Introduction: Supermom's Guide for How to Navigate the Cloth Diaper World

Picture of Supermom's Guide for How to Navigate the Cloth Diaper World

You are intrigued by the idea. Perhaps you want to save money. Perhaps you want to save the planet. Perhaps you just think they are so darn cute, but YOU are so darn overwhelmed about where to start!

All cloth diapering moms have been there, so I hope this tutorial helps!

This Instructable is not to preach about the use of cloth and its pros and cons. I assume you are ready to take the cloth journey if you have made it to this tutorial...My job is just to give you a taste of the types of diapers out there and to let you know that cloth diapering is a personal adventure in tests and trials, and you WILL find what works for your individual baby. Remember that all babies are different (shapes, sizes, sensitivities, etc). Probably even your own children will respond differently to cloth as far as fit goes!

This tutorial will also provide you with some additional resources for information. Once you enter the cloth world, there are so many mamas who want to help you and see you succeed, even if your family thinks you are crazy for wanting to cloth! Soon you will be adding to your "stash" like a pro...yes, we call our diapers a stash because cloth diapering (particularly buying, selling, and trading them) does indeed become an addiction.

As a final overview note, cloth diapering is NOT just for stay at home moms! I am a working mom, and if you are too, you certainly don't have to be a Supermom to make it work!

If you like this Instructable, Please vote for it in the Superheroes Contest and the Wear It Contest!

Step 1: A Vocabulary Lesson

Picture of A Vocabulary Lesson

Diaper World Vocabulary:

Diaper Types:

Flats: This looks like a square flat sheet, and it can be folded to lay in a diaper cover or it can be used in a more traditional way to diaper a baby. These can be a bit bulky. They require a cover.

Prefolds: These look similar to flats but are sewn in what looks like three panels with the middle panel being thicker. You can put this on a baby in a traditional way or you can fold it in three (trifold) and lay it in a cover like a pad. Either way, this requires a cover.

Covers: These typically are made with PUL and come in either snaps or aplix. They also may be sized or may be OS (One size) and have what is called a snap down rise to grow with the baby. These are used over flats, prefolds, or fitteds.

All in one (AIO): This can be put on and taken off a baby just like a regular diaper. It goes in the wash as one diaper. Some moms feel these do not get as clean for that reason, but diaper technology has been improving. Other moms love the convenience since there is no messing with inserts. As a downfall, however, these can take longer to dry, and some moms are hesitant to put PUL in the dryer as it can melt and lose efficiency.

All in 2 (AI2): This goes on just like a regular diaper much like an AIO, but the soaker (inside part) can detach from its snaps and make for easier and more thorough cleaning.

Pockets: This goes on just like a regular diaper as well. Similar to an All In 2, but instead of a snap in soaker, this one has a literal pocket that you stuff the insert into. The insert absorbs the wetness. You can add more than one insert to boost absorbency (sometimes called a booster) such as by putting microfiber over a hemp insert. You take out the inserts and wash all diaper parts. Before using again, you have to stuff the diaper, which takes some time.

Fitteds: These are gaining in popularity, and many WAHMs (Work At Home Moms) make amazingly cute ones! Depending on the material used, some require a cover, but some do not. When worn during the day for a short period of time, you may not need a cover, and some are so well made (using windprofleece) that they do not even need a cover at night!

Woolies: These can be diaper covers, pants (longies), shorts (shorties), or skirts (skirties). They are made of 100% wool and must be lanolized and washed separately from your other cloth. The benefit is that it is an all natural fiber whereas PUL is not, and some babies are allergic to PUL. The other benefit is that it is breathable allowing air to pass through, which helps cut down on diaper rashes when wetness is locked in. The downfall is that some moms find the lanolizing process time consuming.

Parts of a Diaper:

PUL: Covers, All in Ones, All in Twos, and Pockets all use PUL. It is a laminated material called Polyurethane Laminate that is waterproof to keep messes from leaking out.

