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Lazy Mom’s Guide to Cloth Diapering

By Amalah

Cloth Diapers 101

Dear Amy,

I love your blog, and very often my days at work go like this…blah blah blabbity blah…oh, a new post at the Smackdown – Yessss. Now get out of my cube so I can read this work-related (wink wink) blog about cool stuff. LOVE. So I’m a mom to a pretty terrific 8 mo. old little man with the chubbiest and mos delectable knees, feet, fingers, elbows, and eyelashes. Good lord, the eyelashes. Seriously…somedays I am tempted to try out some mascara, but no. That’d be wrong, right?. Anyways, I love that you’re making the switch to cloth diapers, mostly because it’s something I’m pretty curious about but am nervous to try. At the risk of sounding like an idiot, how exactly does the cloth diapering thing work? Is it uuber messy? Do they really get clean in the wash? I’m so curious but hesitant to make the investment without hearing firsthand.

I work full time, and my husband and I recently rearranged schedules so he can be home during the day. It’s pretty great, and while I got to take six months for maternity leave, he never really got that chunk of time. Well, now he does. And so, of course I want to experiment with the cloth diapers and use him as a guinea pig. I swear, my husband is a saint and I’m not trying to make him cry. Mostly I’m looking to save a few bucks and you know, try to destroy the environment a little less.

Thank you forever. You are lovely.

Why I fell hard for Cloth Diapers

You know, before I started cloth diapering I was always baffled by the fervor of the cloth diapering people because OH MY LANDS, could they ever go on and on and on about cloth diapers. I mean, I get the landfill thing and all that, but the excitement seemed to go deeper than that typical smugness people get from their reusable grocery bags and their hybrids and their compost piles. These people seemed genuinely jazzed about diapers.


I really…don’t know how this happened. I mean, I am LAZY. I am one lazy, lazy mother. Mutha, even.

But I love cloth diapering. I do!

Let’s start out with the obvious: cloth diapers are cute. CUTE. They are a super-cute accessory for — let’s not lie — the cutest part of your baby’s body. The colors! The little pants! The fuzzy interiors! The bootylicious shape! And did I mention the colors?

You can go back and forth over the environmental impact of your diapering choices all you want (and there are studies that support the idea that the energy used to wash cloth diapers is just as bad as the disposables piling up in the landfills), but there’s no question that cloth beats everything else in the Adorability Department.

How do Cloth Diapers Work?

But! Fine. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty details: How do they work? Do they really get clean? Are they gross and smelly and yucky and ewwwww poop?

I opted to go with pocket-style diapers. (There are 243,793,450,138 different styles and options and I won’t lie, I got so confused by all the lingo on the cloth diapering sites that I gave up and emailed bloggers who use cloth for recommendations.) Pocket-style cloth diapers really resemble disposables — there’s a cute outer shell/pant thing that you stuff uber-absorbent inserts into. They fasten with snaps or velcro or snaps AND velcro and are crazy adjustable — you’ll notice the weight limits tend to run from 15 to 35 pounds or so. (To give you an idea of that range: Ezra weighed 15 pounds by four months, while Noah currently weighs around 33 pounds at three-and-a-half. So they wear the same size. Glorious.) (Noah, despite being on the high end of the weight range, is so skinny that he still isn’t on the loosest snap setting on a medium Fuzzi Bunz, that technically says it’s for 15-30 pounds.)
bgfeatures.jpgThe diapers come with inserts, though you can totally get sucked into a shopping wormhole by all the other, additional inserts and doublers and stuffing-type things that are out there. (Microfiber! Hemp! Unbleached cotton! Flushable! Oh my!) Fuzzi Bunz come with one microfiber insert, but I found that I need TWO inserts (or one insert and one cheap pre-fold) at night, or even just during naps for Noah. bumGenius diapers come with an insert AND a doubler (a smaller, thinner version of the insert), which worked great last night for both boys without making the diapers so big and bulky that I can’t get pajamas on over them.

How Often Do I Need to Change Cloth Diapers?

Okay. Now for the gross part: changing and washing. I cannot lie: disposables hold more pee than cloth. Cloth diapers, despite being All Kinds Of Fancy these days, will hit their maximum wetness capacity sooner than a disposable and will leak if you don’t change them. (Thus, a lot of cloth diaper users will admit to using disposables on long car trips or even at night.) This could be a deal breaker, or it could be the reason you finally slap your forehead and realize why your baby’s butt always looked so red and rashy. (You cannot use diaper rash creams with cloth, but luckily, you won’t need them, provided your detergent doesn’t bother your baby.) I have not had a single “blow-out” diaper since switching to cloth, thanks to the elastic waistbands, but I had a few pee-leaking incidents early on.

