Cloth diapers

Cloth Diapers: Everything you need to know

“You’re going to use cloth diapers?! That’s just crazy. You won’t have the time. You will have a hard time finding a daycare that accepts cloth diapers”. I heard it all from other parents when we shared our plans to cloth diaper our daughter. And, honestly, it was kind of annoying. We had made up our minds and it was (and still is) important to us. Our daughter is almost 2 years old and it is still the best decision we made. Especially with another kiddo on the way, we will not be spending any additional money on diapers!

These aren’t your grandma’s cloth diapers

Cloth diapers have come a very long way from what your grandma may have used – a piece of cloth and safety pins. Today, you will find traditional flat pieces of cloth (prefolds), fitted diapers, pocket diapers, and fancy all-in-one diapers. They come in all different styles and prints (such CUTE prints), they create less waste, and are better for baby’s bottom.

Cloth diapers interested me for sustainability purposes. To me, anything reusable is always better than disposable. I’ve heard both sides of the argument – the extra detergent, water, and electricity that goes into washing them doesn’t make them the most environmentally friendly option. It still takes resources, including plenty of water, trees, and petroleum to manufacture disposable diapers. And by some estimates, it can take several hundred years for a disposable diaper to decompose.

You can wash and dry cloth diapers responsibly. To maximize the benefit on the environment you can use an energy efficient washer and dryer. Be sure you have a full load and line dry as much as possible. There are also local diaper services that wash in bulk. These services come to your door to drop off freshly laundered diapers when they pick up the dirty ones. Like magic!

Regardless of the resources needed for cloth versus disposable, you’re still sending less trash to the landfill. And saving your baby’s precious little bum from the chemicals and plastics in disposable diapers.

Different Types of Cloth Diapers

With all the varieties of cloth diapers on the market today, it can be overwhelming deciding what type to use. When I first looked into cloth, I had a seasoned mom (that was currently cloth diapering her 3rd child) tell me not to go all-in on one specific type or brand. She told me try different kinds before purchasing my stash. I was lucky enough to score an amazing lot of pre-loved (or used) diapers from a local group on Facebook for only $100. They worked great for our daughter and I will use them when my son is born. 

Different types of cloth diapers

All in one

These diapers are exactly what they sound like. They are all-in-one. This diaper is the most expensive – most will run you around $30+ each. They are the most like a disposable diaper. Just strap it on the baby and go. Once it’s soiled, put it in the diaper pail or wet bag until laundry day.


These diapers require a little more work. You need to “stuff” them before putting on your baby. These are the diapers we like the most. They are like a disposable. You put the diaper on the baby and when it’s time to change, remove the inserts and place all of the pieces in your dirty storage.

We have a system where I typically wash the hang the diapers. My husband sorts the laundry and stuffs the diaper. He’s gotten so good at it that it takes him less than 20 minutes from start to finish.

Pocket diapers and all-in-ones are the best option for caregivers that are not experienced with cloth diapers.

All in two/Hybrid

All in two/hybrid diapers offer great features and flexibility. They come in two pieces – inserts and covers. These diapers have the option of snap-in, lay-in, or disposable inserts. The covers can be wiped and reused throughout the day (unless poo escapes onto the cover) with fresh inserts.  They are often slimmer than other cloth diapers and offer several options within one system.

Flats, Prefolds, and Fitted Diapers

Flats, prefolds, and fitted diapers are the most absorbent. But, require a little more work to get them on the baby. In order to be waterproof these diapers require a cover to be put over them. Most covers on the market are generally made from PUL, wool, or fleece.

Flats are single squares or rectangles of fabric. When you think of grandma’s old school cloth diapers, you’re thinking of flats. They may seem intimidating, but they’re quite easy to use, inexpensive, and absorbent. This makes them a great addition to any cloth diaper stash. Flats are the only true one size fits all diaper. They can be folded to fit a newborn and a preschool aged child for overnight protection.

Prefolds were our go to when our daughter was a newborn. Prefolds are rectangles of fabric sewn together with additional layers in the middle of the fabric. They come in several sizes and options for newborn, baby, and toddler. They come in options for bleached, unbleached, and organic fabric. These diapers are very absorbent. They can be folded around baby and held together with pins or snappis, trifolded and laid into covers, or stuffed into pocket diapers.

Fitted diapers were our favorite for overnight in the newborn stage. Unlike all in ones and pocket diapers, this type of diaper absorbs all around the baby, not just in the crotch area. Fitteds can be expensive, and in the cloth diaper world, some are even collectible! Green Mountain Diaper’s Workhorse are a very popular option. These are also really good at containing newborn poo.

