I obviously get asked questions about cloth diapers frequently. I remember when I first pondered using cloth, I had so many questions and didn’t know whom to ask or where to start. Now nearing four years of experience cloth diapering, I figure I can impart some of what I wish I’d known all along.
My Top 5 Tips for Successful Cloth Diapering
1- Buy enough diapers. Don’t be discouraged by the initial investment.
The absolute minimum I would recommend having on hand for a newborn is 24 diaper changes. A truly awesome amount would be 30! If your baby is older and needs fewer changes, you can get away with fewer.
I was so afraid to spend money on cloth diapers when I was pregnant with Cub. I had a big issue with one diaper costing $25 or more. I bought fewer because I didn’t want to spend too much money. I didn’t realize how expensive disposable diapers really were, so I had trouble justifying the initial investment in cloth. I wound up not having enough when Cub was a baby, and doing laundry with ridiculous frequency and buying disposables to bridge the gap. Furthermore, I came to understand that the more diapers you have, the less frequently each individual diaper is worn and washed. Since most parents would like to either recoup a bit of their cost by selling their stash or continue the savings by using the diapers on a second or third child, it makes sense to minimize the wear and tear. I honestly had no idea that reselling cloth diapers was a thing, but it absolutely is. Generally speaking, higher priced diapers resell better, with certain brands even increasing in value due to high-demand, limited edition prints! I have cloth diapers that have been used for almost four years, and are still going strong.
I also never considered asking for cloth diapers at my baby shower. I received a lot of baby shower gifts that were impractical or else too expensive given the tiny window of time in which they were useful. A $25 one-size cloth diaper goes so much farther than a $25 newborn outfit! We had so many hand-me-downs that I didn’t really know what to say when people asked what we needed. Cloth diapers are super easy to buy online, as are gift certificates to cloth diaper retailers. Many online shops allow you to make a gift registry. The only registry I even knew about was for Toys R Us, and at the time, they didn’t carry BumGenius like they do now. I registered for a whole lot of things we didn’t need.
Since I didn’t know that selling used diapers was a thing, I obviously didn’t know I could buy them, either. While it can be tricky to know what to look for when shopping on Kijiji or Craigslist for diapers, if you have an experienced cloth diaperer in your entourage to help separate the rip offs from the sweet deals, I say, go for it!
One way to get into cloth if $25+ per diaper, a baby shower registry and/or shopping used aren’t options is to use an “all-in-two” system made up of reusable diaper covers and either prefolds, flour sack towels or receiving blankets as inserts. You could easily set yourself up for less than $100, and as you rack up the savings from not buying disposables, you might decide to add a few other styles to your stash!
2 – Start off with a wash routine that is unlikely to cause issues.
Choose a detergent that’s strong enough to deep clean the absolute dirtiest things you’ll ever wash! Skip the pricey “cloth diaper safe” detergents. I used Costco’s Kirkland-brand Ultra Clean Free & Clear for a long time, and now use Tide Free & Gentle. Know your water type: hard water needs a softener* (Calgon, Borax) unless your chosen detergent contains enough water-softening agents to do the trick. (You can buy water test strips here, via my affiliate link.)
*Don’t confuse water softener with fabric softener. Do not use fabric softener, or a detergent containing fabric softener, with your cloth diapers!
A basic cloth diaper wash routine I recommend is:
- Store your soiled diapers dry, in a pail or wetbag. Rinse or spray off solids and wring out until wash day.
- Do an initial rinse with cold water, and ADD DETERGENT. Choose whatever your machine’s shortest cycle is (“Quick Wash” or “Rapid Wash,” or similar), and add half the amount of recommended detergent.
- Do a long/heavy wash with hot water and at least the FULL AMOUNT of detergent recommended for heavily soiled loads. (You may need to use more than that for certain detergent brands.)
- If your water is hard, definitely skip an extra rinse cycles.
- Hang to dry or dry on low. (And no, if you dry your diapers on high, you haven’t ruined them.)
For more laundry troubleshooting, definitely check out these posts by my pal, The Monarch Mommy.
3 – Don’t feel you have to use only ONE brand.
I was so sure I was only “supposed to” pick one brand and use its products and its products alone. My stash is now a wide variety of brands whose various components work well together. You’ll notice my overnight cloth diaper insert combo has pieces from four different brands. Obviously, if things are going well being brand exclusive, that’s great, but it is absolutely possible to mix and match pieces from different brands to find what works best for you!
4 – Ask for help if something’s not working.
If something isn’t working, don’t assume that’s just how it’s supposed to be! Funny smell? Excessive leaking? An online deal seems too good to be true? If you don’t have other cloth diaperers in your social circle, find a good Facebook group where you can ask for advice, heck, you can even ask me! ==>MamanLoupsDen@gmail.com<== The customer support teams for most brands are quite responsive and helpful, and most large brands also have official groups on Facebook where fans and ambassadors can help you achieve the perfect fit or troubleshoot an issue with leaks or smells.
I have a blog post on common reasons for cloth diaper leaks here.
5 – It’s not all or nothing and it’s only too late to start if it means putting your kid back into diapers.
You don’t have to commit 100% to using cloth all day every day: don’t be scared to give it a try! If it’s your firstborn, start with disposable diapers until you get into your groove, then try out your cloth when everyone is well rested and happy! If you’re switching to cloth with an older baby, try for the first time on the weekend after the morning poop! If you’re really cloth curious but nervous about the commitment, try a cloth diaper trial!
If you just want to dip your toes into cloth diapering and test the waters, I’d buy enough supplies for six diaper changes. Once all six diapers are dirty, you will definitely have to wash them with other clothing items (you can add the other clothing after an initial rinse) to have a full load, but there’s nothing wrong with that at all!
If you’ve been cloth diapering for a while, what are some things you wish you’d known from the start? If you’re new to cloth, what challenges are you experiencing?