For wet diapers, which is about 95% of the diapers you change for a non-newborn, you simply open your diaper pail and shake the insert out into it, then drop the outer pants in, where they stay until you’re ready to do laundry. (We use the same diaper pail as we did when we used disposables, just with a waterproof laundry bag as a liner instead of a plastic garbage bag.) For soiled diapers, you shake whatever you can into the toilet. For a toddler, this is the easiest thing in the world since everything is kind of solid anyway. For a non-solid-eating baby, there’s often nothing really solid enough to shake, and you can honestly just rinse off the worst of the muck in the sink or give the diaper a quick dunk in the toilet — don’t soak it, that’ll amp up the smell in your pail. Or just toss it in the pail as-is, if you plan to wash it relatively soon. For babies somewhere in between, you can buy a diaper sprayer that hooks up to your toilet, or flushable liners that catch the solids BEFORE they hit the diaper. (I bought some, haven’t used ’em yet, since we’re still mostly breastfeeding, topped with a couple teaspoons of sweet potatoes or cereal.)

Washing Cloth Diapers

Now. Washing. The washing instructions that come with your diapers will scare the crap out of you, no pun intended. The debate over the best detergent are endless, with one website recommending one kind while another bashes that kind and the only semi-universally recommended ones are these weird specialty detergents that aren’t sold ANYWHERE except online, but if you use the “wrong” detergent you will get RESIDUE! and REPELLING! and LEAKING! and the SEVEN HORSES OF THE APOCALYPSE!

Here’s what I do: I toss the diapers in the wash. I run a cold soak or pre-wash if we’ve got some super messy ones. Then I turn on the hot water and run a regular cycle, using less than half (honestly more like a 1/4) of the “usual” amount of whatever damn detergent I have on hand. (You DO want to stay away from fragrances and brightening agents and oils and real soaps, but dude, THIS IS REALLY HARD, unless you order one of the specialty detergents, and frankly, that’s the one thing about cloth diapering that is just too damn high maintenance for me.) Then I dry them on low, and everything gets super clean and smells fine and then I re-stuff them and fold them while watching TV at night, surveying my cute little piles of diapers and OMG THEY ARE SO CUTE. Once a week, I wash all of them with a couple scoops of Oxi-Clean and no detergent, just to ward off any of that terrible residue and repelling stuff that might happen because I’m using a three-star detergent instead of four or five.

And one thing: I find a lot of things gross. Some stuff does make me squeamish. Bugs that crunch when you kill them. Horror movies. The scenes in Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares where he reveals how filthy and infested the restaurant’s kitchen is. My children’s poop? Please. It just…doesn’t. Over it. So taking 10 seconds to rinse out a diaper while holding on to a perfectly clean corner of it is like, not a big deal. I mean, I could tell you STORIES, people, of just how intimately acquainted you may get with your child’s waste and bottom business IN SPITE of using disposables, but I would like my kids to talk to me when they are teenagers, especially after ALL I DID FOR THEM AND THE POOP I DEALT WITH. So…just saying. There are grosser things out there.

How many Cloth Diapers does baby need?

I bought 15 Fuzzi Bunz and 12 bumGeniusmore than you need for full-time use with one baby, but we’re using two a day for Noah as well, plus…you know. LAZY. The entire cost was around $450, and will hopefully see us to the day when both boys are fully, totally, no-doubt-about-it potty trained, if that helps with anyone’s cost-savings-potential math. (Although when we travel? We’re packing Pampers, people.)

Photo from gDiapers

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Jess

    March 12, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Is it weird that despite not being married and most certainly not having (or being close to having) kids I am totally fascinated by this?

    • Lindsay

      March 26, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      LOL Nope, I am in the same boat and just read it lol

  • Louise

    March 12, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    We use the Fuzzi Bunz with our 16-month-old, and LOVE them. I was planning on getting on cost-saving and clever with our next one and making her diapers, but I’m starting to think I should save myself the hassle and just buy smaller size diapers for her, because it’ll still be cheaper than disposables in the long run.
    As for detergent, I use E-Cover, which can usually be found in the organic section of your grocery store, or a local natural food shop. It actually costs less than Tide, which is what I used in my pre-diaper days, and I think it cleans our clothes better than most regular detergents, so I use it for everything now. Powder or liquid, both work great!

  • Emily

    March 12, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    This is great – thank you! I’ve just decided to go for the BumGenius all-in-ones (3.0) with the rice paper liners (at least to start).
    I know the initial cost sometimes puts people off but we figure, between 2 kids, we’ll save at least $1500 on diapers alone by going cloth!

  • Isabel

    March 12, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    We used the flushable gDiapers for our son and WE LOVED THEM. Yes, we had some run ins with having to touch his poop. Yes, they cost more money then disposables. Yes, they could be a hassle when out and about.
    And also, SO freakin’ cute. Baby #2 will be using them too.
    All hail gDiapers!!

