Curious about cloth diapers? Part 1

Home/Family/Curious about cloth diapers? Part 1

If you are considering adopting or transitioning to cloth diapers but still have many unanswered questions, read on! My friend A. is a recent convert to cloth diapers, she now uses them full time on her baby after having used disposable diapers (or sposies) on her first child, all the way to potty training. Cloth diapers can seem to be a complex system from the outside.

She and I had a lot of conversations as I tried to clarify all the information available out there so she could make an educated decision and in her case, seamlessly transition to cloth. I noticed some specific questions always come up, both about before and after “going cloth”. I thought sharing them might be useful if you are curious about cloth diapers and decide to give them a try. I split the questions into 2 posts: Part 1 addresses questions pre transition to cloth diapers, and Part 2  focuses on post transition questions.

I would like to start on Cloth Diapers but… what if this is a lot of work?

Deciding to “go cloth” is usually fueled by strong convictions unafraid of time commitment: healthy material on baby’s skin, minimizing landfills pollution, saving money… Even so, using cloth diapers (or CD) is not the time sucker often described. Rinsing soiled CD is highly recommended and totally on you, but your washing machine and dryer do the heavy load. No more stinky trash to take outside and diapers will never make your list again, or even more annoying, cause a shopping trip. Like late at night. And if you want to completely take the burden out of your hands, cloth diaper laundry services exist in most big cities. Many times I heard about diaper blowouts happening with disposable diapers… I use cloth diapers so I do not know what they are but that sounds like much work.

How is it like to prep, change, rinse, wash and dry?

All-In-One (piece) cloth diapers (or AIO) look just like sposies and are used the same way. If you have an All-In-Two (cover + inserts) cloth diaper (or AI2), just stuff inserts in first. Many variations exist, but for all types, when soiled, simply drop off #2 (if any) in the toilet, rinse off #1, wring out all water and store until laundry day, every 2 to 3 days. CD are dryer-friendly, but if you have time, space and you are interested in a greener approach, you can absolutely line dry. If the result is too stiff, throw your CD in the dryer for 5min and they’ll come out nice and soft.

What if I spend all that money and decide that cloth diapering isn’t for me?

I would suggest to start with 1 or 2 CD to see if it works for you, and then only build your stash: 12-16 CD are usually recommended. You can very easily resell gently used CD on ebay, craig’s list, but also babycenter.comdiaperswappers, and probably more CD community sites.

There are so many brands and styles of cloth diapers: Pocket Diapers, AIO, AI2, Prefolds, Fitted… etc. How do I know which one is right for me and my baby?

I recommend you define these 4 main criteria to figure out what CD is right for you:

  1. Style: AIO (all-in-one piece like sposies), or AI2 (either a waterproof cover with a fitted diaper, or inserts or a flat, or a prefold; Or, a pocket diaper with inserts to stuff inside)
  2. Size: One Size (OS) CD adjust to your child growth from newborn to potty trained with a perfect fit thanks to rows of snaps; Or size specific CD (Newborn, Small, Medium, Large)
  3. Material: covers/shells are always made of leakproof material but inside layers/inserts/fitted or flat diapers are either made of man-made material like fleece and PUL (fleece-like material that wicks moisture away from the skin and into the inserts), or natural fibers like (organic) cotton, hemp and bamboo.
  4. Closure: Most brands offer snaps (very durable) and velcro (perfect fit).

If you do not have set preferences, reading testimonials will help. A lot. offers video demos, reviews, and is a very resourceful retail site. Try also select your preferred criteria, hit “search” and then choose among the options that will come out of your customized search. BestBottom is another good site for AI2 diapers.

Other than the diapers, what accessories will I need: diaper pail, wet bags, sprayer, dryer balls…?

CD has become a big business and as such, offers many accessories. What you absolutely need is a CD-friendly detergent (good for all laundry, comparable in price to Tide), a dedicated plastic “tool” to scrap/push #2 in the toilet (a repurposed empty facial cream cleanser tube works great for me!) and a pail, basin or wet bag to store soiled CD. A ziploc bag makes a perfect on-the-go reusable wet bag. The rest is wants, not needs.

Which detergent is best to use on Cloth Diapers? I’ve read that regular detergents are not good. Does hardness or softness of the water affect the washing too?

Most detergents contain enzymes, scents, brighteners and dyes that may clog the fibers of your CD, decreasing absorbency and causing leaks. So you need a CD-friendly formula. Many options exist like Country Save and Rockin’ Green, both cheaper than Tide. Follow your CD brand recommendations about detergent dosage and check the quality of your water (a little more with hard water, a little less with soft water) so your CD rinse well and come out suds-free.

Whether you used, are using or are considering using cloth diapers, what other questions do/did you have before giving cloth diapers a try? If not featured here, feel free to post them in the comments section and we’ll do our best to share pointers and help address them based on personal experience and information available.

Check out Part 2 of this cloth diaper Q&A for common questions recent cloth diaper converts have after “going cloth”!

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