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! ūüôā
 
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 http://www.diaperswappers.com and http://www.diaperpin.com 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 diaperswappers.com 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!

 

The No Stink, No Complications, Diaper Laundry Solution

Let’s face it. If you’ve been cloth diapering for a while, you’ve probably, somewhere along the road, run into the dreaded “stink.”
If you’ve considered cloth diapering in the past, but talked yourself out of it, it was probably because of what you’ve heard about the dreaded stink.
I’ve been there. I’ve done the research. I’ve tried it all.
And I’ve heard it all:
  • Your diapers stink because they have build up and you need to strip them.¬†
  • Your diapers stink because you used too much detergent.¬†
  • Your diapers stink because you used the wrong kind of detergent.¬†
  • Your diapers stink because you were using vinegar in your wash.¬†
  • Your diapers stink because you were not using vinegar in your wash.¬†
  • You need to bleach your diapers to get rid of the stink.¬†
  • Never bleach your diapers to get rid of the stink, you’ll ruin them!¬†
…It goes on and on. It’s enough to make your head spin.

When did diaper laundry become so complicated?!

When I first started cloth diapering, I used mostly microfiber inserts, one of the toughest fibers to get clean and stink-free. I was told by the experts to wash my diapers using no more than 1/4 the amount of laundry detergent I would normally use on a load of laundry. Not only that, but I needed to use a special kind of detergent that is considered safe for cloth diapers, if I wanted to prevent problems and build up, whatever that was. 
I was new and completely clueless about cloth diapering, so I took the advice, purchased some special detergent, and went my merry way. Fast forward to a few weeks of following this standard cloth diaper laundry protocol, and my microfiber inserts were disgusting. They stunk every time I got them out of the wash. They never seemed to get clean. I made it my mission to figure out why the things could possibly stink so badly after following all of the advice I was given to the letter.
I learned that “build up” is the fear of all cloth diaperers. We are so afraid of it, that we will do everything we can to prevent it, to the point of using as little detergent as possible, or even NO detergent in our wash routine. (Yes, I’ve had people tell me to just use hot water and maybe some baking soda in the wash.) The worry is, if you use too much detergent, or detergents that are not considered cloth diaper “safe,” you could end up with so much residue built up in your diapers that they won’t be able to absorb anything else, and they’ll leak the next time you use them on your baby.
So I thought, well, maybe I have build up. So I “stripped” my diapers and my washing machine and washed my diapers.
It didn’t work. They still stunk.
So I tried switching to a different detergent. I tried many “cloth safe” detergents, both store-bought and home-made. I tried soaking them in the detergents overnight. I tried changing my wash routine. I tried hotter water, more water, less water, more rinses, less rinses. I tried boiling my inserts. I tried vinegar. I tried it all. Sometimes, boiling or vinegar would seem to work at first, but then my diaper inserts would come back with a stinky vengeance a few days later.
Then, one day, an old cloth diapering pro told me to try more detergent. They told me to go to the store and buy some Tide, use the amount recommended on the bottle for my load size, and never look back.
I was worried about everything I had heard about “ruining” my diapers. But I was desperate. So I tried it.
I scrapped all the fancy wash routines and complicated laundry solutions I had heard about and washed my diapers in a hot wash with a whole cap full of Tide.
My diapers came out of the wash smelling like sweet nothing for the first time ever!
And I never looked back. 
So, what is the “No Stink, No Complications, Diaper Laundry Solution?”¬†

MORE DETERGENT.
Our babies are pooping on these things. We should be using more detergent on our diaper laundry, not less. It’s counter-intuitive to use 1/4 the normal amount of detergent on your dirtiest laundry.
Diaper stink means diapers are not getting clean. Plain and simple. If a diaper comes out of the laundry and still stinks, it needs to go back into the laundry with more detergent, more hot water, and maybe even a little bleach.
Don’t be afraid of “ruining” your diapers. I know how much we all love our cutest diapers, but never forget that they are just diapers. They’re not made of lace. They can handle it. If you’re worried about something made with elastic or delicate materials getting “ruined” in a normal wash cycle with plenty of detergent and the occasional bleach, by all means, take that item out before washing. But remember that these are just diapers. Eventually they will wear out and need to be replaced. We can’t prevent that and prevent stink at the same time. They need to be washed.¬†

