Oh laundry. A new mom’s worst nightmare. I hate laundry. I don’t know why; I just do. In fact, my hatred for doing laundry almost pushed me away from trying cloth diapers. It seemed too complicated to add to my daily wash routine. But I persisted, learned how to clean cloth diapers, and did it anyway! This post covers all the basic cloth diapering tips. Consider it cloth diapers 101, especially for those like me who hate laundry but want to try cloth diapers.
People use cloth diapers for different reasons; many because they think they’re more eco friendly.
I was motivated to try cloth diapers because my family had a super tight budget when my first was born and that kept me motivated to use them. What better way to save money raising a baby than by putting adorable patterns on their sweet baby bums for them to go pee and poo in?
Your motivation is your own, but whatever it is, this article will help you succeed in your cloth diapering journey.
How Do Cloth Diapers Work?
The concept of how cloth diapers work can seem complicated at first. This may be because your parents remember doing it with rags and clothes pins. But for most of us, it’s complicated simply because it’s different.
Different can be a good thing, but is often associated with fear.
Well dear friend, fearing complexity doesn’t have to stop you from trying cloth diapers. Let me help you understand how cloth diapers work so you can feel at ease using them with your baby!
The first thing to note is that cloth diapers work a lot like regular diapers.
You lay your baby down, take off their old diaper and throw it in the pale, clean them up and put on a new one.
How you fasten the diaper largely depends on what type of diaper you’re working with. Some have snaps or velcro, and others require you to still use a fastener similar to a clothes pin.
All have a waterproof cover on the outset and an absorbant layer on the inside, but some have the layer built in while others require to to place it in, making the diaper’s absorbancy more customizable.
Some people use cloth wipes while others use disposables; some use a diaper service while others wash at home.
What you use is your choice.
Types of Cloth Diapers
There are different types of cloth diapers, which will impact your laundry pile AND how similar the experience is to using disposable diapers. Here’s a rundown on the different types of cloth diapers to choose from.
All-in-one diapers are exactly what they sound like. These cloth diapers have microfiber inserts and a cover sewn into one piece.
- Easy to use and understand
- Most similar to a disposable diaper
- A great option for on-the-go, daycare, or family members
- Bigger piles of laundry (because you’re washing full diapers not just inserts and occasional diaper shells)
- Grows with baby, some say until potty training
All in twos have inserts that snap on the sides of the diaper liner. They’re are two parts:
You have to place the insert inside the cover before putting the diaper on, making it a 2-step process and less ideal than all-in-ones for people who aren’t familiar with cloth diapering.
Major pro: You can often get away with changing only the insert and reusing the diaper shell. Meaning smaller piles of laundry.
Pockets are such a great option for cloth diapering because it’s easy to set them up!
These cloth diapers have an opening to stuff with inserts. Unlike an all-in-two, where the liner is fully exposed, the diaper liner in a pocket diaper slips inside the pocket.
Major pro: They allow you to customize absorbency (an especially big deal since some parents complain that cloth diapers leave their baby too wet.)
Pro: They work great and are fun to fold!
All of the previous diapers mentioned are one-size-fits-all, either because they require fasteners or have tons of snaps.
The diapers are adjustable as your baby grows, which means you don’t have to go through the stress of wondering what size baby needs now–or the regret when you buy the wrong size and have to stand in the returns line at Target.
Fitted cloth diapers are different in that they aren’t one size fits all. You have to get a new set each time your baby grows.
These are great for moms who don’t like to adjust the sizing of cloth diapers, but they don’t work nearly as well for the budget-friendly family.
What Diaper Should I Get?
Most people’s instinct is to get an AIO diaper, and that may work for you.
But, I recommend trying them all before investing in a huge cloth diaper stash.
You may find you like other styles better than others.
It’s important to find what you like and not go with what others tell you to like.
Are Cloth Diapers Smelly?
For whatever reason, people think that cloth diapers are smellier than disposables. This is just not true.
Cloth diaper myth: Cloth diapers make the whole room smell!
Cloth diaper truth: Disposing poo and airing out the diapers make a pail of dirty cloth diapers less stinky than a pail full of disposables.
Pro tip: You can save money on a diaper pail and use a laundry basket with holes in it to keep your diapers in. It will contain the diapers and aerate them until wash day.
How to Clean Cloth Diapers
Here are my tips and tricks to a 5-step process for washing cloth diapers.
Step 1: Make Sure There’s No Poop Left on the Diapers
Now, there’s only one thing to keep in mind about poopy diapers. You can’t wash them as is like with pee diapers.
Be sure to remove any poo before washing your cloth diapers!
The most efficient way to do this is to dispose of the poop before putting the diapers in the pail.
For an easy way to deal with poopy diapers, either get liners to lay in every diaper so you can easily throw the poop away. Or, invest in cloth diaper accessories like a diaper sprayer so you can spray them with water so the poop goes in the toilet.
Money-saving tip: If you want to use liners, an affordable option is this:
- Buy a microfleece blanket from your local market
- Cut it to the size of an envelope
- Set a stack of them at your diaper station for easy access when diapering your baby
If you don’t want to spend money on paper liners or time cutting microfleece liners, then I suggest getting a diaper sprayer for your toilet.