Elastics: These are found around the waist and legs. If the elastics become relaxed (or too loose) you could end up with leaks!

Aplix: This is the generic name for Velcro. It is great for getting a custom fit on a baby, but the tabs do wear and become pilly over time, and you have to be careful to use the built in laundry tabs that most diapers have so that they do not snag on other diapers. Older babies can figure out how to take them off too!

Snaps: These are used instead of aplix on many diapers. These make it difficult for your baby to remove his/her diaper, and they can also be found on the front of OS (one size) diapers that grow with your baby! When you see them on One Size diapers, it is called a Snap Down Rise.

Inner: This just means the inside of your diaper. Most Outers are PUL, and most Inners are suedecloth, cotton, velour, or hemp. Inners can become pilly much like how a sweater become pilly. It doesn't look nice and will affect the resale value of your diaper, but it does not affect function.

Inserts: These go inside a pocket diaper or can be stacked for additional absorption. Sometimes referred to as a soaker or a booster. They are made of many materials such as microfiber, charcoal, bamboo, hemp, fleece, Zorb, windprofleece, and cotton. You want to look for the most absorbent material with the least bulk. Many moms like hemp for this reason.

Extras and Accessories:

Bio Kleen Bac-Out Spray: You can get this online. It is a spray that you can put on a diaper after using a diaper sprayer to spray a poo into the toilet. You spray this on before putting it in the diaper laundry pail. It smells lemony, takes the stink out, and it also eats away any bacteria! It is diaper safe!

Bio-liner: These are flushable liners that you can use to line your diaper. They look like a strip of dryer sheet, but they are not dryer sheets! They lay in your diaper and against baby's skin. They are awesome to use if you predict your baby will poo. Then you just peel off the liner and flush! No need for spraying the diaper! We use these in the nighttime diapers because there is always a poo in that in the morning, so these just make life easier. These also protect diapers if you need to use a stronger diaper cream.

Coconut Oil: Use the Cold Pressed, Raw, Organic, Unrefined kind as a diaper cream. It is a solid that will melt onto the skin. It is diaper safe, antimicrobial, and antifungal!

Diaper Cream: You MUST find a diaper safe cream if you plan on using something more than coconut oil. Diaper creams with zinc oxide are great for keeping moisture off baby's skin, but they are not always diaper friendly! You may opt to use a bio-liner or microfleece liner with the cream to be safe and not ruin your diapers. Do your research on these! I use Burts Bees Baby Bee, but I'm not entirely convinced that it is 100% diaper safe.

Diaper Sprayer: This hooks on to your toilet water line, and you use it to spray poos/solids into the toilet so that they do not go in the washer. Exclusively breastfed babies do not need diapers sprayed because their poo is water soluble and all natural, but ewww...I still spray these!

Lanolin or Lanolize: You must use Lanolin to lanolize your wool. This process makes it waterproof. Find a youtube video to watch how to do this process and to see how often to do it. Wool care/washing is very different from caring for the rest of the diapers.

Microfleece liner: You can buy these or you can get a yard of microfleece (not polar fleece) and make your own! No sewing necessary, just cut a rectangular strip to fit into the diaper. This helps keep baby dry and also protects the diaper from creams and stains.

Snappi: This takes the place of the old pin and secures a flat or prefold on a baby. Not necessary if you use a pocket diaper, All in One, All in 2, or fitted. Also not necessary if you are just going to trifold a flat or prefold like a pad and use a cover. In other words, this is only needed if you are going to cloth diaper in the traditional way.

Wetbag: You can find these in all sizes. They are what you put dirty diapers in. They are made with PUL to keep smell and wetness inside and not leak through to the outside. Small and medium ones can go in a diaper bag, medium and large ones can go to daycare and on trips, and pail liners go in a garbage can to put diapers in at home that are waiting for laundry day.

