Cloth Nappies 101

I have been using cloth diapers for almost 2 years now with my kiddo and I have had a great experience. I’ve had many friends email me with questions because they feel overwhelmed or just aren’t even sure where to start. When I was pregnant with my first child I had TONS of support & had at least 2 close friends already cloth diapering their babies that I could observe/ask questions/creep around their house taking notes. So this post is in an effort to give my brief personal experience with all things cloth and have a place to point friends to when they ask me for my suggestions.

Please recognize that this is my personal opinion & this post is only meant to be helpful to those people/moms who are CURIOUS or have already BEGUN their journey and just want a little moral support. If you are personally offended by or otherwise hate cloth diapers you are entitled to your opinion but please don’t bother commenting here. THANKS!


  • Waste: The most obvious reason for me to consider cloth diapering when I first found out I was pregnant, was the idea of purchasing/throwing away thousands of diapers (10-12 a day for a newborn) throughout the first few years of my child’s life. As a Biology teacher I had heard all there was to hear about filling our planet with trash, not to mention all the resources/chemicals that go into making them…
  • Cost: After doing a little research I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that even though cloth diapers can be a little pricey up front, they really do save you money in the long run. Cutting diapers/wipes out of your weekly grocery budget can be a big help and all of my diapers have survived Norah’s bottom and will be used this summer when baby #2 makes her(his) grand appearance! Reuse is always cheaper.
  • Health: Lastly, you can hear many different opinions on the “health” of using disposable, and for me the bottom line is natural fibers are just natural. I’m not going to argue about the potential use of dioxins or how the super absorbency of disposable make them more susceptible to bacteria…blah blah. I’ve had my own set of issues with cloth, but at the end of the day I’m putting cotton against her skin and that makes me feel good.
  • For more info/opinions you can do your own google search or check out a list of sources at DiaperFacts.

It is important to find what works for you and your schedule and the best way to do that is to try different kinds and tweak as you go. I would also recommend finding a store where you can go see the different kinds & styles: my favorites are The Little Seedling (where I started) and now there is Sweet Cheeks here in town! Yay! The women who work there are so knowledgeable and very friendly.  There are so many different styles/brands you just have to find what works best for you – your budget, your baby! Here is the system we’ve used for the last year and a half.

Covers/Inserts: This is just our system, that works for us – but I know sometimes it is easier to start something when you have a “template” to work from!
Daytime: I like covers that you can reuse if your baby only pees so I’ve liked: Flips & Thirsties. We’ve liked these because they are adjustable as your baby grows & we haven’t had to buy new covers since we’ve started. We’ve used mostly Flip inserts, but have recently started using cotton pre-folds as well (I talk more about “natural” fibers in the “Oops!” section below.)
Nighttime:  We’ve liked pocket diapers for at night because you can fill them with as many inserts as your baby can pee out of & then you can pull the inserts out when you go to wash them so they dry much quicker (than All-in-Ones/AIO’s for example). We use BumGenius & stuff the pockets with a regular insert and then 2 “doublers“…but this all depends on your kid! You can find some nice diagrams of different diapers here.
The Bottom-line: In general, if you go with a system like ours, you will need approximately…

  • 6 daytime covers
  • 24-30 cloth inserts/pre-folds
  • 2-3 nighttime pockets (they usually come with 1-2 inserts)
  • 4 doublers
  • 2-3 dozen cloth wipes (see below)
  • Note: if this is your first baby, registries are a beautiful thing! 🙂

Wipes: we started using disposable wipes when we brought Norah home from the hospital (newborn poop is gooey!) but since then have gone back & forth with cloth. I actually just cut up a few of those flannel receiving blankets (you will get about a million with your first kid) into 4×4″ squares and just keep a spray bottle with water on our changing table. Some people put a drop of essential oil in it, but we’ve just used plain water & (surprise) it works great! Just throw them in the pail & wash with everything else.

Cream/Ointment: most cloth diapers will tell you to not use any creams or ointments as they can build up on the diaper and cause odors or irritation or just inhibit absorbency. I’ve found sometimes you just need to use something or your baby is going to have a rough time. My favorite is Angel Baby, it works quickly and smells wonderful. If you have to use cream or vaseline because your little one just has an intense rash, you can always line your cloth diaper with a disposable liner or (heck) some paper towel so the gunk doesn’t actually touch the cloth.

Pail/Liner: we just bought a small garbage can with a hinge lid and keep it next to the toilet (for easy transfer!) or changing table. Line your (DRY) pail with a water-proof wet bag and you are set (you might want to have 2 wet bags so there is always a rotation while you’re doing laundry). Some people like to sprinkle baking soda or essential oil to prevent odors, but we don’t.

“On the Go”: it’s not too complicated to travel with cloth diapers, especially once you get your rhythm going. It is nice to have a travel wet-bag to store used diapers in or if you’re travelling somewhere for days without any laundry services we just go disposable (sometimes baby-sitters & grandparents appreciate it too)!

