When I started thinking about cloth diapering I did a lot of research. I had no idea where to start. When I thought of cloth diapers I thought of the old fashioned diapers that you fastened with a pin. When I started doing my research I was overwhelmed with the amount of information, the cost of one diaper, how to care for that diaper, the different types of cloth diapers, and so much more.
It seemed like every time I found a new site there was more information. Every new piece of information was on a new page so it was hard to compare everything. That is why I decided to write this post to help you. I wanted to put all the information in one place so you can read what you need and compare things side by side. I am warning you, this is a long post, but it has a lot of information. I have also included pictures above each description to show the difference in everything because this is what I found to be the most confusing.
Types of Cloth Diapers
There are several types of cloth diapers and usually you will find a blogger favors one type over another. Because of this it can be difficult to see a side by side comparison of all the different types of diapers. You often have to go from site to site to learn about all the different ones. That’s why I decided to write this post and list out all the different kinds of cloth diapers and the pros and cons of each.
Prefolds – These are the diapers that everyone thinks of when they think of cloth diapers. These would be the diapers that your grandmother would have used. Today, many moms use them as burp rags as well. Pros: These diapers are the cheapest option and the easiest to get as they are often sold as your local Walmart or Target. Another advantage is that these are often the easiest to clean out of all the options. These also have many uses when it comes to cloth diapers. Cons: With these diapers you have fold them into the desired shape and fasten them on the baby either with pins or snapis. You also have to use covers and have to purchase larger sizes as your baby grows.
Flats – These are just like prefolds, only they are just a square piece of cloth that you have to fold. They make great extra stuffing if you need it. Pros: These are cheap diapers and the easiest to clean. They also have many uses when it come to cloth diapering from using as a diaper, or just for extra absorbency. Cons: You have to fold these into the shape that you want and fasten them on the baby. They are not prefolded so you have to fold them without the help of the thick middle layer. Lastly, you have to use these with covers.
Fitted Cloth Diapers – Fitted cloth diapers are diapers that are hourglass shaped and fasten using snaps or velcro. There is also leg and back elastic to help contain messes. These are slightly more expensive than prefolds and have to be used with a cover since they do not have a waterproof outer layer. Fitted cloth diapers also come in one size or sized diapers where you have to buy bigger sizes as they grow. Pros: They do not require folding, are super absorbent, fasten with snaps or velcro, and contain mess better due to the back and leg elastic. Cons: Slightly more expensive than prefolds and they are not waterproof so they have to be used with a cover.
Pocket Diaper – This is one of the oldest of the newer cloth diapers. This one is also one of the more complicated of the newer designs as you have to stuff the pocket with an absorbent pad. Pros: They do not require a cover, you can add as many or as little absorbent pads as you want (good for overnight), and they are easy to fasten on your baby. Cons: You have to stuff the diaper with an absorbent pad before using it (you can do this before hand though), and unstuff it once it is used. They also tend to be bulky and have a poor fit. Lastly, the lining is polyester which means you will have very little choice in putting anything but synthetics against your baby’s skin.
All In Two (AI2) Diapers – All in two diapers work similarly to pocket diapers only instead of stuffing the pocket you snap the liner in place. Pros: You don’t have to unstuff the pocket before washing. Cons: They are pricier than other cloth diapers.
All In One (AIO) Cloth Diapers – All in one diapers are a one piece diaper with the liners (usually 2) sewn inside the waterproof cover. These can make great over night diapers with an extra liner stuffed in them. Also, these make great diapers for those who think they can’t do cloth diapers because there is no stuffing needed. They are great for going places and daycares. Pros: Simple to use, can be used in almost any situation, and some brands have a trimmer fit. Cons: Longer dry times, and they can only be used once before they need washed again. These are often the most expensive types of cloth diapers.
Hybrid Diapers – These diapers are a mix between disposables and cloth diapers. They are called hybrid because there are a wide variety of liners you can use from cloth to disposable. This allows you to adjust what liner you are using to your situation. Pros: Some designs are made so that the shell can be used multiple times before washing. Also, the flexibility of cloth and disposable fit into most modern lifestyles. Cons: They appear complicated and some designs lack the contorted fits in the interior.
I know that looking at each of these last few diapers they look like they are the same. The outsides are essentially the same, it is the insides that are different which is why I included a photo of the inside when I could.
