Cloth Diapering Basics
Oh boy, can cloth diapering be overwhelming! What's the best type of diaper? How much time will this take up in my day and week? What should I do about washing them? Well, we've tried to answer as many of these questions as possible here at Cloth Diapering 101, but if we've missed anything please feel free to reach out to us via email or on our Facebook page!
An AIO diaper is one piece. The inserts are attached to the PUL (polyurethane laminate) cover. This entire diaper needs to be washed after every diaper change. Some AIO diapers also come with a pocket so that you can use an extra insert for heavy wetters.
Sweet Pea Bamboo AIO
An AI2 diaper is a two part system. With this system the inserts and covers are two separate pieces. With each diaper change the insert needs to be washed, but the cover can be reused (just wipe it clean and hang to dry until next diaper change). You can use inserts, flats, prefolds or fitteds with this system.
A pocket diaper is similar to AIO or AI2. This system has an outer layer of PUL and an inner layer of stay dry material (micro-fleece or suede cloth). These diapers have a pocket opening on the inside of the diaper to allow the inserts to be stuffed into the pocket for absorbency. The position of the opening depends on the manufacturer. With every diaper change, the entire diaper needs to be washed (it is best to remove the insert from the pocket before washing).
AppleCheeks Pocket Diaper
AMP Pocket Diaper
A flat diaper is a large square piece of diaper fabric (flannel, cotton or bamboo) that needs to be folded and pinned or snappi'd into place. This system does require a cover. With each diaper change the flat does need to be washed and the cover can be wiped clean and reused. Flats can vary in thickness, allowing for more absorbency as needed.
Nuggles Bamboo Inserts/Flats
AMP Hemp Inserts/Flats
A pre-fold diaper is rectangular shaped and similar to a flat diaper. Pre-folds have multiple layers of absorbent material. It is divided into 3 sections, the sides and the middle. While all of the sections have multiple layers the middle layer generally has twice as many as the sides. This diaper can also be referred to as a tri-fold. Pre-folds can be folded and pinned (or snappi'd) to fit like a diaper or it can be tri-folded to be used as an insert. This system does require a cover. With each diaper change the pre-fold needs to be washed and the cover can be reused.
Bummis Organic Cotton Prefolds
Diaper covers come in many different styles but all function to provide a waterproof outer layer for inserts, flats, pre-folds and fitted diapers. Diaper covers are generally made from polyester, PUL, fleece or wool. With every diaper change, polyester and PUL covers can be wiped clean and reused, fleece and wool need to be turned inside out and hung or laid flat to dry and can then be reused.
Rumparooz One Size Cover
Nuggles Tuck N Go (sized system)
Absorbent materials used in cloth diapers
Hemp - most absorbent, but takes longer to absorb, recommended for heavy wetters or nighttime
Bamboo – slightly less absorbent than hemp, but quicker and less bulky
Cotton – less absorbent than bamboo or hemp, but can take a real beating.
Yes, there are many different styles and brands of cloth diapers and it can be overwhelming. If you are feeling overwhelmed, please do not hesitate to ask us for assistance. We do also offer cloth diaper workshops. If the dates and times do not work for you, drop into the store at anytime and we would be more then happy to assist you. We generally recommend to try a few different styles and brands before purchasing your entire stash to find out what you prefer.
Prepping Cloth Diapers
All cloth diapers need to be prepped before first use. Prepping reduces the incidence of leaks.
Wash and dry all diapers at least once and place PUL covers in the dryer (this will help to seal any needle holes, a rare occurrence).
Natural Fibres (organic cotton, hemp and bamboo)
Prepping these natural fibres removes the natural oils and allows for maximum absorbency in the diaper
It is recommended that you prep these diapers with regular laundry (towels work great),
If you are using a fibre that is prewashed (organic cotton), we recommend washing and drying them 3-4 times before first use.
If you are using hemp and or bamboo that is not prewashed, we recommend washing and drying them 6-8 times before first use.
