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Cloth Diapering 101

Guest post by Brittany at Mom Answers With Brit

More and more parents are choosing to use cloth diapers instead of disposables. They are more comfortable for the baby, they are good for the environment and, in most cases, they save you money. I must be honest, the main reason we chose to use cloth diapers is the last one.

As I started researching cloth diapers online I was instantly overwhelmed. I was blessed to have friends and family around to help guide and teach me the “diaper lingo.” After much research (and convincing my husband) we decided to change to cloth diapers, and now we are addicted! Using cloth actually makes changing diapers, dare I say it, fun.

How to get started using cloth diapers:

1. Calculate how much money using cloth diapers will save you.

The Diaper Pin has a cloth diaper calculator online to see how much you will save by using cloth diapers. This is a great tool to use to determine if it is worth it for you to switch to cloth diapers and to decide how much you want to invest upfront. The calculator computes water/electricity usage for cleaning them.

The total we spent on our infant was $550 (this is with choosing a more expensive kind of cloth diapers, and choosing to use sized and not one-size diapers). If you normally purchase diapers on sale with coupons, you’ll probably spend at least that much — if not more — in a year by buying disposables. While you still have to add in the water and electricity costs for washing the diapers, if you plan to use them for longer than a year and if you use the same cloth diapers for multiple children you can save a significant amount of money by using cloth diapers.

2. Decide what kind of diapers to use.

As you start looking online, you will see that there are several different types/brands of cloth diapers. Most people I know use either an AIO (all-in-one) or a pocket diaper.

We chose to use FuzziBunz pocket diapers, and we absolutely love them! Be encouraged that there is definitely not one perfect brand or type. It was very overwhelming for me to decide, and our primary reason we chose FuzziBunz Pocket Diapers was because I found a good deal on them. Many parents are happy with many different types/brands of cloth diapers.

3. Find the best deal on cloth diapers.

Most of the best cloth diaper deals are found online, but some areas also have local cloth diaper stores. In Kansas City, we are blessed to have a wonderful cloth diaper store and we found it very helpful to actually go to the store and see the diapers face-to-face instead of just reading about them online.

It is sometimes hard to find really good deals for cloth diapers, but there are sales out there. The Diaper Pin has a list of cloth diaper sales and deals on their homepage.

If you are expecting and someone will be throwing a shower for you, ask for them for shower gifts or request gift cards to online cloth diaper companies.

If you want to get creative, here’s an article on How to Cloth Diaper for Practically Free. Or, you can also read how to make your own cloth diapers.

4. Don’t buy accessories that you don’t need.

Don’t feel like you need everything out there (like the diaper sprayer). I would say the basics are: diapers, extra liners for night-time use, pail-liners, bacteria killing spray and detergent. I also enjoy having a wet bag for the diaper bag, but if you don’t go out much, a plastic bag will work just fine!

Cloth diapers are not for everyone, but I hope to encourage you to look at them a little differently. You don’t have to get your hands gross or worry about poking your baby with a pin. Today’s generation of cloth diapers have improved immensely from what our parents/grandparent’s experienced.

Brittany Grim is a wife and mother to her son, Isaiah. She works full-time in the insurance industry in addition to blogging at Mom Answers With Brit. She loves to share what she has experienced and researched with other moms. She loves God, her family and reading!

photo from Baby Hoots

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160 Comments

  • Michelle says:

    My 4th baby is due in 2 weeks and we’re going to try cloth diapering. I think I’ve spent between $175 and $200 on the “stash” I’ve built up. I’m doing mostly prefolds and covers, and I think I may have more than I need. 🙂 I bought some cute all-in-ones that I couldn’t resist but probably didn’t NEED either. I’m looking forward to saving money. I plan to line dry as much as possible on our back deck. We’re in a subdivision that may frown upon a clothesline with diapers, but the deck should be fine, and being in GA…. I think they’ll dry!