Wipes: These can be made of flannel, cotton, velour, terry...any absorbent material. Some moms prefer all natural fibers. Wipes are washed and dried along with your diaper laundry...a poo soiled wipe should be sprayed out first!

Wipe Solution: Some moms prefer to add an essential oil to a water spray bottle to spray on wipes as a wipe solution. Other moms just use plain water. It is personal preference and it may depend on what your baby responds best to.

Buying/Selling/Trading:

There is even more vocabulary language within this language, but the more you read about it and explore it (just as with immersing yourself in any language) the more you will learn! You do not have to have Superpowers to decode it! Instead, you will be surprised how quickly you pick up on this new language!

When buying, selling, or trading used diapers:

Note: The percentage values are a rule of thumb, but not a policy...moms can ask whatever they want for their diapers, but they should be honest about condition. With that said, is the buyers responsibility to ask questions. You can also make a best offer in many cases.

EUC: Excellent used condition with no stains, snags, holes, leaking or any issues at all. Looks new. 70-90% of value

VGUC: Very good used condition with maybe a small stain or snag or pilling, but nothing that affects function. 50-70% of value

GUC: Good used condition with staining, pilling, aplix with fuzzies or aplix that is worn, and maybe relaxed elastics. Less than 50% of value

Play Condition: These diapers have seen better days, but if you are handy, you might be able to fix them! 25% of value or less

FFS: Free for shipping...diaper is free, but buyer pays for shipping. These diapers are usually in need of TLC with relaxed elastics, leak issues or broken snaps, but hey, if you are handy and they are free, you might be able to find a deal!

Ppd: Postage paid domestic; many moms price diapers with shipping included, so make sure you check on this!

Step 2: Cheapest Option: Flats and Prefolds and Covers

Picture of Cheapest Option: Flats and Prefolds and Covers

This is by far the cheapest way to cloth diaper. You need 24-36 prefolds or flats if you plan to wash every other day (fewer as your baby gets older). You need about 6 covers. Covers can be wiped out and hung after a pee diaper then reused later that day (typically even at the next changing...I can sometimes get away with just rotating two covers throughout one day). You only need to wash a cover if you have used it several times or if it is soiled by a poo.

Flats: See picture 1. This looks like a square flat sheet, and it can be folded to lay in a diaper cover or it can be used in a more traditional way to diaper a baby using a Snappi. These can be a bit bulky. They require a cover. They are often made of cotton or hemp or a blend. Hemp is more absorbant.

Prefolds: See picture 2. These are sewn in what looks like three panels with the middle panel being thicker. You can put this on a baby in a traditional way or you can fold it in three (trifold) and lay it in a cover like a pad (See picture 4). Either way, this requires a cover. These also come in various sizes from premie, to newborn, and right on up to XL for toddlers.

Covers: See picture 3. These typically are made with PUL and come in either snaps or aplix. They also may be sized or may be OS and have what is called a snap down rise to grow with the baby. These are used over flats, prefolds, or fitteds. Some covers have gussets around the legs, which are great for added leak protection.

Step 3: Most Popular: Anatomy of Pockets and Inserts

Picture of Most Popular: Anatomy of Pockets and Inserts

See pictures 1 and 2 for the anatomy of a pocket. Use the definitions in the vocabulary step to help identify its parts.

Pockets are one of the most popular ways to cloth diaper. They are daddy friendly and daycare friendly. While All in ones and All in 2s are gaining in popularity (see the vocabulary definitions of these), pockets are easier to clean, dry faster, and are more customizable for your baby's wetness because you can pair different types of inserts (also called or boosters, or soakers...whatever you choose to call them).

Pockets: These go on just like a regular diaper. These have a literal pocket that you stuff the insert into. The insert absorbs the wetness. You can add more than one insert to boost absorbency (sometimes called a booster) like by putting microfiber over a hemp insert. You take out the inserts and wash all diaper parts. Before using again, you have to stuff the diaper, which takes some time.

