Cloth 101

by tinysneakers

*I totally owe you an update on our cloth diapering experience, but in the meantime, my fave-oh-fave cloth diapers ended up being the Softbums Echo cloth diapers!.*

After yesterday’s mini-lesson on cloth diapering, I thought I’d share with you my version of cloth diapering 101. Now obviously I haven’t used them yet, but it’ll be interesting to come back and see what we end up doing vs. what I thought we would do.

cloth diapers

Cloth diapers aren’t just those white Gerber cloths held around a baby’s butt with giant pins anymore. There are quite a few different types.

prefold diapers with pins

Types of Cloth Diapers

how to cloth diaper

Prefolds & Covers

Prefolds are what most people think of when they think of cloth diapers. It’s what my mom used on me. It’s a piece of absorbent fabric that gets folded in three and then wrapped around the baby. It’s held in place by a “snappi”, the new easy take on diaper pins. Interestingly enough, it’s called a prefold because it has lots of little folds sewn into it to help increase absorbency- you still have to fold them yourself. There are a couple different ways to fold them depending on whether you’re diapering a boy or a girl. Most of the time you’re just folding them in thirds- it’s not complicated.

snappi cloth diaper fastener<—snappi

Because prefolds by themselves aren’t waterproof, you use a cover with them. It’s an outer shell that looks much like a disposable diaper, but is much thinner. It doesn’t absorb anything by itself- it’s just a shield between the prefold and the baby’s clothes {or you}. The cover can be used again between washings as long as it doesn’t get messy.

indian prefolds diapersthirsties diaper cover


These are pretty similar so I’m bunching them into one. Like prefolds, fitteds and contours also need to use a cover. They’re soft material, usually something like fleece, that are shaped like diapers. You put those on first for absorbency, then use a cover for waterproofing.

kissaluvs fitted diapers


Now we’re starting to get into the fancier stuff. Pockets look pretty much like a disposable diaper. The outermost layer of the cloth diaper is waterproof; the inside is lined with something soft for the baby’s skin. The middle section of the diaper is a big pocket, which you can stuff with different inserts for absorption purposes. That means you can adjust the absorbency level as you need to. You can also use a variety of materials for the inserts. You can even use a prefold diaper. The idea is you pull the insert out when it’s time to wash the diapers- then they end up drying faster because it’s not such a bulky diaper.

pocket diaper


Hybrids are pretty much just like pocket diapers, but you can lay the inserts on top of the diaper instead of sticking them in the pocket. Of course you could do that with a pocket diaper too I suppose. Theoretically, this means if you don’t have a big mess, you can just change the inserts and reuse the cover. That means less diapers are needed {although not fewer inserts} and there’s less laundry to do. I think some companies might be calling these all in two’s now. They also make disposable inserts, which might come in handy when you’re out and about.

hybrid diaper inserts

All in Ones

All in ones are the Cadillacs of cloth diapers. They’re essentially exactly the same as a disposable diaper, except they’re made of cloth and are used over and over again. There’s no stuffing or layering of inserts; it’s just one big diaper. The whole thing will need to be washed each time, since there’s nothing to remove. Depending on how it’s made, it might take a long time to dry due to thickness.


Hybrids, pockets, and all in ones come in a either a variety of sizes, or in a one-size adjustable diaper. For the one sizers, you use snaps or elastic to adjust the height, width, and leg tightness of the diapers. This should mean you only need one set of diapers, and not a whole bunch of different sizes.

all in one cloth diapers

These diapers also come with hook-and-loop closures or snap closures. Hook and look closures are easier, but might be loud to a sleepy baby {do you change sleeping babies?} and your baby may learn how to undo them. Snaps are a little harder, but baby-proof. They might last longer through frequent washings as well.

What do you do with them?

Instead of tossing them in a trash can or diaper device, you can use a diaper pail lined with a waterproof fabric bag, or a waterproof fabric bag that hangs on a door or side of the changing table. When you’re out and about, you can use a “wetbag”- a waterproof bag with a zipper that keeps the stench in. When it’s laundry time, you just toss the bag in with the diapers.

planet wise wetbag for cloth diapers

What else?

You don’t want traditional diaper creams touch the cloth diapers- it can make them repel water, which defeats the whole purpose. If you want to use regular diaper cream, you just use a liner on top of the diaper. They make disposable ones or you can use cloth ones. You can even make your own out of flannel. You can also use diaper creams that are ok to use with cloth diapers, meaning it won’t affect the absorbency. Bonus: those tend to be made of natural ingredients.

If you’re using cloth diapers, you might as well use cloth wipes too. Then you can just toss them in the bag with the diaper instead of needing a separate trashcan. You can use them dry or squirt a diaper wipe solution on them before using.

thirsties cloth wipes


Everyone has their own wash routine, but here’s the basic pattern:

First you do a cold rinse. This saturates the diapers and helps prevent stains from setting in. Then you wash the diapers on a hot cycle to get rid of the nastiness. Then you rinse an extra time or two to make sure you have ALL the soap out. You can use your regular detergent if you use something baby safe or natural or gentle, like Seventh Generation or All, but use about ¼ of the normal amount. They also make detergents especially for cloth diapers, like Rockin’ Green.

rockin green cloth diaper detergent

Exclusively breastfed babies have water soluble poop that can straight in the washing machine. When you add food and things get more solid, you can dump the contents in the toilet first. Some people dunk the whole diaper in the toilet and others prefer to use a diaper sprayer- kind of like what’s in your kitchen sink but stronger.

