How to Cloth Diaper: Maman Loup’s Definitive Introduction to Cloth Diapering

How to Cloth Diaper: Maman Loup's Definitive Introduction to Cloth Diapering

Updated February 2018.

I’ve held off on writing an official “Cloth 101” type post for a long time. For one thing, it’s a lot of information to cover. For another, I wanted to wait til I truly felt like I had the expertise to really set a cloth-curious family on the right track. Well, four years in and many, many a cloth diaper brand and accessory tested, I feel ready to be your cloth diaper muse.

I’ve also added a post called “My Top 5 Tips For Successful Cloth Diapering,” which I highly recommend you check out!

“How to Cloth Diaper” Questions for your cloth diaper oracle:

  1. When can I start?
  2. How many do I need?
  3. Do I need to buy newborn diapers?
  4. How much will it cost?
  5. Which ones should I buy?
  6. How do I wash them?
  7. How do I store in between washings?
  8. What do I do with the poop?
  9. How often do I change a cloth diaper?
  10. What about overnight?
  11. What if I have leaks?
  12. Where do I go to understand all the terms?
  13. What about when I leave the house?
  14. What about rash creams?
  15. Where can I find out even more?

 When can I start?

Baby's first cloth

I started cloth diapering Cub at Day 4. With baby on the way, I plan on starting right from birth. Some families choose to wait longer, til they have the whole newborn thing under control, or simply until their one-size diapers begin to fit.

Start when you’re ready. Go halfway first: try a couple cloth diapers during the day and use disposables at night. (Curious about Eco-disposable options? Check this post.) And it’s never too late to start. Just because year one was in ‘sposies doesn’t mean year two can’t be in cloth.

Every time you use a cloth diaper, consider that 20 cents in your pocket!

Here are all my posts about cloth diapering a newborn!

How many do I need?

Cloth Diaper Stash

I personally recommend at least 24 to 30 diapers, but more is better in terms of never running out between wash days and in terms of ensuring less wear and tear on your stash so they last longer. I clearly have far more than 24 diapers in my stash, as do many cloth fanatics. You can definitely cloth diaper with two dozen diapers!

Should I buy newborn diapers?

There are quite a few factors that will determine if you want to invest in a stash of newborn diapers. One size diapers are designed to fit from birth, but it really depends on the brand and the shape and size of your baby.

If you want perfectly fitting, adorable newborn diapers, it may be worthwhile for you if you plan on cloth diapering right from birth, if you plan on having more children, if you plan on recouping the cost by reselling or even if you split the cost of a lot with a friend who is due a couple months after you. You can save money on a newborn stash by buying second hand, or even renting.

Another very cost effective option to get you through the “until our one-size diapers fit” stage is to buy half a dozen newborn covers, and a set of flour sack towels.

With Cub, I used prefolds and covers for around $100, as I explain in this post. With Little Miss, I reviewed a huge variety of newborn diapers, of which my top two were the TotsBots Teeny Fit and Blueberry Simplex.

Renting newborn cloth diapers is also a great option, as is the Bummis Newborn Kit.

How much will it cost?

 A set of 24 diapers can range from around $200 (Alvas, Kawaii, Sunbaby) to $500 or more. Here’s a post on how to save money on brand-name diapers, and a post for a starter cloth diaper stash I recommend.

Which ones should I buy?

Which diapers to choose

That’s the loaded question. Every cloth diaper Mama will have a different answer. I fully endorse buying some different brands in your initial lot. My personal stash is a variety, but I am a particular fan of BumGenius 5.0 and the Funky Fluff Lux.

Another option to consider is a trial program, where you essentially rent a mixed lot of diapers for a certain period of time for a low fee before you make your final decision. Renee at Lil’ Monkey Cheeks offers this possibility Canada-wide.

You can also read all my cloth diaper reviews!

How do I wash them?

cloth laundry

Every washer is different and every stash of diapers is different. So, take these recommendations as a guideline and tweak as necessary. I am a wholehearted supporter of using the detergent that works best for you: do not stress about what is “cloth diaper safe.” Simply avoid a detergent that has a built-in fabric softer (ie: Tide with Downy), and if you or your child is sensitive to fragrance, choose fragrance free. I personally have used Tide Free & Gentle, now that it is available in HE!

Read my full wash routine using Tide Free & Gentle Powder for All Machines here.

Now that my son no longer reacts to regular Tide, which I find more effective, I follow this wash routine.

