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Cloth Diapering 101

The Basics

Now that you're interested in cloth diapers, your first question is probably: "Where do I start?". You first decision is to determine which type of cloth diaper you are most comfortable with, and what your budget is like. Just like cars, all cloth diapers basically perform the same function, but you have to determine whether you're happy to drive a Kia, or prefer a BMW! However, most people like to try out a few of each, since different diapers are better depending on the situation. For example, you might prefer one type of diaper for overnight use, one for daytime use, or another when the babysitter is over.


If you're on a tight budget and aren't afraid to do a little folding, then prefolds are the diaper for you! Want to know how to fold your prefolds? Bummis has a great PDF describing folding techniques. Prefolds require a diaper cover, and if you want a nice secure fit, a Snappi is highly recommended.


Similar to prefolds, fitted diapers are shaped like disposables and close with snaps or velcro. The big advantage to fitted diapers is that they have elastic at the legs and back, which makes them excellent at containing messes. They also tend to be a little less bulky than prefolds. Fitteds also require a diaper cover.

Pocket Diapers

Now we're into the diapers that are more like disposables. Pocket diapers are a two-piece diapering system typically with a piece of fleece that makes up the inner portion of fabric, and a waterproof outer layer. An absorbent material is placed inside of the two pieces, making the whole system act as an all-in-one system that keeps your baby dry.


Also known as AIO's, all-in-ones are fitted diapers that have an outer waterproof layer already attached. These diapers are ideal for out-of-home use, as they are very similar to disposables. You could add extra absorbency via a doubler at night.


One-size diapers can be either all-in-ones or pockets. They're economical, as you don't need to buy different sizes of each diaper as they typically have snaps which adjust to fit your baby from birth to potty training. The one downside of all-in-ones is that they tend to be a little bulky on newborns.


Some accessories are must-haves, while others are nice-to-haves. Here is a list:

  • Two diaper pail liners which you can insert into any standard trash can. Two are necessary since you will need one for holding dirty diapers while the other is in the wash.
  • A zippered wet bag for holding dirty diapers while you are out for the day.
  • Detergent safe for cloth diapers. We highly recommend Rockin' Green!
  • Cloth wipes and small squirt/spray bottle.
  • A diaper sprayer for rinsing poop off of your diapers (once your baby starts solids).
  • If not using a diaper sprayer, flushable liners are another way of easily removing poop from your diapers.
Washing Instructions

There are many opinions about diaper washing, but this is what has worked for us:

  • Prior to starting solids, there is no need to rinse poop off of the diaper. Just place it straight into the pail.
  • Once your baby has started solids, use a diaper sprayer to remove the poop from the diaper. Then place it into the pail.
  • Use your washer's highest water level. Sometimes front-loaders will also have an "extra water" setting which you should select.
  • Pre-rinse with cold water and no detergent.
  • Use a regular hot water cycle and the recommended amount of detergent.
  • Rinse with cold or warm water.
  • Dry the diapers in a dryer, or hang dry. Hang drying will extend the life of your covers.

Keep these in mind:

  • No chlorine bleach. It will break down fibers and noticeably shorten the life of your diapers. In addition, it will most likely irritate your baby's skin.
  • No fabric softeners - these will cause your diapers to repel. However, wool dryer balls are a good alternative, especially for prefolds.