Cloth Diaper covers
Polyurethane Laminate – Polyurethane Laminate, or PUL, it the most common material used in All in One and Pocket diapers. It is also used as a diaper cover. PUL is a waterproof plastic material that is also flexible. PUL is fun because it is often available in different colors and even prints. Even though it is thin, durable and can stand up to industrial washing routines, it is also not as breathable as other covers and some babies may be sensitive to components used during the manufacturing process.
Nylon – Another popular and fun material is nylon. Again, nylon is available in a wide variety of colors and prints. They are also thin, but babies can be sensitive to the material.
Wool – Wool is a natural fiber that is great for sensitive skin. Wool is very breathable, but instead of being waterproof, it absorbs liquid and can leak if it becomes saturated.
Cloth Diaper Inserts
For the inserts and liners I did not include photos because there are many different types depending on the type of material used. Instead I will include a link to Amazon to the search results. Make sure you also check which material each of these are made of before making a purchase.
For Pocket diapers:
Inserts: These are rectangular and meant to be stuffed into the diaper to help soak up wetness. (Amazon search results)
Doublers: These are meant to be used with an insert. You can use two inserts, but these often cause extra bulk and can cause the elastic to not fit snugly around the legs and lead to leaks. Doublers are often cut in an hourglass shape to reduce the bulk around the legs. These are great for overnight. (Amazon search results)
For All-in-Ones and All-in-Twos:
Soakers: Soakers are used in All-in-Two diapers, sometimes they snap in and you can remove them when wet and reuse the shell. Sometimes they are sewn into the diaper and cannot be removed. (Amazon search results)
Boosters: Boosters are used with a soaker to provide extra absorbency for heavy wetters or for overnight. (Amazon search results)
Materials Used for Cloth Diaper Inserts
Cotton: Cotton is probably the oldest and most recognized fabric used in cloth diapers. It is also very affordable and absorbent.
Bamboo: Bamboo fleece is a synthetic fiber, but is is a great option for cloth diapers. It is soft and can wick moisture away quickly leaving baby feeling dry and comfortable even when she is wet.
Hemp: You most likely will not find a 100% hemp fabric, these inserts are usually blended with cotton to make it softer. Hemp is incredibly absorbent and durable. If you line dry your hemp inserts it may feel a little stiff, so you may want to throw it in the dryer to soften it up a bit.
Microfiber: This is often what your pocket diapers will come with. It is a mad mad material that is absorbent and fast drying, but it is like a sponge, so if it is subjected to compression it may “wring out”. Microfiber can dry out a baby’s skin so you need to make sure you put a barrier between your baby and the microfiber, such as a fleece liner.
Minky: Minky is a man-made fiber that has similar absorbency to microfiber. Minky isn’t as rough or bulky as microfiber and it repels stains better.
Zorb: I haven’t seen nor heard much about this material, but from what I can find it can replace 2-3 layers of cotton, bamboo, hemp, or microfiber. It was specifically designed for cloth diapers and the manufactures claim is absorbs moisture 20 times faster than other fabrics.
Cloth Diaper Liners
Liners are completely different than inserts. Liners are meant to protect your diapers from diaper rash creams or to help clean stool out of diapers. There are basically 2 types of liners, disposable and reusable.
Disposable liners: These are biodegradable. These paper-like pieces are meant for you to lift out of the diaper and flush down the toilet, making it easier to clean up poopy diapers. Personally I don’t feel that these are very comfortable. If you want to use disposable liners, a cheeper option is to get the soft Viva paper towels.
Reusable liners: These are usually made of fleece to help stay dry. They are often called stay-dry fleece liners and can be used to help keep baby feel dry, but these make great liners to help clean poopy diapers. If the poop is stuck to the liner, just dunk it in the toilet, you don’t even have to touch the toilet water. You can make your own liners without sewing, since micro fleece doesn’t unravel you can just cut it up and use it as a liner.
Cloth Diaper Accessories You Need
Wet Bag: You will need at least 2 large wet bags. You need one to use while the other is in the wash. Wet bags are waterproof bags that you store your dirty diapers in until you are ready to wash them. Then you can just throw the diapers and wet bag in the wash together. (Amazon search results)
Travel Wet Bag: This is a smaller bag meant for you to use on the go. If you plan on using disposable diapers when you are out of the house you will need a way to store the dirty diapers to keep them from getting everything in your diaper bag wet and stinky. (Amazon search results)
Extra inserts: You may not need these right away, but it is nice to have some extras on hand for over nights, a heavy wetter, or just when you think you have to leave your baby in the diaper a little longer than normal. Also, your diapers normally come with a micro fleece insert, so you may want something that is more absorbent.
