Cloth Diapers Primer
Frugal Fran, our cost conscious contributor!
If you're trying to find the best cloth diapers, or to decide if cloth diapering is a good
option for your
family, this primer is a great place to start. All the
basics of cloth diapering are right here!
Best Cloth Diapers...
Which way to go?
If you're trying to decide if cloth diapering is a good
option for your
family, this primer is a great place to start. All the
basics of cloth diapering are right here!
- Start with the basics, and learn about the kinds and styles of cloth diapers
- Consider the pros and cons of Snaps vs.
- And read about which 'must have accessories'
I can't live without.
- I also share my recipe for my best
cloth diapers wet wipe
L'eau du Fanny with essence of lavender.
best cloth diapers for our family had to meet all of the
possible...from the changing table all the way through the laundering
4) One size
fits all. This is simply an extension of the
efficiency. I did NOT want to go through the hassle of
swapping, or selling cloth diapers every few months. I
just want to cut to the chase and get what works.
found the best
cloth diapers for our family, and it
actually exceeded my expectations! Check
my Cloth Diapers Journal to see what I chose, and how it's going!
Many Cloth Diapers Should I Buy?
sites suggest 24 as a safe starting point. I went with
advice, and I have not been sorry. Two dozen is enough
to stretch out washing to every 2-3 days, while still having several on
hand. If you're starting out with an older baby who wets less
frequently, or are going to start using cloth diapers only on a part
time basis then you can start with fewer, and always add more as you
need to. A dozen of the best cloth diapers works fine for an
older baby who
wet as frequently.
Care and Laundering of Cloth Diapers
detergent is all you need to care for basic all in one and pocket cloth
I use 2T- 1/4 cup of the very basic (and super cheap!) powdered
more about the best cloth
diapers care and
(for pocket and all in one diapers) in this article.
If your diapers are leaky and/or smell funky, then you may
have detergent build up. This can be remedied most of the time
check out the customer service and guarantees from the company
choose to purchase the best cloth diapers from, just in case you run
problem with a defective snap
or elastic that comes loose. Even the best cloth diapers have
occasional problems, and you want to find a company that really cares.
been on a
message board researching or looking for the best cloth diapers, then
you've probably seen the secret diaper code language.
What in the world are AIO's, FB's, PD's? I'll show
you the basics here, in simple language. Cloth
diapers come in a myriad of designs and styles, but there are really
only three basic formats. I've
boiled down to just the essentials to help you maneuver quickly through
the decision making process when choosing the best cloth
Diapers...cracking the code to find the best cloth diapers
pocket diaper (PD) is designed the most like a disposable diaper.
It comes with at least two separate pieces.
cover has an opening (or pocket) that you insert an absorbent 'soaker'
into. You can adjust absorbency by adding an additional
soaker. Pocket Diapers are made by Bum Genius (BG's), Happy
Fuzzy Bunz (FB's) etc.
They can be one size fits
all, snapping open and closed to accomodate a growing baby.
An AIO/PD usually
includes the inserts in the price. They run from between
that the lining fabric that is against the baby's bottom wicks away
moisture quickly keeping baby's heiny dry.
Pocket diapers are
the best cloth diapers for other caregivers, as they go
almost exactly like a disposable diaper. It makes diaper
changes easy for Dad,
babysitter, daycare, etc. The cover and insert wash and dry
separately. This allows you to differ your approaches to
laundering, which makes even the best cloth diapers last
longer. The cover
it's more delicate components of elastic and PUL (the waterproof
plastic laminated polyester) can be washed more gently, and air dried.
The more durable inserts may be subjected to occasional
and regular machine drying. The stuffing is fast. I
timed this, and it takes about 30 seconds to re-stuff a
And that is moving at a snail's pace, ensuring that the insert is flat
and properly in place. These
turned out to be the best cloth
diapers for our family!
to these is that you have to wash both pieces (the cover and the
soaker) every time. You also have to remove the dirty insert
some point before washing, and then re-stuff them so they are
ready for use. Another downside, is that you
usually do not have a choice of materials for the insert. I
found that the superabsorbent material ages and absorbs odors to the
point where they will no longer get clean, even with repeated
strippings/washings. Plus, the superabsorbent material is
picker than cotton in how you can treat it in the wash. I
would MUCH prefer an all cotton insert and lining on a PD.