  • Frances says:

    I raised four children with cloth diapers . The first two , I wash by hand in water that was heated on the stove. I did not get a washing machine until the second was potty trained. I did not get a dryer until the forth was borned. There were no so called Pampers!!! There is no way we could have afforded to buy Pampers. I am 78 years old. YOUR generation is terribly Spoiled, and Pampered.

  • kristi says:

    Yay for a post on cloth dipes!! Thank you! So I didn’t read through all of the comments – but a super fabulous store in Wichita is Sweet Cheeks (I’m only a fan – not in business there) and every month they offer a diaper exchange where you can check out what other people are using and trade or buy whatever people bring. You can check it out here: http://www.facebook.com/kristi.fair?ref=name#!/event.php?eid=204836002893681

  • Dawn says:

    I would have been tempted to switch to cloth had I not discovered Amazon Mom and Swagbucks.com I earn a few swagbucks each day and cash them in for Amazon.com gift cards. The Amazon Mom program (free to join) gives you an automatic 30% off diapers when you use subscribe and save (which you can cancel as soon as your item is shipped). In the last 6 months I’ve spent a total of about $30 out of pocket for diapers for my 2 kids. I buy the GIGANTIC box of Luvs brand diapers (about 200 diapers) and retails for around $35. But with my swagbucks and 30% off I never pay more than $5 out of pocket for one box and 200 diapers lasts me over a month.

    I compared the $5 a month I spent on disposables and I could not justify the initial investment for the cloth diapers. The one’s that I looked at were about $20 each and I would need at least 10 – 15 for each kid to start out. And then I’d need to buy a bigger size within a year with that AIO’s. I just didn’t have that kind of money to pay so much $ up front.

  • Niki C says:

    After Crystal posted the article on diapering for practically free, I offered 2 dozen of these http://www.etsy.com/listing/64906667/not-just-a-flat-fold-cloth-diaper-easy?ref=pr_shop on the Heart4home blog.

    These diapers need inexpensive wraps and a pin or snappi. They wash better and dry faster than any other diapers I’ve used or made. Less energy means bigger savings!

  • BethB says:

    I’ve been cloth diapering for almost 5 years now and it works very well for our family. Our older son was in diapers until just past his third birthday and I expect the younger one to be similar so we’ve easily got another year to go.

    My personal preference for the first year is prefolds because they’re cheaper, easier to launder (no stuffing of diapers when you’ve got a newborn, simpler detergent choices), and breastfed poop is easier to deal with on them than on pockets or AIO, in my opinion. Both my kids were switched to pockets around their first birthday. We have Bum Geniuses which have held up with the exception of the velcro. I strongly, STRONGLY, advise against buying one size diapers with velcro. I had mine replaced with snaps and it saved me from having to buy a new stash.

    My biggest peice of advice is that it’s not an all or nothing thing. Both my kids have been in disposables at night since they were a few months old. My 4 y/o wears disposable pull ups at night and that’s what we used during potty training as I couldn’t find a cloth alternative. With my second son I’ve been much more laid back (ahem, lazy) and have used more disposables on a regular basis. If we’re going to be out of the house for a few hours, if I have him in the child care at the gym or church, or if he goes to grandparents’ house I slap him in a sposie. It’s much easier to keep a disposable diaper and wipes stashed in my purse, gym bag, and car than the supplies for cloth diapering. Any little bit helps both the environment and your pocketbook.

    Although I wouldn’t suggest my extreme laziness method of using sposies because the cloth are still in the dryer in the basement and I can’t be bothered to go get them. 🙂

  • Jamie says:

    Like many money-saving strategies, it can save you money or it can’t. You could argue that couponing, or making your own bread, or buying used clothing, doesn’t save you money and it won’t for some people. It all depends on where you live, what resources you have available, etc. CDing certainly CAN cost you more than disposables, especially if you choose a large amount of high-end cloth diapers and only use them for one child. Then you wouldn’t save money versus couponing for disposables. However, like other money-saving techniques, cloth diapering CAN save tons of money with very little effort.