It is best to wash your diapers every 2-3 days. Washing cloth diapers is not as complex and complicated as some may think. It is important to use a detergent that is cloth diaper safe. We carry Laundry Tarts, Allen’s Naturally, and Eco-Nuts soap nuts. These are all cloth diaper safe. Cloth diapers can be washed in top loaders and front loaders.. It will take trial and error to determine a routine that works best for you. If you are using a front loader you will only need to use about 1/2 of what is recommended.
It is best to keep a laundry pail or diaper pail laundry bag close by the changing station. There is no need to keep dirty diapers soaking in water. With diaper changes, discard of any waste into the toilet. To make this easier you can use flushable liners or a diaper sprayer;
Secure velcro closures to the laundry tab;
Pre-wash all diapers in cold water in order to remove any excess waste and to help prevent stains. There is no need to use any soap during the cold pre-wash.
Wash your diapers in hot water with a cloth diaper safe detergent. The general rule is to use about 1/2 (top loader) or 1/4 (front loader) of the recommended detergent per load.
Do a second hot water rinse. If your machine does not do hot water rinses, do a hot water wash with no soap.
All cloth diapers can be line dried or you can put the inserts, flats, prefolds and fitted diapers into the dryer. PUL covers should line dry in order to lengthen their lifespan. (They can be placed in the drier every now and again).
Stripping Cloth Diapers
There is no need to strip your diapers on a regular basis. It is recommended to only do this if you are having issues (leaking, repelling or ammonia smell) with your diapers. Two products that we recommend are The Laundry Tarts Strip It and RLR. The Strip It is used to remove smells and does help with leaking/repelling issues as well. RLR is used to help remove any excess detergent that has gotten trapped in the diapers, this can cause leaking issues as well as a barnyard type smell.
Strip It Directions
Start with freshly washed or clean diapers;
Add 1 or 2 tbsp of Strip It to a full load;
Fill with hot water and let the machine agitate for a couple of minutes:
Soak for about 1 hour;
Finish the wash cycle;
Do 2 or 3 extra rinses or until there are no more suds in the water.
Start with clean diapers;
Add the RLR (use the whole packet with a top loader and 1/2 a packet with a front loader) and diapers to your washing machine or bucket (if you have a front loader);
Soak in hot water;
Finish the wash cycle;
Rinse with hot water;
Keep rinsing until all suds are gone.
All wool diaper covers, shorties, longies, etc. should be hand washed (there is some interlock that is machine washable, if unsure double check with the manufacturer) and lay flat to dry. They only need to be washed about every 3 weeks unless they get dirty soiled. If a cover gets wet, just hang or lay flat (inside out) and reuse once dry. All wool should be washed and lanolized before first use. It will also need to be re-lanolized after every wash. It is best to buy a specific wool wash and follow their directions.
Dampen wool with cool water (do not use ice cold water);
Fill a basin with luke warm water, add the wool wash either to the water, or if your wool wash has some lanolin in it, gently work the wash into the wool (if you are using solid lanolin, you will need to premix it in a cup with boiling hot water, add a small amount of mild soap and then add it to the basin);
Soak the wool for about 30 minutes (soaking time will vary depending on the wash you use);
Gently squeeze excess water out of the wool, this can be done by using a dry towel - lay the wool flat on the towel and roll it up together;
Lay the wool flat until it is dry;
If you have not added solid lanolin to the wool wash, once the wool is dry, you can spray the wet zones with a wool revitalizer (lanolin spray) to fully lanolize your garments;
The wool revitalizer can be used in between washes to boost the lanolin.
How Many Diapers Do I Need?
This totally depends on how often you will be willing/planning to wash your diapers, if you will be strictly cloth diapering from birth and what kind you decide to go with.
If you plan on washing every 2 days and are cloth diapering from newborn, we would recommend enough diapers for about 26-30 diaper changes.
If you are willing to wash diapers every day, we would recommend enough diapers for about 18 diaper changes.