Cloth Diaper Information
Flat diaper: Very traditional, very simple and very economical. A flat diaper is a single layer of cotton fabric (it can be made of other fibers) usually measuring approximately 27″ square. There are many easy ways to fold a flat diaper and many uses for flat diapers beyond the diapering years. Grandma may complain about these, but don’t knock them till you try them!
Prefold diaper: This is a flat diaper that has been prefolded and stitched in such a way to be a bit thicker in the middle and thinner on the sides. Simply fold the prefold into thirds either the long way (with the stitch lines) or the short way (against the stitch lines) and place it inside a waterproof cover. Some families use Snappis or diaper pins to secure the prefold under the cover or even to use a prefold with no cover for ultimate breathability.
Fitted diaper: When most people use the term fitted diaper, they are referring to any diaper that needs a separate waterproof cover but that has its own closures and elastic at the wait and leg. These are often the most absorbent type of diaper, and when paired with a diaper cover, can be the most leakproof. Parents concerned about containing even the most explosive blowouts should consider fitted diapers.
All-in-Two (AI2): This is a proprietary diaper system in which a manufacturer creates a specific cover to go with their own specific inserts. Like prefolds, when the insert is dirty, it gets changed, but the cover could be used several times throughout the day. Inserts can be made out of different types of fabric or even be disposable. The manufacturer intends for you to use their inserts with their covers, but many brands are interchangeable for customization.
Pocket: Any diaper that has a pocket opening between the outer layer (typically the waterproof layer) and an inner layer (typically a stay-dry microfiber layer) can be called a pocket diaper. A true pocket diaper has a separate absorbent insert that must be stuffed inside the pocket opening to complete the diaper. The insert can be made of virutally any material – cotton, hemp, bamboo – but is usually a polyester microfiber.
Advantages of pocket diapers over All-in-One diapers are:
- They are usually less expensive than AIOs.
- They can be stuffed with more or fewer inserts, or inserts made of different types of materials.
- They dry faster than many AIOs.
Disadvantage of pocket diapers:
- They must be stuffed prior to use.
All-in-One (AIO): An all-in-one diaper is any diaper that has the waterproof cover and primary absorbent insert or material sewn into one unit. No hunting for the insert – when this diaper comes out of the dryer or off the line, it’s ready to go right back on baby. Over the last few years, AIOs have quickly become one of the most popular styles of cloth diapers.
Due to their one-piece nature, AIOs are a good choice for babysitters, daycare or church nurseries. AIOs are often the most expensive type of diaper, especially when One Size.
Need more help? Check out the Events tab to find our next Cloth Diaper Bootcamp!
A little math is involved here, but we want to walk you through the details.
Babies average 6-12 diaper changes per day. They’ll go through more diapers daily as newborns and fewer as they get older. Let’s assume the following:
8 changes per day x 35 cents per diaper x 365 days x 2.5 years = $2,555 for disposable diapers
Two and a half years is a fairly conservative estimate for how long toddlers will be in diapers and will vary depending on gender, firstborn child or younger sibling, etc. This number doesn’t include the cost of wipes (about $500), rash creams, or the trash bags you’ll need to get the diapers to the curb. It’s reasonable to estimate a family will spend $1,000 or more on disposable diapers and other items for each year a child is in diapers.
Cloth diaper start up cost = $200-$500 (many diapers will last for multiple children)
SAVINGS over disposables = approximately $2500-$3000 This number increases if these cloth diapers are used for multiple children or if the cloth diapers are sold and part of the initial investment is recouped.
To successfully cloth diaper a newborn full-time, you’ll need a minimum of 24 diapers and plenty of reusable wipes. Newborns can easily dirty a dozen diapers per day, so 24 diapers will get you through an every other day wash cycle. I recommend having 30 or so just to have a few to use while the others are in the machine.
A toddler needs fewer diaper changes. Plan on 8 per day, so in order to wash every other day you’ll need at least 16 diapers. Again, I recommend having a few more than the bare minimum for convenience.