If you choose to use just pockets (which is all you may need along with wipes and a wetbag), you will need about 24-36 to launder for the young baby stage, and about 12-15 by the toddler stage. I suggest 36 because if your baby wears about 12 diapers a day and if you wash every other day, you will always have at least 12 clean ones on hand and ready to go. Having more on hand is also better for weekend trips away.

Inserts/Soakers/Boosters

There are many different ways to stuff pockets. Most come with 1-2 microfiber inserts, and these may work just fine for you. One small microfiber insert is usually all that a newborn needs. As babies grow and some become heavy wetters, you may want to add a different type of insert that is more absorbant. You can choose from charcoal, hemp, Zorb, and bamboo. I have heavy wetters, and I opt for stuffing my pockets with two inserts: a microfiber on top closest to the inner and closest to the baby to absorb the wetness, then a hemp insert under that closest to the PUL to help lock in wetness. This also keeps diapers trim since hemp is often thinner yet denser than microfiber. See pic 3 for examples of types of inserts (also called soakers and boosters). See pics 4-6 for adding a booster and stuffing a pocket.

Purchasing Pockets

Pockets come in various price ranges from $5 per diaper to $20 per diaper. Although $5 seems like the obvious way to go, be sure to do your research on the diapers you are buying. In most cases, you get what you pay for. $5 diapers can delaminate causing the PUL to stop working. Some that are made overseas do not have to meet US regulations for chemical use, so please just know what you are buying and putting on your baby. You will likely find that one brand fits better than another, so try a few brands before buying your whole stash! Pockets hold about 70% of their retail value when sold in EUC, so you can either buy used ones to try or purchase a few different brands of new ones then sell the brands you do not like as much to fund more of the ones you like! Be aware of the value of diapers..again, do your research so that you do not end up paying more for a used diaper versus what it would cost to buy that brand new!

Step 4: Gaining in Popularity: Fitteds

Picture of Gaining in Popularity: Fitteds

Fitteds have been taking the cloth diaper world by storm for two reasons: the first is that they do not contain PUL and are therefore breathable allowing air to circulate onto the diaper area to prevent fungal rashes. The second is that the prints are amazingly adorable.

Fitteds can range anywhere from about $15 per diaper to over $100 for custom embroidered ones or hard to find prints. Some people buy used ones to help keep costs down, but be aware that for a great brand or a well made diaper that is EUC, a used one can cost 80-90% of its retail value. I would recommend that you try one or two to see if you and your baby like them before building your whole stash out of them.

While most fitteds require a cover, some moms use these at home without a cover because they can last about 1.5 hours before they feel damp. Again, this promotes breathability.

Another idea is to use fitteds at night. A great fitted with a cover can last all night with no leaks and no waking baby! I use a fitted with hidden layers of windpro fleece along with a cover, and I have never had a nighttime leak! Some WAHMs (Work At Home Moms) even make fitteds that don't require a cover because they have windpro on the outside of the diaper. Rumor has it that these are "bulletproof" and last all night (with babies sometimes sleeping over 12 hours) with no leaks and no cover needed!

The number of fitteds necessary will depend on your preference for why/how you want to use them. For example, I have 8 fitteds and use them for two kids for nighttime only, and this is more than enough and allows for enough of a rotation to not have them wear out too quickly (washing and drying these every other day takes a toll after about a year or two!).

Step 5: Wetbags

Picture of Wetbags

Wetbag: You can find these in all sizes. They are what you put dirty diapers in. They are made with PUL to keep smell and wetness inside and not leak through to the outside. Small and medium ones can go in a diaper bag, medium and large ones can go to daycare and on trips, and pail liners go in a garbage can to put diapers in at home that are waiting for laundry day.

See Picture 1 for samples of sizes. Wetbags come in many different sizes, and different makers may have different dimensions. As a rule of thumb, a mini or xs will fit wipes that are predampened with water or wipe solution for outings. A small wetbag fits 2-3 diapers, a medium fits 4-6, and a large fits 10-12. Some companies even have an XL. Pail liners are also available, and these are large enough to go in a 40 liter garbage can for putting dirty diapers in before they go through their wash routine.