CLEAN-UP (or… do you use a laundry service??)
Soap/Detergent: most cloth diaper companies will recommend using the most natural/free&clear detergent you can: any fillers/additives/brighteners will not only build-up in your diaper & prevent proper absorption but can also be harsh on baby’s sensitive skin.  We use Charlie’s and have had no problems – we also bought a 1 oz. pump to go with the gallon bottle so you don’t waste detergent. We’ve probably used 2 gallons in the last year and a half. Sometimes I’ve added a little BioKleen odor-out if they are particularly smelly!

Care Instructions: this is probably the most common issue when it comes to cloth diapering – How do I get the diapers clean??? Yeah, but are they really clean??? I can only tell you that from my personal experience this has not been a difficult process. Once you find your daily rhythm cloth diapering is simple and satisfying. Here is my basic laundry process:

  • Initial Pre-wash: most diapers will come with instructions for pre-washing. It’s usually like wash 5-10 times in hot water to remove residues and increase absorption before putting on your baby. Annoying, but it does help.
  • Everyday Changing: Obviously, the most contact you will make with your child’s waste is during the changing process (hello, you will be wiping a bottom whether you use cloth or not!) – wet diapers go straight in the pail & poop diapers get dumped in the toilet first & then in the pail…usually this is a pain-free process unless your child has had a particularly goopy poop. Some people prefer a sprayer to help with that, I’ve made it without one with the occasional swish in the toilet (keep your pail by your toilet for easy transfer).
  • Keep all dirty inserts/covers in a DRY pail (wet pail = stagnant, bacteria water! no thank you!) pull out the wet-bag on laundry day and invert into the washing machine. Easy peasy. You can wash all your covers/inserts/wipes together, you just want to be careful how you DRY your covers.
  • Always wash your diapers on a large/super load (more water = better rinsing!)
  • Everyday Wash Cycle = 1 cold rinse, 1 hot wash (with .5-1oz detergent depending on size of load), 1 hot rinse (or more if you see suds)
  • Everyday Dry Cycle = air dry most plastic covers & dry inserts/doublers/wipes/etc on High Heat or (even better) line dry to bleach in the sun!

OOPS!! (or…things I learned the hard way)
Velcro: velcro fasteners WEAR OUT – just save yourself the heart ache and pick snaps!
Micro-fiber: we’ve noticed as time goes on our micro-fiber (Flip) inserts are not as absorbent and we’ve also had a few incidents of diaper rash that got a little out of hand. The more research/reading I’ve done, seems to point to natural fibers being the best solution: they wash more cleanly, they don’t hold in residue as easily, they “breathe” better, etc. So, we’ve slowly begun getting more cotton pre-folds (you will also need snappies to hold them together) but we still use the micro-fiber daily I’m just more aware of how I clean them (see “stripping” below) and I usually have to double them up because of how much my toddler is peeing these days.
Rash/Yeast: more than once we’ve had a case of diaper rash that will just not go away and at one point (around 13 months) I got VERY discouraged and almost gave up on cloth altogether. Thankfully, the lovely ladies at Sweet Cheeks talked me down from the ledge and gave me a recipe for “stripping” your diapers: that is, a POWER wash to get rid of any residual soap/creams/ointments/urine that may have built up on the inserts and could be harboring pesky bacteria and/or yeast which is causing the diaper rash. Here is the recipe and I usually use it about every 2 months even if Norah doesn’t have a rash and so far, it has worked like a dream!

  • “Stripping” Wash Cycle: 1 cold rinse, 1 hot wash + 2 T. classic Dawn dish soap + 1/4 c. bleach, at least 2 regular rinses to get rid of any bleach! Dry like normal on High heat or sun bleached is the best.

Hope you found this post helpful & inspiring!
Cheers & Happy Diapering!


7 thoughts on “Cloth Nappies 101

    • Thanks 🙂 that is so great – having friends who’ve already had some experience helps sooooo much. That really goes for anything mom related actually (breast feeding, potty training, sanity maintaining…hehe) yay for moral support.

      Ps: you r going to be so cute w a baby bump someday & a super mom!

  1. This is very well written! Very clear and easy to understand!

    I’ll have to give cotton prefolds a try! We got into a huge mess with our diapers. We have well water (which can make cleaning diapers a bit more difficult) so they started to get stinky. I read online that you could use vinegar to help clean out the smellies…. Big.mistake. The vinegar reacted with the minerals in the water and made them smell even worst!! Lol we’ve always used Charlies but a friend recommended stripping them with Rockin’ Green and it seemed to help a little. Unfortunately we haven’t seemed to get back in the CD swing after that… But maybe cotton prefolds will be the key!!

    • Thanks Kelly & thanks for reading 🙂

      Ooh well water would be tricky! I tried vinegar a few times too with the same result. Then I heard that vinegar reacting with urine residue could actually give babies a rash too (acidity!!) so I was very thankful to learn the stripping method when I did.

      Once u guys get to t-town u will have to visit sweet cheeks! They are so knowledgeable and have lots of stuff besides diapers & it’s local! 🙂

      • Oh yes! Stephanie over at sweet cheeks and I have spoken on a few occasions! She used to attend the church my hubbie works at. Very sweet woman! I’ll have to pick her brain soon!

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