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.

Cloth Diapers: How I Started

Believe it or not, it was actually my husband that convinced me to use cloth diapers. While I was pregnant, he mentioned the idea, and I quickly shot it down.

“Do you really want to do an extra load of laundry every day?”

Fast forward to today, and I’m obsessed. I buy and sell them. I’m a member of cloth diaper Facebook groups. I talk about them whenever I get the chance, much to the chagrin of family and friends, I’m sure.  Despite all my annoying swooning, several friends have even ask me about them.

I did a ton of research before buying cloth. I mean, a lot. I read the blogs, frequented Pinterest, joined the groups, and asked the few mom-friends I knew who used cloth. After weeks of research, I still felt lost. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a pocket, an all-in-one, or a fitted. I didn’t know how to wash them. I didn’t know how many I needed. It was overwhelming, and made want to say “Forget it!”

But I’m stubborn. In a sudden swell of determination I returned over 600 Babies R Us disposable diapers and brought home six BumGenius 4.0s, some extra inserts, detergent, and two big wet bags. I had no idea what I was doing, but I started the next day.

My first stash shot!

I decided that I made the rules, so even though I only had six diapers (not even enough for a full day) I wanted to just try. So I used the six I had, then switched to sposies when those were washing. Once they were done (which was usually the next day) I used the cloth again. I couldn’t believe  how easy it was. I also started when Ellie was only two months old, so she was exclusively breastfed. That means her poop was water-soluble. No toilet swishing! My diaper changing routine didn’t change at all except the load of laundry. (Now that Ellie eats solids, her poo-dipes get sprayed off in the toilet before going in the washer. Another post for another day).

I was hooked. Once we got a hang of the routine, Nick and I decided to buy enough to be able to use cloth exclusively.

Even with all the researching I did, it wasn’t until I started using cloth diapers that I really figured it out. It’s hard until you get your hands on them, because they’re not the norm. Everybody sees disposable diapers, so even if you’ve never changed one before, you get kinda the basic idea. I never saw a cloth diaper before I thought about using them. I had to start from scratch. That’s what made it so overwhelming.

If you’re thinking about switching to cloth diapers, feel free to talk to me! I love chatting about them, even if you’re not totally sure you’re ready. Have questions? Leave a comment or send me a message!