There are so many benefits to using cloth diapers but when you are first starting out, the questions if most likely not to or not to use cloth but where do you start and what do you need. When I was starting out on my cloth journey, I too had MANY questions so I have put together this list as a starting point. Along the way have included likes to some of my favorite brands. I always encourage to do what works for you and your family, even if that is not using cloth 100% of the time. My guess is that once you start, you will quickly be hooked. Please feel free to contact me f you have any questions and Enjoy!
All in Ones (AIO) – An AIO is just what the name says, everything in one piece because the diaper and the cover are already sewn together. These can have either a Velcro or snap closure.
Benefits: easy to use, most resemble disposables so they make for an easier transition to cloth, make changing quick and easy, Daycares and dads/partners may be more willing to use.
Disadvantages: bulkier, expensive, you have to wash them after each use.
Examples of brands: Swaddlebees, bumGenius, Drybees, Mommy’s Touch
Here is a link to the Swaddlebees AIO. It is a pocket All in One meaning it is an AIO but it is not sewn shut. The micro-terry liner is sewn in and will flip inside out n the wash but it is all one piece. The benefits to this style is that you don’t have to hunt for the inserts.
All in Twos (AI2) / Pocket Diapers – A pocket diaper or AI2 in similar to the AIO except there is a pocket where you can place an absorbent insert. The diaper is made of and outer waterproof cover (usually PLU) and inner liner made of fleece of suede cloth. Then an insert is placed inside which is what ‘does the work’.
Benefits: east to use, can be quick to change, can control the absorbency, trimmer than AIO, keeps baby dry because inner liner wicks moisture away
Disadvantages: must be stuffed after washing, not good for potty training, must wash after each use
Examples of brands: FuzziBuns, Happy Heinys, Gro Baby and Flip
Here is a link to my FAVORITE daiper ever: the Fuzzi Bunz one size pocket diaper…
Fitted diapers – Fitted diapers are gathered around the leg to closely resemble disposables. They close with either Velcro or snaps and they must be used with a cover.
Beneits: can fit better, breathable (depending on the cover) no folding necessary, no pins or snappis needed, trimmer than prefolds
Disadvantages: requires and cover, not as convenient as AIO or AI2
Examples of Brands: Swaddlebees, bumGenius, Thirsties, Growing Green
Prefolds – Prefold diapers are a flat rectangular piece of cloth that must be folded. They are many options as far as material, thickness, size, and color.
Benefits: breathable (depending on the cover), inexpensive, easy to wash, versatile, easy to store, rarely leaks
Disadvantages: requires and cover, must be folded, bulkiest, day cares may not use
Examples of Brands: Thirsties, Cloth-eez
Covers, Wraps and Soakers – This is the water proof layer that is needed with fitted and prefold diapers. There are many different options for covers. The material is usually PLU, fleece or wool. They come in lots of different colors, patterns and sizes.
Benefits: breathable (depending on the cover), inexpensive, easy to wash, versatile, easy to store, rarely leaks, can be reused, many different color and pattern options
Disadvantages: requires an absorbent liner, bulkiest, day cares may not use, may take longer to put on
Examples of Brands: Thirsties, Cloth-eez, Bummis, Starbunz, Swaddlebees,
The first things you need to decide is how committed you are, what your budget is and what kind of diapers you want to get. Cloth diapering does not need to be full time. If you are choosing to go full-time or most of the time, here is an example of what you would need:
2-3 dozen diapers (prefold, fitted, AIO OR AI2)
5-6 covers if you’re using prefolds or fitted
2-3 inserts or doublers
1 pail liner
1 travel bag
2-4 dozen wipes
2-4 Snappis or pins
There are many ways to wash diapers. Washers vary, detergents/soaps vary, and water conditions vary (hardness, acidity/alkalinity, etc.). Try different ways to find out what works for you.
Here’s our favorite method: Run a cold wash cycle first. Then hot wash on regular cycle with 1/4 the detergent. Extra rinse. That’s it. Easy!
Put the soiled diaper into a dry pail with a pail liner. On wash day, put the diapers into the machine along with the pail liner. No soaking is needed (but you can run a cold soak cycle if you want to). Doing a cold water cycle first prevents stains and minimizes dunking. Don’t do a hot cycle first, because if you do that you will bake-in stains. Let you washing machine do the work! Remember, breastmilk washes out like yogurt in the initial cold wash, so there is no need to dunk anything until solid food is introduced. It really is easy!
The No-Pail Method. Some people don’t use a diaper pail at all, but simply put all diapers directly into the washer and now and then run short cycles so they have no odors, until the washer is full enough to run their regular diaper washing washes. This works well when the washing machine conveniently located, and is truly odor free since the diapers get rinsed out frequently. This is great in small apartments or condos where there is a small small washer, since it is so odor-free. Remember if you have a small washer, don’t buy as many diapers (2 dozen will be plenty, washing about 14 at at time and the rest for spares and use during washtime). Just wash more frequently because you can’t overload the washing machine.
A simple, inexpensive top loader cleans best. Some families actually buy a second washing machine, and love having 2 machines for their growing families long after the diapering years are over. That’s not an option for everyone, but if you do find yourself in a position to purchase a new washer, do NOT buy a low water machine, unless you have a very real need to conserve water. A standard, simple top-loader cleans best. Super-heated cycles on expensive washers are not recommended for diapers since they will destroy the cotton, and the super-heating is not necessary. From our experience, very expensive front loading washers and automatic water level top loading machines make diaper washing more difficult than a simple, inexpensive top loader. More expensive does not mean “better at cleaning” when it comes to the price of washers. Except however, if you can get a warm rinse that is nice to have, because warm water helps rinse detergent residue easier than cold water.
