How to Cloth Diaper

Written by Crystal, Contributing Writer

It was about 7 years ago when I started contemplating whether or not we would cloth diaper. They are certainly environmentally friendly and after all, are very cute. Despite the fact that the initial investment can be rather pricey, they actually save a bundle of money over the long run!  It's a win/win all the way around!  Well, except for the fact that I’d have to wash them.  Now that did not seem like a very happy chore at all.  But I’ll get into that.

Types of Cloth Diapers
The first thing that I discovered is that there are generally two kinds of cloth diapers: all-in-ones and pre-folds. All-in-ones are cloth diapers that come all together with perhaps an insert you stick into them, but they generally go on just like a traditional disposable diaper.

Dads, grandmas, babysitters, and those not really familiar with the ins-and-outs of cloth diapering generally appreciate these. They are easy. The downside of these diapers is that they are expensive. It can generally cost $150 or more to get set up with just enough diapers to last a day. If you are hoping to go all the way and cloth diaper morning, noon and night you’ll easily spend a good $400. These diapers typically hold up great and can be used for multiple children. 

The alternative to all-in-one/pocket diapers that I described before are the pre-folds.  Pre-fold diapers look just like the ones our grandparents or even great-grandparents used.  You get a rectangular “diaper” that has to be folded and tacked on the baby.  Then you place a cover over that. 

In the days of old, you had to use pins and such.  These days there are handy fasteners called snappi’s that work a lot easier than a pin.  The upside of these diapers is the price.  You can get all of the diapers you need to fully cloth diaper for around $100 or less.  These will also last you through multiple children.  Personally I always kept a few of each on hand.  These kept my costs down but the all-in-ones/pocket diapers are so easy for OTHERS to use that I made sure we always had a few of those around too.

How Many Diapers Should We Buy?

This depends a bit on your child.  Newborns who need diaper changes every hour or so, practically around the clock, will need more than an 8 month old who you might change every 2 hours and perhaps just one or two times over night.

It also depends on how often you plan to wash them. It is recommended you wash them at least every 48 hours…more on that in a minute. I have found that having a good 15-18 diapers around at all times was a good number to have on hand.  I always have 1 cover for every 3 pre-folds . With the pre-folds, you can replace the cover and set the wet one out to air dry. Then on the next change you can reuse the last cover.  I’d reuse covers 2-3 times before washing unless we had a particular icky change. 

Is It Possible to Travel with Cloth Diapers?

Play dates, the grocery store, the it possible to do it with cloth diapers? I think so! Of course, the downside of traveling with cloth diapers is that they are bulky whereas disposables are very compact.  But I never let that stop me.  Into the diaper bag they went.  I also always had a “wet bag” with me.  It’s just a water tight bag that you use to place the soiled diapers in until you get home. 

How Do I Take Care of Cloth Diapers?

It’s actually pretty easy.  Everyone has their system for washing and you might have to experiment a bit with your particular washer and the kind of water you have (acidic or not).  Generally this is how we did it. 

Wet diapers went right into a pail with a lid that had a large wet bag.  Soiled diapers were shaken out in the toilet.  If it was extra yucky, I kept a water sprayer nearby and would spray the diaper contents into the toilet.  Then into the wet bag it went.

Remember, wet bags don’t hold water.  They just hold wet stuff.  After two days I’d place the diapers and the wet bag into my washer.  I’d run a cold rinse then I’d add detergent (perfume free) for a hot wash with an extra rinse.  Then I’d rinse again on cold.  You use a very, very, very, very tiny amount of detergent (a teaspoon or less).  If not, soap will build up in the diapers and then they will start to leak.

After that, I’d either line dry them outdoors or pop them in the dryer.  This was our routine for three children for years.  It became very automatic for us.  Being very committed to cloth diapering, I never had disposables in the house.  I didn’t want to get sidetracked and fall back on them.  However, if we traveled on vacation for more than a couple of days we did use the disposables.  They packed easier and I didn’t have to worry about getting them washed. 

One of my favorite resources for all things cloth diapering is Cotton Babies. It's a place for one-stop shopping and there is a lot of helpful information on their site. 
**Note from Becky: I appreciate Crystal sharing her experience with cloth diapering. Although I use cloth diapers on our youngest, I only use them at nap time (in part because I don’t have that many cloth diapers yet) and therefore consider myself a newbie. I have never really talked to anyone about how to go about cloth diapering so I appreciate any learning I can pick up along the way.

Do you cloth diaper? Do you have a desire to teach others how to do it by sharing your tips in a post? If so, send me a message on my Facebook Page or email at becky(at)purposefulhomemaking(dot)com. Thanks so much!
Crystal is a former special education teacher who decided to stay home after her first child was born. Staying home was a completely foreign idea to Crystal. However, she followed the Lord's leading and is happily homeschooling her three children while also running a photography business.

Crystal blogs about life, homeschooling, photography and more at Crystal Starr
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Rachel said...

I'm considering cloth diapering part-time, too. Why did you choose nap time? I was thinking of doing the day before laundry as a cloth diaper day then doing a couple days of disposables...depending on how often I'm doing laundry anyway and how many cloth diapers I have. said...

Rachel, our son is potty trained except at nap time and bed time. He's a very heavy wetter so I use a disposable at bed time but cloth diapers for nap time. :)

Tara said...

great basic rundown. i've been cloth diapering my son for almost 3 years now. it is much less complicated than i thought it would be and i know i've saved a TON of money and kept MANY disposables out of the landfills. it was a great decision.

Unknown said...

I have found cloth diapering to be incredibly easy and convenient--no having to run to the store in the middle of the night for more diapers! The only time we use disposables is when camping (we go for a week+ and have to pack in water, so it's just impractical) or traveling by plane (they do take up a lot of room to pack).

Choosing to CD has been one of our best decisions when it comes to child rearing.

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