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How to Use Cloth Diapers

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 2

Cloth diapering can seem pretty overwhelming to the uninitiated...

...that's why I decided to make this lens giving you the step by step of how to use cloth diapers

. I have 3 children, 2 of which were cloth diapered. I have bought and tried every type of CD (that's short for cloth diaper) that you could use---the fitteds, flats, prefolds, all-in-ones, all-in-twos, hybrids and pockets. (Don't worry if those names don't mean anything to you yet, I will explain them.)

There is a huge learning curve if you don't know all the lingo. I will take you through the steps of getting started cloth diapering.
How to Use Cloth Diapers
Credit: cheeseslave on Flickr

How to Use Cloth Diapers

The Steps

1- Chose a cloth diapering system
2- Figure out what accessories you need
3-Figure out how many cloth diapers you will need depending on how often you want to wash
4-Order your diapers
5-Use your cloth diapers
6-Wash your diapers
7-Rinse and Repeat ;)

How to Use Cloth Diapers
Credit: simplyla Flickr user

Step 1 - Choose a Cloth Diapering System

If you are brand new to cloth diapering, there are a few things that you need to know. First, there are several different types of cloth diapers, which I will go over shortly. It works best (at least in my experience) if you research the pros and cons of each system and decide what would work best for you, instead of ordering a bunch of different types to try out and then not being able to return them (although you can re-sell them in craigslist- yes, people will buy used cloth diapers!)

Here are the different types of cloth diapers that you can choose from:

Option 1- Prefold Diapers and Waterproof Covers

Bummis Organic Cotton Diaper Kit, 15-30 Pounds
Amazon Price: $169.95 $148.99 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 22, 2013)


This is the most economical of the cloth diapering choices, yet it is still quite easy to use. Basically, the prefold diaper is a rectangular piece of cloth with many layers (so-called "pre-fold because all the layers are already stitched together unlike the flat diapers of our grandmothers' time which had to be folded many times because they were only a large, single layer).

This rectangular prefold diaper must be used with a waterproof cover. Then you can simply fold the prefold in thirds and lay inside of the waterproof cover. The diaper cover can be re-used several times over several changes as long as it does not get soiled, so you therefore do not need as many covers as you need prefolds. I had only 5 or 6 covers at the time I was using prefold diapers.

image credit amazon.com

Here is a short video further explaining how to use prefold cloth diapers

Option 2- Fitted Diapers with Waterproof Diaper Covers

3-Pack Girl Kissaluvs Fitted Cloth Diaper: Size 0 (5-16 lbs)
Amazon Price: $37.50 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 22, 2013)

Fitted diapers are the next step up in ease of use on convenience from prefold diapers. They are diapers with fasteners (usually), either snaps or velcro. The biggest thing about fitteds over prefolds is that they have elastic leg gussets, which increases the diapers ability to hold in leaks and messes. Fitted diapers must be used with a waterproof cover, as they do not have a waterproof layer to them.

Option 3- Pocket Diapers

bumGenius One-Size Snap Closure Cloth Diaper 4.0 - Ribbit
Amazon Price: $27.95 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 22, 2013)
Pocket diapers are very easy to use. They consist of two parts- a waterproof outer shell with a stay-dry moisture wicking inner layer. In between the outer layer and the inner wicking layer, you place an absorbent "insert".

I usually place all the inserts back in the diapers after laundering so that when it is time to change the baby, you put it on just like a disposable.

The waterproof shell cannot be used multiple times without washing like a prefold and cover system, as the inner wicking layer gets wet. The benefit of this system over the prefold system is that there is an inner moisture-wicking stay dry layer that can help the baby feel more comfortable. It is also very easy to use.

image courtesy of amazon.com

Option 4- All in One Cloth Diapers

Swaddlebees One Size Simplex All In One Diapers, Owls
Amazon Price: $25.95 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 22, 2013)

All in one cloth diapers are exactly what they sound like. You use them just like a disposable, and there are no "working parts" or additional components to the diaper. The only con of the AIO (all in one) diaper is that it takes longer to dry in the dryer.