Remember that the fewer diapers you have, the more often they get used and washed. They will wear out sooner than if you have a larger stash of diapers.
Rotate your stash so all of your diapers get used equally often – this helps keep diapers looking newer longer.
Here’s a list of some accessories you should consider including in your cloth diaper stash:
Every manufacturer has their own recommended instructions for washing diapers, but Green Bambino believes it’s important to keep the wash routine simple. Here are our suggestions:
Prewash your diapers before the first use. Natural fibers such as cotton and hemp should be washed separately from synthetic fibers at least 4-5 times in hot water with a small amount of detergent. Dry natural fiber diapers for 20-30 minutes in between every second or third wash cycle. Synthetic fibers can be prewashed once in warm water with a small amount of detergent then dried in the dryer on low.
TIP: To reduce drying time while prepping your diapers for first use, throw a clean, dry towel or two in the dryer with the diapers.
Once diapers have been prewashed properly, all diapers except wool can be washed and dried together.
Regular Wash Routine: Using as much water as possible, run a quick cold wash or prewash with a very small amount of detergent or no detergent at all. Then run a hot wash (not a sanitize cycle) with the recommended amount of a residue free detergent or 1/2 the recommended amount of other detergents (1/4 the recommended amount if you use an HE front loader). Bleach can void warranties, but if you must use it, 1/8 cup is plenty. Either hang your diapers to dry in the sun or dry them in the dryer on a low to low/medium setting.
Tips: Don’t use anything with additives such as softeners, dyes, perfumes or enzymes. These can decrease the absorbency of diapers. Don’t overfill your washer with diapers. Diapers need plenty of room to swish around in, so use plenty of water. If you still see detergent suds during the rinse cycle, rinse again. If your diapers still smell stinky after washing, wash them again (some babies produce stinkier diapers than others). Stripping your diapers is rarely necessary, but we can tell you how to do it.
**This is the wash routine we use at home and that has proven to be simple and easy to follow. Before you use any additives, please check the manufacturer’s instructions. Green Bambino is not responsible for damage or injuries caused by following our suggested wash routine.**
Our personal favorite is Charlie’s Soap. It works well for us and has the added benefit of being very forgiving. You can use a bit too much or a bit too little and not have any problems. It also makes stripping diapers very easy (see link here for how to strip diapers and why you might need to).
There are other brands that we recommend. If one brand doesn’t work for you, try another. Every baby’s body chemistry is different and what gets one baby’s diapers clean may not work as well for another.
- Charlie’s Soap
- Country Save
- Tiny Bubbles
- Rockin Green
- Thirsties Super Wash
If your diapers smell clean after washing – that is, they smell like nothing; no perfumes or stink – then the diapers are truly clean. Some babies’ wastes stain more than others. Stains will not impede performance, so if they don’t bother you, don’t worry. If they do bother you, lay or hang them in the sun for a while. Stains will lighten or disappear quickly and the sun’s rays also sanitize.
Bleach can be used, but be aware it can void some manufacturers’ warranties. It is best to bleach only synthetic material inserts. Take out any covers or unbleached organic cottons first. Then run a hot wash cycle with 1/4 to 1/2 cup bleach depending on the load size. Add the bleach to the bleach dispenser cup if you have one or to a full tub of water. An extra rinse might be needed to remove any lingering bleach smell.
If your diapers are suddenly leaking, but don’t seem saturated, or you are battling stinkies, it may be time to strip your diapers. Stripping your diapers will remove any built-up detergent residue that is holding on to odors and preventing absorbency.
Many websites suggest using original blue Dawn and LOTS of hot water to strip diapers, but after doing this several times ourselves, we’ve found an easier way.
If you currently use Charlie’s Soap to wash your laundry/diapers, the process is easy. Wash your diapers as normal, then use twice the normal amount of Charlie’s in a long, heavy duty hot wash. Soaking is rarely necessary. If you want to soak your diapers, limit the soaking time in the washing machine to about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Overnight soaks are not recommended as they can damage your washing machine and your cloth diapers.