  • Robbfamily7 says:

    We LOVE cloth diapering. This is actually our 6th child, but 1st to cloth diaper. I wish I had done this sooner. I love it. My hubby even likes it better. We use BumGenius 3.0’s and Sunbaby diapers. I like the BG’s better because they come in velcro. But the Sunbaby’s work great and have super cute prints. Sunbaby’s are only about $4-5 a piece, so very inexpensive. I purchased my BG’s used on diaperswappers and BabyCenter’s cloth diaper swap board. I paid on average $10 a piece. I have 13 BG’s and 8 Sunbaby’s. So about $170 worth of diapers. I wash every other day. My baby is 2 1/2 months old and cloth is working out very well for us.

    We also use cloth wipes. It’s so much easier than disposable wipes. I just wet them and then put them into an old wipe container on the changing table. I just toss them in the diaperpail with the diapers. So easy!

  • Tabitha says:

    I use cloth diapers at home ( I am a stay at home mom, and yes we spend most of our time at home, and I have no desire to carry around stinky diapers). But my favorite purchase for my cloth diapers is my diaper sprayer…yes I could live without it, but it makes cleaning out diapers so much easier. Not to mention it also makes cleaning out the little potty, that we use for potty training, much easier as well.

    I got my stash as gifts, I use BG 3.0s and flips…seriously what does a kid need for a first birthday or christmas really, not like they will remember they got diapers.

  • Paula says:

    I am also in love with CDs. Everyone I know knows it too. I have gotten good at not constantly talking about it after a year of cding. But I have converted quite a few friends. I joke with my hubby that I should get some kind of commission. Flip are my fave. I also got some fuzzibunz on sale black Friday that I have ready for when hubby is alone with them or for a babysitter.

  • Rachel says:

    My mother used cloth diapers when I was little. I really wanted to try them out and use them with my own daughter, but she hated them. The second they got wet at all she would scream until I changed her. She did not like it at all. She has sensitive skin and that is probably why. I switched back to disposable diapers and she was fine after that.

  • Allane says:

    Thanks for this post. I am 16 weeks, and was just thinking this morning about looking into the cloth diapers (my Mom always used cloth). I feel much more encouraged to try after reading so many positive comments about using them.

  • Jessica says:

    I have not ever really considered cloth diapers since I didn’t want to bother with washing and I know it wouldn’t save us money. I have kept an exact count of the diapers I’ve bought for my 15-month old daughter (third child) and the total cost is around $350. Even at my top price (0.14 per Parents’ Choice diaper at the current size 3), the total would come to $460 and I know I got most of them much cheaper than that. I’ll stick with disposable.

  • Susan says:

    I have been buying disposable diapers on sale and with coupons at CVS and Walgreens for the past year. I have also purchased ones from Amazon with coupons. I have only bought Pampers and Huggies. I have spent less than $100 on these disposable diapers. My baby is 9 months old and I decided to count the diapers that I have left. I still have over 800 diapers left. So you can get disposable diapers for pretty cheap. And the environmental impact on disposables is the same as the it is for cloth.

  • barbie says:

    I’ve been cloth diapering for about a year with my second kid. I have an assortment of sun babies and other homemade cds. I use disposables when we are traveling and at night. also, when life gets stressful I use disposable. I like the idea of cds so I keep trying but the truth for us is that they are less comfortable for my active daughter (bulky especially) and she had a constant diaper rash when we are using them. I’ve used cd safe creams and lots of different detergents (including charlies) and had little luck. I strip and wash them carefully but am constantly fighting an odor. I keep hanging in there but I def. don’t think it’s for everyone. I rec. starting slow and trying one or two at first before you invest lots of money in it. it also really backs up my laundry because I wash the diapers atleast 2 times, usually 3, and unless I’m sitting on top of the laundry – it takes time. so, give it a try, but don’t be too hard on yourself if its not for you!