Option 5- All In 2 Diapers

Budget Bottoms Snap All In Two Diaper System AI2 (Coming Up Roses)
Amazon Price: $15.99 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 22, 2013)
All in Two
cloth diapers are a variation on the all in one diaper. The difference is that the absorbent layer usually snaps on to the waterproof layer, or is sewn on only at one end. The point of this is so that the diaper dries more quickly in the dryer.
image credit amazon.com

Option 6- Hybrid Cloth Diaper System

Hybrid cloth diaper
systems are a great innovation in the cloth diaper world. They are designed for those of us who like the idea of cloth diapering for the environment, but are not prepared for washing all of those inserts! This system consists of a waterproof, re-usable outer shell with a disposable inner absorbent layer that you simply throw away after using.
image credit amazon.com

Step 2- Figure out what accesories you need

I would say that the main things that you need are a cloth diaper pail and wet bags.  You can buy a specialty cloth diaper pail at amazon.com, or you can use a basic covered pail lined with a diaper pail liner made of waterproof fabric which you can wash right with the diapers on wash way. 

You also need travel size wet bags that you can keep in your diaper bag.  Remember:  you won't be throwing dirty and wet diapers away when you change them while you're out.  You will be taking them home to wash them!

Step 3- Figure out how many diapers you need


It is very important to figure out how many cloth diapers you need to buy. Part of that depends on the age of your baby, and the other part depends on how often you want to wash.

If you have a newborn...
Newborn babies go through around 12 changes a day. So you multiply the number of changes a day by how often you want to wash. For example, if you want to wash once every three days, 12x3=36 diapers. I found that washing every three days worked well for me. If you are using pockets or all in one diapers, that means that you will need 36 diapers. If you are using fitteds or prefolds with separate waterproof covers, you will need 36 prefolds or fitteds, and then about 8 or so covers because, remember, the covers can be re-used several times before washing.

If you have an older than newborn baby
Older babies go through, on average, around 8-10 diapers per day. So lets say that you want to use that average number, 9, and you want to wash every 2 days. 9x2 = 18. You see how that works?

Step 4- Order your diapers

I have found the lowest prices on cloth diapers on Amazon.

Step 5- Use your cloth diapers

Using cloth diapers is really very simple. I would set up your changing table just like you would for disposables. I used to have a pretty open basket where I would store all my cloth diapers in the open so that I could see all their pretty colors. That's half the fun of cloth diapering, right?

When you change a diaper, simply place the used diaper in your diaper pail and let it sit until you wash every couple of days. You can dump any...ahem....solids into the toilet and flush before placing into your pail, or you can spray it off in the toilet by using a diaper sprayer.

Step 6- Wash your cloth diapers

For every cloth diaper user, there is another way to explain how to wash cloth diapers. Everybody has their own detergent, routine, drying choices, etc that they swear by. I will give you my basic routine that I always used, and some links to detergents that are know to be great with cloth diapers.

Basic Cloth Diaper Wash Routine
1- Place all diapers in the washer
2- Run a rinse cycle
3- Add your detergent of choice. Just make sure not to add fabric softener!
4- Run your wash cycle on hot
5- Transfer to the dryer or line dry

Cloth Diaper Detergent

Step 7- Rinse and Repeat!

In other words, enjoy using your cloth diapers!

I hope I have done a good job of explaining how to use cloth diapers. Years of cloth diapering experience have been a joy for me. It sounds silly, but all those fun prints make the mundane daily diapering task a lot more fun!
image credit trenttsd on flickr


Apr 1, 2013 11:12am
cool article i didn't realize you could still get cloth diapers :-)
May 1, 2013 7:00pm
Thanks! Oh yea, there really big now in the hip mom circles.
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