Let the cycle finish, then run a short hot wash with no detergent to make sure the Charlie’s Soap is rinsed out.
If you don’t currently use Charlie’s Soap, you’ll need to use it to strip any residue out of your washing machine before stripping your diapers. A 5-load sample pack will provide just enough Charlie’s to strip your machine and strip your diapers. First-time user instructions are included in all Charlie’s Soap packaging.
Most diaper rash creams available from chain retailers are not compatible with cloth diapers. The ingredients in these rash creams (Butt Paste, Desitin and A&D are examples) will coat the fibers of your diapers, causing the diapers to repel moisture rather than absorb moisture. This leads to leaks. Some rash creams (Butt Paste) will stain your diapers, and the stains may be difficult or impossible to remove.
There are many rash creams available that are suitable for use with cloth diapers. Green Bambino carries Angel Baby Bottom Balm, California Baby, GroVia Magic Stick, Grandma El’s and Bum Bum Balm. All of these were developed specifically for use with cloth diapers or have been verified safe for use with cloth diapers.
Not only are these rash creams safe for your cloth diapers, they tend to be much better for baby’s skin. They are free of petroleum by-products and other chemicals, and allow air to flow to baby’s skin, helping to heal the diaper rash.
|Diaper Style||Pros||Cons||Approximate Cost|
|Prefolds||Simple, wash well, durable, inexpensive||Must be folded before use, can be bulky, baby will usually need more than one size||$1.75-$4.00|
|Flats||Simple, wash well, durable, inexpensive, One Size||Perceptually difficult, must be folded before use||$1.75 each|
|Fitteds||Absorbent, prevents blowouts, durable||Needs a separate cover, more expensive than prefolds/flats||$14-$35|
|Hybrid diapers||Simple, flexible, disposable option||Disposable option can be expensive||$16.95 and up|
|Pocket diapers||Simple for babysitters/daycare, dry quickly, less expensive than AIOs||Must be stuffed with an insert before use||$17.95-28.00|
|All-in-Ones||Very simple, one-piece construction, good for daycare||Expensive, entire diaper must be washed before reuse, longer dry time||$15-$25|
|Snap closures||Durable, won’t snag other diapers||Require more hand strength/flexibility, not as quick as velcro|
|Velcro closures||Quick and easy||Will eventually wear out, can snag and damage other diapers|
|Sized diapers||Trim fitting, simple (no rows of snaps or adjustment needed), more durable||Diapers must be purchased in multiple sizes – more investment|
|One Size diapers||Grow with baby, no reinvestment needed for larger sizes||Bulky on small babies, will wear out faster than sized diapers due to more extensive use|
Want to print out this list? Click here!
Flat diapers are the most traditional diaper. This is what our grandmothers (and even our mothers) used. A single layer of cotton, birdseye flats are the easiest diaper to wash and dry. They aren’t very susceptible to residue buildup or stinkies, and line dry within a few minutes outside.
There are many ways to fold flat diapers, the most popular being the origami fold. At the simplest, though, you can just fold a flat diaper into a rectangle and lay it inside a diaper cover. Some people use a Snappi or pins to secure a flat diaper underneath a diaper cover.
Prefold diapers have been the work horse of most cloth diaper stashes since approximately the 1960s when they overtook flats in popularity. A prefold diaper is basically a flat diaper that has been prefolded (hence the name) and stitched in such a way to be thicker in the middle and thinner at the edges.
There are many ways to fold a prefold (text instructions here or see videos here), but you can simply fold it into thirds and lay it inside a diaper cover. Some people use a Snappi or pins to secure a prefold under a diaper cover.
Prefold diapers: flat, rectangular shaped diaper that is thicker in the middle than at the sides.
- Tri-fold – simply fold the diaper in thirds either horizontally or vertically and place in a diaper cover.
- Angel wing or “standard” fold – fold the diaper in thirds, then fan out the back for better coverage.
- Bikini twist – lay the diaper out flat, then flip the front half over so the diaper is twisted in the middle. The twist can be further to the front for boys.
