Cloth Diaper Basics

Cloth diapering is regaining popularity. If you haven’t seen a cloth diaper in awhile, you may be surprised at how much things have changed. If you have no knowledge of cloth diapering- the process can seem overwhelming. Here is a basic how to cloth diaper overview.

Diaper Choices

There are many different types of cloth diapers ranging from $1.50 per diaper to $25 and up. The first thing you need to do is understand the different types.

Prefolds- These are the traditional cloth diapers that your grandmothers probably used. They are folded and held together with diaper pins (less common these days) or Snappi’s. Prefold diapers require a diaper cover so that the baby’s clothes don’t get wet. Prefolds and covers are the cheapest way to cloth diaper a baby.

Fitteds- Fitted diapers are very thin. They look similar to disposable diapers in that you just snap them on. Fitted diapers also require a diaper cover so that the baby’s clothes don’t get wet. You can expect to pay between $10-$20 per fitted diaper.

Pockets- Pocket diapers are one of the easiest diapers to use, but they are expensive. The diaper itself is easy to put on because you just snap it on the baby. But before you snap it on, you stuff the “pocket” or inner flap with a liner or prefold diaper. This type of diaper does not require a diaper cover. You can expect to pay anywhere from $15-$25 per diaper.

All-in-ones- All-in-ones are like pocket diapers except that you don’t have to stuff anything- everything is “all-in-one”. These diapers take a long time to dry and you can expect to pay around $20 and up per diaper.


Before you use the cloth diapers you’ve purchased you have to wash them. Cloth diapers get more absorbant with each wash. If you are using prefolds, you need to wash and dry them at least four times before you put them on the baby. If you are using other types of diapers, one or two washes should suffice.

Your diapers will “quilt up” after washing. This is fine, as this is what helps them become more absorbent.

How to Store

Many moms buy something called a “wet bag” to go in the baby’s diaper bag. This is a small bag that you can put wet diapers in while you are out.

At home, wet diapers can go in a diaper pail. If your baby is formula fed or on solid it helps to have a diaper sprayer in order to hose down the diapers before you put them in the pail. However, this is not required. You can get by without it.

Washing Instructions

Don’t wash more than 12 diapers at a time. Many moms use special laundry detergent to wash cloth diapers- others just use what they have at home. There are many elaborate washing techniques that people use but I have not found this to be necessary. I wash the diapers the same way I wash everything else.

If you are using all-in-one or pocket diapers it is best not to put them in the dryer. If you want them to last, let them hang dry.