How to Start Cloth Diapering (When You Don’t Know Where to Begin)

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Cloth Diapers: How to Start Cloth Diapering (When You Don't Know Where to Begin)
This post contains affiliate links.

So you’ve decided to cloth diaper your baby. Great! But now what?

There are so many terms, types and brands of diapers, accessories, and advice out there that getting started can be intimidating. I was there once. It took me six months to finally buy my first diaper because I was so overwhelmed, so I’m here to help you sort through the information available and help you get started by answering the questions that I had when I was first starting out. 

The necessities

What do you need to start cloth diapering? There are so many accessories on the market that you may have no idea which ones are necessary and which ones aren’t. Truthfully, all you need to start cloth diapering are cloth diapers and something to put the dirty diapers in until wash day. 

Which diapers to buy

This isn’t a question that anyone can answer. What works well for one family may not work for another. What I always suggest is to buy a variety of brands and styles before committing to a particular brand. You can always sell any diapers that don’t work for you, but I always enjoyed having a variety of pockets, all-in-ones, all-in-twos, and covers to suit my needs on any given day. 

  • Pocket diapers – pocket diapers have a pocket in them in which you stuff an insert that generally comes with the diaper. They can be made of microfiber or natural fibers like bamboo and hemp. Pro: once the diaper is stuffed it is no more complicated than a disposable diaper. Con: stuffing can get old for some people.
  • All-in-one (AIO) diapers – AIOs are most like disposable diapers. They are one piece usually with padding sewn in or with a set of flaps or “tongues” sewn in. Pros: no stuffing, easy for babysitters and others not familiar with cloth diapers. Con: long drying time.
  • All-in-two (AI2) diapers – AI2s usually have an insert that snaps in to the cover of the diaper to keep it in place. Pros: easy to use, no stuffing, can be used more than once, easy to take apart for laundry. Con: may be confusing to those not used to cloth diapers. 
  • Covers – a diaper cover is a simple cover usually made of PUL. This is the waterproof outer layer and you will need to also purchase the absorbent inner layer; prefolds, flats, or fitteds. Pros: no unstuffing when dirty, great nighttime option, least expensive, can be used more than once. Con: some people find the multiple parts complicated. 

Where to buy diapers

I made a lot of mistakes when I was trying to find retailers that had the best deals and the best service. Knowing what I know now, I wish I would have found a certain small handful of stores right from the beginning. My favorites are Diaper Junction, Kelly’s Closet, Nicki’s Diapers, and Sweetbottoms Baby. They offer free shipping, large selections, great coupons, sales, deals, and/or freebies that set them apart from other cloth diaper stores.

For more information on where to buy cloth diapers, check out these posts: 

Another popular way to buy cloth diapers is to buy them used. There are sites like Cloth Diaper Trader and cloth diaper Buy/Sell/Trade groups all over Facebook. Before buying used, please brush up on your cloth diaper B/S/T buyer etiquette.

Helpful accessories

While you really only need diapers and either a pail with a pail liner or a wet bag to start cloth diapering, these are my favorite accessories that made using cloth diapers much easier for me. 

  • Cloth wipes – These are easier (in my opinion) than using disposable baby wipes since you can just toss them in the pail or wet bag. Remember, when using cloth diapers you won’t have a garbage can or a Diaper Genie type contraption nearby. 
  • Wipes solution– I made my own with this very simple cloth wipes solution recipe, others prefer to buy pre-made, and other people just use plain water. 
  • Rash cream – Despite our best efforts, rashes will probably happen occasionally. Since your diapers are made of cloth, mainstream diaper creams made with oil and petroleum jelly can coat your diapers in a film that prevents them from absorbing. Obviously that’s no good. 
  • Diaper sprayer – Not everyone agrees that a diaper sprayer is a must-have. For me, it was. Especially when my sweet baby became a toddler who ate everything that we did. Some people choose to buy one, others choose to make their own. I’ve used both and both work well. 

How to store dirty diapers

Most people choose to store their dirty diapers in a pail with a pail liner or a wet bag. My method of choice was an extra large wet bag to hold 2-3 days of diapers and I also had a small wet bag for my diaper bag. 

How to wash dirty diapers

There are many ways to wash diapers and diaper washing advice is a dime a dozen. The main thing to remember when washing diapers is this:

  • Use a detergent strong enough to clean the dirtiest of dirty laundry. 
  • Use the full amount of detergent for your load size and soil level (heavy soil)
  • Your routine shouldn’t be complicated. Rinse, wash with detergent and hot water, rinse, dry. Keep in mind that there are many variables when it comes to laundry. Water type, baby’s diet, types of diapers, etc. No one routine will work for everyone, but here is the routine that worked well for me for three years: My cloth diaper wash routine
  • Stripping cloth diapers isn’t normal and shouldn’t be a part of your regular wash routine. If your diapers smell or your baby gets recurrent rashes, you probably need more detergent. 
  • How to choose a detergent that’s right for you: Cloth Diaper Laundry: Keep it Simple

If you still have questions, here is a link to ALL of my cloth diaper posts in a list format: Cloth Diaper Info and Tips or you could join one of the many Facebook groups dedicated to cloth diapering. 

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