Cloth Diapering 101 — Part 3 — Frequently Asked Questions

This is part three of a comprehensive three-part series that I wrote for parents who are brand new to cloth diapering. I have put a lot of time, research, and love into this  series, and I truly hope that it helps you on your cloth diapering journey. I appreciate any and all feedback. Please don’t ever hesitate to contact me with questions on cloth diapering, I will be happy to help! I hope you find this series helpful, and discover a love for cloth diapering! 🙂
Part 3: Frequently Asked Questions:
If you’re considering making the switch to cloth, you’re probably asking yourself:
1. How many diapers do I need to buy to cloth diaper full-time? 

The short answer is around 12-36, depending on the age of your baby, how often they need to be changed, and how often you plan on doing the laundry.
In order to decide how many diapers to buy, you need to first decide how often you are willing to wash the diapers. Diaper laundry isn’t a big deal: You just do one wash on cold to rinse everything out and one wash on hot to get them good and clean, then hang your  waterproof covers to dry and throw everything else in the dryer. (I start our diaper laundry at night a few hours before I go to bed, so it’s not another chore to add to my already busy day.) So you just need to decide how often you want to do this. Every other day or every 3rd day is what most people choose, since you don’t want dirty diapers just sitting around forever getting nasty. 
Next, figure out how many diaper changes your baby goes through in a day. For my 1 year old, that’s about 5-7. For newborns, it’ a lot more — more like 10-12. Then, just multiply to figure out how many diapers you will need. 
For my 1 year old, if I wanted to do the laundry every third day, I would need to buy 6×3, or at least 18 cloth diapers to be covered. It’s always nice to have a few extras, but you can get by just fine with the minimum. And you don’t want to be buying extra diapers all   the time, or you’ll run up your diaper bill in the same way disposables ran it up, defeating your purpose if you’re converting to cloth to save money. 

2. Which kind of cloth diapers should I choose?
The answer to this one is personal, and depends on what you’re looking for in a cloth diaper, as well as the age and size of your baby. Venturing into the cloth diapering world, you’ll soon discover that there are gazillions of modern cloth options to choose from. 
Not all cloth diapers are the same. They vary in shape, size, type of fabric, level of convenience/ease compared to disposables, absorbency, price, etc. Not only that, but there are gazillions of brands of cloth diapers to choose from within each cloth diaper type. 
I’ve broken down the different kinds of cloth diapers in Part 2, with some examples of popular brands that make them. 
But, because every baby is different (different size and shape, different age and stage, different skin sensitivities, different amounts of “wetting”) what one mom swears by might not work on your baby at all, and visa versa.
Before investing a whole bunch of money into a certain kind of diaper, your best bet is to ask the advice of retailers and/or search forums like and for reviews on the different diaper types and brands you’re considering. If you have a “heavy wetter” with long skinny legs, for example, chances are there’s another parent out there who has one too, and who wrote a review singing the praises of a certain diaper for it’s absorbency and good fit on skinny babies. 
Once you’ve narrowed your options down to a few kinds of diapers or a few brands of diapers that you think might work for your baby, I would suggest that you set yourself a little “sampling” budget, and buy one of each kind. (There are even some retailers that offer “trial” packages or have “love it or leave it” return policies, or you can buy a few used diapers from places like or ebay, to save a little money during the “trial” stage.) Try them out on your baby for a few days and see which you like best. You can sell the ones that didn’t work so well on diaperswappers or ebay (diapers sell super fast on the diaperswappers website!), or you can keep them as backup diapers. Then you can feel more comfortable investing in a whole set of a certain kind of diapers.
3. Is there anything else I need in order to convert to cloth diapering?

There are lots of fun gadgets and gizmos available that make cloth diapering more convenient. But if you’re sticking to a budget, the only other things you’ll really need are a diaper pail (ie. trash can with lid), a waterproof diaper pail liner that can be washed along with the diapers on wash day, a portable, waterproof, smell-proof, washable  “wet bag” for holding dirty diapers when you’re out and about or traveling, and a laundry detergent that is considered “safe” for cloth diapers. This chart can help you choose a laundry detergent, but keep in mind that it won’t necessarily harm your diapers to continue using whatever detergent you’re already using on your other laundry. (Yes, I am one of those cloth diapering rebels who thinks the whole “safe” cloth diaper detergent is a total myth!) 

Purex Free and Clear, Country Save, Tiny Bubbles, Rockin’ Green, and Tide are probably the most popular laundry detergents for use with cloth diapers.  

4. How do I wash the diapers?

Diaper laundry should not be complicated! I cannot stress this enough. In fact, I’m so passionate about this subject, I wrote an entire blog post about it here

The more you research cloth diapers, the more you are going to run into a plethora of potentially overwhelming laundry advice, much of which will tell you to use a minimal amount of laundry detergent in order to “preserve” your diapers, or prevent “build up.” FORGET this advice! Diaper laundry does not have to be this complicated. Diapers are cloth, just like anything else that you launder. Treat them that way, and they will get clean, and you will never have stinky diapers. 

How to wash:
Diapers, covers, inserts, diaper pail liners, etc, can all be washed together. Wash them at least once on cold without detergent to rinse everything out. Using cold water in the rinse will prevent stains from setting. Then wash them once on hot with plenty of detergent. (Don’t skimp like some well-meaning cloth diaperers suggest. Follow the directions for load size on your detergent bottle. Your baby is pooping on these things. You logically want to use more soap not less. If detergent doesn’t damage your clothes, it’s not going to damage your diapers.) Make sure to turn on the extra rinse cycle to get the suds rinsed out if your baby is sensitive to soapy smells/residue. The hot wash and using plenty of detergent will help kill all the yuckies in the diaper, so that they smell clean and fresh when they come out of the washer. The extra rinse will help rinse away any remaining suds, to prevent residue buildup that can mess with the absorbency of the diapers. Hang the diaper covers and pail liners to dry. Dry everything else in the dryer. Done!