If your baby pooped on your favorite shirt, what would you do? I’ll bet you’d make sure you got that sucker good and clean. Why do we treat our diapers any differently?
It’s not about which detergent you use. That’s a personal family decision. Lots of factors may affect your choice of detergent: your concern about the environment, the type of water you have, your desire to buy from small businesses instead of big businesses or visa versa, your desire to buy at a certain grocery store, price, allergies, sensitivities, etc. But, in my opinion, which detergent you use is not as important as how much detergent you use.¬†
Don‚Äôt spend too much time researching the ‚Äúbest‚ÄĚ way to care for cloth diapers. Remember that:
They are cloth, just like everything else. They are washable. They don‚Äôt need special treatment unless they’re made from delicate or special materials, like wool, or elastic. Even then, be aware that diapers will wear out eventually, just like everything else.¬†
Deal with build up as it occurs, not the other way around. Some cloth diaperers have been using Tide, bleach, and the like for years and have never had build up. Others have dealt with it several times. Either way, it’s not something to fear. It won’t break your diapers. It’s easily remedied with stripping and lots of rinsing. I’d rather have build up once in a great while than stinky dirty diapers every day.
Having problems with ammonia? This is a very informative and helpful article.
Look, I realize that this is a bit of a controversial topic, and that I’m in quite the minority with this kind of advice. (Although, from those that I’ve talked to, it seems that there are lots of closet Tide, bleach, and more-than-recommended detergent users out there!) I certainly don’t mean to imply that I know everything, or that all of the other cloth diaper laundry advice out there is wrong. There are lots of unique situations that account for the large variety of washing advice circulating around out there. I know nothing about allergies and sensitivities, for example, and I’m aware that rashes and allergies and sensitivities can add a whole new level to the laundry debate. But, I do believe that “more detergent” is the answer for many cloth diaperers who are dealing with stink and confused about what to do.¬†¬†

Bottom Line: 
If your diapers stink, they aren’t getting clean enough. Try using a stronger detergent and plenty of it, before trying the more complicated remedies out there.¬†
This is an updated version of my original article that was posted on the Guerilla Fluff website, here.

Not Another Cloth Diaper Post…

So, I realize that out of the like 5 people that read this blog when they have nothing better to do, maybe one of you has actually expressed interest in cloth diapering (Hi! Erin). The rest of you are probably all, “Seriously? Another post about this? I know your blog is lame but I didn’t realize all you have to talk about is what you put on your baby’s butt..”


I know. But for some inexplicable reason, this is actually fun for me. 

So I just thought I’d follow up my “Cloth Diaper 101” post with a few pictures (and some long-winded explanations) of my newest addition to the family in her favorite dipes.


I mean, when I was delving into the complicated world of cloth diapering, I quickly found that pictures were the biggest help. There’s just too many options out there these days, and it’s hard to picture how they all work, ya know?


So, if you’re totally over my cloth-diapering life right now, I understand. But, for those of you who think you might find yourself entertaining the idea of cloth diapering somewhere down the road, stick this post in the back of your mind or at the back of your bookmarks for a reference.

Oh, and maybe I should put in a disclaimer: I am totally not plugging any of the brands of cloth diapers or stores I might mention in this post. Although these diaper companies should be paying me to rave about their products, they unfortunately do not know that I exist. I have however found that, of the many products and cloth diapering methods I’ve tried, there are some that work better for me than others. So this is me passing along the wisdom of my cloth diaper addiction…¬†

Okay, so…first up are some pictures of the baby girl in my diaper of choice: a flat diaper. I use these flats. And these. All Green Mountain brand diapers are amazing in terms of quality and absorbency. Osocozy brand diapers are a little smaller (which makes for a good fit for my baby at her current size) and also a little rougher to the touch compared to GMDs, but just as absorbent.


Flat diapers can be folded down to the length of your diaper cover (so that they look like a diaper insert) and simply tucked into a pocket diaper, or placed on top of a diaper cover like this:


This one’s got a strip of fleece fabric on top to “catch” the poo messes, making them easier to clean up.

Or, you can fold them into the shape of a disposable diaper and secure them around your baby like this:  



 

Dawwwww.


That y-shaped thing holding the diaper on is called a Snappi. They’re the quicker, more convenient alternative to diaper pins. They have little teeth that grab the fabric and hold the diaper wings together. You can get them in regular size or toddler size. I use toddler sized snappis because I don’t like them to be tight on my baby, and the toddler sized ones help with that.

Also that was all I had, since their previous owner was her toddler brother. 


Also, let’s face it, she’s huge. Look at those thunder thighs.