All In One
All in One, or "AIO", is a ready to use cloth diaper. The
waterproof outer, inner absorbent soaker, and sometimes a separate
lining material are permanently stitched together. They close
with velcro or snaps, and are very easy to use. They range in
$10 to $18. Thirsties and Bumkins are All In One diapers.
Note: there are
AIO/pocket hybrids out there called an 'all in twos'. This
would be an
one that can be used as is, or with an additional soaker (which is
included). Some have built in pockets for the extra soaker,
and others just tell you to lay the extra soaker on top for naps and
Just one piece to wash and dry...no un-stuffing, folding, re-stuffing,
or diaper covers needed. Many consider the all in one to be the best cloth
diapers for daytime wear for older babies who don't wet as much or as
often. They can be more trim and fitted
pocket diapers. All one piece makes them very easy to change,
almost like a disposable. AIO's can be one size fits all.
downside: Usually not
absorbent as a pocket diaper for overnight or nap time. Since
the layers cannot be separated for landering, they take a lot
dry, and mildewing may become a problem in humid
environments. If any one of the components wears out (ie. the
wears out), the whole diaper is shot.
that require a diaper cover:
diapers, and pre-folds.
There are tons of styles of diaper covers on
the market, and they usually do not come with the diaper inside...they
are just the waterproof covers. You have more choice and
selection over fit, material, patterns, etc. Most are made
with polyester waterproof lining (PUL), with polyester fabric over it to make it comfy for baby.
But natural wool covers and other (pricey) options are out there now
The covers only need to be changed when they get dirty, so you don't
need nearly as many covers as you would with a Pocket or All in One
system. This is very appealing to me, and is in the running as
the best cloth diapers option for our family. Covers may be
sized, or they can be one size fits
all. G-diapers, flip diapers, Bummis, Thirsties and Kissaluvs
all make diaper covers.
inserts are also very flexible in style, material, and price range.
I have covered the basic styles/types below. Some may need
to be fastened, and other are designed to just lay inside the cover, so
you don't have to fasten two layers for each change.
covers don't need to be washed each time the diaper is
This may give the covers a longer life than the All In Ones or Pocket
Diapers, as they aren't exposed to the rigors of the washing/drying as
often. You also have the best cloth diapers cover options,
tons of adorable colors, patterns, etc. to choose from.
absorption and lining material options are available...everything from
organic fleece to flannel. Some have a multi-size or one size fits all option.
pieces to put on and take off for every diaper change...EVERY
Two pieces, two pieces, two pieces...ad
Also, there are just too many choices in brand, colors, and patterns!
talking WAY too many choices, as in "Stop the ride, I want to
off." I consider this
to be a
'con'...at least for me.
While the tazmanian devil with
fabric may be just adorable as a diaper cover, what in the heck is the
baby going to wear with it? Call me 'plain Jane', but I just
don't need all the flash and buzz of fancy
It's a diaper. If I could have gotten the disposables without
on the panel, I would have. Poop catchers don't
need to be
cute in my house, as baby has plenty of cute to start with, and I have
lots of really adorable baby clothes.
The Cost catch:
covers. They run between $10-15 each, and average about
$12. Wool covers are even pricier. Wool is
naturally 'lanolized' which protects it from moisture. Wool
covers are loved for their
ability to breath and deflect moisture, making it un-necessary to wash
them as often. Many Mama's feel that a wool diaper cover is the most natural and best cloth diapers cover, but you do have to give them special care.
essentially snap or Velcro-on soakers that require a separate
waterproof cover. The fitted diapers run around $15 each.
have shown the diaper cover in the illustration above to show function,
but the diaper cover is sold separately. Fitted diapers are the
most countoured to your baby's shape. They are the best cloth
diaper for covers that are not as leak resistant. (The most leak
resistand covers have leg gussets.)
absorbent diapers shaped like a disposable (hourglass shape), but
you to use
a pin or special closure system, and/or a cover to stay on.
