Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Roundup: Cloth Diapers

Some of you know, some don't: I used to have another blog called CrunchyLuxe. My husband an I co-wrote it but not often enough to matter.  It was a great outlet to discuss something near and dear to me, which is, essentially, how to be "crunchy" and live a luxe life all at once. And while that is great and still "me" is isn't really the direction I wanted to go. So I took it down.

And I keep getting questions.

And people still keep asking for one thing. Over. And over. And over again.

So, while CrunchyLuxe is no more people still want the info I wrote on Cloth Diapers...something we will hopefully be leaving behind soon. Tonight I am doing a presentation about cloth diapering at the local library. I realize many of you have no interest in this info and for that I apologize, but, for those of you that have been asking, here you go...all in one long post. Good luck, happy diapering, pass it on.

When I first delved into the world of cloth diapers I had no idea the myriad of stuff out there - and was totally overwhelmed. A word of warning - if you are thinking about cloth diapering it can actually be quite addictive and fun.

The Fundamentals

Why cloth diapers?

Well, for one disposable diapers do.not.decompose. I know people have done more sophisticated number crunching but for our little girl that would be a hell of a lot of diapers - if she wore diapers for 2 years only that would be at minimum 5000 diapers.

There is a lot of back and forth about the environmental impact of constantly washing/drying diapers - and while I will say that is a valid concern, you do not have to do 3 washes for every set of diapers you wash - nor do you have to wash every single day. Currently we wash every 2-3 days. I do a cold pre-wash, then a warm wash. If there is stink (rarely an issue) or I feel the need to "strip" the diapers I'll do a hot wash with an extra rinse and add in some Dawn at the beginning.

Along with the impact of washing you could consider the soap/detergent to be a negative - but, again, I don't find it to be an issue as our diaper detergent is totally natural and biodegradable.

What is available?

What most people think of when they think of cloth diapers. The "burp cloth" looking rectangle of fabric that you fold and pin on a baby. Now you don't need pins though - you can use what is called a "Snappi" which grabs the fabric and keeps it closed, or you don't have to close them at all since you'll most likely put a cover on to stop the leaks

 All In One (AIO)
Just like what it sounds like - this diaper has everything all in one place. These are the most like a disposable diaper you will find. All you do it put under the baby, fold up, like a disposable, and snap or velcro closed. Great for husbands, in-laws, grandparents, babysitters, etc. Only downside is many take a long time to dry.

Pocket Diapers

A pocket diaper works just like an AIO except the absorbent lining comes out. In this case there is usually an opening in the back of the cover of the diaper (or sometimes front) where you stuff the liner or doubler (a liner that doubles your absorbency) into. When you take these off your child you pull the liner out and wash as well as the pocket diaper it went into. These are faster to dry than AIOs but require you to stuff/unstuff the pockets.

Fitted or Contour diapers

Both of these require you to use a cover to prevent leaks - that sounds like a lot of work but it really isn't. Fitted diapers are basically an AIO with no cover - they have elastic in the leg gussets and snap closed - they work almost like a disposable. Then you place the cover on.

Contour diapers are like prefolds except you don't need to fold at all - you just wrap the wings around and pop on a cover.


Come in about a million prints and varieties - you can get anything from a more plastic-y fabric (PUL) to fleece to wool. Whatever floats your boat here.

We use cloth wipes too! Love them, love them, love them! They go in the laundry with the diapers. I love the Kissaluvs Terry, but our favorite were custom ordered work-at-home mom wipes. I ordered them in a "half size" (aka the size of the plastic wipe box I repurposed). One side is a cute cotton print, the other is a bamboo velour.

For great WAHM wares and eco-friendly supplies check out Hyena Cart. Or give a search on Etsy.