  • Elizabeth

    March 12, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    I switched to cloth with Baby#1 when he was about 1 and will use cloth from day 1 with #2-on-the-Way. Amy is spot on about how darling they are, as well as how easy it is.
    We use the same as she does, except I bought only 3 covers (BumGenius plus some tiny tiny ones for New Baby) and use mostly old-fashioned pre-folds inside. I don’t even stuff them in the pocket, just lay them in there. Even with my super running-around rambunctious 2-year-old, they stay put. The only time we ever have a leak is overnight, which also happened with disposables at times. I don’t wash the cover every time, unless it got messy or wet, so 3 usually lasts us the 3 days between washings.
    Because he’s older, I use the flushable liners on my son. We won’t for New Baby until he/she is on solids. The liners are really nice in that they make poopy diapers No Big Deal. You just grab the ends and flush that sucker! The wet-only ones get thrown into the diaper pail and washed and re-used. I usually get 3-5 uses/liner, which makes me feel better about the cost and disposable nature of them. We’ve tried a couple kinds (there’s only 3 manufacturers). The Imse Vimse ones are scratchy, but are fine after being washed once. The Kushies are nicer out of the package.
    We had a little wash problem in the beginning, but I learned a good lesson from it. We wash first in cold with baking soda (which neutralizes the urine) and then hot with 7th Gen detergent. If you skip the hot wash, your diapers will get skunky. Literally, skunky. It’s some chemical reaction that makes sulfur or something and makes a wet diaper instantly smell like skunk. Weird (although kind of useful for knowing when to change) but very fixable.
    I also line-dry and then fluff in the dryer the next morning. We work full-time and have a wonderful daycare that encourages cloth diapers, and honestly, I do 4-6 extra loads of wash a week for the diapers. It’s passive time while we watch TV or hang out and then someone has to hang them up before bed. I argue it’s easier than realizing “Crap! We’re out of diapers! Quick, honey, run to the store!”
    Switch! You’ll love it! Plus, the startup cost can be as low as a couple hundred bucks and that’s what? 6 months of disposables? And you’re set for any subsequent children. Just watch out, the fun covers are totally addicting!

    • Kelly

      December 30, 2014 at 10:11 am

      Hi Elizabeth, you are the first person I have come across on my researching on the net that explains how they DONT have to wash the outer cover every time you change a nappy!! I am half way through my pregnancy with my first and am eager to give cloth nappies a go but very new and naive to the whole process… I’ve been wondering how people can reuse a cover if just pulling out the insert as surely the cover inner lining would still be wet???? It makes sense that you lay the insert just inside the cover, is this how people usually do it? Or do the inner liners not stay as wet as I am presuming they would? Thanks again!! 🙂

  • alexa

    March 12, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Great post…it’s so hard to write concisely on cloth diapers. There is SO MUCH info out there. Just my two cents to say you can use diaper creams, you just need to do a little research on which ones are “cloth diaper approved.” Chances are you won’t need it thought. My little girl doesn’t have issues at all when she’s with me because she is changed very often. She sometimes gets a little pink at daycare because they do go longer between changes.
    My baby is only breastfed right now. And for me that kind of poop washes out completely without any special treatment. I just do a cold wash with an extra rinse in my front load washer.
    I’m not looking forward to starting solids though…

    • Laurie G.

      March 7, 2016 at 9:41 am

      Kelly – it depends on what kind you use… As Amalah stated, there are BILLIONS of kinds.  Some of them have inserts that lay or snap in between the skin and the cover, so those you can absolutely reuse.  The “pocket” kind are the ones where the liner stuffs into the cover (with a thin layer of cloth between the liner and the skin), so in those YES the cover will also get wet. Hope this helps!

  • class factotum

    March 12, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    This cracks me up and it makes me feel old. I guess we have reached the generation that babysat with disposables.
    So. I still remember the time I babysat (only once, then I stupidly gave them my friend Jackie’s number and she still hasn’t forgiven me, 30 years later) for this family for an entire day for only ten dollars. They picked me up at 7 a.m. and got back at 6. They probably just went to a parking lot and listened to the radio. I would, given what I learned about their kids. They had four kids, two in diapers. They hadn’t fed the kids breakfast. No clean dishes. Kitchen still a mess from supper.
    No. Clean. Diapers.
    Cloth diapers.
    First thing I had to do was wash a load of stinky, ammonia diapers.
    Then I spent the day washing dishes (I was stupid – I should have just made PB&J), feeding kids, keeping kids from jumping out of the second-floor windows, and changing poopy diapers.
    I am telling you, I would gladly watch every forest in the world turn to desert to use disposables rather than cloth. Yes, I am that shallow.

    • plat

      March 23, 2013 at 7:35 pm

      See, I get this kind of comment from my mother all the time. She did cloth for my older sister and disposable for me.

      The problem is: Neither of you understand how far cloth diapers have come.

      It isn’t the same world as 30 years ago, so giving your two cents is fine… but put some context on it and maybe have a little more of an open mind. 

      Environmental impact? I don’t give a damn about that. What I care about is the earlier potty training times, the overall health improvement(no diaper rash is a godsend-is it not?) and being able to always have something on hand without running out to the creeper mart down the road. 

      By the way, we’re using Country Save for diapers and don’t have the problem of several rinses and prewashing cold then hot and all that. This stuff works great.

  • Diane

    March 12, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    OxiClean is great, just make sure you get the “Baby” variety. There is something in the regular one that breaks down the PUL. And I cannot recommend Charlie’s Soap enough. I know it’s a pain to order it online, but everything else I tried ended up building up in the microfiber inserts after a couple of months.
    Can you tell us about the cloth wipes you use? A year into cloth-diapering, and I still can’t get my husband in on cloth wipes!

