Cloth Diapering 101


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Does the thought of cloth diapering scare you or gross you out? If it does, you need to learn some important facts that might just change your mind.

Cloth diapering is not what it used to be when our grandparents cloth diapered our parents. We no longer use those funny rubber pants, and diaper pins are a thing of the past.

What many people consider to be the biggest benefit of cloth diapering is the cost savings. You can cloth diaper a child from birth to potty training for right around $100-$500, depending on the system you use. The use of disposables from birth to potty training costs approximately $2,000 per child. This means that if you cloth diaper, you can save up to $2,000 per child. You can also reuse and resell cloth diapers, whereas disposables are a onetime use only.

Not only are the cost savings spectacular, but when you use cloth diapers you eliminate mass quantities of waste.

Did you know that when a disposable diaper gets solid waste in it you are supposed to flush it down the toilet and not just throw it away? Read the fine-print on the back of a disposable box and see for yourself. Solid waste in a disposable diaper takes approximately 500 years to breakdown. The chemicals in the disposable diaper preserve the waste.

Those chemicals in the disposable diaper can be harmful to your baby. When you switch to cloth diapering, you remove a vast majority of chemicals that are exposed to your baby. Disposable diapers contain chemicals such as dioxin, sodium polyacrylate, dyes, fragrances, plastics, toluene, xylene, and more.

Benefits of Cloth Diapering:

  • Save Money
  • Reduce Waste
  • Better the Environment
  • Reduce Chemical Exposure
  • Save Water

When you take a look at all of the options for cloth diapering, you may become a bit overwhelmed. I will explain the cheapest way to cloth diaper and also give you all of the other available options.

The cheapest way to cloth diaper will be using reusable waterproof covers and flour sack towels or prefolds/flats. When you use reusable waterproof covers you can reuse them throughout the day, as long as they are not visibly soiled. You will want to have approximately 6-8 reusable covers at a cost of $8-$17/diaper. Flour sack towels can be purchased at Walmart and come in packs of 5 for right around $5. You will want to have 15-30 flour sack towels, prefolds, or flats so that you can go at least two days between washes. Prefolds will cost a bit more, but require less folding and are more absorbent. Flats are similar to flour sack towels but will also cost more.

You can choose to fold your flour sack towels, prefolds, or flats and simply lay them in the diaper. You can also fasten them with a Snappi (rubber cloth diaper fastener with no pins). For newborns-6 months of age I recommend fastening with a Snappi to keep in those extra big messes. I also recommend using a reusable microfleece liner to wick away moisture from baby’s skin.

Other Options:

  • All in One
  • All in Two
  • Pocket
  • Fitted
  • Wool

What exactly do you need to get started cloth diapering? I have put together a list of essentials and also included some other items that you do not necessarily need but may want to consider getting.

Cloth Diaper Essentials:

  • 15-30 cloth inserts
  • 6-8 reusable waterproof covers
  • Diaper pail and liner
  • 2 Snappis
  • 15-30 microfleece liners
  • Tide powder detergent
  • Borax
  • Place to hang diapers to dry

Other Accessories:

  • Diaper sprayer
  • Cloth wipes
  • Essential oils
  • Travel size wet bags
  • Coconut oil
  • Nighttime cloth diapers
  • Other diaper styles
  • Wool dryer balls
  • Disposable liners

Washing Cloth diapers is easier than you might think. If you have a washer and a dryer you can simply treat your diapers like another load of laundry. If you do not have a washer and a dryer, cloth diapers can be washed by hand in the tub or sink. There is also an alternative to laundry machines called the Wonder Wash.

Wash Routine:

Wash on heavy setting in cold water with ½ cup Borax (you want enough water in the washer so the diaper to water ratio makes a stew appearance)

Wash on heavy setting in hot water with ½ cup Borax and a full scoop of Tide powder

Line dry inside or outside, or dry in the dryer on low or no-heat setting. Do not put waterproof covers in the dryer, always hang those up to dry.

What do you do with the diapers in-between washes and how long can you leave diapers before they need to be washed? Diapers can be stored in open pails with a diaper liner. You can use any type of garbage can you like. Diapers should be washed at least every 3 days, but most people will wash every other day. Solids should be knocked into the toilet before the diaper is stored in the diaper pail. If a diaper is very messy, it can be dunked and swished in the toilet while flushing to get rid of waste. A diaper sprayer can also be purchased and hooked up directly to the toilet for spraying off really messy diapers.

Another great fact about cloth diapering is that the poop of a breastfed baby is water-soluble. What does this mean? This means that exclusively breastfed babies do not need to have their dirty diapers rinsed off before throwing them in the wash. The water will break up the water-soluble poop and disintegrate it. This is a huge benefit of breastfeeding and cloth diapering.

Cloth diapers should never have a bad smell to them, especially after washing. If your cloth diapers smell in any way, it is likely that you are not washing them correctly. Inadequately washed cloth diapers can cause problems, like ammonia build up and diaper rash. Cloth diapered babies are actually less likely to get a diaper rash as compared to babies who use disposables.

Tough stains can be removed from cloth diapers by laying wet diapers out in the sun to dry. The sun naturally destroys stains. You can even “sun” your diapers in the winter months.


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