I used what’s called The Neat Fold on the diapers in the pictures above. For the size and shape of my baby, that’s what works best for us at this time. But there are gazillions of ways to fold flat diapers, and it only takes about 30 seconds on You Tube to learn how to do it. It’s no big deal!


I could sing the praises of flat diapers all day, but I’ll save you the pain. Instead, let me list for you the things that make them so fantastic:¬†

  • They’re the least expensive cloth diaper, but last longer than most modern options.
  • They’re the easiest to get clean — fancy diapers made of synthetic fibers like microfiber tend to hold onto bacteria and stinkies, making them complicated to get clean. Flats are made of one layer of cotton — they clean up with one wash cycle and regular laundry detergent, and dry in no time. You won’t need to follow any of those fancy washing instructions with flats.
  • They’re one-size-fits-all. Buy them once and cloth diaper all your kids from birth to potty training. Just change how you fold them depending on your baby’s size.
  • They’re the trimmest option. Cloth diapers are bulkier than disposables — something you just have to get used to. But flat diapers rival the trimness of disposable diapers.

See:


Trim, right?


Same flat diaper plus diaper cover under a onesie. See how trim it is?

Next is a Flip brand one-size diaper cover over the same flat diaper above:



You have to pair flat diapers with a diaper cover, which provides wetness protection. 

If you’re going to cloth diaper an infant full-time with just flats and covers, you would need 10-24 flats, but only 4-6 covers. (I can get away with just 12 flats and 4 covers because I wash mine every day or every other day.¬† So, that’s about $80 to cloth diaper one baby full time for 1-4 years, as opposed to $1000+ to use disposables full-time. …You can see why I’m obsessed with this.)

Anyway, back to covers: In my experience, Flip covers are the best fit on babies 10lbs and up, and the most leak-proof PUL cover. I’ve had plenty of leaks with disposable diapers and other cloth diaper covers, but I’ve never had a leak with a Flip cover! Bonus: They’re one size fits all, so you only have to buy one set and they’ll fit your baby from birth to potty training! How’s that for saving money?¬†

Ok, so, let’s say I’ve totally convinced you and you’re thinking of trying flats, but you don’t want to invest a bunch of money in them just in case you end up hating them. I have a solution for you! Grab a flannel receiving blanket out of the closet, and practice with that! Flannel receiving blankets work just as well as “real” flats (some would say even better). Plus, they’re ridiculously cute. See:


 
(Are you starting to see why cloth diapering is way more exciting than using disposables? You save an obnoxious amount of money and your baby looks adorable. It’s mom heaven.)

Some people even use receiving blanket flats exclusively. They’re softer, cuter, and work just as well.¬† The only drawback (for some) is that you can’t use a snappi with flannel. It just doesn’t grab the fabric. So you have to use diaper pins. Which is no biggie once you figure out how to get the dang things open.¬†


(Diaper pin bonus tip: Rub the pointy end of the pin on your scalp or forehead before poking it into the diaper. The oils from your hair help to lubricate the pin. Gross, but totally works and saves a ton of frustration.)

And get this: if you play your cards right, receiving blankets are even cheaper than regular flats! :drool: You can find flannel receiving blankets in packs of 5 for $5 or under in stores like Ross and Marshall’s! Walmart and Target also have “flour sack towels” in their kitchen towel section for $5, and they make great flats too!

Or, you can even make your own flat diapers out of old blankets or leftover flannel and cotton material. Jersey cotton makes a wonderfully soft, stretchy diaper. 

That’s the beauty of flat diapers. Once you know what you’re doing, you’ll start imagining everything in your house is a flat diaper.

Yes, you will start looking for things in your house that your baby can pee on. 


I heard a heartbreaking story once of a mom who couldn’t afford to buy disposable diapers. So she would try to wash out the disposable diapers her baby had used and blow dry them! How unsanitary! It absolutely breaks my heart. If she had known the old-fashioned way of diapering, she could have just folded up an old tee shirt or blanket and tied it around her baby. People who have plenty of money for the finer things in life do that just to look “green” and trendy! But that sort of thing is not common knowledge these days. How sad that our society has us so conditioned to buying expensive, mass-produced things like disposable diapers that you have to throw out — which is supposedly more convenient — that we aren’t even aware that lots of fabrics can function as a diaper — and work even better. Ok I’m done lecturing. ¬†


Well, I think I’ve pretty much covered everything. So now that I’ve beaten you over the head with more information about flat diapers than you probably ever cared to know, I’ll let you get back to your life. I promise the next post will not have anything to do with poo. ūüôā¬†¬†