- Jelly roll – lay the diaper out flat and roll each side in toward the middle, stopping just before they meet.
Flat diapers: 100% cotton, typically in birdseye weave or muslin, approximately 27” by 27”
- Tri-fold – fold the diaper into fourths (in half, then in half again), then fold into thirds much like a prefold, fan out the back for better coverage if desired.
- Kite fold – lay the diaper flat in front of you, folding over one edge if needed to square up the fabric or folding diaper into fourths for a newborn. Fold the upper right corner of the diaper towards the center, then bring the lower left corner up to meet it, forming a kite shape. Fold the upper left corner of the diaper down towards the center to form a triangle. To reduce length, fold the narrow part of the triangle up a bit before putting diaper on baby. Wrap wings around and secure with pins or Snappi if desired.
- Origami fold – fold the diaper into fourths. Lay the diaper in front of you, placing the single folded edge on the left, the double folded edge at the bottom. Grasp the top layer of the upper right corner and pull it straight across to form the upper left corner. You should now have a triangle on top of a square. Grasp all layers of the upper right and left corners and flip the diaper over so you have a square on top of a triangle. Fold the edge of the square over several times to form a rectangle down the middle of the triangle. Fold down the back or fold up the front as need to make the diaper smaller. You can also fold up the edges of the triangle so the diaper sits higher on the hips.
What do they smell like? If they smell a bit poopy after being washed, chances are they didn’t get truly clean. If you are already using a fairly small amount of detergent, try using a bit more. Some detergents may not work as well for your baby’s diapers as others, so consider trying a different detergent.
If they smell like ammonia, either immediately after baby dirties the diaper or in the morning, there are a couple of things that could be going on. First, it may just be time for a deep clean. If you are using Charlie’s Soap, use twice the normal amount during the next load. Make sure you follow your normal routine with a hot wash with no detergent to rinse out the extra Charlie’s Soap.
Second, if you use a petroleum-based detergent such as Tide, Purex, etc., detergent residue might be the culprit. The residue locks in odor, leading to ammonia smell. Ammonia buildup can also cause skin irritation, so if your child’s diaper area is bright red in the morning, ammonia could be to blame. To solve this problem, strip your diapers.
If a deep clean doesn’t take care of the problem, it is okay to occasionally use chlorine bleach, but remember to practice bleach safety:
- You only need to use 1-2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach to kill germs and eliminate ammonia. This amount won’t damage your diapers or fade colors.
- Never pour bleach directly on the diapers. Always use a bleach dispenser cup if your washing machine has one. If it doesn’t, fill your washing machine tub with water, add the bleach, then mix with a wooden spoon or stick before adding your diapers.
- Only use bleach occasionally. Using it every single wash can wear out your diapers prematurely. It can also irritate skin if not rinsed out well.
Don’t forget the germ-killing power of the sun. If you are battling stinky diapers, get those diapers out in the sun as much as possible. Sunning works best on clean, wet diapers, so before you toss them in the dryer, hang them outside for a while.
**Some diaper manufacturers state that using bleach will void warranties. The guidelines above are how we take care of our diapers at home, but Green Bambino is not responsible for damage or voided warranties.***
First, determine what might be causing the leaks.
When you take off a leaky diaper, feel how heavy it is. If it feels very heavy, like it is completely saturated with urine, the diaper probably needed more absorbency. Try using a bigger insert or adding a booster.
If the diaper feels fairly lightweight like it might be mostly dry, detergent residue buildup could be prevent the diaper from absorbing properly. One way to check this is to sprinkle a few drops of water on the clean, dry diaper. If it absorbs quickly (light pressure might be needed for microfibers), residue buildup isn’t the problem. If, however, the water stays beaded up on the surface of the fibers, residue buildup is most likely causing the leaks.
If you determine that residue buildup is the problem, see this link on how to strip your diapers.
Lots of parents ask us about using cloth diapers in daycare. Many parents are led to believe by childcare centers that using cloth diapers at daycare is against state regulations.