So how many do you need and what sizes? I recommend 2 pail liners (one to use while the other is in the wash for every other day washing). I recommend 2 smalls; one to keep in the diaper bag for outings, and the other in case you go on two outings in two days. Mediums and larges are great for daycare. I recommend 3 to rotate through for daycare. You will want to hang these to dry, so if you have 3, you will always have 1 dry one in your rotation. Large bags are also great for overnights. I bring 2 larges with me: one for dirty diapers and one for dirty laundry!

Where can you get these? You can order on Amazon, or many big store retailers, or you could go for handmade on Etsy! You can also buy used (see my Resources step).

Note that wetbags can be used for more than just diapering! They can be used for wet towels and bathing suits from the pool, and for laundry from a weekend overnight!

Step 6: Storage

Picture of Storage

Cloth diapers and the supplies that go along with them take up space. One of the best ways to store them is to use a dresser as your changing table and use the drawers to put your diapers and supplies in. If you don't have a dresser to use, a bookshelf lined with canvas bins holding the supplies next to your changing table works well too. Or...if you are like me and find yourself becoming a cloth diaper hoarder, you may need both a dresser and a bookshelf system!

When storing your diapers, it is best to have pockets stuffed, and fitteds snapped together with their soakers. That way your diapers are ready to go right on the baby. If you go for flats or prefolds and covers, maybe make yourself an easy to grab from assembly line in your top drawer by placing a pile of microfleece inserts first, followed by the prefold, then the booster, then the cover. That way you can whip one up quickly, and you are not searching around for a diaper part while your newborn pees and poos on the table or while your toddler tries to writhe and kick off of the table!

You will notice in the picture that my top drawer has stuffed pockets on the left for my toddler, and a condensed assembly line for prefolds and covers for my newborn (these fit her better right now as opposed to pockets) on the right. Under that drawer, I have a bin of fitteds and a bin of larger prefolds. Next to the table, I have my coconut oil, diaper creams, wipes, wetbags, and various liners (bioliners and microfleece liners). You will find a system that works best for you.

Although it is time consuming to stuff, fold, and store cloth diapers every other day, it is worth it to take this step to be organized so that diapers are always ready to go OTB (found out that this means on the butt or on the babe...see, you learn so much from being immersed in a new world!). Some people prefer prefolds and covers or using fitteds, all in ones, or all in 2s because that eliminates the need to stuff the pocket diapers thus saving a little time. Again, it is all personal preference!

Step 7: Wash Routines

Picture of Wash Routines

Washing

Frequency: You can opt to wash every day, every other day, or every three days. I have found that every other day works best in being the most manageable and easiest to remember. That way, I wash one day, fold and store the next, and so forth and so on.

Detergent: There are lots of detergents out there and some work better with certain washers and water types (hard water versus soft water) than others. You have to be careful about what detergent you use because some can ruin your diapers, some can cause rashes or stink issues, and some can cause diapers to repel (meaning they will not absorb anymore and instead cause leaking). This might seem overwhelming, but an incredibly popular site in the cloth diaper world has been created to help you! It is called Pinstripes and Polkadots, and they have created a detergent chart to address the confusion: www.pinstripesandpolkadots.com/Articles.asp?ID=263

I chose powdered Planet detergent, and I have never had an issue! Here is my wash routine...it is a great starting point, but again, your wash routine may depend on the detergent you choose and your water hardness/softness. My water is pretty neutral. It also depends on your washing machine! I have an HE Frontload washer.

Routine:

*Special Note: First, prior to washing, I throw all diapers and wipes into my 40 liter garbage can lined with a pail liner wet bag. If the diaper and wipe had a poo on them, I rinse them first in the toilet with the diaper sprayer to spray off any solids, then I spray it with Bac-Out before putting it in the pail.