  • Elizabeth

    March 12, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    We used FuzziBunz and bumGenius until my daughter was a little over a year old. Then we started having some leaks with the mediums. I wondered if she was outgrowing them, even though she wasn’t that big. She did outgrow the smalls without running out of snaps. And I did find that no matter how carefully I rinsed the diapers after the wash and how often I changed her, she did end up with diaper rash from time to time; she just has super-sensitive skin. But between the stinkier poop that happened when she finally conceded that solid food was not the end of the world (no one told me about the special liners–those might have helped) and the fact that our new apartment has a really crappy washer and dryer and I was using a huge amount of energy to wash and dry them, I switched to disposables. And they are no where near as cute and that makes me sad.

  • Laura

    March 12, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Just wanted to pipe in on the energy use idea: if the ONLY environmental impact of disposables was them piling up in landfills vs. energy use for washing cloth, then maybe, they would come out even.
    But each and every disposable diaper you buy used water, bleach, plastics, cotton and petroleum to manufacture, then there are the significant energy costs of transporting those disposables from wherever they were manufactured to the store, and from there of course to your home. And then put on a truck to be taken to a landfill where they sit forever. Every diaper, every time you use one. Cloth diapers are manufactured once, transported once (if you wash in-home) and then just cleaned. They really do come out way, waaay, waaaaay ahead environmentally.

  • Suzy Q

    March 12, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Dude, $450 for TWENTY-SEVEN diapers? Holy hell. That’s quite an upfront investment.

  • Jackie

    March 12, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    We just switched to cloth a few weeks ago although only part-time (nights and weekends). I have a couple of Fuzzi Bunz (which I haven’t used yet) and the rest are Bum Genius 3.0. So far I really like the Bum Genius, we haven’t had many leaks (just a couple due to waiting too long to change) and the laundry hasn’t been bad either. The part-time thing makes for some pretty small loads of laundry, especially during the week, which probably isn’t very economical or energy efficient but he leaks through any disposable at night so it’s worth it.
    I’ve found I need to use the two microfiber inserts that came with the Bum Genius diapers during the day and one microfiber on top of a Hemp Babies Little Weeds insert. Cotton Babies recommended the hemp for at night. Microfiber is absorbent but if overloaded it could leak when you put your what-you thought-was-dry baby on your hip. The hemp holds onto the wet better.
    I also bought the Bum Genius Stay Dry Liners which I used when I applied any diaper cream. It keeps it off of the diaper (Cotton Babies does not recommend any supposedly “cloth diaper safe” cream). You do have to wash them separately so I just throw them in with another load. I’ve started using them all the time because I hate to see poop on the diaper itself…ridiculous, I know but they are so cute, they shouldn’t be pooped on!

  • Erin

    March 12, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Just want to pipe in two things, real quick.
    1) Charlie’s Soap kicks dirty diaper butt, if you have a detergent sensitive babe.
    2) If you want to DIE of cuteness (and eco-friendliness: support small business!) go to Etsy and search for cloth diapers. (And sometimes it’s even cheaper to buy handmade! I have had NO problems with my Etsy cloth diaper purchases…)

    • Ashley O.

      August 15, 2014 at 12:14 am

      I would love to know where specifically are your favorites?
      Newbie here and freaking out at the upfront costs

  • gizella

    March 12, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    We use a service, and besides the monthly fee, we had to get about 4 diaper covers (more from Freecycle actually too) or so. Since we live in an apartment, and have to pay for laundry, this does it for us. We LOVE it, my daughter does too. When we go on trips she gets a lot of diaper rash.

  • ikate

    March 13, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Good lord I LOVE it when someone asks about cloth diapers. We found a local granola-mom store that sold several brands of cloth and bought 6 each of Fuzzy Bunz and Happy Heinys. We liked the Fuzzi Bunz best and after about a month, sold the Happy Heinys and stocked up on a supply of about 12 FBs. Later we bought some uses FBs from some link through and had about 24 in the rotation because I’m lazy and only wanted to wash twice a week. We got them mostly in unisex colors because we plan on using them for future kids. But a few super-cute girly colors and prints snuck in there.
    She was in cloth only for the first 4 months then when I went back to work and she to daycare we had to do Pampers during the day due to some stupid state law that prohibits cloths at daycare. But we kept it up in the evenings and weekends. For travel, we used cloth for up to 2 nights away, longer trips were in Pampers. During her first 9 months she never had a leak in cloths, but had several blow-outs in disposables.
    We spent the $60 or so to get a gallon of Allen’s Naturally Liquid Laundry Detergent (plus the dispenser pump and shipping) and even using it on all our laundry it lasted over 8 months – so PITA to buy, but lasted forever and worked great not only on the diapers but all the newborn and baby spit-up, food, etc. stains. We still use it but found it at a local natural store so it‚Äôs cheaper with no shipping and guess what? It works great on preschool stains (markers, dirt, paint, etc) and adult stains (coffee, pen, dumbass who spills spaghetti on her shirt).
    For washing I did the same pre-rinse (threw the diapers in for a small, short load in cold water, no detergent – let it run) then a hot wash with one of those Downey fabric softener balls filled with white vinegar. Once every so often I “stripped” the diapers – a really good cleaning with tons of rinsing to remove any residue. Basically you wash them 3 times in a row – one long, heavy duty, cold water cycle with no detergent followed by a long, heavy duty, hot water cycle with double detergent finished with another long, heavy duty, cold water cycle with no detergent but add a glug or two of the white vinegar. This acts as a softener and removes any detergent residue. As a side note, this is also a great process for your bath towels if they start to not absorb very well. I also typed up the diaper washing instructions and taped them up by the washer so hubby could never say he didn’t know how or when my mom came she could help out, too.
    There is nothing better then folding those cute little stacks of diapers or seeing your babies cute butt wrapped up in a Fuzzi Bunz.