How do I store in between washings?

My preference is to use a diaper pail (or a pail of any kind) lined with a pail liner. Come wash day, I grab the wet bag and dump the dirties into the wash, tossing the bag in as well. My favourite pail liner wet bag is the Funky Fluff Pail Liner.

How to Cloth Diaper: Maman Loup's Definitive Introduction to Cloth Diapering

You don’t need a bin specifically designed for cloth diapers. You can use any garbage can that fits enough diapers in between washing, and I recommend a lid that can be left slightly loose, as some air circulation is better for reducing odours. This one, available at Walmart for $8.99, is very popular!

If space is at a premium, you might consider a hanging wet bag, of which there are many models. My favourite is the Funky Fluff Hanging Diaper Pail.

Funky Fluff Hanging Pail In action

I’d recommend having two of whatever wetbag or pail liner you choose so that you can have one in the pail and one in the wash.

What do I do with the poop?

Exclusively breastfed poop is water soluble. You don’t even need to rinse it off! I always just tossed the soiled diapers in the pail (lined with a wetbag) and then dumped everything in the wash on wash day.

Once baby starts solids or if baby is on formula, you’ll want to dump solids into the toilet (by the way: you’re supposed to do this with disposables, too) and possibly rinse. Some people like to use a diaper sprayer with a Spray Pal. I am able to use my Spray Pal with the shower attachment from our bathtub when needed. Sometimes I just put on my rubber glove and swish in the toilet bowl. Another option is biodegradable liners that catch the poop and that are ostensibly flushable (really depends on your plumbing situation), or fleece liners than are easier to rinse than an entire diaper.

How often do I change?

On average, I’d say babies in cloth get changed every 2-3 hours. Having never really had a kid in full-time sposies, I can’t say for sure if this is that different. I think some parents probably stretch changes in disposables because of their massive capacity for storing urine in that weird gel. Cloth diapers can also last for naps and overnight. If you know you won’t be able to change a diaper for 4 or 5 hours, make sure you “build” your diaper accordingly, with boosters or extra inserts. If your baby is sensitive to wetness, most diapers have a “stay dry” layer that is made of fleece or some kind of polyester. The “stay dry” feeling is not as effective as with disposables, but neither is it as drying on baby’s skin. Obviously, as with disposables, I change as soon as there is a poop.

What about overnight?

A lot of families use disposables over night until they feel comfortable with their daytime cloth diaper routine. Overnight, you naturally have to consider adding enough absorbency to last 10-12 hours of sleep. Many brands make diapers that are specifically marketed as overnight diapers. You can read all my tips for overnight diapering here, and my favourite combination of inserts for overnight, known as my “Overnight Insert Sandwich,” here. If you have a super soaker like my daughter was for a long time, you may need one of my Top 3 Heavy Wetter solutions.

What do I do if we’ve got leaks?

Leaks are usually a result of incorrect fit or insufficient absorbency. Troubleshoot, troubleshoot, troubleshoot! Here’s my post on the most common causes of leaks.

Take a look at this awesome Troubleshooting Leaks posts from fellow cloth diaper bloggers:

Where do I go to understand all the terms?

Check out Olivia at This West Coast Mommy’s guide to Cloth Diaper Terms. If you’d like help with the abbreviations in cloth diapering groups on Facebook, check this table and simply ignore the right-hand French translation!

What about when we leave the house?

Take a wetbag for on the go

Cloth is portable! Just bring a small wetbag with you to transport the dirties. If you want the diapers to take up less space in your bag, choose an AI2 system where you just need to change the insert.

If you’re worried about toting poop around all day, use disposable liners so you can just toss the poop and go. Personally, on the odd occasion I’m out visiting family or friends and Cub is in a disposable, I really hate leaving a dirty diaper in their garbage. I’m much happier taking home the laundry!

What about rash creams?

It is very important to avoid certain common ingredients in diaper creams when using cloth diapers. Think about the heavy, greasy ingredients that would be impossible to launder out of your clothes: petrolatum (Vaseline), mineral oil, cod liver oil, paraffin are all ingredients to avoid. Because these ingredients are very commonly found in zinc oxide creams (like Desitin or Zincofax), you’ll often see recommendations against all zinc oxide creams in general. This post explains a bit more on why there are some zinc oxide creams that are okay to use.