Why the heck would you want to use cloth diapers?

I’m not getting into a debate- I think whatever you use is your business. Some of the reported benefits are:

· Saving land waste. The water used to wash the diapers doesn’t equal the amount of waste disposables generate.

· Fewer chemicals = less diaper rash.

· Earlier potty training. Babies learn what “wet” feels like- cloth diapers absorb wetness, but not as instantaneously as the gel in disposable diapers.

· Money. Buying cloth diapers is an upfront expense, but you can use the same ones over and over again, and with more than one child. I’ve heard anywhere from $200-400 in cloth diapers vs $2000/yr with disposables. Obviously it depends on a lot of factors.

What’s our plan?

Brand new baby: Start with disposables! We’ll have disposables on hand because goodness knows we’ll have enough of a learning curve to deal with. We’ll probably start with cloth when I feel up to doing laundry.

For newborn-ness: we’ll use prefolds and covers. The prefolds tend to fit newborn babies better because you’re more in control of the fit. Plus, then you don’t need a whole other set of “newborn” size. Prefolds are the cheapest option, and you can always use them as inserts or spit up cloths later.

After newborn-stage: hybrids. To me they make the most sense- you can adjust the inserts, both in terms of amount of absorbency and material used. You can stick them in the pocket, or leave them on top. I’d rather leave them on top and maybe get lucky with not having to wash the cover with every change.

For other people: All-in-ones. I think we’ll have a few all in one’s on hand to make things easy for people that aren’t familiar with cloth. If you can change a disposable, you can change an all in one, no instructions needed. {Except to not throw it in the trash!}

So, there’s the plan. We’ll see what ends up happening.

cloth diapering

Have you used cloth diapers? Any diapering advice?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Caitlin November 3, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Wow – cool post! Cloth diapers are DEF not what I pictured! The colored ones are adorable and seem like they’d be way more comfy for baby. I admire you for going that route – I myself would probably be tempted to go disposable.


tinysneakers November 4, 2011 at 9:14 am

Oh my gosh they make some of the CUTEST cloth diapers…those ones don’t even come close. 🙂


Sarah Jayne November 3, 2011 at 2:09 pm

I hope all these amazing, informative, and FASCINATING posts are still available to me in a few years when it gets to baby-time for us! Thank you, I love reading them, and have been fwd’ing every post to my pregger girlfriends 🙂


Amber Kuiper November 3, 2011 at 4:58 pm

I just had a baby three and a half weeks ago and we have decided to use cloth diapers too! I’m loving it so far, and so does my new son, Baylen! Good luck to you!


tinysneakers November 4, 2011 at 9:15 am

That’s good to hear- and congrats on the little one! 🙂


Sarah @ See Sarah Eat November 4, 2011 at 9:21 am

Thanks so much for such a thorough and yet easy to understand explanation of cloth diapers. I’m not even pregnant yet but since I have an interest in using cloth diapers when that time does come, it helps to know what I’m dealing with way ahead of time. I’ve even found some that are sold at a “green” store here in town 🙂


Jen November 7, 2011 at 11:48 am

Thanks so much for fully explaining this, Heather! We’re going to try cloth too- but stick with disposables while he’s a newborn. I’m very excited but nervous about trying cloth. Fingers crossed it works out for both of us 🙂


Sarah November 8, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I used cloth diapers — FuzziBunz — for the first year of my son’s life. I LOVED it! They were so easy to use and the extra laundry was completely manageable. Not to mention, the diapers were super cute! Shortly after he turned one, however, he started developing a heat rash of sorts that wouldn’t clear unless we put him in disposables. (I use Seventh Generation, chlorine free, now.) That said, I don’t think rashes like that are typical. If it had cleared, we’d still be using them to this day. I loved them! All the best in your cloth-diapering adventures!


Melanie June 19, 2012 at 8:41 am

This post has been super helpful in helping me to convince my husband about using cloth diapers! Just wondering what you actually ended up doing (as compared to your ‘plan’ up above).

Thanks again!


Natalie June 29, 2012 at 11:22 am

The colorful hybrids are so cuteeee. I have been searching up and down foe them but I can’t seem to find those. Where did you purchase them, if you don’t mind? Love them.


Melissa January 18, 2015 at 7:06 pm

I love Rockin’ Green Soap! I started with it for cloth diapers and it always worked like a charm. But now I just use it for all our regular laundry! They have this great Sport Rock formula that keeps all my workout clothes fresh and clean. And I love the Stinky Gear spray for my stuff that I can’t toss in the washing machine! It takes care of the odors instead of just masking them. I love it!


tinysneakers January 25, 2015 at 9:31 am

Oo I need to try that one for workout clothes- it’s hard to get the stink out of them!


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