    • erika m says:

      This is exactly my situation. It seems like my little guy actually gets a rash when I use cloth dipes…I thought it was the opposite! I use disposable on trips and as a fallback…I think I have used 1 pkg of disposable in the last 8 months.

    • Crystal says:

      I had a child with this, too. I tried lots of different kinds of diapers and finally realized I just wasn’t going to be able to CD her. She couldn’t wear anything by Pampers without breaking out in a bad rash. Gratefully, she’s all potty-trained now!

    • stacey says:

      I’ve cloth diapered two kids and been around cloth diapering boards for a long time! That said, I think you probably need to use a better detergent or use more. Diaper stink (ammonia) is the bi-product of bacteria and urine. If your diapers are not getting clean (they need that detergent!) the bacteria stays in the diaper and as soon as your child wets the diaper you’ll notice that awful nose burning ammonia. Detergent is your friend, it makes water more wet (so it can penetrate all those layers of material) and binds with the all the dirty stuff floating around in the washer water and doesn’t allow it to be redeposited on your laundry. If you have hard water you need to use more detergent because it will bind with the minerals already present in the water. I also think stripping diapers is one of those total myths that sounds like a good plan until you understand the science of what’s going on in your washer.

      My kiddos both have sensitive skin and neither has ever had a diaper rash or stinky diapers.

  • Cyndy says:

    Love cloth diapers! I would not consider a diaper sprayer negotiable, though. After using cloth diapers without one with my first 2, and then having one with my last two, I can tell you it makes rinsing off cloth diapers WAY more pleasant. I bought a sprayer on eBay, and then had my husband drill an off-center hole in the bottom of a trash can. Then when I had a dirty diaper I’d take the trash can and set it on top of the toilet and spray off the diaper while holding it in the can…the dirty water goes right into the toilet. No need to dunk! I kept a plastic lid next to the toilet to set the can on when not in use so it would not drip on the floor, and washed the lid in the dishwasher once a week. I would never use cloth diapers without these!

  • Anna says:

    I made my daughter’s diapers out of “diaper” material from the cloth store. I was dirt poor and needed to economize. My mother showed me how to make them and sew them and how to buy “rubber pants” for her when she was older. Later on, I bought store made cloth diapers for my other kids. For me disposable diapers were a luxury. My oldest is now a young teen and I still have one in diapers but I still use cloth diapers. I think that cloth diapers are better on skin and cuts down on rashes. Although I can’t wait until my last one is out of diapers. I’m done then!

  • Megan says:

    We love CDing! We have used cloth with my son who is 2 and are planning to use them with our second coming this fall. We use mostly BumGenius 3.0s. We got a few new diapers in the beginning as gifts, I bought some used at Cotton Babies, and we stocked up our stash at the Cotton Babies annual $1 sale. They sell used (some in not great shape, but definitely repairable) Bum Genius diapers for a $1 each. We have definitely saved money – especially now that we will be using them with baby #2. You can buy used diapers online at Cotton Babies website also, although not always as cheaply. They also sell repair kits online for $1 per kit. I’ll be repairing most of my diapers before baby #2 gets here. It’s nice to not have to think about buying diapers all the time.

    We like our diaper sprayer (after he started eating solids it was needed), wet bag for the diaper bag, and Allens for washing (it is expensive, but lasts forever). I made my own wipes out of flannel material and we use a mixture of 1 cup water, 1 tbs olive oil, and 1 tbs baby wash to wet the wipes.

    I also just read a post about using BumGenius pocket diapers as swim diapers also – you just use the diaper, without an insert.

  • Lacy says:

    Kellyscloset.com has a father’s day code available for a free diaper ($17 value) with a $39 purchase. Here’s a link http://www.kellyscloset.com/ I’m in no way offiliated with this website, just love a good deal 🙂 They have coupons available all the time!

  • WWadeII says:

    Wow Cloth Diapers have come a long way from when I was a kid. I had an allergy to whatever they were putting into diapers 30+ years ago and had to go with cloth diapers. They were the simple white cloth kind and my parents had to use some kind of service that delivered and picked up the dirty ones.