-Wash every other day

-Empty the pail liner into the washer (You don't even have to touch them, just empty the bag upside down)

-Sprinkle powdered detergent (I use Planet) directly onto the diapers (I use 2/3rds of the recommended amount for a regular laundry load, which is about 2 oz...this is because your diapers will not fill your machine, and overuse of soap will cause issues...it is a fine line between too much soap and not enough, so you might need to do some trial and error)

-Put diapers on a Regular Cycle, but add Extra Hot Heavy Wash with Extra Water, and an Extra Rinse cycle. For my washer, this takes 1 hour and 16 minutes

-When the wash is done, I hang all covers, pockets, and wetbags (anything with PUL, which can melt or break down in a dryer), and I dry all fitteds, inserts, wipes, and microfleece liners (remember that if you use bio liners, those can get flushed in the toilet, so don't wash those!)

-I leave things to dry in my basement (where my laundry room is) overnight, and I bring them up to fold and store the next day.

Stripping

So what happens if you get diaper cream buildup, detergent buildup, or stink issues with your diapers? Well, you will have to strip them. My diapers (most bought new) were awesome for the first year, but then I started having buildup issues. Now I need to strip about once a month.

This is much easier than you may think. I follow Bum Genius recommendations (see numbers 9-16) http://www.bumgenius.com/help.php (Stripping is outlined below) since most of my diaper stash is made up of these. Check with your diaper brand though for their recommendation. Also, lots of moms have suggestions about this process. It is sometimes a controversial process over what to use and what not to use! Some moms will say not to use Dawn since it can void your washer warranty, so please be aware of this!

Stripping for front load washer:

-First Wash diapers as usual

If diapers are repelling (not absorbing and you have leaks):

-After diapers are clean add 1 tsp of liquid original formula Dawn

-Use regular wash settings

-When cycle is done, use regular wash cycle with water only for 2-3 more cycles.

If diapers are stinky (especially ammonia stink in overnight diapers) **Note, I only do this with inserts, wipes, fitteds, and microfleece inserts, not covers, pockets, or anything with PUL):

-After diapers are clean add 1/2 cup of liquid Bleach

-Use regular wash settings

-When cycle is done, use regular wash cycle with water only for 2-3 more cycles.

Step 8: Resources

Picture of Resources

So, you don't have to be Supermom to cloth diaper, but no matter what you decide to do, you will be a Super Mom! Like I said, there are a lot of cloth diapering moms out there who want to see you succeed if you do decide to take the journey.

Here are a few places to start for support:

-Diaperswappers.com (you have to create a username, which will allow you to chat on forums about cloth diapering Q&A, and you can visit the Marketplace to Buy, Sell, and Trade)

-There are tons of great cloth diapering blogs to check out! Just Google "cloth diaper blogs!"

-TheBump.com (you have to sign in, but they have a cloth diaper Community)

Places to visit to buy, sell, and/or trade:

-Diaperswappers.com

-Varagesale.com has a Cloth Diaper Swap

-Hyena Cart (awesome moms make amazing diapers!!) also check out SPOTS on this site for used items!

-Etsy.com (some amazing cloth diapers and supplies such as wipes and wetbags!)

Comments

jessyratfink (author)2014-10-18

This is amazing! I'm favoriting this, because I have a feeling I'm going to need it later :D

Carebearmom (author)jessyratfink2014-10-19

Thank you!

jmyers1 (author)2014-10-18

I'm no longer in the diaper game, but this was an extremely well written, informative post

Carebearmom (author)jmyers12014-10-18

Thank you!

MsSweetSatisfaction (author)2014-10-18

*whistle* I did not know there was that much to know about cloth diapers, although given that I have no children that is not surprising. Nice job gathering all this information, I'm sure it will be very helpful! Thanks for sharing!

Thank you! This is probably just the tip of the iceberg in the coth world, but hopefully it is a start for an overwhelmed mom!

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