I’ve been asked so many questions about cloth diapering since we’ve began this journey with Harvey.
I’ve done numerous videos about it on my youtube channel, but thought it may be more straightforward to write a blog post on the generalities of cloth diapering.
This will give you an overview on how to get started. I will give you a brief list of the essentials and how to use them. I will also tell you how to care for, store, clean and dry them.
We have only been cloth diapering for nine months, but have experienced going through breastmilk poo to solids poo. I have also tried over twenty brands of cloth diapers so have a pretty good idea of how most diapers work. This post will not get into all of the different types of diapers. I wanted this post to be as straightforward and basic as possible, because I know I was very overwhelmed by all of the information when I first started researching cloth diapers.
// DIAPERS //
Figuring out the amount of diapers you need has many factors. Some diapers have separate parts that you can re-use for many diaper changes, while others you cannot re-use before washing. To keep it simple, I would recommend getting enough diapers to last about a week. [The amount of diapers you use in a day varies between baby to baby, their age if they’re breastfed, bottlefed or on solids. I would assume seven or eight a day.] Since you will probably wash the diapers every two to three days, this will allow you to have enough to last you while the others are washing and drying as well as have a good stash on backup to keep in your diaper bag and for those times that your babies seems to poo every hour.
My Favourite Cloth Diapers blog post.
// LINERS //
No matter what diapers you plan on using, I recommend placing a fleece liner on top of the diaper to create a barrier between the cloth diaper and the baby’s bum and bits. Since the fabric in cloth diapers are quite absorbant, the fleece liner protects the baby’s skin from getting irritated and dry from the absorbancy of the fabric. It also helps the diapers not stain as much. [More on stains later]
My favourite: Little Lamb fleece liners because they’re very soft, but any work fine.
You don’t need to use disposable liners until the baby is starting to wean and the poo thickens. Disposable liners make cloth diapering much easier. These liners lay on top of the fleece liners and catch the solid poo. You can either plop the poo into the toilet off of the disposable liner and throw away the liner or you can flush the disposable liner and poo together down the toilet. [Some say that disposable liners are not to be flushed even though they are advertised as flushable. Some say it doesn’t break down in the sewage pipes and can clog pipes]
My favourite: Bambino Mio Mioliners because they’re wide and think and don’t move around inside nappy and always seem to catch the poo.
// CLOTH WIPES //
This is a non-essential option, but I thought you may like to know about them. I didn’t really see the point of using conventional baby wipes since we have to wash the diapers anyway, so we use cloth wipes at home. I do use Water Wipes while we’re out so I don’t have to worry if I’ll have water to wet the cloth wipes. Since using cloth wipes and disposable wipes, I much prefer cloth wipes for it’s effectivity! Disposable wipes seem to smear things around a bit, but cloth wipes properly grip and clean the mess quicker and easier!
I have a square plastic container filled with water with a lid set up next to my cloth wipes which I use to dip the wipes in before each use. The container I use is similar to this.
My favourite: Cheeky Wipes because they’re the perfect size and work great.
// NAPPY RASH CREAM //
Believe it or not, not all nappy rash creams are safe to use with cloth nappies. Most conventional diaper rash creams should not be used with cloth nappies because they can stain and build up in the fabric.
My favourite: CJ’s BUTTer [Monkey Farts] because the smell is fabulous and it really helps teething diaper rashes. (We’ve never had a diaper rash from anything other than teething. I think it’s because we don’t use any products on his skin and no harsh chemicals are in the diapers). You can use coconut oil for nappy rash cream as well.
// STORING //
One of my major apprehensions for cloth diapering was the smell. The only time I smell anything is for a brief second when I empty the nappies into the washer if I forgot to hold my breath. It will not smell in the room you store them in. There are a few options when it comes to storing the dirty nappies between washes.
Wet bags are essentially laundry bags that tie or zip close and have a waterproof [and smell proof] lining inside.
If you choose to use wet bags for storing the nappies, I recommend you have two large or extra-large ones at home so you will have one to use while the other is washing and drying. I also recommend you have two small or medium sized ones to keep in your diaper bag for on-the-go changing.
I would definitely recommend getting a wet bag with a zip instead of a tie because it will keep the smell contained inside the bag.
When washing the diapers in a wet bag, you simply unzip the bag, shake the diapers into the the washer and then place the wet bag into the washer to wash as well.
My favourites: Monkey Foot Designs and Bumkins because they are completely smell proof and made perfectly.
You can also choose to use a bucket to store the dirty diapers in. There are buckets sold specifically for cloth diapers, but any bucket with a lid should work fine. You also have the option of lining it with a mesh bag for easier use.
To wash the dirty nappies that are stored in the bucket, just dump the diapers from the bucket into the washer. If you’re using a mesh bag in the bucket too, put that in the washer to wash as well. Then wash the bucket inside and out with soap and water. I would suggest leaving it outside to dry to make sure it properly airs out.
Again, if you choose to only use buckets, I would suggest to have two to use while the other is being washed, dried and aired out.
My favourites: I haven’t tried any other than the one we use. It looks similar to this one. I also use a TotsBots Mesh Laundry Bag inside.
// WASHING //
It is generally recommended to wash your nappies every two to three days as you don’t want the poo and wee to sit in your nappies too long.
There are a lot of different opinions of the best way to wash cloth diapers, so I will just tell you how we do it.
[PRE RINSE – COLD]
One step that I believe is a must is to do a cold pre-rinse cycle. This gets all of the leftover poo and wee from the nappies so you’re not washing your nappies in poo and wee water. You can use a spin with this cycle or no spin. I do not use a spin cycle on the pre-rinse.
[LONG WASH – 40-60° C]
Then I wash them at 40° C for a semi-long cycle. Very rarely, I will wash them on a hotter setting if I feel like they have buildup in them or need a deeper clean for some reason. I set the spin to medium. If you spin it very fast, it can mess up the elastic in the diapers.
[EXTRA FINAL RINSE – COLD]
I think this can be an optional step. I don’t do this step every time. If I see soap bubbles towards the very end of the wash, I will do an extra final rinse to make sure all of the detergent is rinsed from the nappies.
There are a lot of preferences when it comes to detergent as well. We used an EcoEgg when we lived in Portsmouth, England, and it worked brilliantly! The ecoegg contains no chemicals and miraculously cleans laundry [and cloth nappies!] with charcoal balls. However, since moving to London, the ecoegg didn’t work as well. I don’t think it works well with the water here. We’ve started using generic brand nonbio powder detergent. I use about 1/2 cup of nonbio powder detergent.
// DRYING //
Some cloth nappies, or at least parts of them can be tumble dried while other nappies can’t be. I prefer to hang them all outside in the sun. In the winter, I sometimes hang them on the radiator for quicker drying time or tumble dry the parts that can be placed in the tumble dryer.
Not only is the sun great for fast drying, but it naturally removes stains! I always sort through the washed cloth diapers separating the any nappies with stains on them. All of the ones that are stained I make sure have direct sunlight [or at least have the most sunlight] when I hang them out to dry.
My video below was filmed quite a few months ago, but I still pretty much use the same process. Enjoy!
Hope this was helpful!