This is what the state of Oklahoma says about cloth diapers:
If cloth diapers and training pants are used, they shall be able to contain urine and stool and minimize fecal contamination of the environment. Cloth diapers and training pants are not rinsed when soiled. Fecal content may be disposed of in a toilet, but soiled diapers or training pants are not rinsed in the toilet.
That’s it. So you can’t send a prefold and a Snappi without a cover, and the childcare center won’t rinse it out for you (I wouldn’t want them to do that anyway). But otherwise, cloth diapers may be used at daycare.
However, a childcare center is not required to use cloth diapers on your child unless you provide a doctor’s note.
Here is the full regulations document. The quote above is found on page 27 as printed on the bottom of the document (page 36 of the PDF).
To make your wool covers last as long as possible, we suggest handwashing them in wool shampoo. We carry Eucalan wool shampoo, and find it to be the easiest to use, but there are many on the market.
If your wool cover seems to have lost its water-resistance (that is, baby is waking up with wet pajamas or sheets), it’s time to lanolize. A good test is to sprinkle a few drops of water on your cover. If they stay beaded up, no lanolization is needed. If they absorb quickly into the fabric, lanolize or wash in a lanolin wash like Eucalan.
1. Fill your sink with warm water. Add the appropriate amount of wool shampoo (usually a dime-size dab or less) and stir it in with your hand.
2. Submerge the wool cover. Push it up and down with your hands but don’t wring or twist it.
3. Let the cover sit in the water for 15-30 minutes.
4. Drain out the water. Don’t rinse your cover if using Eucalan.
5. Gently squish the extra water out of the cover, taking care not to wring or twist.
6. Lay the cover on a clean, dry towel. Roll the cover up inside the towel, pushing down every once in a while to squish out as much water as possible.
7. Unroll the towel, take the cover out, and lay it flat to dry. If it is stained, you can lay it in the sun.
(Only needed if your shampoo doesn’t contain lanolin. Work with a clean cover, either dry or wet)
1. Fill a cup with about 8 oz of very hot water. Add a pea-sized amount of lanolin or WoolCure to the hot water and stir vigorously until it is dissolved. Set the cup aside for the moment.
2. Fill your sink with warm water. Stir in the lanolin/water mixture. Swish the water around in the sink to distribute the lanolin evenly.
3. Submerge the cover, pushing it up and down several times, but avoid wringing or twisting.
4. Let the cover soak for 15-30 minutes. Drain the water, gently squishing excess water from the cover. Follow steps 6 and 7 above to dry the cover.
Nighttime cloth diapering presents a unique set of challenges. Babies are in diapers for much longer periods of time than during the day, smaller babies often sleep on their sides, and every baby’s wetting patterns vary.
We highly recommend Sandy’s organic cotton fitted diapers under wool covers for nighttime. This combination provides the most bullet-proof nighttime solution we’ve found. If you aren’t ready to try wool (don’t wait too long, it’s great!), try the Air Flow cover over Sandy’s.
There are many other options for nighttime diapers. Try using two inserts in a pocket diaper if you just use one during the day. Adding a doubler can help if your baby isn’t a heavy wetter at night. Hemp is usually a better choice than microfiber for overnight diapering.
It may take some trial and error, but we can help you find the perfect nighttime diapering solution for your baby.
Have a diaper with a broken snap or a snap that fell off? Now you don’t have to send the diaper back to the manufacturer and wait days or weeks for it to be repaired – Green Bambino can fix it for you!
We currently have white snaps only. We can repair virtually all brands of diapers EXCEPT GroVia.
$2 to repair 1-2 snaps
$3 to repair 3-4 snaps
If you need to have more than 4 snaps repaired, please contact Rachel of Tail Feathers Diapers via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Morgan, the owner of Green Bambino, is the only person currently performing snap repairs, so please call 405-848-2330 to check availability before coming in. She is happy to repair snaps while you wait if she isn’t helping other customers at the time. She’ll have your snaps fixed within 48 hours if you drop them off. Please leave a phone number so we can call you when your diaper repair is finished.