So, if you were about to buy a $1,300.00 washer, buy a nice $300 or $400.00 top loader instead and you just came up with $900.00 to spend on a very fancy cloth diaper wardrobe! If you already have one of those low water machines, don’t worry! It’s ok! I have a Whirlpool Duet and my diapers are clean with zero stains. You can make it work. More information on how to succeed with low-water washers is found in the ll page Green Mountain How-to Booklet, which is included with your order. Basically, what you need to do is run short cycles to the additional water changes, because they use such a small amount of water. So you see, there are so many, many ways to do all of this. You will come up with your own method over time.
Detergents – not as simple as it used to be because of recent “advances”. You’ll need to do some label reading, but not all labels are honest in listing ingredients so read all the packaging. If the package says “brightens colors” or has whiteners or brighteners, or “optical or UV brighteners”, avoid it. That actually eliminates many of the mainstream laundry detergents, including both All and Purex “Free and Clear”. Avoid anything that says “keeps clothes fresh longer” or similar. That stuff, like Gain, is not rinsing out and causes buildup and possibly rashes. Your laundry detergent choice is important.
My favorite detergent is Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder or Liquid. It isn’t actually a soap even though the name says soap, but it cleans very well and rinses easily. Great stuff, as are their other products. I personally use Charlie’s. I feel that this is the best. Charlie’s is the only thing that I have found that works on synthetics without causing buildup and it’s fabulous for cotton, too. You’ve researched and carefully picked out which diapering supplies are best for your baby, now wash them safely and completely with Charlie’s Soap. Yes, it’s worth it! Sensi-Clean, also called SportWash another clean-rinsing choice. Find that or other residue-free washes in the camping section of a superstore.
Pick up some Bi-O-Kleen Bac Out at a great price at Good Humans. (We have no affliation with Good Humans, but just notice that they have good prices). Bi-O-Kleen Bac Out is wonderful! Get some and use it in the initial cold cycle if you need extra deodorizing power in addition to your Charlie’s or other detergent. This is usually not needed for cotton items, but can really make the difference if you are using synthetics or anything not 100% cotton (Fuzzi Bunz, Kissaluvs, AIOs).
If you can’t get Charlie’s Soap and must use a store-bought detergent, there are some detergents which are ok, but some are not. For a store-bought detergent, usually the store brand least expensive one, powder if possible, has the least additives and is best. Sams Choice (Wal-mart’s store brand) or Sun powder (by Huish brands) are examples of good ones. Powder is preferred because then you avoid the additives that are required to keep the detergent in a liquid suspension, but liquids are ok. Bi-O-Kleen Premium Plus Laundry Powder is good (if you are not using stay-dry items such as Fuzzi Bunz or any polysters, not even Bummis Super Whisper Wraps). Read the label- do not use anything containing “whitening enzymes”. Above all, DO NOT use Arm and Hammer Fabricare Advanced Powder Detergent. It has whitening enzymes in it which apparently “eat” skin causing severe rashes. Avoid whiteners and brighteners.. Tide, Ivory Snow and Dreft are considered harsh and are not recommended for regular use. Tide Free cleans really well, but some babies are sensitive to it. Always rinse very well. Complete rinsing is very important. Oxi-type cleaning products are good when added to the hot cycle but not Oxi-clean unless it is Oxi-Clean Baby. Choose Sun brand oxygen cleaner or other less expensive and simple one. The versions of OxiClean that are not the OxiClean Baby have too many additives in them. Simple oxi-products are great for whitening and killing bacteria, but don’t use as much as the package says. A very small amount does the job. I use Sun Oxygen Cleaner in my hot wash with my Charlie’s soap all of the time with great success.
You don’t need much detergent, perhaps only 1/4 of the recommended amount (except for Charlie’s Soap, which is honest about the amount needed and has a properly sized small scoop.)Look in the machine during the wash cycle to determine the correct amount of detergent for your water.
How do you know if your diapers are clean? Put your nose right up to a clean diaper and breathe in. If it doesn’t smell like nothing at all, or smell “clean” , it isn’t. Wash it again. Be sure diapers are thoroughly rinsed to prevent irritations. If baby gets redness on his bottom, try cutting back the amount of detergent you use and/or rinsing more thoroughly. Look in the washing machine for suds during the final rinse.
Vinegar can be added to the first rinse to help get the detergent rinse out easier. The vinegar is acidic and it breaks up the bubbles and the detergent rinses out easier. Then rinse out the vinegar. Try different ways to see what works for you and your water conditions. Vinegar is fine for regular diapers, but it is better not to use vinegar on the all-in-ones or the covers because it is an acid and will damage the waterproofing. Don’t use fabric softener on any of the diapers or covers. It decreases the absorbency of the diapers.
Don’t use whiteners, bleach or BIZ. Bleach greatly shortens the life of your diapers, and whiteners damage the waterproofing on the all-in-ones and covers. But sometimes adding a tiny bit of bleach occasionally is useful if you run into odor problems. Hanging diapers in the sun really works. Try it!
Hard water? (that means your water has a lot of minerals in it – if you get soap scum easily in your bathtub then your water is hard), try adding some Calgon Water Softener or RLR.
If you experience detergent buildup or repellency which can happen on stay-dry items, handwash in Ivory or Dawn dishsoap, but Ivory rinses out much easier than Dawn. This is called “stripping your diapers”. This is not needed if you use Charlie’s Soap in the first place. Rinse completely. Dish detergents cut buildup just like the cut the grease on your dishes. We do not recommend using dish detergent in your washing machine because you’ll likely have oversudding and the product is not designed for laundry use.
Machine dry or hang dry, or some of both.