How to Cloth Diaper With a T-Shirt

Whoever says cloth diapering is expensive never considered the following: our homes are full of textiles that can be used as diapers. You can think of it as being cheap, or you can think of it as going green—I prefer the latter. Rather than tossing a pile of ratty men’s T-shirts into the trash or sending them off to Goodwill where they’ll likely be shipped off to a developing country, why not extend their useful life by using them as diapers?

Yes. Those promotional T-shirts your husband gets free with a case of beer (No? Just mine?) and the raggedy undershirts you hope no one notices under his dress shirts can migrate over to your cloth diaper stash.  Cotton is a staple of cloth diapering, and cotton T-shirts can be adapted to fit into your favourite cloth diaper covers or pockets!

And when I say adapted, I just mean folded. You don’t need to sew to use T-shirts as cloth diaper inserts. I squirreled away my husband’s most decrepit white T-shirts to test out on Little Miss Cub. My husband wears medium-sized shirts, and I’ve invented a way to fold them that is inspired by the traditional cloth diaper burrito fold … but on something with sleeves.

As you can see, it’s actually thicker, with more layers, than Flip’s Overnight Insert, which is made with organic cotton and is one of my most absorbent inserts.

I use this fold in a Best Bottom cover every morning. Why? Because my daughter’s first morning pee leaks out of even some of our toughest cloth diaper combinations. Her father’s T-shirt, however, is up to the task.

So why would you want to use old T-shirts to cloth diaper? I can think of a bunch of reasons. Maybe you’re short two or three diapers to get to wash day. Buy one awesome cover, then use it with your folded T-shirts. What if you’re short of disposable diapers by the end of the month and have to wait for the next pay cheque? Maybe you’re struggling with compression leaks due to microfiber inserts: wrap the T-shirt around your microfiber insert to solve the problem! I even use my folded T-shirt in place of a Flip Overnight Insert (which are $18 each) in my Overnight Extreme Super Soaker Combo.

You can also do a very simple pad fold with a T-shirt. I find the aforementioned “Burrito” adaptation gets extra layers in the front and centre of the insert, which seems to be the trick to containing the morning flood!

I’ve previously discussed using flour sack towels as cloth diaper inserts, and frankly, T-shirts are way better. For one thing, you’ve likely already got some at home. For another, they’re more substantial. My husband’s medium T-shirts are about the same dimensions as an unfolded flour sack towel, but are two-layers thick rather than one, so they’re more absorbent!

Keep in mind that depending on the T-shirt’s size, your insert will be smaller or larger. Newborn inserts could easily be made with a women’s small T-shirt or even children’s T-shirts! If you truly don’t have random publicity T-shirts or decrepit undershirts hiding in your drawers, check your local thrift store!

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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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