Cloth Diapering- The Who, What, When and Where

Just a month or so ago, I was brand new to cloth diapering, searching and searching the internet, browsing pictures, reading blogs, researching all of the Cloth Diapering 101’s that I could possibly get my hands on. I do NOT by any means consider myself an expert on this topic. (yet) 🙂 This is just a simple break down of who, what, when and where, for the new mama’s considering cloth diapering.

If when you think cloth diapers, you immediately picture flat diapers and pins, think again!! It is a new age for the cloth diapering mama! These days, cloth diapers are snazzy, super cute, trend setting, eco friendly, and can save you TONS of money!

I am your average new mom, with tons of questions, tons of concerns and one ultimate goal, SAVE MONEY! I am eco conscious, and am in the process of converting my home to be completely environmentally friendly. Why you ask? Well, to save money by making my own products, and to help conserve the earth so that my son can grow up in a healthy environment, and raise his children in a healthy environment. 😉

Let’s start this off by answering some of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to cloth diapering.

How much money can I save?

I am sure you have heard that tons of money can be saved by cloth diapering. Just how much, is the ultimate question. In all honesty, you can make cloth diapering as expensive, or inexpensive as you like. There are tons of options, such as purchasing used diapers, that can save you TONS of money. At the end of this I will give you a bunch of links to scope out used diapers. The cloth diaper industry is like any other, you have your BMW diapers, and your Pinto diapers. Your cost will ultimately depend on what you are comfortable and able to spend.

For disposable diapers, the average cost per diaper nationwide is $0.28 per diaper.  If your child is not potty-trained until 3 ½ and you change your child every two hours, for fifteen hours (not changing during the time they are sleeping), you will average approximately eight diapers per day. Eight diapers per day would not be accurate when they are a newborn, but this is probably the average amount of diapers you would use on any given day. The total cost for this figure (3 ½ years, 8 diaper changes per day) would be $2,862.72. (Note this cost does not include disposable wipes, diaper genie refills, etc.)

For cloth diapering, the costs range widely and it is hard to give exact figures on how much these cost. Cloth diapering (including the cost of cloth wipes & laundering) can range between $400-$1300 dollars. This figure ultimately depends on whether or not you choose the BMW diapers or the Pintos.  Regardless of the style that you choose, you still come out financially ahead by using the cloth versus the disposable.

Why Should I choose to cloth diaper?

Well #1 reason, it saves money. It also has a huge impact on the environment. Check out these links for information on how disposable diapers affect our environment, and your baby.

What do all the abbreviations mean, and what kind of diapers are there?

Cloth diapering can be overwhelming at first! So many terms, abbreviations, and so much to choose from! Where do you start, what kind do you get, what is the best deal! It’s mind blowing and a lot of new parents become so overwhelmed that they decide not to cloth diaper. Let me simplify things for you. 🙂

Let’s start off by going over the different types of diapers.


Prefolds are the types of diapers you probably think of when you are considering cloth diapering.  They are a traditional cloth diaper with a thick strip down the middle. These are typically worn with a diaper cover and are one of the least expensive options for cloth diapering.  They come in three sizes- Preemie (4-10 pounds), Infant (newborn to 15 pounds) & Premium (15-30 pounds). These sizes vary depending on what brand of prefold you purchase.

There are different types of prefolds out there and many abbreviations for them. A DSQ Prefold, simply means that it is Diaper Service Quality versus the type of diaper you would find in your discount store. They are more absorbent than the Gerber brand and are the type that you would pay money for from a diaper service company.  CPF stands for Chinese Prefold and it is the most popular type of prefold on the market. It has heavy-duty stitching, is usually made of twill, and washes up extremely well. Another option for prefolds are Indian Prefolds which are softer than the CPF and are made of gauze rather than twill. They are more absorbent, but do wear out a little faster than the Chinese Prefolds.

When your child outgrows the Infant or Preemie size diapers, you can reuse these for dust rags or they can be used as a diaper stuffer or to double up your stuffing at nighttime.

I highly suggest Green Mountain Diaper Prefolds, they are a little pricier, but well worth the money. I LOVE prefolds and covers. My son is a super soaker, and these have been our nighttime miracles.

Check out the Green Mountain Diaper site for some more helpful info on cloth diapering, and to see all of their products.

Also check out this video on how to put on a prefold diaper! 🙂

There are also different ways to fold a prefold, I suggest googling 🙂

Diaper Covers

If you are interested in using the prefolds, you will probably want to purchase waterproof diaper covers too.  A prefold can be folded inside of the diaper cover and the diaper cover simply covers the prefold and acts as a waterproof barrier. The prefold can also be wrapped around baby like a diaper, and fastened together with neat little things called Snappi’s or Boingo’s! I find that this method contains his overnight super soaker pees very well! Diaper covers are awesome, and can be purchased in a variety of sizes and designs! Check out the links below, these are some of the most popular diaper cover brands! <— They have a variety of diapers! The Duo Wrap is our favorite cover here!