Cloth Diaper Accessories You May Want
Wipes: If you want to use cloth wipes you will want to have them ready, but you don’t have to use cloth wipes just because you are using cloth diapers.
Diaper pail: You will at least need a wet bag, but you can also get a diaper pail to hold the wet bag if you want.
Diaper Sprayer: A diaper sprayer will help get the poop of the diaper but it is not necessary to have one. (Amazon search results)
Snappi’s or pins: If you are using flat diapers or prefolds you will need these to keep the diaper in place. (Amazon search results)
If you are switching from disposables to cloth diapers there is a bit of a learning curve. You have to change the diapers more frequently when you are using cloth diapers. Also, you have to make sure they are tight enough that the elastic is tight on there legs or you will have leaks.
You cannot use just any diaper cream with cloth diapers. There are cloth safe diaper creams, but I still use a liner with them.
How many diapers you need depends on the age of your baby. Newborns will need 10-12 diaper changes a day while toddlers will need less. I would aim to have a minimum of 24 diaper setups (diapers, covers if needed, inserts, and liners) so that you can wash them every other day.
Don’t continue to look for diapers once you have your stash. If it is in your budget then that is fine, but if you are like me you will get addicted to all the different patterns and spend more money on cloth diapers. When the main reason for switching is to save money, this will defeat the purpose!
If you have a leak, start with making sure you have the diaper tight enough. If you are still having leaks, make sure you have enough absorbent material. Lastly, make sure that your diapers are actually absorbing. If your diapers are not absorbing properly, you will need to strip them.
There are two different ways to store your dirty diapers. A dry pail, which is just a pail or bag you store your diapers in, and a wet pail, which has water in the bottom that you soak your diapers in until laundry day. Personally I do not use a wet pail.
Cloth Diaper Cleaning
First off, you have to prep your cloth diapers when you buy them. They need to be washed at least once, but some inserts will not reach their maximum absorbency until they have been washed several times, sometimes up to 8 times.
Second, you need to make sure you are using a cloth diaper safe detergent. You can check out Fluff Love University to see which detergents are safe for cloth diapers.
My wash routine starts with a cool rinse to help get out stains. Then I wash on a cycle with as much water as possible. I use the whitest whites setting on my HE washer to try to trick it to use more water. I use hot water to wash and sanitize. I also make sure to do at least one extra rinse. This makes sure that all the detergent is out of the diaper. I use both detergent and bleach in the wash.
To dry, I put them in my dryer for about an hour, sometimes a little more if needed. Do not use a dryer sheet or fabric softener as it can cause the diapers to repel water.
Now, I have read on another site that you can wash your diapers with your child’s clothes. DO NOT DO THIS! Often times the way you wash your diapers will be harsh for regular clothes, wearing them out sooner. Plus, for me, I use bleach and I don’t want to bleach regular clothes.
Buying Cloth Diapers
When it comes to buying cloth diapers it is really easy to spend too much money. One of the main reasons to use cloth diapers is to save money, but if you are spending more on cloth diapers than you would on disposables it is not worth it. It is hard to get caught in buying a bunch of diapers because they are so cute!
Another thing, is if you are buying the pricier diapers you can spend $30 dollars a diaper and to build up your stash you can easily have $600 dollars just in diapers. The good thing is you don’t have to buy name brand diapers.
Every diaper I have bought had been either from Amazon or Ebay, and none of them have been used. You can go even cheeper and get used diapers, especially if you are not sure you will stick with them. Even at that though, my diapers have averaged about $10 per diaper, new.
I have no choice but to purchase my diapers online as there are no cloth diaper stores near me.
There are several tips to buying used diapers and to purchasing diapers online, just like if you were purchasing anything else online.
Selling Cloth Diapers
If you take good care of your diapers you can even sell them for about half of what you purchased them for. I will not talk much about this now since I am not selling my diapers, but you can find more information at Diaper Junction.
Do you use cloth diapers? Have you ever thought about using them? What is keeping you from using cloth diapers?