  • Iconoclast

    March 13, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    I posted some of this on Amalah’s blog, so I apologize for the repetition for some of you, but I thought is worth repeating. It is odd how passionate we get about cloth diapers, myself included.
    While I agree the Fuzzibunz/Bumgenius fancy diapers are awesome, cute, adorable and easy to put on, if you are looking for a lower cost alternative, you can use pre-folds with diaper covers and they work just as well. (And I think they are awsome too!) The covers I recommend and have been using for over two years with my boy are the Bummis Super Whisper wraps with velcro closures. They have held a breathtaking amount of waste with NO LEAKS!I have tried many of the fancy diapers (including Fuzzi Bunz) and settled on the prefolds because of their ease, simplicity, flexibility and LOW COST. And, they totally work. The only blowouts I ever experienced were in disposables. Like many of you, I did use disposables at night for the increased absorbance and when going out for convenience, but a mega-pack of those would last us a few months. In the last few months I switched the night diaper from disposable to a “double diaper” (one small prefold folded inside a large prefold)and that is working well for us, so the disposable use has gone down even further. (Good thing too, as the disposable diapers get smaller in number and higher in price as the size goes up!)
    I am the epitome of lazy. There is no way I will sign up for extra work just for the hell of it. Because the prefolds are relatively cheap, I made sure I got lots of diapers and covers so I wouldn’t run out right away, so I do laundry twice a week, occasionally I get extra lazy and do it once a week. (not recommeded – it’s a huge load, the ammonia gets super ripe, but hey, whatever works) I use Tide, no fancy detergent, and the simplest washing procedure I could find: a quick prewash in cold water with no detergent, and a hot water wash with about 1/2 of the detergent I would use for a normal wash. I dry them in the dryer on hot. (BTW we have old, conventional washer and dryer that came with our house, they are even colour mismatched, but they manage to do the job) I have never had to bleach or strip my diapers, and they have been in continuous use for over two years. Keep in mind though, I don’t have the expectation of pristine white diapers coming out of the wash, especially since the prefolds are cotton. There is some staining, but the diaper is clean, and really, it will just get poop on it again, so why get all bent out of shape about it? I plan on giving them a good bleaching and perhaps a stripping treatment before I put them away for storage when we are finally done with them for this baby.
    As far as wipes go, I use white flannel serged squares I bought along with my diapers that I fold “tissue type” and store in a wipes warmer. The solution I use is those little natural soap chips dissolved in hot water. Again, this is simply for convenience, you can easily make a solution using diluted baby oil and baby shampoo, there’s recipes all over the internet, but I prefer to keep it simple due to the aforementioned laziness. Also, the wipes get stained too, but again, I don’t really care.
    My son rarely had/has diaper rash, never while being exclusively breastfed, but those solid poops can get pretty nasty sometimes…whenever I need it, I use a natural olive oil and beeswax based cream on his bum and it works wonders. This is just a barrier cream, it has no titanium dioxide (the white stuff) like Penaten or the others, so it’s just fine to use with cloth diapers. Also, I think the all-in-one diapers have more of a tendency to hold on to build up of detergent and cream beacuse they are polyester, so they may need extra care to make sure they remain absorbent.
    Oh and finally, I work full time and take care of the whole diaper washing business by myself (deal made with husband – he gets to clean kitty litter forever – hah!)and it is quite doable.
    I got the bulk of my diaper supplies on, they have some nice package prices, but there are literally TONS of retailers, both internet and local, so you really need to check your prices and also make sure you are getting the good quality “Chinese” prefolds.
    I think that is all..good luck and welcome to the cloth diaper club!

  • Alias Mother

    March 13, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    I’m with Iconoclast: prefolds and Bummis covers are a cheaper, just as effective way to go. And the covers come in fun prints, too. We’ve gone through two buying cycles in 16 months (she outgrew the smalls at around 8 months) and spent probably $300 on the whole she-bang.
    My washer has a “Sanitary” cycle, so I do a cold soak and then just run that. For detergents, I’ve used everything from Planet to Sun & Earth to All Free & Clear with no problems. I do one load a week (daycare won’t use cloth, so we’re just evenings and weekends). Sure, it gets a little ripe but whatever.
    One note: I wash my covers separately than the diapers, since the hardcore sanitary wash made the first round leak after a while. I assume the extended exposure to ultra-hot water broke down the water-resistant layer. So now they just get a quick wash on hot. Works great.