It’s easy to use and install and very affordable. To avoid getting water everywhere, I recommend getting a diaper spraying shield to keep things less messy.
Step 2: Take Out the Diaper Inserts, If You Have Any
Make sure you wash the inserts thoroughly because they hold the fluids. In order to wash them well, you’ll need to take them out of the diaper before washing.
This is the only drawback to pocket diapers, but isn’t that inconvenient if you take them out of the diaper before throwing them in the pail.
Step 3: Pre-wash the Diapers on a Quick Wash Setting
The pre-wash is a vital step to washing cloth diapers, so you’ll definitely want a washing machine that has this wash cycle.
In order to make sure your diapers actually get clean, you’ll need to do a quick first wash with a bit of detergent to get most of the waste out of the diapers and inserts. This extra rinse makes all the difference.
Step 4: Main Wash the Diapers on the Highest Wash Setting
For fancier washers, this will be a hot wash, or a “heavy soil” setting that uses hot water.
The second wash–also known as the main wash–is the one that uses a good amount of detergent and wash time. This wash is the one that will scrub the diapers and get them really clean and sanitized!
Don’t worry about whether they’re clean enough after just a second wash. A second wash will get them clean as can be.
As long as they don’t smell, your diapers will be fine to use on your little one.
If your diapers do smell, please visit a local cloth diaper shop or consult Fluff Love University’s resources on how to fix the washing issue. You may need to strip or change the detergent you are using.
Step 5: Dry
Cloth diapers don’t need to be air dried. They can be tossed in the dryer on medium to low heat, which will greatly improve drying time.
One thing I want to note is to sure cool off the diapers before stuffing any pocket diapers.
That way, you avoid stretching out the elastic and allow them to last a long time.
How Often to Clean Cloth Diapers
How often you clean the cloth diapers largely depends on how many you have and how often your baby is going potty.
If you have 12 diapers and change your newborn every 2 hours, you will likely wash every night.
But, if you have 36, you will likely wash every 3 days. Washing your diapers at most every 4 days will keep them from getting yucky.
The diapers themselves won’t smell too bad for a few days if you aerate them. But if you leave them soiled and sitting for too long, they could start to smell really bad and grow bacteria.
At that point, you may need to ‘strip’ them in a bleach bath to get rid of the smells and bacteria. This isn’t a bad thing every now and again, but it’s not necessary frequently.
Not only will leaving diapers out too long create extra work for you, but excess stripping will cut down the life of the diapers.
I highly recommend to keep your stash under 50 diapers because if you have more than that, this will tempt you to go longer without washing. Take it from me.
Cloth Diapering Tips
Tip #1 – Try every type of cloth diaper before you invest in your big stash.
Tip #2 – Use a laundry basket instead of a closed diaper pail so that the diapers get aerated by oxygen and stink less.
Tip #3 – Join Fluff Love & CD Science Facebook group for wash support. Use their files and references for help establishing a wash routine.
Tip #4 – Use microfleece liners on the inside of the diaper for an easier time getting poop off, or get a diaper sprayer for your toilet.
Tip #5 – Live by The Four Rule. Change your baby at most every 4 hours (depending on age) and wash diapers at most every 4 days.
Tip #6 – Use pocket diapers for customizable absorbency. Take out inserts before throwing in the pail for a smooth cloth diaper routine.
Tip #7 – Write out your wash routine and tape it to the washer. This will remind both you and your partner how to wash the diapers.
Tip #8 – Visit a local cloth diaper shop for in-person advice and classes on how to use cloth diapers.
Tip #9 – Avoid using microfiber inserts. Not only do they absorb too much moisture from your baby’s bum; they also don’t hold much. Try using bamboo or hemp instead! (Combine both for an amazing overnight diaper.)
*BONUS* Tip #10 – Remember that it’s okay if cloth diapers aren’t for you! My hope is that whatever you choose, you’re happy with the decision. At the end of the day, you have to do what works for you and your family.
How to Use Cloth Diapers on the Go & at Daycare
Using cloth diapers on the go or at daycare can seem intimidating. I assure you it’s not.
When you cloth diaper your baby on the go:
- Change your baby normally
- Place the cloth diaper in a wet bag
- Add the diaper to your diaper laundry when you get home
When it comes to using cloth diapers and daycare, you’ll have to ask the daycare for their policy on cloth diapers.
Most daycares just want you to have them prepped and ready to go with a wet bag for them to place them in and for you to take home dirty diapers daily.
Some daycares don’t allow them, but you’ll be surprised to find that a lot of them will.
Wrapping It Up (pun intended!)
There you have it, cloth diapers 101 and cloth diapering tips for moms who hate laundry!
Please remember that, if cloth diapering doesn’t work out for you, it’s okay. You need to find what works for you and your family.
But if you found this post helpful, please share with me what part of these cloth diapering tips resonated with you in the comments below. When you’re done, share this post with your closest mom friend.
What are your favorite cloth diapering tips? Comment below!
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- Oversupply of breastmilk symptoms and fixes
- Best books for babies
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- How to deal with postpartum anxiety
- Managing postpartum body image
Between diapers changes and laundry loads, Emilee is a Content and Copywriter.