Fitted Diapers

Fitted diapers are also used with Diaper Covers. Instead of using a prefold, you can use a fitted diaper, which has elastic gathering around the legs and usually has snaps or a Velcro closure to keep the diaper together. This diaper is normally made of a soft material, and does not have a waterproof outer covering. Place the diaper cover over the fitted diaper, and you are ready to go. These types of diapers are less expensive than other options, however, they are more expensive then using prefolds.

The Green Mountain Diaper website I linked above has an awesome product called the Workhorse! Again, a bit pricey, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE them. Great for heavy wetters and more convenient than prefolds for hubbies, babysitters and grandparents!

Contoured Diapers 

These diapers are very similar to the fitted, but are missing the elastic gatherings around the legs and waist. The diaper has wings that need to be fastened. These also require a diaper cover.

Pocket Diapers

These diapers are pretty neat. If your looking for something a bit more convenient than prefolds and fitteds with covers, these are great. They are made with two layers of fabric sewn together to form a pocket on the inside of the diaper, and you can put inserts or prefolds in the pocket. This diaper fastens on, and has a waterproof outer covering, known as PUL (polyurethane laminated fabric) which keeps the pee from leaking out. It does not require a cover.

Some popular pocket diapers:


Inserts are used for pocket diapers. They are made of a variety of materials such as micro-terry cloth, regular terry cloth, hemp and bamboo, sometimes they are made of more than one material. You can also just use smaller prefolds as inserts. “Doubling up” just means using more than one insert, which you could do if you were away for an extended amount of time or at nighttime before bed, to discourage leaking. There are also inserts known as soakers, and doublers made especially for heavy wetters.

Most Pocket diaper companies make their own inserts that go with that particular diaper, however, most inserts will fit into just about any pocket diaper.

This link has a lot of different varieties of inserts to check out!

All In One Diapers

You will often see this term abbreviated to AIO. An All In One is a cloth diaper that has a waterproof cover and an absorbent inner liner that is all in one piece, thus the name. These diapers are very convenient for hubbies, sitters and grandparents. No stuffing, just put on and fasten. These are the diaper that is most like a disposable. The only downside to these diapers is that they take FOREVER to dry. Other than that, I have enjoyed the AIO diapers that I have tried out.

This is one of the popular brand AIO diapers. My son is a super heavy wetter and I have found these to not be the best choice for us personally, but I know tons of moms who rave these and LOVE them.

These are another popular AIO brand and I must say of the two, this one is the bees knees! I borrowed one of these from a friend and was sad to see it go, a little pricier, but if you can find them used these are well worth the money! GREAT diaper!

One Size Diaper

You will often see this term abbreviated to OS. A one size diaper usually fits the child from the day they are born until they are thirty to thirty-five pounds. These diapers usually have snaps that go across the diaper (making it smaller or bigger) and they can be folded over to create smaller sizes.  As the child grows, the snaps on the legs can become larger.

Wool Soaker

A wool soaker is a diaper cover that is made exclusively of wool. This type of fabric has a high lanolin content, so it works well as a diaper cover. It can hold up to forty percent of its weight in moisture and can be used with fitted, contour, or prefold cloth diapers.

Wool must be cared for differently than regular diapers. Check out this link to learn how to wash and care for your wool properly.

What do I need to get started Cloth Diapering?

The answer to this question depends on how much you want to invest to begin and how often you want to do laundry. If you are doing a load a day of laundry, you would need enough to do six to eight changes. If you plan to only do laundry every other day, then you would probably need enough to change your little one twelve to sixteen times.

A suggested amount to start off with if you want to do laundry every three or four days. Two dozen infant prefolds, four diaper covers, and twenty pocket diapers.This will be a larger initial investment, but buying used can save tons. I did not start off with cloth diapers, but I do remember how many diapers I would go through when my son was a newborn. There are always those lovely, I have just pooped, and you are in the middle of changing them and they either poop all over, or you have just finished changing them and they poop again. Some diaper changes would take two or three diapers before the diaper changing was all said and done. I went through so many disposables. My suggestion would be to always be over prepared instead of under prepared. Those first few weeks are all about trial and error. 🙂

As baby gets older, you will need less diapers per day.If you decide to go with OS (One Size) Diapers, you will be set as baby gets older, but fitted, prefolds and most covers will require you to purchase bigger sizes.

Other items worth purchasing before you begin cloth diapering- Cloth Wipes! (2 or 3 dozen) These are amazing! Saves you even more money,(especially if you make your own) and with the right wipe solution you can avoid nasty rashes from harsh disposable wipes chemicals. A diaper pail (you can use a trash can with a flip top lid), two wet bags (so you have one to line the pail while a load is in the wash), a diaper sprayer, which comes in handy when poop becomes solid, you just spray it off the diaper right into the toilet. Very handy and convenient, and a small wet bag that you can use to keep your dirty diapers in your diaper bag.