Covers and Wool

For flats, prefolds, and fitted diapers you will need to use a waterproof cover. Diaper covers are made from water resistant fabric called PUL – polyurethane laminate. These diaper covers saved us by adding an extra layer of protection against that dreaded newborn blowout that most parents are very familiar with! 

To use a cover, simply place it over an absorbent diaper and secure to the baby. Most covers come in two sizes: newborn, which fits babies from about 5 – 15 pounds, and one size, which fits babies from around 10 pounds all the way through potty training.

Wool covers are great for overnight diapers once baby starts sleeping through the night. It can be used several times before being washed, which means less laundry! The main con about wool, is that it needs to be hand washed. It is possible to machine wash, but in order to keep in good shape, hand washing is recommended.

Do Cloth Diapers Really Save Money?

The short answer is, yes! Especially if you cloth diaper more than one child. The numbers really adds up when you think about how many diapers are used from birth through potty training. Newborns, on average, use 10-12 diapers per day. Infants use 8-10 diapers per day. Older babies and toddlers use 6-8 diapers per day. According to Love to Know a baby will go through approximately 2,500 diapers just in the first year of life. After one year of life, most babies will go through 1,500-1,800 diapers a year. That’s over 4,000 diapers in a 2 year period. A lot of waste going to the landfill and a lot of money being spent! Even if you purchase the cheapest diapers on the market – from the searching I did that appears to be Costco’s brand – you are going to spend around $1,000 a year on diapers alone. That doesn’t include the cost of disposable wipes. We spent less than $300 on our entire stash of diapers. We will use these same diapers on our son. Even with detergent, water, and electricity to wash the diapers, we do not spend $1,000 a year.

Ways to Save Even More Money on Cloth Diapers

If you decide to cloth diaper, using cloth wipes is the next logical step. This helps save even more money in the long run. Cloth wipes have all of the advantages of cloth diapers and don’t add extra work. Simply toss them in the wash with the diapers. Cloth wipes can be bought or made. Many mamas enjoy using flannel wipes, and plenty go the DIY route and use baby washcloths, old pieces of clothing, towels cut into little squares, etc.

We use a spray bottle with just water to wipe our daughter during diaper changes. There are homemade solutions you can make with coconut oil, witch hazel, and essential oils. We have found that plain old water works just fine!

Some other ways to save money are to buy cloth diapers used – especially a newborn stash. They grow out of them so quickly that these will last through several babies before starting to show wear and tear. You can join local buy/sell/trade cloth diaper groups on Facebook. I belong to my local Buy Nothing Group on Facebook and have received so many amazing things – including several awesome cloth diaper stashes. You can locate your local group on the Buy Nothing website here.

With a new baby on the way, I looked through our stash and picked the diapers that needed repairs – like new velcro and elastic. I have a sewing machine and I spent a few hours taking off old velcro and opening side seams to insert new elastic. This is such an easy and cost effective way to extend the life of your diaper stash, and even have the opportunity to sell them to another family once we are finished using them.

Troubleshooting and Additional Resources

Most people think that cloth diapers are supposed to stink. This is not true! If they stink it means the wash routine should be adjusted. When our daughter was a few weeks old her diapers smelled like ammonia. This is due to bacteria and minerals getting trapped in the diaper. We had to “strip” our diapers, which was a long process that literally took all day, but hasn’t happened again since we have corrected our wash routine. An adequate wash routine is the most important part of cloth diapers.

A few other things I’d like to mention about breastfed babies and cloth diapers. When a baby is exclusively breastfed, the poo is water soluble and does not need to be rinsed off of the diaper before going into the wash. Breastfeed baby poo also stains cloth diapers. One miracle solution is to wash the diapers and hang them in direct sunlight. This, unfortunately, is hard to come by living in Oregon. But, I did it last summer and will do it this summer once our little guy arrives. Hang your clean, wet diapers on a clothing line outside, or lay them on a table in the sun. Give it a few hours to completely dry and the stains disappear!

I’ve learned a lot along the way through Fluff Love University’s website and received additional support from their Facebook Group. The admins are amazing and will help you troubleshoot and figure out a wash routine specific for your washer.

Do you use cloth diapers? Planning to use cloth, but not sure where to start? Leave a comment so we can chat about it!

About the Author:

Brittani Velasquez is the owner and founder of ñuñuy. She is a mama of two, a home sewist, and is passionate about sustainable living. Read more about her here.