They don't snap
or Velcro. Contour diapers are sold in 4 packs, and are
under $9 per diaper ($35 per 4 pack). They do come in
'sizes'...so you'll need some in each size. I have shown the
diaper cover in green to illustrate function, but the covers are sold
separately. Contour diapers are the best cloth diapers for
ease of use...just slap it down and close the diaper cover.
are the 'old fashioned' cloth diapers, and the best cloth diapers for a
very slim budget. Like the name suggests, they are prefolded to
offer thicker protection in the center. You may have to tuck and
fold a bit to get them to fit the diaper cover properly, and many
Moms will then
fasten them onto the baby before adding the waterproof diaper cover.
prefolds can be had for under $2 each.
Prefolds also come
in sizes. They are the best cloth diapers for someone a tight budget
who really wants to use natural materials. Prefolds may be
Flat diapers are the predecessor to the
prefolds. As the name suggests, they are just large flat
squares of cotton, and you can fold them to shape. The
upside, is that you have a very easy to launder and fast
drying diaper. Flats are the best cloth diapers for very humid environments, as they dry very quickly.
The downside, is that you have to fold the little buggers every time.
Hence the birth of the prefold.
Snaps vs. Velcro
diaper changes fast, and are more like disposable tapes. The
best cloth diaper companies use a better grade of fastner tape that is
supposed to hold firmer and last longer.
are that it can snag and pill/pick the diaper cover. You have
attach the tabs to 'laundry tabs' so that the Velcro doesn't stick to
every thing in the washing machine and pick the fabric.
can get clogged up with lint so that it
doesn't hold as
The velcro can also age so that the hooks won't hold the loops (but
drying in the dryer is supposed to re-vitalize them). Some
Moms have reported that the Velcro scratched the
baby's skin. Another con is that the baby may be able to
their diaper. However, this is generally not a problem with
disposables, and I've never personally had a problem with
Snaps are strong. Very strong.
It's harder for
baby to get the snaps open if they try to take their diaper off.
The best cloth diapers are backed by a replacement guarantee
if your snaps malfunction.
too strong. You
have to yank them open with a good bit of force, which can eventually
tear the outer cover. The other con is that they are
Lots and lots of them. And you are going to be
up and snapping them firmly while wrangling a squirmy wiggling
baby. I for one have had enough of snaps just on the baby's
outfits alone. I'll pass on adding more snaps to my life.
The Best Cloth Diapers
find lots of offerings in the accessories sections of cloth diaper
websites. What's essential, and what's fluff?
There are some items that I consider 'must haves' when
starting out with cloth diapers. I actually factored these
into my cost figures for the "do cloth diapers save money" article.
starting out, and we're still in the grace period of
breastfed-poopies which really don't smell too bad. So I
haven't tried out the sprayer systems or the rice paper diaper liners
A Diaper Pail:
Cloth diapers are bulkier than disposables, so lots of websites
recommend a standard kitchen garbage can as a diaper pail.
I already had a diaper champ, and I love it with the cloth diapers.
It's smaller than the kitchen garbage
cans, so it's a better fit for my
holds 8-10 cloth diapers (and more if I give it a good shake).
works to my advantage, as I have a tendency to put things off to the
last minute. The champ makes me wash regularly way before I
run out of diapers. It also works at keeping the smells at
we're still in the grace period of breastfed poopies. I do
have to shake it and open the lid to clear stuck diapers, especially
when it begins to get full. A smaller kitchen garbage can
would also be a good option.
Diaper Pail Liners:
Instead of using trash bags, you can opt to use fabric waterproof
diaper pail liners. The best cloth diapers pail liners
should be machine washable (watch out...some are not!) Most
with an attached elastic loop,
drawstring, or zipper. When it's time to run a load of
diapers, you'll just lift the whole bag out and close it up, and then
wrong side out into the washing machine with the diapers.
You'll wash the
pail liner right along with the diapers. Buy two liners that
the pail that you use so that you have a backup while one is in the
wash. I made one plain liner, and one large travel wet bag
that functions as my alternate pail liner. Some of the best
cloth diapers pail liners
have a really nice feature: a little square of cloth sewn into the
inside seam that you put a dot of essential oil on. This
really helps cut the smell. I made mine with this feature,
and built it into my wetbags as well.
A Travel Size
A wetbag is
a waterproof fabric bag. You use
these instead of disposable plastic bags to contain the messy diapers
when you're away from the diaper pail. You should
find one that is machine washable (some are not...why???) I
like the zipper closures, but you can also get the drawstring kind.