Making Cloth Wipes and Dealing with Rashes

For a long time we used something called Baby Bits, a glycerin-based soap bit that you dissolve in water and pour over your wipes. Supposedly you use 1 bit per cup of warm water. That doesn't work to dissolve the bit or make enough solution for us so we pour boiling water over 1 bit and pour over our wipes - I used 2.5 cups of water per box of wipes. I use a plastic container from disposable wipes and fill it to nearly overflowing with cloth wipes, then pour our solution over. Once the wipes are wet they compress and there you go, one nice full box of wipes. The great thing about cloth wipes? Well, where you would normally need a few 'sposie (disposable) wipes you rarely need more than one cloth. In fact, I can't remember using more than one...

You can also make your own wipes with a's a few links:


From eZine

There are also foaming solutions and sprays.

If you are diapering a newborn, or are exclusively breastfeeding you may consider not using a solution at all and going with just plain water on your wipes. This is especially helpful if you have a very sensitive baby.

Since my daughter has a sensitivity and develops rashes really easily we've found the best solution for our wipes to be witch hazel - diluted half and half with water. Sometimes I will add Grapefruit seed extract as well if she's having a bit of a flare up. Grapefruit seed extract is excellent for yeast issues and as a general anti-microbial.

Rarely did we need a diaper rash ointment but when we did we went through every natural, and some not-so-natural, solution we could find. Nothing worked. There is one solution that works for us time and again - plain ol' olive oil. Even with her very worst rash ever our daughter had a healed bum within one day of using olive oil on her. Make sure to dry the bum well after cleaning too!

In rare instances you may have a yeast infection in the baby - this requires more extreme measures. You will need to strip your diapers and use grapefruit seed extract to kill off the yeast. You can use gentian violet but it tends to stain. Another recommendation is to use plain yogurt as a diaper cream/treatment. Even with non-yeast related issues we've found this to be a great healer as well.

Washing Cloth Diapers

Welllll...everyone has their own method but ours is pretty simple. For regular everyday washing we do:

1) Prewash on cold. I will often add a tablespoon of OxyClean to help keep our diapers nice and stain free, but, we live in a cold climate where I can't put the diapers outside all the time to sun out stains (more on that later). I will often add a bit of vinegar here as well - about a quarter cup.

2) Wash in warm, 1 rinse with 1-2 tablespoons of Crunchy Clean (or here) detergent, or my recent favorite Rockin Green (great for us because we have hard water) and another tablespoon or so of OxyClean. You can also use free and clear detergents.

If we have any smell issues or an extra dirty load I will do:

1) Prewash with OxyClean and a squirt of Dawn (yes, the dish detergent)

2) Wash on hot with an extra rinse cycle

I've also used  BacOut, an all-natural odor and stain remover with some success as well.

Removing Stains

Well, we use OxyClean for everyday and cold weather stain removal but, if the weather is nice and you have some sun the best and most eco-friendly method is to leave the diapers damp after washing and put them outside to dry in the sun. The sun will bleach the stains naturally and you'll save on the energy use from a clothes dryer.

Another method to consider is liners - there are both reusable and disposable liners. This is more important if you are particularly concerned about stains, do not exclusively breastfeed, or have a child with more "advanced" bowel movements (aka "real poop"). If you are using the disposable liners a good practice to consider is throwing the liner in your wash if it has only got urine on it. The liner comes out soft and clean and can be reused until it either falls apart or becomes soiled. We don't use liners and have no problem just using a sprayer...

Also, consider a diaper sprayer. There are many out there but these attach to your toilet and help remove soil from diapers with a squirt of pressurized water. Again, this is more useful for non-exclusively breastfed soiling, but, if you are particularly stain conscious it might be something you are interested in all the way through. We wouldn't be without it and it's easy and fast for rinsing number 2 diapers.

Yes, cloth diapering can seem totally overwhelming at first but once you get the hang of it it really isn't that big a deal.

Frequently Asked Questions

This Seems Like a Lot, How Do I Get Started?
Well, you can dive right in or you can do diaper trials. Jillian's Drawers has a $10 trial program many people seem to love. So do Daisy Diaper, Parenting By Nature (for you Canucks), Green Mountain Diapers, and Nell's Natural Babies offers rentals! Super for the newborn phase!
How Many Diapers Do I Need?
Well, depends on how often you want to do laundry, really.

