Guide to Cloth Diapers

an indepth look

We know that many parents have an overwhelming number of decisions to make regarding the well-being of their children, especially when choosing whether to use reusable cloth diapers or disposable diapers. We understand that there is an abundance of information circulating on cloth diapers, covering the variety of styles, brands, and materials; which can be confusing and intimidating to any family. Our hope is that by giving you the following information we can simplify the world of cloth diapers and give you the information that will help you and your family.


Cost Savings

Disposable diapers vary in price according to the size and brand, with the average cost at $0.25 per diaper. From birth to potty training you can expect one child to have 9,000 diaper changes and you can expect to spend around $2,700 on disposable diapers alone. In contrast, cloth diapering a child can cost as little as $300. That is roughly the same cost as purchasing disposable diapers for 4 months.

Using these figures, you can see that you can save up to $2,400+. With proper care and use, you will extend the life of your cloth diapers, allowing for further savings by using the same set of diapers for any future babies your family may have.

Health of your child

Disposable diapers contain concentrations of dioxin, an extremely toxic by-product of the paper bleaching process. It is a carcinogenic chemical listed by the EPA as the most toxic of all cancer linked chemicals. It is banned in most countries, but not in the USA.

In the US alone roughly 70% of babies develop a rash TODAY. In 1960, before disposable diapers were introduced, only 7% of babies had rashes.

Environmental Impact

In 1988, over 18 billion diapers were sold and consumed in the United States. It’s been estimated that 27.4 billion disposable diapers are consumed every year in the U.S. alone. Disposable diapers are the 3rd largest contributor to our landfills and will take an estimated time of 250-500 years to decompose.

These are general basic steps to clean cloth diapers. Individual wash routines will vary due to type of washing machine, water type and detergent used.

STEP 1: From Baby to Pail

Use a dry pail to store your soiled diaper in until wash day. There is no need to use any water on your diapers before you wash them. The simplest way is to line a laundry hamper or trash can with a water-resistant fabric bag. Both wet and dirty diapers can be placed there immediately after removing them from your baby. Also, fasten all Velcro tabs to avoid diaper chains.Soiled diapers simply shake (no need to dunk) solid material into the toilet and place the diaper into the dry pail.

STEP 2: The Rinse

Rinsing your diapers before laundering loosens soils for easy removal. You can rinse by hand or rinse in your washing machine by selecting either a rinse and spin cycle or a short wash cycle. Warm water is recommended, but cold is fine as well.your

STEP 3: Washing

It is recommended that you wash no more than two dozen diapers at one time, as too much friction can cause piling. Normal baby waste products are protein-based soils, detergents work against fatty soils. The most important element of a diaper washing are hot water and lengthy agitation.

Below are specific instructions for each type of washing machine.

Top Loaders: After rinsing, add the recommended amount of detergent for the size load. Run for the longest wash cycle with the hottest water temperature and a cold rinse. Follow with an additional cold rinse, if needed. You may also do a warm rinse.

Front Loaders: After rinsing, add the recommended amount of detergent for the size load. Run the longest wash cycle with the hottest water temperature and a cold rinse. Follow with an additional cold rinse, if needed. You may also do a warm rinse.

STEP 4: Drying

Cloth diapers may successfully be dried by machine or on the line. If you are using any type of pocket diapers (I.E. Lilhelpers.ca, Rumparooz, etc) they must be dried on low heat. Other types such as pre-folds, microfiber inserts, etc may be dried on high. If you are unsure always check the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you choose to line-dry either inside or outside, you may prefer to “fluff” the diapers in the dryer for 20 minutes or so after they are dry to help make them softer.

Detergent recommendations vary depending on the area of the country you live. We do recommend that you use the detergent currently on hand as long as it is not homemade detergent or a brand that includes fabric softener. Should a problem arise, such as absorbency or smell, it may be necessary to adjust your wash routine or switch detergents. If you are a family on our loan program you will need to contact your Chapter President immediately for advice. No outside advice or routine changes should be done on the loan diapers, as we have a specific process to ensure the longevity of the diapers loaned. If you are not part of the loan family please visit our Cloth For All Facebook group for assistance.

Diaper cream recommendations are standard across the board in the cloth diapering world. Do not use creams or salves that contain zinc oxide or are petroleum base. This will cause absorbency  issues within the fibers of the diaper granted should the diapers come in contact with these items you can remove them by hand washing with Dawn Blue dish soap. With cloth diapering it may not be necessary to use diaper creams due to the diapers allowing air to circulate within that region unlike disposable diapers. Should the need arise to use a cream or salve it is recommend to use natural products such as Boudreaux’s Natural Butt Paste or Coconut Oil. If you have a need to use a cream or salve of any other kind it is recommended to use these with a liner, reusable or disposable, to create a barrier between the child and the cloth diaper.

