Three Things I Wish I Would Have Known About Cloth Diapers

If you’re interested in switching to cloth diapers or thinking about using them from the get-go, you know how overwhelming it can be to research them. AIO, pocket, fitted, EUC, PUL. It’s like learning a whole new language. Then you start thinking about washing and stains and poop and “Won’t it get all over my washer??” I can talk about cloth diapers for days, so I narrowed it down to three important things to get you started. Here are the top three things I wish I would have known before purchasing my very first cloth diapers.

1. Use regular detergent.

Don’t waste your money on that fancy detergent “formulated” specifically for cloth diapers. I can pretty much guarantee that it’s probably just water softeners anyway. Whatever you normally use for everyday laundry is fine. From Sun to Tide. The only things to avoid are fabric softeners. So put down the Downy! Dryer sheets too. You don’t need them. Synthetic softeners do nothing more than coat the fibers of your clothes. You don’t want something that’s supposed to absorb liquid to be coated! (On a related note, this is also why you shouldn’t use fabric softener on your towels. Actually you should use fabric softener at all, but that’s for another post).

2. Use natural fibers.

In my research before I jumped into using cloth full time, I kept finding all these people who were having issues. I joined a couple cloth diaper groups on facebook, and post after post were people dealing with stink and repelling! That made me nervous, but after a few months I realized I only saw it a lot because rarely does someone post to a group just to say “Hey guys! Letting everyone know that things are going great! See ya!” People post to groups to ask for help, so of course that’s what you’ll mostly see.

But wash routine still scared me. I didn’t want to invest a bunch of money into something that was going to give me more headaches. This is what I’ve learned: if you want a truly fool-proof cloth diaper, skip the all-in-ones, and choose covers and good ol’ fashioned prefolds. Prefolds can be cotton or hemp. They seem intimidating at first, but here’s a secret: you don’t have to learn any fancy folds. That’s right, just fold it into thirds and stick it in a cover. It’s just as simple as any “system” and prefolds clean SO EASILY. One thing I wondered in my research is how so many people could have problems getting diapers clean, when it’s how everybody diapered prior to the disposable’s invention in 1948. The answer is that before the last decade or so, cloth diapers were made primarily of cotton.

A prefold. Notice how it has three "sections." Fold into thirds using those seams.
A prefold. Notice how it has three “sections.” Fold into thirds using those seams.

Cotton is incredibly easy to clean and is virtually indestructible. Today, the most popular diapers are primarily made of polyester. Polyester isn’t as forgiving when it comes to heavy soiling and deep cleaning. Lots of people have had success using diapers made of synthetic fabrics, so go for it if that’s what you’re leaning toward! Wash routine is what holds a lot of people back from making the switch. If I could go back in time and give myself one piece of cloth diaper advice, it would be to use prefolds.

3. Stock up on Flour Sack Towels.

Ask your grandmother what flour sack towels are, I bet she’ll start to rave about them as much as I’m about to do. FST are can be found in the kitchen section of Walmart or Target for about $1 each. I think Walmart has them in a 10-pack for $8 right now. They are very large, thin pieces of cotton and are extremely absorbent.

A flour sack towel. You can see how thin it is!
A flour sack towel. You can see how thin it is!

People essentially use them like an old-fashioned “flat” cloth diaper. You can fold them up so they’re wrapped around the baby’s bottom or, just like a prefold, fold it into a pad-shape and use it like an insert.

Top: Prefold in the "trifold." Bottom: FST "padfold" inside a Flip cover.
Top: Prefold in the “trifold.”
Bottom: FST “padfold” inside a Flip cover.

If you’re on a tight budget and want to start using cloth diapers and building a stash, get two of those 10-packs and four or five covers. You’ll have enough to use cloth for a whole day plus washing (wash at night after baby goes to sleep). FST clean easily since there are no layers to them, and dry incredibly fast. I have white ones that I use for diapers, and red ones I keep in the kitchen in lieu of paper towels.

*Diaper cover shown is a Flip cover made by CottonBabies. CottonBabies also carries Econobum, which is a more “economical” option, though it’s possible to find new covers for as little as a few dollars each.


One thought on “Three Things I Wish I Would Have Known About Cloth Diapers

  1. Ashley

    Thank you! I’ve been doing all kind’s of research on cloth diapering and I was pretty sure I wanted to go this route but I was still questioning. Now I feel better about my decision. Everyone else gives you pros and cons of all the diapers and honestly that just makes me second guess. Again, Thank you!!


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