There are creams that are 100% cloth safe, meaning you don’t need to put any kind of liner in the diaper, you can just apply the cream and put on the diaper. You’ll notice these creams contain ingredients that are familiar (and often edible!): coconut oil, shea butter, Vitamin E, jojoba oil and essential oils. You can even make your own!

What advice do you have for a cloth diaper newbie?

73 responses to “How to Cloth Diaper: Maman Loup’s Definitive Introduction to Cloth Diapering”

  1. Marian F.

    Very informative. You make a great cloth diaper muse 🙂

    1. Lindsay Gallimore

      Why thank you!

  2. Joanna Pistilli

    Awesome post. Thanks for taking the time to put together – I’ll be forwarding to all my friends who are curious about my decision to cloth diaper!

    1. Lindsay Gallimore

      Thanks so much!

  3. beth rose

    Buy a $5 microfleece blanket and cut into rectangles for amazing washable liners:) Easy to rinse in the toilet… Keeps the inside of your files clean…. Microfleece helps keeps baby drier…. And best of all, costs $5!!

    1. Lindsay Gallimore

      Yes!!! I have a post about this in French, but not in English. I know some people get the fleece blanket at Dollarama, others at Ikea, others buy the fabric at the fabric store!

  4. Elizabeth Bowen

    This is a great post. I often tell my friends to search out bloggers (such as yourself) and to ask as many questions as possible. I’ve got 3 friends so far who have switched to cloth. I think just talking about it makes it more comfortable for others, so many are afraid to try something if they do not know anyone else trying the same thing.

  5. Kelly Sands

    Best advice I’ve gotten was not over thinking my wash routine. Find one that works and stick with it 🙂 I’d also highly recommend trying different brands of diapers, they all have their ups and downs. They all have different types fits…try all the diapers! 🙂

    1. Lindsay Gallimore

      Totally! Wholeheartedly agree.

  6. Donna

    Take the time to read about the different kinds of cloth diapers before making a decision and take advantage of diaper trials from a local store if you have that option.

  7. Megan Drane

    If something isn’t working try try try again! You will find the right diaper and absorbency that works for you and your child!

  8. Rachel M

    Don’t be afraid of using bleach. It gets ride of smells, stains and bacteria.

    1. Lindsay Gallimore

      Yes, I am definitely a user of bleach in some cases!

  9. Kari Frank Barone

    I would not start with one brand exclusively again. Read reviews and find what works best for you and has the best fit for your baby. I own a varied stash of many brands and types and love it!

  10. Tara K

    Buy a variety of brands and styles! I’ve heard of too many people buying a bunch of something and then it not working well for them.

    1. Lindsay Gallimore

      Yes, I did that at first! I thought I HAD to just stick to one brand. Nope nope nope!

  11. Erica

    Don’t stress. There’s a ton of informtion out there that can be overwhelmong, but it’s actually very simple. If you have a local store use them as your go to source of information.

  12. Aimee Winter

    Don’t over think the wash routine! You’ll make things worse! If you have no problems don’t try and fix or change anything! I did once even though I had no problems and after that my son had horrible rashes! Then I had to do multiple rinses to eliminate what I had used!

  13. Noémi Lavoie-Lefaivre

    Don’t bother with the stains! It’s poop catchers and they will fade and disappear with the many washes.

  14. Melanie Lapierre

    Le meilleur conseil que j’ai reçu était de varier les marques et les modèles de mon lit de couches lavables!

  15. Beki Rich Michaelson

    Try lots of types and brands and most importantly…. dirty diapers does not equal less detergent. I had horrible issues until I started using a healthy amount of detergent.

  16. Vannessa Leppek

    Don’t be scared to cloth only part time, even late in the game. We started when our second was 10 months. We only do it part time and I love it.

  17. Ashley Morel

    Cloth diapering is a great oppertunity to Pay it forward! Instead of selling your diapers when you are done with them lend or give them to a friend☺

  18. Delacey

    I would say first off, buy a variety of diapers to find out what works and what you like. As well, don’t think you need to be married to one brand/style of diaper as you may find that you certain diapers work better at different times of day/occasions/ and stages of babies growth.

    The other thing is that CD’s don’t have to be all or nothing. Your going to stay in a hotel for a week or two or are going camping for a week, don’t feel like you have to CD while away. Yes it is doable, but be honest with yourself if you think you are up to doing the extra work while on holidays (cause holidays are for you as well!).

  19. Nikki Arsenault

    Take advantage of a diaper trial if there is one in your area! I wish we had done it for the newborn stage. We definitely liked some better than others and would’ve like to have more of those.