    When it comes to sanitized diapers at home look for the new Washers with a water heater in them. Not all High Efficiency washers have them. Usually you will see the sanitize option. And speaking of saving money an HE washer and dryer combo can cut your laundry bills in half or more. Just my 2 cents

  • Holli says:

    What is the anti-bacterial spray and detergent you use?

  • Kassi says:

    I am also a cloth diapering mama. When I started my search for cloth diapers we didn’t have a cloth diaper store in town. I am very visual and I wanted to see the diapers in action first. So I resorted to youtube. They have a cloth diaper channel with 6-8 women who can answer ANY question. Here is the link

    http://www.youtube.com/user/ClothDiaperChannel

    I use Best Bottoms AIO Hybrid. I bought 6 covers and 21 inserts (3 different sizes) for a total of $350.00.

    If you want to cloth diaper cheap then you might try econobum by bumgenius. It is 48.95 for a pack of 12 prefolds and 3 covers. If you buy 2 packs then you could easily cloth diaper full time for around 100.00.

  • We use Bac-Out spray or thristies pre-wash, and I’ve used Charlies soap and Norwex detergent (Norwex is my favorite). There are many kinds out there, just make sure that what you use is all natural so that you don’t cause a build up in your CD’s.

  • Carrie says:

    We love our cloth diapers! Whether they cost less or not, we loved that we could buy several years of diapers all at once and not have to worry about it again. It was easier to spend $250 at once (from our tax return) than fight to find $15 every week for disposables.

  • williamsmommyof5 says:

    We use Babyland diapers we got on Ebay for $2-$3 each and instead of liners we use folded flannel receiving blankets. We haven’t had any leaks and we love it 🙂

  • chelsea says:

    We cloth diapered our first but when our second child arrived, I could not keep up with the laundry of two in cloth diapers at the same time, and we went back to disposables. My husband was more than willing to put a line item in the budget for this! Now our third is 8 months old and though the older two kids are potty trained, I cannot imagine keeping up with three kids age three and under plus cloth diapers! We cloth diapered to save money, but found that for us, its better to make cuts elsewhere that won’t cost me my sanity 🙂

    • williamsmommyof5 says:

      I completely understand where you are coming from chelsea. I have 1 yr old twins and a 26 month old plus a 5 and 6 year old. Our twins are the first we cloth diapered and only because they are allergic to the absorbency crystals used in disposable diapers. If they didn’t have that problem I would still use disposables (and still do for my 2 year old that is not yet potty training). I can’t wait to be done. It is much more work than disposables and ONLY worth it because of the allergy. We do love it but it would be so much easier if it were diapers for one.

  • Megan says:

    I tried using cloth diapers for my second son. I used BumGenius3.0 mainly (I also had some Thirsties and prefolds). The reason I’ve stopped using them is that the moment my son wet in them, he smelled like a wet dog. It was a very strong, offensive smell! 🙂 I tried different wash routines, I bleached them, etc, and though they smelled fresh from the wash, they were awful as soon as he wet in them. I never used special detergent, just my regular detergent (whatever I could get on sale). Does anyone have any suggestions? I’m thinking of just selling the diapers. I can get a pack of diapers for $3 or less….so I’m not even sure if cloth is worth it for all the hassle. : /

    • erika m says:

      I think you should read the previous comments too! But I for one have heard that you should never bleach them, and that many of the detergents out there cause build up and possibly that wet dog smell. Especially if you have an HE washer, which uses way less water, the buildup mildewy smell is caused by an additive to many liquid detergents. My oldest had to be in the 7th generation disposables (Ididn’t clothe with him), because all the chemicals and bleaches would leave his bum red and RAW (bleed) seriously, it was not for lack of frequent changing. Even if you aren’t green ( I try to find a balance), you have to admit, throwing away so many diapers is kinda sad if you don’t have to….to each his own…happy diapering

    • Becky says:

      I have those same diapers. Original Tide is the only detergent I’ve been able to use that keeps the stink away. My recommendation would be to wash them 3-4 times in a row on the hottest setting with NO detergent at all (I know, I know, that’s a lot of water, but it’s just this one time), then try whatever detergent you decide on (again, my choice is original Tide). I’ve read (and found from experience) that “free & clear” and “natural” detergents tend to allow more build-up, resulting in stinkier and leakier diapers.

