Hopefully you have clicked on this article because you are just starting out or considering using cloth diapers so first of all, welcome! This is the start of a great journey, possibly your first sustainable step and we promise that you will love it! Cloth diapers have come a long way in recent years so in this guide we will take a quick look at what they are like now, how to choose your cloth diapers, how to use them, how to care for them and all the bits inbetween.
Modern Cloth Diapers
When we first hear the name cloth diapers the majority of us imagine thick terry towels fastened together with a safety pin. Yes, many years ago these were the only options but modern cloth diapers have come a long, long way. We now have better materials, quick drying fabrics, better technology to enable a variety of absorbency levels as well as the development of PUL which provides a waterproof layer on the outside of the diaper. Oh, and we just have to mention the range of beautiful, stunning, fun, bright and unique designs that they are available in. Cloth is far from dull!
There are a lot of new terms to learn when it comes to the world of cloth diapers but once you break them down and begin to understand and recognize them it really isn’t too daunting:
All in ones or AIO’s are all in one diapers which simply means that the main insert is attached to the diaper.
Pocket diapers are a diaper with a pocket where the insert is placed inside. This means you will have to stuff the diaper after each wash.
A two-part system is made up of 2 diapers, one that fully absorbs the moisture and a wrap that sits over the top to keep this wetness contained.
Pre-fold diapers are you traditional-looking style like your terry towel.
An all in two is a diaper that has an insert that can popper inside which means you may be able to get away with just taking this out, replacing with a clean one and reusing the diaper wrap at change time.
The Other Parts…
Liners- There are 2 options here, a reusable liner or a disposable liner. A disposable is a thin piece of viscose that sits inside the diaper to catch the poo and can then be thrown away in a normal waste bin. A reusable liner will most likely be made of fleece and will do the same job as a disposable one but you will tip the poo into the toilet and wash the reusable liner to be used again.
Inserts– This is the absorbent layer that goes inside a cloth diaper.
Boosters– These are extra inserts (usually made in bamboo, Microfibre, Charcoal, Hemp) which provide an extra boost for heavier wetters.
How To Choose Your Cloth Diapers
Choosing cloth diapers will come down to several factors and like many things in life, that is mostly personal choice and what works for you:
- The right fit for your baby
- The right absorbency level for your baby
- The ease of use
- The designs and styles
- Fastenings- poppers or velcro
Nobody can sit and tell you which cloth diapers will work the best for you. Yes, they can advise, they can give their opinions and experiences but each baby/child is different and you should always bear this in mind before settling on that one recommendation.
These days we are extremely fortunate to have some wonderful websites and groups, useful blog posts as well as social media to turn to for help. There are many places in which you can gain more knowledge on the types of diapers, the brands, tips for night time diapers, for care advice and so on. If you are just starting out in the world of cloth, we would definitely recommend doing some background research before taking the plunge. Familiarize yourself with what is available to you, join groups to gain more insight and also check if your area has a local diaper library for you to see the products in real life and to chat to an expert face to face. Once you work out which cloth diapers will be most suited to your little one, you will be setting yourself up to make a great start with them.
How Many Will I Need?
This will highly depend on whether or not you want to cloth full time. There are no rules here. You can choose to only cloth in the day, only at night, only at home, do it part-time or full time. Really it is whatever works for you. If full time is what you are aiming for, most people advise that you will need around 20-25 diapers to comfortably achieve this.
How To Use Cloth Diapers
Cloth diapers are so similar to disposables that the whole process is pretty much the same- except you wash these and reuse them. A good fitting, absorbent diaper should last your baby anywhere from 2-4 hours (sometimes more if you’re lucky!) Checking how wet they are will take a little practise as there is no indicator line to help you like many disposables have but once you get into the swing of using them you will soon understand how full they are from a simple touch plus you will also be in tune with how long your baby will go between changes. When your baby is ready for a change, you will remove the dirty diaper, clean them up with a (reusable?) wipe and place a new diaper on them. What happens to the dirty one next will depend on whether it is just urine or if it is soiled. For urine, this diaper can go straight inside a wet bag or diaper bin ready for the next wash. A soiled diaper will need a little more attention (I promise it isn’t too bad!) If you use a disposable liner, this can go into a normal waste bin. If you use a reusable liner, you can shake off the poo into the toilet. It should come away quite easily as fleece doesn’t really allow much to stick to it. However, if you do have a little trouble you can either deal with this by holding it under the flush or by scraping it away with a dedicated knife or with toilet paper/wipe. If you don’t use a liner, you will just do the same with the diaper itself. Once clean enough, simply pop it into your wet bag or diaper bin. These can stay in there for around 2-3 days before requiring a wash.
Washing diapers has and will always come with a lot of opinions but the main point that we always like to get across is that all of this should be and needs to be simple. Using modern cloth diapers is nothing like using old-style diapers and this is the stigma that we need to break away from. Not only this, but washing machines have also come a long way in both performance, in energy efficiency and also in water usage. So, how do we advise you wash?
- Cold rinse or daily wash, no detergent
- Longest and best cycle (usually a cotton) on a 40 or 60 degree with full dose of detergent (no conditioner)
- Spin at 1200 or less
- Air dry
For more details on this check out our full blog post on washing cloth diapers.
As mentioned above, you should ideally air dry your diapers as this is the best way of ensuring their longevity. Tumble driers will gradually damage the PUL which will lead to leaks which will mean they will no longer be of any use. However, if you struggle to air dry your diapers you could place them inside an airing cupboard, above a radiator, next to a fire or over an AGA.
Once your diapers are clean and dry, you can stuff them with your inserts, seal the fastenings and store them for the next use. Where and how you store them will highly depend on your space at home but some popular choices are inside drawers, on bookcases, in storage boxes, on shelves or any other units that will show off all of your wonderful, pretty designs!
And that is really all there is to it. Cloth diapers 101, proving that this is such a fun, yet simple step to take.