  • eva

    March 13, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Love all this cloth diapering posting! yay for the hippies!
    My two cents: we use disposables on vacations too, but not Pampers. I hate pampers/huggies/luvs etc. Try the 7th Generation disposables – they are unbleached AND as a bonus have no irritating licensed characters parading across the waistbands. They still have the gel core so are super absorbent. Like 14 hours in one diaper absorbent. Seriously. And no leaks.
    Editor: need to chime in that I have learned that NO disposable diaper is made with bleach. Every disposable diaper company could make the claim that their diapers are unbleached 😉

  • eva

    March 14, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    But pampers etc are WHITE…this is not a naturally occurring colour for paper-y products. If there isn’t bleach then is there something more sinister? And what about the icky dyes used to make the pics of sesame street & disney characters? WORK WITH ME HERE!
    Editor: Eva, I’ll gladly WORK WITH YOU. Never wrote we wouldn’t. 😉
    Not an expert on diaper product production, though I have spoken to people who are. As I understand it, the “non-bleach” claims have to do with the wood pulp used to make the diaper paper. The process used in bleaching pulp is no longer used in the industry, period. That is why everyone can make that claim. Your questions about ink dye for the characters are different and one I am not prepared to answer. I’ll see if I can get an answer on Monday.

  • karen

    March 15, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Country Save laundry soap is my favorite. For $50, Amazon delivers a two year supply (four 10 lb. boxes) to my door. It’s awesome for diapers. Yes, a two year supply for a two adult, two kid, cloth diapering family.

  • EH

    March 16, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Tangent, but since I’m not going to use cloth diapers (you folks that think you’re lazy just ain’t seen lazy yet), I’m wondering why disposable diaper manufacturers refuse to make diapers in cute colors and stuff. Surely they could manage that. Why do they all have to be white-with-stupid-cartoons? Is it because they think we wouldn’t pay more for some navy blue or spring green diapers? ‘Cause I bet we would.

  • seadragon

    March 17, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Great post. I just sent it to a couple of pregnant women who are considering cloth.!
    Sharing our experiences with cloth…
    We have been using cloth diapers for our now-one-year-old son since about a week after he was born. I had inquired with a local diaper service (Baby’s Choice Diapers in Philadelphia) and they assumed I was signing up, so they showed up at my apartment building one day with a bag of diapers. The guy showed us how to fold the diapers, how to use the Snappi which keeps the cloth diaper in place, and sold us a couple of LiteWrap covers. It looked so easy that we signed up and we have been using these diapers ever since. I’ve since bought Thirsties covers in a larger size because they are much cuter than LiteWrap (brighter fun colors and not as bulky).
    If you’re really lazy and still want to cloth diaper, a service is the greatest thing ever. (Amalah says she is lazy, but she washes her own diapers. A diaper service is for the truly lazy.) I put the wet diapers in a pail (just like throwing out disposables) and the poop in the dirty diapers get dumped in the toilet first before putting the diaper in the pail. Once a week I put the dirty diapers out for pick up and get a bag of clean diapers in return. We currently pay $15.45 for 60 diapers a week. (It’s something like $16 for 100 diapers.)
    We have three babysitters (college students) who have no problem with using the cloth diapers (neither grossed out, nor do they find them difficult) and they have said that they think they will use cloth with their own babies in the future.
    I would like to say that we use cloth for environmental reasons, but really it’s just a nice side benefit. Truly it’s because with a diaper service it’s just SO convenient (we don’t even have to go out to get new diapers) and they look cute and I really do think that it keeps diaper rashes down. (If we see signs of a rash, we use California Baby diaper rash creme, which smells nice and works immediately!)
    (We actually do use disposables when we travel or if we’ll be out for hours on end because it’s just gross to carry around a poopy diaper. But otherwise, we do cloth all the time.)

  • Laurel

    March 18, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    We loved Fuzzi Bunz! Yes, the pricetag seemed hefty at first, but only because I was used to buying Pampers at $30 a box. Once I tallied up the price, it was a no-brainer. Especially when the same investment lasted through two kids, and beyond.
    As for diaper cream, there are definitely some out there to use with cloth, including Triple Paste, which we used when needed. You can get it at Sam’s and Costco (sometimes you have to special order it) and probably other places as well.

  • Lacy Pearson

    March 21, 2009 at 10:22 am

    I’m 38 weeks pregnant with my first baby and planing on using cloth diapers. I live in the midwest and unfortunately do not know another single person who is using cloth for their babies. The few times I’ve mentioned cloth people act like I’m from another planet. I really appreciate this post, it has really helped me feel more confidant about my decision. Any ideas on how to promote their use in Indianapolis would be great!

  • Kathy

    March 23, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    I was wondering how many covers you need for a week? Do you just change the inserts or the folded cloth diaper and reuse the cover? Or do you use a new cover with every diaper change? How often do you wash the covers? Thanks!!!