  • Cora-Sue says:

    They may be more improved than what I used. But they are also a lot more expensive. I had kids in diapers for 12 years and probably spent less than $200.00 total. They were about $8.99 a dozen and plastic pants to use over them were usually 2 for $1.50. It took forever for the diapers to wear out and when they did you just used them for dust rags. And we didn’t worry too much about sticking our babies with the pins we just kept our finger under the point until we got it through the diaper and fastened.

  • Kristin says:

    So, I am totally new to the cloth diapering thing. I love the idea of saving money and I like doing things naturally and in a way that is good for the environment, etc., but I just dread the thought of washing poopy diapers every day. No one really talked about that…how do you clean all those poopies?

    • Mariah says:

      if you baby is exclusively breast feed the first 6 months you dont have to worry about the poop… it has the consistancy of yogurt and you just throw it in the washer and wash it normal…. once they start solids you can use flushable liners, have a diaper sprayer attached to your toilet and rinse it off, or do the dunking method directly in the toilet…. my little one just started solids so ive been doing the dunk and swish method… so far so good…. later on when her poo is more soild you just dump it in the toilet and go on with your day….

      • williamsmommyof5 says:

        I use a separate trash can that I keep next to the toilet for my one year old twins diapers. I also swish and dunk (with rubber gloves) and the trash can has a solution of vinegar and baking soda and water in it to fight the funk. 🙂 I chose a trash can with handles and dump the entire contents of rinsed diapers and fluid directly into the wash add detergent and then put it through the longest hot wash with an extra rinse. This is my preference, but not necessary. It’s usually about one load for two babies

  • Rebecca says:

    I was so pleased to see this post on cloth diapering. I’ve been reading the blog for several months and every time I see a Huggies or Pampers coupon I think “If you are out to save money, why not cloth diaper?”

    We have chosen to cloth diaper our son and through good deals and buying some second hand diapers from a friend we have been able to save several hundred dollars just on one child!

  • I have found cloth diapering to be much easier than I thought it would be. I am amazed at how much I am saving. I have found most of my cloth diapers ( Fuzzi Bunz and Bum Genius) pre-owned and in great condition. I have a few photos of my cloth finds on my site because I know people have a hard time believing you can find good cloth diapers pre-owned. I never pay more than $8 per diaper.

  • Rachel says:

    I just wanted to add that although the new colorful cloth diapers are great (And I certainly wouldn’t mind using them!!), they are not the cheapest way to cloth diaper. Prefolds are the way it used to be done- you can get them online for usually around $1 a diaper. Fasten with a snappie or old fashioned diaper pins. Just get a cover (econobum sells them for $10, often they have BOGO sales so you can get them for $5) and you can resuse the cover throughout the day after wiping it off. SOOOOO much cheaper. I think I spent $70 on all my cloth diapers and I have enough to full-time cloth diaper from newborn through toddlerhood!

    You can also make you own, as I’m sure some have suggested. But even if you don’t have much sewing talent, prefolds are easy to make – you can even make them out of old t-shirts! so if you really don’t have money to spend, you can still diaper your baby. Just be creative and think of what people did in time’s past!

  • Jo says:

    We couldn’t face going the whole hog with cloth nappies, but we went for a half measure of using cloth wipes instead, something called Cheeky Wipes. They work out so much cheaper, and clean a lot better, much better for the environment, and have been brilliant for weaning as well. Not sure what the US equivalent is but definitely worth tracking some down.

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