how many diapers you are washing, and your local water conditions.
- Cold wash with no detergent to rinse out any residual detergent.
The detergents used for cloth diapers should have no fragrances, phosphates, enzymes, bleaches, or softeners. These items can irritate babies’ delicate skin and affect the performance of the diapers. For detailed info on which detergents and additives are safe or harmful for cloth diapers, please visit our cloth diaper detergent index.
Do not use liquid fabric softener It will cause buildup on your diapers, which will result in retained odors and/or poor performance of diapers.
For the first few washes, dry diapers on hot. After subsequent washes, dry on low heat or line dry. Line drying will help clean, as the sun is a natural sanitizer and will also bleach out stains.
Do not use fabric softener sheets. They will cause buildup on your diapers, which will result in retained odors and/or poor performance of diapers.
It is best to wash every 2-3 days. Allowing the diapers to sit longer may allow ammonia to develop and will damage the fabric.
This was “Cloth Diapering 101,” we covered what cloth diapers are, how to get started, different types of diapers, and how to wash them. Cloth diapering does not have to be scary or daunting with a guide like this. I’d like to congratulate you on your new baby! I hope this article helped!