  20. Coleen M

    Having a Spray Pal is worth it! Full pressure for spraying and the poopy water doesn’t fly all over your bathroom!

  21. Norma Linda Martinez

    Sun is your best friend! Great for them stains!

  22. Tiffany Baker

    My advice for a newbie is to do a diaper trial!! Find out which brand(s) work best for you and send the others back.

  23. Jessica Hughes

    I suggest trying a few different types before deciding what you want your stash to consist of! I started with all pockets, and now I barely use thwm! I wish if tried other types in the beginning.

  24. Hannah Avery

    I think you can cloth diaper with just about anything (brand wise). It is really nice to have a variety! If you are going with prefolds, I recommend having newborn, infant and toddler sized, and OS covers with snaps! Also a snappi for infant age. Definitely grab some fleece liners too, and then have maybe 3 overnight diapers of some kind! I personally like fitteds and wool, but that would intimidate some! Right now, I think my favorite non-prefold diaper is Bumgenious Freetimes! I have cloth diapered 2 children. Working on potty training the second, and plan to cloth diaper #3, coming soon!


  25. Megan Ramsey

    Give yourself a month to get into a routine. Everyone has their own routine and own opinions. Find what works for you and ignore everything eelse. People have been cloth diapering long before disposables. They didn’t have fancy accessories or excessive washing habits. Keep it simple. In the end, they are mearly poop and pee catchers.

  26. Shawna Reed

    Try a few types before buying a whole stash! Also if you do AI2 at the start you can get away with less shells as you build your stash

  27. Danea

    You don’t have to go broke trying to CD and can actually save money if that’s what you’re interested in, however it’s very easy to get sucked into the new colors/prints that brands release. I chose to mainly use prefolds/covers and have a few pockets/
    AIOs for other caregivers to utilize. Saved us a ton between two and now almost three kids!!

  28. Ashleigh Swerdfeger

    Try to try out different diapers to see what kind works for you. You might prefer AI2’s or pocket diapers. Also,different diapers might have a different fit on your baby than you expect. A lot of cloth diaper business or baby stores do offer trials so you might be able to rent diapers other than purchase them.

  29. Esi Santi

    Don’t be scared to buy second hand clothdiapers. Search for b/s/t clothdiapers facebook group and join them. It’s worth it and much more economical. 🙂

  30. Kristina R.

    If you can find a cloth diaper workshop (usually free) go to it and ask lots of questions!! I would also suggest trying out different styles and brands before putting all your hard-earned money into a single brand (because they seem to be very popular).

  31. DirtySouth

    I am new to this I will be starting soon

  32. Sarah Hayes

    i say do all the research you can and then try different brands to see what works for you. visit a store that sells cloth if you can so you can see before you buy.

  33. Steph MacDonald

    I say make sure you do your research first. I just bought the first kind I found. It was okay but not great.

  34. I bought a bunch of different brands used to figure out which one worked best for us. I didn’t want to spend all my money on one type just to find out they didn’t work!

  35. Rachel MacCallum

    It’s never too late to start!

  36. Marlete Ledford

    I’m new to cloth diapering but I would say that the thing that’s been helping me the most is researching and bookmarking any cloth article you find helpful that way if you need to go back and reread something you have it on hand instead of trying to remember where you read it.

  37. Anna Witt

    I think nappy libraries are a great way to figure out what works when your starting out and also invest in a nappy sprayer they are great:)

  38. Danielle Wojtusik

    It is okay to just cloth diaper part time! Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

  39. Vincent Wojtusik

    We recommend using flushable liners!

  40. Andrea Halliwell

    Ask for help when you think you’re over your head 🙂

  41. jodi armstrong

    A diaper sprayer really does wonders for getting all the poop off. And don’t panic about the quantity of diapers your washing machine does most of the work 🙂

  42. Larissa Visscher

    its ok to cloth diaper on a part time basis 🙂 its a great way to try it out and see if it works for you!

  43. Anel Winney

    As a newbie myself, it’s hard to ignore the nesting drive so you think you need a lot of diapers of every kind! But try to slow your roll and get a small amount so you can see what you like first!

  44. Cassandra Rae

    Buying used is great! But be careful! I got some dud diapers because I just didn’t know any better! As questions when buying. Why are they selling them? Any issues? What detergent did they use? Are they dingy? Do they have hard water? How is the PUL (if applicable), how are fleece and elastics, etc? Are there stains? How is the velcro? How long were these diapers used? If they are asking too much, offer a lower price, or pass. I lost money on a lot of diapers so I just hope mamas are more prepared then I was.