For the newborn stage I recommend 24 diapers + some prefolds. Since you use prefolds for darn near everything they are always good to have on hand whether you use them as diapers or not. We had 12 Kissaluv Size 0 fitteds, 24 prefolds, and 4 covers. If I did it again I would have doubled the number of Kissaluvs. BUT, since A. grew out of these within about 6 weeks and was changed every 2.5 seconds (sometimes literally) it simply wasn't worth the investment at the time.

In retrospect if I did it again I would do:
12-24 Kissaluv size 0
24-30 prefolds (12 in small, 12 in medium)
12+ AIOs in each size, small, medium, and large
6 pockets


12-24 Kissaluv size 0
24-30 prefolds (12 in small, 12 in medium)
12+ one-sized pockets

Pockets would have been the best and cheapest way (aside from prefolds and covers) way to go (we couldn't use prefolds because little one freaked out when wet). I have been able to make back most of my expense in resale and the actual cost margins are lower than I expected at the outset. If we did it again (we're not though) I would probably go pockets all the way. I thought they would be too much to handle - all the stuffing, etc but they dry faster. Frankly, I spend more time folding and sorting out kitchen cloth: towels, wipes, bibs, napkins and clean-up rags. My biggest advice is this - never buy a ton of anything until you know you like it, never feel like a failure if something doesn't work for you, and never be afraid to ask questions. Try to have fun - and yes, diapers can be fun!

What is "prepping"? How do I do that? When do I do that?

Prepping is done with NEW raw and unbleached cotton and bamboo diapers - so basically any prefolds and many fitteds. To prep your diaper you will need to wash and dry the diapers a few times - anywhere from 2-4 times to strip all the natural oils off the diapers and make them absorbant. To prep you wash on hot with detergent and, I like to add a squirt of dawn for the first 2 times. Then dry. Repeat. The last wash I do plain with no detergent to get any remaining detergent out and do a final dry. After this your diapers are ready and every time you wash them they will get a little more absorbant.

I like to avoid prepping as much as possible because it is frankly, a pain, and sometimes can seem wasteful. I avoid prepping by buying used - that way it is already done for me!

What is "stripping"? How do I do that? Why do I do that?
If you are getting odor problems or your diapers don't seem to be absorbing correctly you strip your diapers. You can do this by either repeating the prepping process 1-2 cycles or by boiling your diapers. This will strip off any excess detergents you might have on the diapers - which often will make them repel liquid, and can help kill ammonia smells.

What is a "wetbag"? Why would I need that?
A wetbag is a water resistant sealed bag used to store your dirty diapers when out and about. Often wetbags are zipper topped and PUL-lined cotton. You can get all different sizes but a medium one works fine most of the day, for us at least.

What is a "Snappi"? Why would I use that?
A snappi is a y-shaped plastic piece with combs on each end - you use them to hold prefolds together (if you so choose) in place of pins. Though snappis can replace pins and put many at ease for the fear of stabbing their kiddos they are also sharp and shoudl be used with care. They can snap back and wack you - not so fun.

How do I fold a prefold?
I'm no expert in this area since prefolds didn't really work for us but I can direct you to other sites with pictorials:

Green Mountain Diapers


My diapers stink! Now what?
Here is a method from Jillians Drawers:

Use baking soda and vinegar! Here's how:
  • Do a cold rinse.
  • Use your regular amount of detergent.
  • Add 1/2 cup baking soda and a Downy ball filled to the top with distilled white vinegar. Start your washer's hot cycle.
  • After the diapers have agitated, but before the hot water has drained, stop the cycle (this can be done on some washers by leaving the lid up).
  • Let the diapers soak overnight.
  • Close the lid in the morning to complete the cycle.
The baking soda neutralizes acidic odors, removes acid and protein based stains, and softens the diapers. The vinegar neutralizes alkaline odors and removes alkaline based stains. Rather than adding the baking soda to your washer on wash day, you can add it directly to the diaper pail before you begin to fill it with diapers. This will help keep your diaper pail smelling fresh. Note: if you have hard water, use borax instead of baking soda.

