Using cloth diapers can be a more sustainable option for parents who want to reduce their environmental impact. Learn how to cloth diaper like a modern parent with our guide on the many types of cloth diapers, their cost, and proper usage.
While many parents are naturally wary of the hassle, mess, and expense of cloth diapering, it can be a fantastic option for certain families. The truth is that using cloth diapers does take more effort than simply throwing away a disposable, and not every household should use them. However, given the advancements in contemporary tush-covering technology, they might make more sense than you think.
Check out our introduction to modern cloth diapering; you might be motivated to attempt a more traditional option.
Various Cloth Diaper Types
Today’s market offers about a dozen different varieties of cloth diapers, demonstrating how far the product has progressed. Depending on your baby’s size and how much he or she moves around, you can choose from a wide variety of designs. Here are some details on the most common choices.
Prefold cloth diapers
When most people picture cotton diapers, they picture rectangular pieces of fabric called prefolds. To make the center thicker, they have been folded and stitched with more layers. Prefold diapers are available in several sizes and additional materials, such as bamboo and hemp. Prefolds are the cornerstone of your least-priced cloth diapering choice, costing around $2 and more apiece.
You will still require cloth diaper covers, the water-resistant outer layer that shields your inner prefold from messes and leaks. The most common covers are designed to resemble disposables; they wrap over the prefold and fasten at the baby’s hips with Velcro or a series of snaps in place of sticky tabs. They often come in various colors and prints and are made of a poly-blend fabric with a waterproof laminated lining. The average cost of a cover is roughly $12, with prices starting at around $8.
When changing a diaper, you can save some laundry by reusing the cover (after a short wipe, if necessary) and replacing the soiled prefold with a fresh one. In addition to snaps or Velcro, you can use separate stretchable one-piece fasteners called Snappis to keep the prefolds in place. To avoid leaks during the night, many parents double up on prefolds or add fabric inserts known as soakers.
Hybrid cloth diapers
Hybrid diapers are made to combine the convenience of disposables with the advantages of cloth diapers. They are made up of a waterproof outer cover and either a cotton insert or a disposable insert as the absorbent layer within. Cloth inserts, which can be constructed from several materials like cotton, microfiber, and/or hemp, are essentially rectangular runners. They occasionally include an incredibly absorbent microfibre.
Disposable inserts are the single-use variety; 100-insert rolls cost about $10. The theory behind them is that while they are still convenient for on-the-go use, unlike disposables, they produce less trash. They typically contain few chemicals, and some of them even degrade naturally. With hybrids, the diaper covers can also be reused.
All-in-one cloth diapers
All-in-one (AIO) diapers are so named because they offer a waterproof outer layer and an absorbent layer in a single unit. (Consider the cloth equivalent of disposables.) When it gets dirty, you can throw the entire thing in the laundry without needing to load it with inserts. They fasten at the hips using Velcro or a series of snaps, just like prefold covers. The price of an AIO cloth diaper starts at roughly $20.
Pocket cloth diapers
A removable absorbent insert and an integrated inside pocket composed of wicking material distinguish pocket diapers from AIOs. By experimenting with different inserts or packing the pocket with more than one insert, you may adjust the amount of absorbency. Compared to bulkier AIOs, the distinct sections of pocket diapers dry faster.
They are simple enough that grandparents, daycare facilities, and babysitters don’t require a comprehensive tutorial. The price is on a level with AIO diapers.
One-size cloth diapers
Unbelievably, there are “one-size” diapers that grow with your child, according to Odom, “so you may be able to use the exact same diaper on your 8-pound infant as you will when [they] are ready to potty train.” As your needs change for absorbency, you can increase the size with snap or Velcro closures and gradually larger inserts.
All of these choices share a variety of charming patterns and vibrant colors, from fire trucks and mustaches to punk rock skull-and-crossbones. Additionally, they are more expensive, with higher-end popular brands typically costing between $18 and $30.
How to Start Using Cloth Diapers
Concerned about where to begin? The best thing a cloth-diaper beginner can do is visit a store and look at the possibilities in person, advises Bryana Guckin, owner of Cloth and Beyond. For almost ten years, she has sold cloth diapers both in-person and online. She says, “There are so many options, it can be daunting.” They make a lot more sense if you can see the diapers closely.
Try a range of clothes diaper styles and types before spending a significant amount of money on one brand to see which is most effective for you and your child. Check the Facebook and Twitter pages of various brands since they periodically post calls for testers. Borrow from friends. Shop online for used diapers. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your child to decide what’s best for them.
Just as with new baby items, you should wash your newly acquired cloth diapers before using them for the first time. With a small amount of mild detergent, start the cycle on hot. The exceptions include bamboo diapers, which only need to be washed twice or three times before being absorbent, and hemp diapers, which need to be washed up to eight or ten times before becoming absorbent.
