We are currently potty training our son (we may be finished by the time I get this published cause…busy mom life!), and I figured it was well past time to give y’all all the details on cloth diapering. We have been cloth diapering for our son’s entire life, though we did use some disposable diapers given at our baby shower in the first few weeks after Kit was born.
I remember that it seemed really intimidating when I was initially researching cloth diapering, but it’s. really. easy. I. promise. I’m hoping to provide all the answers to any questions you may have, but comment down below with any questions I might have missed! You aren’t here to read my rambling, so let’s get to it, shall we?
Why Cloth Diaper?
I’m going to keep this short and sweet, because it’s pretty self-explanatory. Cloth diapering saves a ton of money, it’s better for the environment, and it’s much better than allowing your child to poop on your wallet every time he/she goes to the bathroom. That may sound a bit extreme, but that’s exactly what’s happening when you use disposable diapers. You’re spending a lot of money for a disposable pad for your child to poop in.
Cloth diapering is the norm. Disposable diapers are a fairly new thing, and they’re one of the most wasteful practices I can think of in our modern society. I’m gonna jump off this little rant, but I just wanted to get you thinking a bit about what disposable diapers really are and why we shouldn’t be using them at all.
What do you need?
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I’m going to tell you what we used, but it might be a bit different for your family. Each kiddo is shaped a bit different, so different cloth diaper brands work well for different kids. This is nothing to stress over! Grab some, try the fit on your child, and switch brands if they don’t work. I repeat, do not stress about this!
Mama Koala Diapers* – Alright, so you’ll need some diapers. This is the brand that we have the most of, and I really like them. They’re inexpensive, and they have held up well! We have about around 30 diapers, give or take a few, and washed every 3rd day.
Grovia O.N.E Diapers* – As your child grows older and starts sleeping through the night, you may need a more absorbent diaper. These are our favorite for nighttime. We have 3 of them, and I would say 3-4 is all you need to get you to the next wash.
Wipes – We used cloth wipes at home (we were required to send regular wipes to daycare), and I prefer them to disposable wipes. You don’t need to buy a fancy wipe brand. Cut up any flannel receiving blankets from your baby shower into 16 pieces or use a pack of the very thin baby washcloths. We stored our wipes dry and sprayed them with water to wet a few during each change. We used this spray bottle* from the hospital
A note on wipes…if you are cloth diapering, there is absolutely no reason not to use cloth wipes. They will be washed right along with your cloth diapers, and using them will save you even more money.
Cloth Diaper Pail* – We kept this one right next to the changing table, and we used it for all diapers in the newborn stage & pee diapers after he started eating solid food.
Large Wetbag* and trash can – When your child starts eating solids, you will need to dunk & swish poops before washing. We will get into how and why a bit later. Just know that you’ll want a little system for separating the poop diapers from the pee. We used a large wetbag inside a small bathroom trashcan next to the toilet. I linked the wetbag we used, but I didn’t love it for this purpose. I wouldn’t say it’s entirely waterproof, but we made it work just fine. You may want to read reviews and find something similar if you think this one would be a problem for you.
Small Wetbags for Daycare* – If your child will be using cloth diapers at daycare, you’ll need a few smaller wetbags for daycare. After changing the child, daycare workers will be able to place the diapers in the bag, and the whole bag will go home with you each day. They won’t be swishing poop diapers or doing anything more than they would if your child wore disposables. Change the diaper, put it in the bag, you bring it home! 🙂 We used these bags for daycare, and loved them! I also used a separate set of these for my breast pump parts, so they’re just great reusable bags overall.
Extra Diaper Inserts* – As your baby gets older, you may need to add additional inserts into your diapers for absorbency. No big deal! I used these prefolds, and stuffed them in the diaper along with the regular diaper inserts when I saw that the diapers needed some more absorbency.
Detergent – You’ll also want to think about detergent. I’ve used a lot of different detergents, and they all work just fine. Remember, don’t stress. This is easy! My favorite is the original Tide powder and some Oxi-Clean. If you want to use a more natural cleaner, Charlies liquid laundry detergent is what we use now on potty training accidents, and it’s working fine.
What about the poop?
The first thing to consider when you are figuring out how to wash cloth diapers is…what is your baby eating? If your baby is completely breastfed, you can throw all diapers -pee and poop- straight into the washer without taking any of the poop off. Breastmilk is water soluble, so it will wash right off with no problems.
If your baby is eating some formula or solid foods, you’ll need to remove all of the solid poop before washing. Pee diapers are always fine to just toss in the washer, but poop is normally where people start to get confused.