How can I make my diapers last longer?
More helpful insight from Jillian's Drawers:
Here are some things that you can do to help your diapers last longer:
  • Hang dry overnight, or partially dry in the dryer and then hang dry.
  • To keep diapers soft, do not dry on your dryer's hottest setting.
  • Minimize use of bleach.
  • Never use fabric softener.
  • Use 1/2 cup lemon juice to whiten.
  • Sun them, even in cold weather, to freshen and remove stains.
I often will wash our diapers first then throw them in the dryer. The AIOs are never dry after just one cycle - which is the major downfall of AIOs. I then wash our regular laundry while the diapers are in the dryer. When I throw the regular laundry in the dryer I'll throw in whatever diapers are not dry. If they are still not dry I continue this process until the laundry is done or I hang them to dry. They are usually (I can't think of an exception) dry after hanging overnight.

Can I sell my diapers when I'm done with them?

Yes, you can sell used diapers - there is a huge market for them and they bring good money. I have sold all the diapers we've used and earned back at least 1/2 the purchase price almost every sale - sometimes more, sometimes less depending on the style, brand and need. I usually use Diaper Swappers but have also used Hyena Cart.

What the heck are all these acronyms and slang I see on message boards and blogs?
CD: Cloth Diaper
'Sposie: Disposible (diaper or wipe)
PF: Prefold Diaper
AIO: All in One Diaper
AI2: All in Two (usually the liner snaps in)
BV or OBV: Bamboo velour or organic bamboo velour
UIPF: Unbleached Indian Prefold
UBCPF: Unbleached Chinese Prefolds
CPF: Chinese Prefold
EBF: Exclusively Breastfed
EUC: Excellent Used Condition
VGUC: Very Good Used Condition
GUC: Good Used Condition
PP or PP addy: Paypal or Paypal address
FFS: Free for shipping
PPD: Postage Paid
PUL: polyurethane laminate, a material used to make diaper covers/wraps, the outer of many pocket diapers or AIOs
PL: Potty learning (the PC way of saying Potty Training, I guess)
EC: Elimination Communication
SAHM/D: Stay at home mom/dad
WAHM/D: Work at home mom/dad

Also, if you use DiaperSwappers, or want a significantly more complete list see here.

I'm curious as to why the difference between the brands--is it style, fit, cost?
All of the above, actually. Diapers are clothes, essentially, and fit each baby/child differently. My daughter has a big belly and skinny little chicken legs - so some diapers done "seal" close enough around her legs (the Magic Alls for instance). Also, some people prefer aplix/velcro over snaps or vice versa. When a child gets older and figures out how to get out of their diapers the type of closure becomes more of an issue, for sure. Some people prefer snaps as they can't wear out like velcro/aplix as well. Velcro will pill and curl but you can get the exact fit you want every time, with snaps you are limited to where the snaps are placed on the diapers.


For least to most expensive it usually goes prefolds, contours/fitteds, AIOs, pockets. But there are some exceptions. For one, Goodmama fitteds cost $35 new - which is way more than many pockets or AIOs. Also, AIOs may be cheaper than pockets but you have to buy them in sizes (sm, md, lg) and have those as your child grows whereas many pockets are one size (OS) and should last the term of your diapering.


Every diaper fits differently due to a variety of factors: closure type (snaps/aplix), size of diaper (stuffing in pockets, thickness of the fabric), style (fitted/AIO/pocket/prefold ), or style of sewing/make, the elastic used or the placement of elastic, the fabric, etc, etc. The trick is to find what works for you - which is why a diaper trial (above) might be a great idea!

Note: I have to apologize - I'm not sure where some of these images came from. Hopefully you'll forgive me, since you probably already know that's not really my style but if you own one and want credit please let me know!

1 comment:

k said...

I definitely need to save this away for when I have kids - cloth diapers seem like a natural solution and what I will use!