Do I Need Many Cloth Diapers?
No matter what kind of cloth diaper you use, be aware that newborns typically use 10 to 12 per day, toddlers typically use 6 to 8, and children who have been toilet trained typically only need up to 4 per day.
Chicago-based cloth diaper manufacturer Green Diaper Babies owner Shannon Griffith recommends purchasing two to three dozen diapers or diaper-plus-insert bundles for a newborn. (As your child gets older, you’ll need fewer.) You will require roughly 75–80 diapers if you use a weekly diaper service.
If you spend money on items like these, using cloth diapers will be simpler:
- Diaper pail for dirty clothes storage prior to washing.
- Soiled diapers can be stored in a waterproof “wet bag” while you’re on the road.
- Disposable liners for diapers.
- Use a diaper sprayer to rinse solid waste from diapers and flush it down the toilet.
Detergent made especially for cloth diapers is essential. You should pick a product devoid of fabric softeners, stain protectors, and oils to assist in retaining the diaper’s absorbency.
What is the Price of Cloth Diapers?
Setting up your nursery for cloth diapers can indeed cost between $500 and $600, especially if you’re purchasing new pocket, one-size, or AIO types. Going cloth and doing your own laundry might save you between $800 and $1100 over the course of two years, which is roughly half as much as using disposables, which Odom estimates to cost at least $1,400. However, using cloth diapers on a second child will just cost you the cost of laundry them.
Naturally, the cost will differ depending on the kind of cloth diapers you select, where you get them, and how many you order. When using cloth diapers, some families pay less than $600 while others spend $1,500 or more.
Do not forget that cloth diapers have a high market value. According to Odom, when your child outgrows them or learns to use the potty, you might theoretically recoup a significant portion of the expense by selling the diapers. Online purchases of gently used cloth diapers are another option to save money.
Pregnant women frequently stock up on one brand only to find that they prefer another when their baby is born. Then some individuals sell diapers that are in pristine condition in order to upgrade to newer styles. Spend less by purchasing their leftovers.
What Concerns Diaper Services?
You might want to choose a local diaper service if your reason for using cloth isn’t to save money and the idea of doing your own laundry scares you. Nowadays, services typically clean with biodegradable detergents rather than the hazardous phosphates of the past. Like disposables, employing a diaper service and diaper covers will cost between $2,000 and $2,500 over three years.
Are Cloth Diapers More Environmentally Friendly?
Nobody contests the fact that disposable diapers clog landfills. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the typical newborn consumes 8,000 diapers annually. Astonishing (and revolting!), 3.6 million tons of municipal solid trash are produced annually as a result of all those throwaway items.
Even cloth diapers aren’t perfect: Energy and water are needed for washing, and chemical detergents are released into the environment. Additionally, while businesses that pick up your dirty cloth diapers and leave off clean ones use less water than home washings due to their large-scale operations, the gas-powered cars needed for these services add to air pollution. Both options have some environmental drawbacks; choose the one that feels right to you.
Cleaning Cloth Diapers
Cloth diapers should be removed and put in a holding container. To pre-soak diapers before washing, some parents place them in a moist pail with some water. Others simply change the diaper and toss it into a plastic-lined pail, where the solids are subsequently flushed away.
Choose whichever course of action you like best, or try Beth Eckert’s approach, the creator of The Cloth Diaper Connection. After changing your baby’s diaper, you rinse the diapers and place them in the dry pail rather than using a real pail filled with water. Your diapers will still benefit from a little soak and rinse as they are already drenched in the pail. If you employ this approach, you might find it useful to keep your cloth diaper pail in the restroom.
To properly clean cloth diapers, follow these simple steps:
- Do not use pocket diapers with inserts.
- Always fill your washer to the maximum capacity.
- Start with a cold, detergent-free rinse.
- After the cold rinse, use 1/4 cup of detergent in a typical wash cycle on hot water. (If you’re using a detergent for cloth diapers, according to the directions on the package.)
- To guarantee that all detergent residue is thoroughly removed, perform one more cold rinse after the initial rinse.
- Dry on high heat or by hanging (depending on the materials).
You need not be concerned that washing cloth diapers will make your washer smell bad. It drains to the same location as your toilet and will be just as clean as a diaper.
You don’t have to be a cloth diaper purist who uses them exclusively. Following the birth of their kid, some parents use disposables for the first few weeks before switching to cloth. Others travel with disposables but use cloth at home. Others choose hybrid diapers, which offer the best of both worlds: a washable cover that hardly ever gets wet (apart from the rare blowout) and a flushable and biodegradable insert that won’t pollute the environment for as long as a disposable diaper. Make the best decision for your family, and don’t be afraid to ask your pediatrician for advice if necessary.