Laundry and Diaper Care

This all depends on whether or not you plan to reuse/sell your diapers and what type of diaper you purchase.Everyone will develop their own diaper care system.

Exclusively breastfed babies diapers are much easier to care for. No need to rinse them off until they start off with solids. They can just be thrown into the diaper pail (lined with a waterproof wet bag) and then tossed into the wash.

As your child ages and they begin eating solids, their poop becomes more solid. With my pocket diapers, I can just shake the solids into the toilet and throw them in my wet bag, just like before. You can also purchase a diaper sprayer, which attaches to your toilet, and give your diapers a spray to insure all of the solids have been removed from the diaper.  Another option would be to purchase a diaper liner which would act as a barrier between the diaper and the solids. You would just pull the liner out (solids and all) and either throw it away or flush it down the toilet (if the liners are flushable).  Please note that a diaper liner is not absorbent- you cannot use this in place of an insert. These just act as a barrier, not as an absorber.

Now comes the wash routine. I use BioKleen detergent, but there a variety of options for your cloth diapers.

I start off with a hot rinse and spin to get rid of all the poo. I do NOT add the detergent until the next step.

After the rinse and spin, I add 2-3 tablespoons of detergent and set my washer on HOT and Heavy cycle. I wait until the wash starts to agitate and then I pause the wash and let the diapers soak for up to 30 minutes, then un pause the wash. (This wash routine was given to me by a good friend, Thanks Amanda!)

After the diapers are done washing, you can throw any inserts or prefolds into the dryer. Pockets, covers and AIO will stay in better condition longer if line dried. (Indoor or out) If you have any staining issues with your diapers, leaving them in the sun will take care of that! The sun acts as a natural bleaching agent and will remove almost any stain on your inserts/prefolds.

Never ever use any fabric softener or fabric softener sheets when washing your diapers. The fabric softener leaves a residue that can cause your diapers to no longer absorb.

You will want to check the manufacturer’s guidelines for each particular type of diaper that you buy on how to launder it and if it needs several washes before being used (prefolds & inserts usually need a few washes before use). Read those guidelines and use your own best judgment on how you choose to launder your items.

What if my diapers start leaking?

This may require a stripping of your diapers. If your diapers have been absorbing fine and all of a sudden the diapers stop absorbing, they may need to be stripped.

First, make sure that the diaper is still fitting your child well. Make sure that the snaps are snug on the legs and that the diaper has enough rise in it for it to completely cover their backside.

If the diaper is fitting well, you can strip your diapers and see if that increases the absorbency. You strip the diapers by running them through the wash until you see that there are no suds in the water. Sometimes the detergent can build up on them and this causes the decrease in absorbency. Two or three washes (without detergent) should do the job.

More info on stripping diapers:

I have black & brown spotting on my diapers- what could that be from?

Diaper rash creams can leave spotting on your diapers. Make sure to only use diaper creams that say that they are safe to be used with cloth diapers. Most companies that sell cloth diapers will have some types of creams that they can recommend to you.

More info on cloth diaper safe creams:

What about the smell?

This was one of my main concerns with cloth diapering. I did not cloth diaper from birth, but at the beginning my son’s poo did not smell at all because he is breastfed so I had no worries. Now that he eats solids, the poop can be pretty stinky. There are a few ways to reduce odor. You can sprinkle baking powder in your diaper pail. You can also take a wet wash rag and apply a few drops of Tea Tree Oil on it to reduce the smell. They also sell Diaper Discs to help eliminate odor as well.

Honestly, I never notice any more of a smell then I did with our diaper genie.

Where to buy used diapers!

There are tons of places to check! Ebay! Diaper Swappers! Yahoo Groups! Facebook Groups!

Here are some helpful links to find used cloth diapers.

Never forget about the WAHM’s! (Work at home moms!) They make Wonderful cloth diapers!! Here is a great WAHM site on facebook, and be sure to check Etsy and Hyena Cart also! WAHM’s make all sorts of things, from diapers, covers, wipes, baby wipes solutions!

What do I do with the diapers when I am done with them?

If you are planning on having more children, I would suggest keeping them for the next child. When the next child comes, you will have no diapers to buy! If this is your last child though, selling the diapers can be a great way to make back some of the money you spent on them.

If you purchase sized diapers, you can sell them on the internet to make your money back to buy the next size up!

I hope this was helpful! Any additional questions I will answer to the best of my ability!


About nerdyearthmama

Hi all! I am a 26 year old first time mom from Ohio! I am a cloth diaper addict, Doula in training and am in the process of converting my home to 100% all natural, organic and home made!
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