There are two main ways to remove the solid poop from your child’s diaper before washing. Some people use a diaper sprayer to spray it off into the toilet. That is what I intended to do before I started cloth diapering, but when it came time to remove poop prior to washing, I realized that I didn’t want to fuss with any fancy gadgets. So…we simply dunked & swished.
If your child is only eating breastmilk, don’t worry about this part…just skip on down to how to actually set your washer up for a load of diapers. But if you’re about to dunk and swish some poop, this is how we did it…
- During diaper changes, we put pee diapers in our large diaper pail, and we put the poop diapers into a separate wetbag until it was wash day.
- Immediately prior to loading them all up in the wash, I would take the poop wetbag over to my trashcan & wetbag system we talked about earlier. Remember the system set up next to the toilet? Yep, that one.
- It’s pretty straightforward at this point. Grab one of the diapers out of the bag, hold it on each end, and dunk & swish it around in the toilet until all of the solid poop is off the diaper and into the toilet. You aren’t aiming to get the staining off, just the poop. The washer will remove the stains.
- Place that diaper inside the wetbag in the small trashcan, and move on to the next diaper. Repeat until they are all done.
- You have successfully handled the poop!
How do you actually wash diapers?
Alright, so we have all the poop off our diapers (if necessary based off what baby is eating), and it’s time to wash those diapers up. This next bit is what WE did in my house. You may find that it doesn’t work for you…I’m not sure how it wouldn’t but maybe it doesn’t. If this routine doesn’t work for you, no big deal! Tweak it a bit, and try again. Cloth diapering isn’t hard, but it does require dedication and the ability to problem solve. It almost takes no skill to put a disposable diaper on and throw it away during a diaper change. Cloth diapers will soon become second nature to you, but you need to learn the skill of caring for them!
So how to wash them?
- Bring all the pee and poop diapers to your laundry area.
- If you are using all-in-one diapers, throw them in. You’re done. If you’re using pocket diapers or some type of diaper with an insert (we used pockets and liked them best), you’ll want to remove the inserts from the diaper prior to washing. This ensures that all parts of the diaper get squeaky clean. You can use disposable gloves for this if you would like, or you can just get in there with your hands & wash them later. It all works the same. Remember how much money you’re saving, and dig in!
- Once all the diapers are loaded into the washer, remove your gloves or wash your hands prior to touching anything else on the washer.
- You will be doing 2 wash cycles to wash your diapers. The first one is called a pre-wash. Go ahead and fill your detergent up to about line 1 or 2. Don’t stress about the exact measurement. You don’t want a ton of detergent (we will use more in the main wash, but too much detergent builds up on the diapers, and we don’t want that), but you want enough to start getting things clean. You can also add a bit of oxi-clean as well. Just up to line 1 worked well for us.
- Set your washer to do a WARM wash, very dirty, max extract, deep clean, with an extra rinse. Your settings may be different than mine, but find the similar settings, and go with that.
- Once that load is done, run it again. This is called the main wash. If you don’t have many diapers in there, you can bulk up the load with baby clothes. If you’ve got more than 12-15 diapers, I don’t think you need to add any additional clothing. We want enough to make sure it’s agitating well, but we don’t want it to be filled to the brim.
- The main wash setting will be HOT wash, very dirty, max extract, deep clean, with an extra rinse. You will fill your detergent up as you would for a full or very dirty load. Same with the oxi-clean. I used line 5 for detergent and 3-4 for oxi in this load.
- Once the second wash is done, throw the diapers in the dryer on low heat until dry. Voila! You just washed cloth diapers!
How should cloth diapers fit?
There are so many great graphics on Pinterest to help you out with fit, but I’ll give a few pointers as well. You want the diapers to fit like well-fitting underwear. The diaper should rest in the underwear line. You should not be able to see any gaps between the diapers and the skin, but you need to ensure that it’s not digging into the skin, either. The diaper should fit snugly around the waist while also being loose enough to prevent the muffin top effect. Again, check out pictures on Pinterest!
Do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets on laundry with cloth diapers.
For diaper rashes, you’ll need to use a rash cream that is cloth diaper safe (this is to prevent chemicals in certain rash creams from messing with the absorbency of the diapers), or you can use coconut oil. That’s what we did!
And that’s it! Hopefully I covered all your questions, but if you have further questions about anything related to cloth diapers, leave them in the comments below. Remember, don’t stress. You can do this!