  45. barnolds barnes

    Try not to be too intimidated by the overwhelming feeling! The whole process is just a habit you have to get into–once you have some practice it’ll be easy as pie.

  46. Delia Jones

    The best advice that I have is to try things out. Just like you have tweaked your own personal clothing style, you will need to do the same with cloth diapers. You can resell items you don’t like or use or even donate them to charity. Don’t give up!

  47. Tiffany Ayres

    Don’t give up if your diapers aren’t working out. There are so many options out there and just because your diapers aren’t working now doesn’t mean they may not work a little later or for another child 🙂

  48. Amy Hall

    It’s not as difficult as some die hard fluff lovers would like to make it out to be. And Chinese Cheapies are not the devil, lol. If it’s what you can afford, so be it.

  49. KMcG

    It’s really not as hard as it seems! I was so paranoid about “proper wash routine”… its so very similar to just washing your regular clothes! Also, don’t be afraid to ask – the majority of mommas on social media are so very willing to help out in any way they can!!

  50. Kali Cloutier

    I would tell them to not fall for all of the cloth diaper myths out there and to find a good resource and ask for any help they need there!

  51. Emily Smejkal

    Try a cloth diaper test drive, lots of retailers will allow you to try out lots off different types and brands (or at least demo them for you). This way you know your options before you commit to buying.

  52. Jenna D

    I wish I’d opted for all natural fibers for inserts, and that I’d tried prefolds/covers! I don’t like that microfiber is tougher to get clean, especially in areas with hard water

  53. Marian F.

    Try different brands and styles, every baby and family is different so the diaper brand/style that worked for you BFF might not work for you. I would also add not to stress the wash! It’s really not that hard. When I first started cloth diapering I was afraid I was going to get the wash all wrong, get ammonia build up and burn my baby’s bum. So I use to slather him in Cj’s each diaper change till I realized that there was nothing to worry about.

  54. Cjusino83

    Fitteds need a cover over them! eek learned that the hard way! Also if you have a boy point his wee wee down

  55. MarkandKeara Biller

    My best advice to to try different brands and styles… every mom likes something different! Trial programs can be great. 🙂 Also, read up and join a support group- it really helps when you have questions!

  56. LillySong7

    My best advice is to RELAX! You don’t have to know everything about cloth diapering before you start, and you don’t have to do all or nothing. You can use cloth diapers a few days and then ‘sposies a few days, or cloth diapers during the day and ‘sposies at night & work up to only cloth if you want.

  57. Claire Rheinheimer

    When starting out, know that you may run into leaks, stinky diapers, or stains. In other words, expect that there will be a few issues. Don’t give up, lots of help is out there! You will eventually figure out what works best for you and will be so happy you did!

  58. Aimee Place

    try a few different brands and styles before settling for a stash of all one kind and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, we were all newbies at one point.

  59. Katie M

    Don’t create a cloth diaper stash with just one brand and join a cloth diaper forum or community to learn from others.

  60. Tara

    My advice would be buy a variety of diapers to see what works best for you.

  61. Rebecka Pauline

    My advice would be to do what you think is best for your cloth diapers and what works for you!!!

  62. Mylène Bélanger

    Keep it simple! Cloth diaper is just cloth but a very dirty load of cloth, just wash accordingly.

  63. […] Introduction to Cloth Diapering […]

  64. Lora

    Thanks for sharing this helpful article..

  65. I really like the cloth diapers which I bought a couple of months ago !! My baby is more comfortable with it and I too find it very easy to wash and reuse!

  66. Michelle Millunzi

    Starting with a diaper service is a great way to try it out and learn slowly. As a c-section mama, I’m not supposed to be doing laundry the first 6 weeks, so a diaper service the first months made it possible for me to cloth from the beginning. Also combining cloth with “elimination communication” leads to easier washing and earlier potty training.

  67. Thanks for sharing these info with us! this is a great site. I really like it. Thank you for the site. May God bless you in all your

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Welcome to my Wolf Pack!

My name is Lindsay and I am a 40-year-old mama of four trying to live an eco-friendly, budget-friendly life! I am a substitute teacher and Child Passenger Safety technician in Calgary, Alberta. Join me on my adventures!

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