I've only needed one little travel wet bag. It
up to 3 of my diapers, and keeps the smell at bay. If your
childcare provider uses the cloth diapers, then you'll need at least 2
of these in a larger size. I also have a larger zippered
wet bag with a loop handle for hanging on the doorknob. I made it so
that it fits into my diaper champ as a liner, and I can
also use it for vacations or weekends away.
I have a little bottle of lavender oil that I use to freshen the inside
of my pail liners and wet bags (it goes on a little swatch of fabric
sewn into the liner). I also use it in my wipes solution.
You can also use Tea Tree, Orange, or another aromatic oil.
These also have the advantage of being a natural anti-fungal
and anti-bacterial agent. Oil should
never be added directly to the waterproof fabrics, as it will break
down the elastics and vinyl laminate over time.
I just love wet wipes, so this was a big decision for me.
Disposable wipes are convenient and I love the sweet smell.
But it's force of habit to fold them inside the dirty diaper.
If you accidentally toss a disposable wipe into the wash,
then you'll have lots of fun picking all the little fluffy fibers out
of your diapers. Also, if you use disposable wipes, you'll
run into the problem of where to put the used ones. It's no
fun having to hunt for a trash can with a wad of poop stained
wipes in your hand. So I decided to keep my box of wipes
(just in case) and try out the washable wipes as well. Well,
I haven't used my beloved wet wipes in weeks. I've really
enjoyed the washable wipes much more.
recommend using a wipes warmer,
but the newer ones have the pop-up lids (and don't get very warm
Also, anytime your hands come into contact with the contents
the damp wipes box, you're introducing bacteria and germs that can lead
to mildew and other icky things. So I store my fabric
wipes and a little pump bottle of wash solution in a hanging
basket right by the changing table.
If you just really want to store them damp, I would recommend using a
see-through wide mouth container with an easily removable lid (like a
canister). See below for my recipe for a
homemade (way easy!) wipes solution. I have a spray bottle in
my diaper bag, and a pump bottle at the
changing table. You can find the small spray
bottles in the travel section of your local
discount store. I started out with a squeeze bottle on the
changing table, but it tipped over a couple of times and completely
drained, so I have gone to a pump style bottle. The pumps
you to dispense lotion and wipes solution one-handed, so I am a big fan
I've found a narrow rectangular clear vinyl pencil pouch that is the
perfect solution for traveling with cloth wipes and spray. I
stand it straight up in the side of my diaper bag, so it's quick to
grab, and doesn't get lost in the shuffle. And since it's see
through, I can instantly see how many wipes I have on hand.
out with a few packs of cheapie baby washcloths as wipes. The
washcloths worked OK, but they were a little thin. They also
a tendency to roll up, and they're pastels so they stain easily.
I've since purchased a few scraps
of cotton flannel and made some double layer re-usable wipes.
I love these! The flannels come in some adorable
prints. I recommend getting darker colors that won't show
usually only takes one re-usable wipe per dirty diaper.
The double layer flannel wipes are thick and very,
very soft, and you can wrap
them up in the dirty diaper and just toss everything into the laundry
together. They were super cheap to make (18 for only $2!) but
they are a little tedious and boring to sew unless you have a serger.
At least I only
make them once! Some Mommies have suggested (wisely) that you
make wipes in a darker print for diaper changes only, and then choose a
pretty pastel to use for wiping faces and hands.
I love the homemade wipes solution, and there are tons
of free wipes solution recipes out there. It's fun to
experiment with different recipes and scents, and you can customize the
solution to your baby's skin. I double the recipe
so it makes a lot, and store the extra in the back of the fridge for
Lady Adelaide's L'eau du Fanny-
Essence of Lavender
Tablespoon natural lavender body wash
1/2 teaspoon of lavender oil
Add ingredients in the order listed. Store extras in the
fridge for longest freshness.
Note: Lavender is a natural
preservative, so the bottled solution should stay fresh for quite a
while. Please feel free to print out the label above for your
I hope that you've found lots of great tips, and have a better idea
about choosing the best cloth diapers for your family!
out why I switched to cloth diapers, what brand I love,
and how it all
turned out in my Cloth
Check out the Do
Cloth Diapers Save Money article and discover how much we are
saving by using the best cloth diapers! Input
your own numbers into the official Frugal Fran Formula, and find out
what you could be saving too!