Cloth Diapering 101 — What You Need to Know

There are so many cloth diapering options now, the choices can be a little overwhelming for new moms. I’ve spent hours reading blog entries and online diaper store how-to’s, as well as watching YouTube videos. And then, of course, I have the real-life experience of diapering my daughter. You don’t need to be as meticulous as I’ve been on cloth diaper research. I’ve prepared a resources sheet for you with most of what you need to know.

How many diapers?

If you’re doing laundry every other day, you will need:

  • For a newborn: 24 diapers & 6-8 covers
  • For an older baby: 24-36 diapers & 6-8 covers
  • 3 nighttime diapers (either 3 pocket diapers with microfiber inserts and hemp doublers, or three fitted diapers with diaper covers)

You can have any combo of diapers you want: prefolds with covers, pocket diapers like BumGenius 4.0 or Fuzzibunz Elite, or hybrids like the GroVia hybrid. If you go with prefolds, get Diaper Service Quality (DSQ), such as OsoCozy brand, Cloth-Eez from Green Mountain Diapers, Imagine Organics, Dandelion Diapers, Blueberry, and Kawaii. The OsoCozy Better Fit diaper is shorter and designed to be folded into thirds and placed into a cover without using a Snappi. The OsoCozy prefolds that DON’T say Better Fit are longer and designed to be folded on baby and secured with a Snappi or diaper pins. The Green Mountain Diapers Cloth-Eez prefolds can either be used as a trifold inside a cover or Snappied onto a baby — it’s your choice. Use any kind of cover you’d like with your prefold. I like the Thirsties brand, but Blueberry Coveralls , Blueberry Capris, or Bummis Whisper Wraps work great too. You can also use wool covers, which are my personal favorite. More on wool later.
The more diapers you have, the longer they will last.
Change the diaper as soon as it is soiled or wet (at least every 2 hours).

Other useful accessories ( is your friend):

  • 40-50 cloth wipes (just toss them in the wet bag and wash with your diapers) — use water as your wipe solution
  • 1 GroVia Magic Stick, GroVia Z Stick, or Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm — a cloth-diaper safe way of treating and preventing diaper rash
  • 2 hanging wet bags (KangaCare) or diaper pail liners (PlanetWise)
  • 2 smaller wet bags for your diaper bag (Bummis, PlanetWise, GroVia)
  • 4-6 doublers for naps and nighttime (the OsoCozy Better Fit infant prefolds work great as doublers, and I also love the BabyKicks Joey Bunz hemp doublers)
  • 3 Snappis if you’re using prefolds
  • BumGenius Diaper Sprayer for the toilet (use only when your baby is no longer exclusively breastfed)
  • Spray Pal  — a cloth diaper sprayer splatter shield. I found mine on Amazon.
  • Dry diaper pail with a lid (optional) — a standard kitchen garbage can works great
  • Drying rack for outside (optional); Here’s a great one I found on Amazon.
  • Washable Chux Pads! — If you’re co-sleeping or nursing your newborn baby in bed at night, do yourself a huge favor and buy washable chux pads to put under the baby. I use the Champion size medium with a flannel receiving blanket on top. Who wants to change pee-soaked sheets in the middle of the night? No one.

How Do I Fold Prefold Diapers?

  1. Here’s My Favorite YouTube Prefold Diapering Tutorial.
  2. Here’s My Other Favorite YouTube Prefold Diapering Tutorial.

How to Clean Your Diapers:

Prewash all new natural fiber diapers to remove plant oils and to make your diapers quilted and absorbant (not necessary for covers or microfiber, though you should wash microfiber once before using it):

  1. Hot wash with 1/2 amount of detergent, tumble dry
  2. Do this 5-7 times

Washing Instructions for Hard Water (85% of households have hard water):

  1. How can you tell if you have hard water? You can buy a hard water test kit and see for yourself.
  2. Shake the poop into the toilet
  3. Cold, warm, or hot short prewash with a small amount of soap
  4. Hot, heavy duty, long wash with enough detergent for a soiled load; 1 capful Calgon or another kind of water softener like Arm & Hammer washing soda or White King; no extra rinse

Washing Instructions for Soft Water:

  1. Shake the poop out into the toilet and use a diaper sprayer to dislodge any large bits (do nothing with the breastfed poop – those diapers can go straight into the washer)
  2. Cold, warm, or hot short prewash without soap — this gets rids of the pee and poop so the main cycle actually gets your diapers clean
  3. Hot, heavy duty, long wash with detergent enough detergent for a soiled load, and extra rinse

Drying Instructions:

  • Dry natural fiber diapers in the dryer
  • Hang dry all covers — drying them too much in the dryer removes their waterproofing
  • It’s useful to pick non-white covers so you don’t accidentally toss them in the dryer with your “white” prefolds
  • To remove stains, you can sun bleach diapers and covers by hanging dry outside for a few hours