  • mamatank

    July 11, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    okay, everyone needs to relax with the cloth diapering. you’re all over-complicating it!
    here is what we do… i think its MUCH easier.
    at babies-r-us we bought 5 packs of organic cotton prefolds, some pins, some cloth wipes and a pack or two of plain white waterproof pants (they come in different sizes). this cost less than $60. my son is only 3 months old, which means he pees A LOT, plus we change him as soon as he’s wet, so we wash a load of diapers every day. we simply throw them all into washer (i don’t rinse the poo off-he’s breastfed, so its no where near solid), add about half the recommended amount of dreft, and wash/rinse on cold. then they go in the dryer (except the waterproof pants! they will MELT!). it takes me about 15 minutes to fold all the diapers, wipes, clothing, etc. (yes, clothing goes in too. yes, with the poo. its a WASHING MACHINE. its job is to CLEAN.) everything is clean, there is no residue, no smell, they’re perfectly fine. i promise.
    the reason the fancy diapers need such complicated washing/drying instructions is because they are made of so many different materials.
    everyone seems to ignore prefolds for some reason. they’re really easy though. it isn’t difficult to fold them at all. and the pins? if you’re careful, you won’t stab even a very wiggly baby. after a while you’ll be able to do it with your eyes closed. (they also make diaper pin alternatives now, if you really can’t handle pins.)
    and the covers are rather plain, but you could easily go online and find some cute ones. or not, because you know, it’ll be covered by a onesie most of the time anyway 🙂
    oh, and for when my son gets older and the prefolds don’t fit anymore and he doesn’t need to be changed as often, we ordered some one-size hemp babykicks.

    • Meghan Futterleib

      October 6, 2015 at 8:08 am

      Thank you for this post. I have done what you did with the Babies R Us and I am kind of freaking out because everyone seems to have the real expensive insert this, prefold this, line this, wash this, etc diapers. So what I have done will work. I am not planning on having my daughter in a wet diaper for 14 hours, are you kidding me,  so changing when she goes, I am foreseeing is not going to be a problem.  I am much more relaxed now. 3 more weeks to go and I think we are ready for the diaper part anyway. Thank you again for putting my head into reality.

  • Meg in VT

    January 8, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Here here to cloth diapers for the next person who wants to read ALL these comments. I got too confused by all the pocket diapers and went with 100% cotton prefolds with covers. Love Bummi’s new ‘super-brites’ — soooo cute. We also use Thirstie’s duo wraps which have adjustable snaps so fit for a long time. I throw my covers in with regular clothes so they last longer, or hand-wash every so often (and if you change often they can be used for a couple of changes unless there’s a poop blowout….) We’re even going to flat diapers as our little girl gets bigger — they air-dry faster, so we don’t even use a drier. More high maintenance to fold, but for some reason I like doing laundry — it scratches some good OCD itch to fold all that nice clean cotton for me…. Therefore I almost never feel like vacuuming ;->>
    I guess the pocket dipes may seem easier (no pinning), but I just prefer 100% cotton on my baby’s bum! and they are so much cheaper! Snappi fasteners are great so you don’t have to pin, too. And cotton is much, much cheaper.
    We used disposables on a recent road trip, and I was just so glad to be home and have the cotton back on. The disposables smell funny to me — I think the scent they use to make you not have to smell poo smells WAAAY worse than a little baby poo. Which hardly smells, at least from a breast fed bum.
    BTW, we do use diaper rash cream (Burt’s Bee Baby Bee) since our LO has uber-sensitive skin and when she’s teething — ie, now — gets rash no matter what. It seems to be fine with our cotton diapers. I rinse them all out completely before putting in the pail (and notice no smell) so I can run just one hot wash. We use Charlie’s, another plug. Also check out Green Mountain diapers, which we use because Karen is a crazy cloth-diaper nut! I love all her treatises on diapering and washing. And she’s so close to us that I get diapers, no joke, next-day. It’s easier than driving to town to buy something!

  • chelsea

    July 16, 2013 at 1:07 am

    Thank you. Your post was the best info i have found to explain this mess to me!

  • amber

    August 1, 2013 at 10:48 am

    LOVE your article!!! You eased about half my worst fears with the detergent paragraph and your rejection of high maintenance detergents! I want to cloth diaper purely fOr the cute bum and to save some cash. Thanks for your tips and your low-maintenance point if view:)

  • Jenn

    August 11, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    We use soap nut liquid to wash our diaper. It’s cheap and eco-friendly. Check it out.

  • brittany

    February 16, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    I loved your post! Love how real you are about the ins and outs of CDing!! I just wanted to share that there are several diaper rash creams you can use, bought or homemade, that won’t ruin your CDs!! Stay away from petroleum products, lots of beeswax, and fish oil.

  • Emily

    June 22, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Ok nobody shoot me here…but what has been your experience with like a family member watching your kids or a baby sitter? Do you have to train them how to do this and do they accept it? I am not a stay at home mom, and love the idea of not disposable diapers, but am not sure how daycare will feel about them. How would that even work? Thanks.

  • Ami

    August 14, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    You seriously need to get the Bumkins disposable liners for non-breastmilk poops.  I put one in for overnight diapers or whenever I’m expecting a poop, and then I just toss it and the poop in the trash.  So easy.  I absolutely love cloth diapering, and I don’t understand why more people don’t at least give it a try.  I’m too lazy to go the pre-fold or flat route, but I’m all about pockets and AIO.  BG Freetime and 4.0, Coqui Hero and Rumperooz are my favorites.  I use Seventh Generation Free and Clear detergent, which you can literally buy almost anywhere, and Oxi-clean and Rockin Green to strip once a month.