If your diapers are clean but have some staining, you can lay them out on a sunny day and the sun will bleach out the stains.
It is generally not recommended to use bleach on cloth diapers, but read your labels. Some diaper manufacturers recommend it, others will void their warranty if you use it. Don’t be afraid to use a little bleach once in a while to kill those stubborn stinkies.   
Using vinegar and/or baking soda is controversial. If not thoroughly rinsed out of the diaper, the acid in vinegar can mix with your baby’s pee and cause a bad smell. But vinegar is a fabulous deodorizer and fabric softener (I use it on our regular laundry all the time) so the key is to use sparingly and rinse well.

5. Do I really have to scrape poop into the toilet?

It’s not as bad as you think. The general rule of thumb is to dump the dirty diaper over the toilet, and what doesn’t fall off, the washing machine will wash out for you. If you want, you can use a “wet pail” method, where, after dumping, you put the the dirty diapers in a pail filled with water and detergent to hold until wash day. But most people   skip this step, because wet pails have to be changed frequently, and they’ve been known to be drowning hazards for small children. The toilet-dumping method will work perfectly fine. If your child is like mine and doesn’t have “dump-able” poos, I feel your pain. But there’s a simple solution: you can invest in a diaper sprayer and spray the mess off the diaper into the toilet, or (my personal frugal remedy) cut up some fleece to make yourself some fleece liners to line the inside of the diaper. The poop will get on those instead of the diapers, and you can just swoosh the liner in the toilet while flushing, and the mess will be sucked off the liner and down the toilet. (Fleece naturally wicks moisture away, so it also makes a great stay-dry liner for babies who are prone to rashes when their bums get wet!)  

6. Does this mean I have to switch to cloth wipes too?

No! Not if you don’t want to. I did for a time, but I also use disposable wipes. You may want to consider cloth wipes if you are having rash and sensitivity issues. 

If you want to try cloth wipes, rest assured that it’s the easiest thing in the world. Even if you decide to stick with disposable diapers, cloth wipes are super convenient and work better than disposable wipes. For me, it takes a ton of disposable wipes to clean up my son when he has a messy bum. But it only ever takes one or two cloth wipes. Because it’s basically like washing your child with a washcloth — more efficient. 

I keep my cloth wipes in a wipes warmer, for the ultimate luxurious diaper changing experience. My kiddo used to throw the most dramatic tantrum whenever he had a messy diaper, and I finally realized one day that he was dreading the cold, rough wipes that were giving him a rash. As soon as I switched to cloth and a wipes warmer, his rash cleared up and he stays calm now when I’m cleaning him up!
How to make your own cloth baby wipes:
You don’t have to buy anything or do anything fancy. You can use baby washcloths or cut up some of your baby’s old flannel receiving blankets and sew the edges with a serger or sewing machine to keep them from fraying. You can make flannel wipes any size you want. 8×8 is a common size, and they fit nicely into an old wipes container or a wipes warmer when folded and stacked. I made some thicker, smaller ones that fit into the warmer without being folded by cutting up my son’s flannel receiving blankets and sewing two pieces together back-to-back.
If you do want to get fancy, you can buy some terry cloth and some flannel in cute baby prints from your local fabric store, cut to your preferred size, round the corners, and sew the edges, then top stitch. Voila! Terry cloth on one side for the messiest messes, and soft, cute flannel on the other!   
For the wipes solution, you can use plain old water, or you can mix 1.5 cups of water with 1-2tbs of baby wash and 2 tbs baby oil. Put the dry cloth wipes in a pot or Tupperware container and pour the solution over them, and swish around to let them absorb. You can find some fancier wipe solution recipes on the internet that contain essential oils and whatnot. Or, you can skip the whole homemade thing and buy a pre-made wipe solution from most online stores that sell cloth diapers.

7. Cloth Diapering Seems Expensive. Can I cloth diaper for less than $100? 

Absolutely yes! Now, you may have to be less picky about the kind of cloth diapers you buy and some of the accessories (I don’t mean skimping on quality, I mean the fancy-factor) but I believe that it is absolutely do-able. This makes cloth diapering a great alternative if you are trying to save as much money as possible on diapers. (This is also assuming that you are not cloth diapering a newborn. Things could get a little more expensive if you plan to buy newborn sized diapers and regular cloth diapers.) 

Here is a hypothetical cloth diaper stash that I put together for under $100. Keep in mind that you can probably find these diapers even cheaper during a sale or if you buy used:

$22.65 — 12 Imagine brand premium prefold diapers (My current favorite brand, but feel free to check out other quality brands listed in my other posts.)

$71.70 — 6 Econobum One-Size Diaper Covers (You can definitely find these for less than the listed price. Look for them for around $8 each during “seconds sales” on the Cotton babies website, look for them for sale on other cloth diapering websites, and look for them used.)

Total = $94.35

With this stash, you will have to wash your diapers every day up to every-other-day (which you should be doing no matter how large your stash is), and you will have to keep the dirty ones in an old pillow case or trash bag, as there is no special wetbag included in this stash. But for less than $100, these quality diapers should last you through several children, and you will be diapering for free for years! Prefolds will always be my favorites!


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