Notes on Washing Diapers:

  • Fill your washer 1/2 to 2/3 full. You can tell how full your washer is by looking in right when you’ve placed the diapers inside. If you don’t have enough diapers to fill the machine at least 1/2 full, consider waiting another day or add dirty towels to your load to get to 1/2 full. You need to have enough diapers in there to rub against each other for agitation to get clean.
  • Any kind of washing machine is just fine
  • Any kind of detergent is fine, but don’t use any that has fabric softener in it (like Tide with Downey)
  • Don’t use Dreft or Ivory Snow

About Stinky Diapers:

  • Microfiber is more absorbent than natural fibers, but it has a tendency to stink and develop repellency issues. It’s easier to clean microfiber if you have a top-loading washer, because microfiber likes to be immersed in water to get clean.
  • If a diaper stinks when you take it out of the washer, it’s not clean and you need to use more soap.
  • If it smells clean when it comes out of the washer but stinks immediately when the baby pees on it, it has ammonia build-up. You need to tweak your wash routine. Consider stripping your diapers with bleach to remove the ammonia. Consider joining The Cloth Diaper Asylum on Facebook. They are very knowledgeable and will help you troubleshoot your wash routine.

Stripping Protocol:

  • We strip diapers to remove ammonia stink, yeast, bacteria, or residue from ointments or soap. We also strip any used diapers we’ve just purchased or obtained.
  • Make sure your diapers are CLEAN before you strip them
  • Use COLD water for the stripping protocol, and don’t use detergent
  • Amount of bleach to add:
    • If you have an old fashioned top loader, add 1/3 c. to a small load, 1/2 c. to a medium load, or 3/4 c. to a large load
    • If you have an HE top loader, add 1/4 c. to a small load, 1/3 c. to a medium load, or 1/2 c. to a large load
    • If you have an HE front loader, use either your bathtub, sink or a bucket to soak the diapers in. Add the bleach to the water and mix it well BEFORE you add the diapers.
      • Use 1/4 cup for a 1/4 tub full of water
      • Use 1/2 cup for a 1/2 tub of water
      • Use 3/4 cup for a tub that’s near full.
      • For a smaller vessel, 1 TBSP per gallon of water
  • Let the diapers soak in the bleach/water solution for at least 30 minutes
  • If the diapers are in the washing machine, you can turn off the washer to let the diapers soak, and then turn the washer back on to let the machine finish its cleaning cycle.
  • If the diapers are in something other than the washer, wring them out and transfer them to the washer. Let them run through a cold wash without soap.
  • You can run the diapers through another wash in hot water, detergent and an extra rinse to get rid of the bleach smell
  • Anything except animal fibers like wool and silk can be bleached.
  • See The Cloth Diaper Asylum for more information on the proper way to strip diapers

Here’s a Great Article About Diaper Rash from eBay.

Nighttime Diapering Notes:

  • You need to create a diaper combo that can stay on your baby for up to 12 hours without leaking or causing discomfort to baby
  • BumGenius 4.0 and Fuzzibunz Elite One Size are two great pocket diaper brands to use for nighttime.
    • Stuff your pocket diapers with the toddler microfleece doubler that comes with the pocket diaper and a doubler layered behind it (Joey Bunz by Baby Kicks is the one I use, but you can also use a newborn prefold diaper folded in thirds or half and placed behind the microfiber insert).
  • You can also use a prefold with one or two doublers added and a microfleece insert over the top to keep baby feeling dry all night
  • If you have a super duper wetter, use a fitted diaper like SootheBaby with a wool, fleece, or Thirsties cover
  • Make sure the diaper fits well around the legs and the waist. That makes most diapers bulletproof for 12 hours

On Wool:
Wool is easy to use. It’s breathable, antibacterial, natural, absorbs 30 times its weight in moisture, and doesn’t retain odor.
My favorite wool diaper cover brand names are: Imse Vimse, Babee Greens, Disana, Woolly Bottoms, and Sloomb (Babee Greens is my absolute favorite!). You can also go to Etsy and look up upcycled wool covers for adorable custom covers.
Wool is great for diapering at night as well as during the day.
It only needs to be washed about once a month in wool shampoo (Imse Vimse or Eucalan) or when it’s dirty.
Lanolinizing it keeps it waterproof. For instructions on how to lanolinize and wash wool, Green Mountain Diapers has great instructions.
Here’s a great blog article on diapering with wool.

Places to buy new diapers:

Great places to buy previously owned diapers:

•  Sweet Pea Children’s Boutique (Cotati, CA)
•  Diaper Swappers
•  Craigslist
•  Ebay

P.S. (I’m not receiving any kickbacks or bonuses for recommending any of these products or companies. I just happen to like them and want to pass on my experience to you. Cheers!)