  • Rhonda

    September 9, 2014 at 6:54 am

    Wow! Don’t ask me how I came to this site, I can’t remember, but I think I saw pictures of my nephew’s little girls and noticed that the baby was wearing what looked like a CLOTH DIAPER AND PLASTIC PANTS!!! So here I am, and I am a 64 year old mother of five and grandmother of five. (So far) I used cloth diapers on my oldest four. If you’re really on a tight budget, all you need are at least two packs of cloth diapers and 6-12 rubber/plastic pants. I used to dip a soiled diaper in a clean toilet. Yes, a messy one would require me to get my hands in there to rub as much poop out as I could. Throw it into the diaper pail, and wash your hands well! I washed my cloth diapers in Ivory Snow. So mild, no harsh additives to irritate baby’s bum, and if you hang them out on the line to dry, they smell FANTASTIC! Hang the rubber pants on the line too, don’t put them in the dryer or they will melt. I remember back in the early 70s, in Lancaster PA, a neighbor telling me that everyone in the neighborhood loved the smell of my cloth diapers drying on the line. 🙂

  • Jennifer

    September 24, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Cloth diapering mamas: Please help! We have cloth diapered from day one, and we love it. We use cotton prefolds inside Rumperooz covers, with reusable fleece liners. At night, we use a larger prefold and add a doubler. We’ve had virtually no problems with our diapers for 17 months… until now. My daughter got terrible heat rash on her bum and groin, and it wouldn’t go away. Eventually, it got infected with a resistant staph infection. She took oral antibiotics and we used an antibiotic cream. While we treated the staph, we kept her in disposables for two weeks. I stripped and bleached her diapers and liners, and stripped her covers twice (since I couldn’t bleach them). I put her back in cloth diapers three days ago, and her infection is already back. It’s minor, and I’m treating it with leftover cream, but I have no idea what to do next. Do I have to replace my whole stash? How do you kill something stronger than bleach and boiling water? I’m really sad about this.

  • Lara Pangilinan

    December 17, 2014 at 1:14 am

    Thank you for this exhaustive blog. Its very useful for first time mothers like me.

  • Jenny

    January 4, 2015 at 11:33 pm

    Can I please share this on my cloth diaper site??

    • Isabel Kallman

      Isabel Kallman

      January 5, 2015 at 9:16 am

      Yes, you can link to this post. Thanks for asking. But we DO NOT allow for reprinting of our information.

  • Kimberly

    May 11, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    I have a question. I have the BumGenius 4.0 pocket diapers. If I put a natural fiber (like bamboo) insert on top and an insert inside, can I just switch out the top one and put in a new one if it doesn’t reach the second insert? Basically, what I want to know is how many “pee diaper changes” can I go through before I have to toss the diaper itself into the laundry basket…or do I have to do that after the first change?


  • Cassie

    July 15, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    So I’m a bit confused. I have ordered sunbaby diapers with the microfiber bamboo blend inserts. Since the inserts go inside the pocket in the diaper, when he pees or poops the mess will be on the clith of the diaper so I have to wash the insert and diaper outer shell after every soiling. So I don’t understand how people can use two diaper covers a day and just change the insert.

  • Eliza Cranston

    October 9, 2015 at 8:49 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience with cloth nappies! I’m a squeamish person myself but cloth does seem to be the way to go to be eco-friendly and save money. It was nice to hear that you don’t feel squeamish at all about cleaning your children’s cloth nappies. I’ll look into the brands you suggest and try it out for myself!

  • Damasy

    October 25, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Hi. What if the diapers are rinswd with detergent and left in the diaper pail for a week.

  • Laurie

    October 28, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    I recently bought some cloth diapers and there were no instructions at all.  I assumed there would be at least a little picture instructional.  I am so glad I happened upon this site.  I have learned so much. I never thought you would have to wash them a certain way or use different cloth safe cream.  With child number two and first time CD’er I am still a little nervous but very optimistic with the wide variety of advice here.  Unfortunately, with the insanely cute designs now, I see myself getting very addicted to online shopping for new ones.

  • Amanda

    December 26, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    Thank you so much for your blog! I’m just starting cloth for my 4 month old and had one diarrhea diaper out of 6 total that she’s gone through.  I was so worried about washing the poop, but you’ve given me the confidence that it’ll work out OK.  I just make sure I don’t need a second wash before I dry them.  I was REALLY worried about using my home detergent–as you said, all the instructions say “Use only XXXX detergent…”.  I prepped my diapers with my home detergent and figured I’d just see how it turned out–no issues so far aside from pee leaks (which I’m glad to see happen!).

  • kay

    January 27, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    ovveeee your blog about diapering. Was the only place I didn’t feel like I was being shoved into a pool of “poop, snaps, velcro and such”

    I do have a very a few silly question tho as I know NOTHING about cloth diapering.

    1. What’s the biggest difference in all in one diapers and a pocket diaper?  Can’t I get a pocket diaper in an all in one size? 

    2. I saw you only used 1 or 2 diapers a day,  is that right? Does that mean you just changed out the insert when your baby peed and we’re able to re-use the diaper by putting a new insert in it?  That is one thing im very very very confused about.  I figured I would be putting on a new diaper/cover and insert at every wet/soiled diaper.

  • Anna

    February 20, 2016 at 1:14 am

    So up until like 15 mins ago I was questioning myself why I went out and bought 10 reusable nappies and everything else after reading your post I feel like a freakin star. I’m not even worried about touching allll that poop ?