Flat Cloth Diaper

A flat cloth diaper is a simple flat sheet of cloth generally sized around 27″ x 27″. You can custom fold this diaper many different ways around your child. Flats can sometimes be purchased in different size ranges and they come in cotton, bamboo, hemp, or a combination.

PROS: 
*Affordable, cheapest diapering system!
*They fit multiple sized babies.
*They last virtually forever!
*Best cloth diapers for handwashing!
*They dry super fast and don’t hold onto odors.

CONS:
*Waterproof covers, closures, and diaper fasteners are not included.
*This diaper requires A LOT of folding.

AVERAGE COST:
$1 – $2.50 Each

Prefold Cloth Diaper

A prefold cloth diaper is a smaller version of the flat cloth diaper. It is more absorbent in the center and a little thicker all around. You can purchase these in different size ranges. They normally come in cotton, bamboo, or a hemp blend.

PROS: 
*Affordable, easiest on the wallet.
*They have multi-uses like burp cloths and cleaning rags.
*They are easier to use than a flat. (less folding)
*They fit different sized babies well.
*They wash and dry well and don’t tend to hold in odors.
*Durable, prefolds will last a long time.

CONS:
*Waterproof covers, closures, and diaper fasteners are not included.
*This diaper requires some folding.

AVERAGE COST:
$1 – $2.50 Each

Fitted Cloth Diaper

A fitted cloth diaper is a step up from a prefold or contour diaper. It features elastics in the leg gussets to help lock in the poo and it is “fitted” to the shape of your baby. You will not have to worry about folding it like you would a prefold or flat. Some fitted’s come with closures and some allow you to use your own.

PROS: 
*Very absorbent, great for nighttime use.
*They feature leg gussets that help to lock in poo.
*No Folding! You are not required to fold them like a flat or prefold.
*Some have built-in soakers or inserts.
*They come in endless styles, colors, materials, ext…

CONS:
*They require waterproof covers.
*This cost a little more on the higher.

AVERAGE COST:
$15 – $35 Each

Pocket Cloth Diaper

Pocket diapers are a little more advanced than the fitted diapers because they have a waterproof cover and feature a pocket where you can stuff an absorbent insert or soaker. They come in snap or velcro closures and many different styles.

PROS: 
*Easiest diaper to spray off!
*You can find good quality affordable pocket diapers.
*Waterproof cover & closures are included.
*Most pockets come with additional inserts.
*You get to choose the absorbency by adding more or less inserts.

CONS:
*Stuffing! You have to re-stuff the diaper after every wash.
*You have to remove the soiled inserts before washing unless you have the type that agitate out in the wash.  

AVERAGE COST:
$7 – $20 Each

All In One Cloth Diaper

The all in one (AIO) cloth diaper is one of the easiest cloth diapers to use. It has everything you will need, all in one happy diaper! The absorbent soakers are already sewn inside and it comes with the waterproof cover. You can purchase them in snaps or velcro and they come in many different styles/fabrics.

PROS: 
*No stuffing or snapping in inserts!
*Easiest cloth diaper to use.
*Waterproof cover, closures, and inserts are included.
*Some AIO’s allow you to add additional inserts for extra absorbency.

CONS:
*AIO’s tend to be on the bulkier side.
*You cannot separate the cover from the soaker and wash separately.
*This is one of the more expensive diaper types.
*They can take longer to dry since everything is sewn in.

AVERAGE COST:
$15 – $25 Each

All In Two Cloth Diaper

All In Two or (AI2) diapers are almost exactly like the all in one except the soakers or inserts are removable. They can snap in and out allowing you to wash the soaker separately or use any type of soaker or insert you choose. These are a more expensive type of cloth diaper but you can find ways to save money when using this system.

PROS: 
*Flexibility, you can use any type of insert you want.
*AI2’s are easy to put together after washing.
*Waterproof cover and closures are included.

*You get the option of using disposables or reusable inserts with this diaper.
*You can wash the covers separately from the soakers. 

CONS:
*The diaper shell or cover is usually sold separately from the inserts.
*Harder to spray off if you have a runny poo.
*You have to match up the soakers with the covers after washing.

AVERAGE COST:
$15 – $25 Each

Hybrid Cloth Diaper

Hybrid cloth diapers are very similar to the all in two style (AI2) diapers except they come with the option of using a disposable insert along with a reusable one. They are a “hybrid” or mix between a cloth diaper and a disposable.

PROS: 
*Great for traveling
*This is a good in-between diaper to try out if you are not sure you want to do cloth full time.
*Waterproof cover and closures are included.

*You get the option of using disposables or reusable inserts with this diaper.
*You can wash the covers separately from the soakers. 

CONS:
*Hybrids are more expensive and sometimes the soakers or inserts are sold separately.
*You have to match up the soakers with the covers after washing.

AVERAGE COST:
$15 – $25 Each

All above information pertaining to “types of cloth diapers” was provided by My Green Nest and used with permission.