Cloth Diapering Basics – Getting Started

Cloth Diaper Series

Posts in this series:
Getting Started
All About Diapers
All About Covers
Other Diapering Methods

Welcome to the Cloth Diapering Basics series!  I am so excited to be presenting this series to you with the help of Coleen from Sweet Little Blessings, a long time cloth diapering sponsor here at Raising Arrows.  This series will run all week in a Q&A format, covering the basics of cloth diapering from two experienced cloth diapering mamas!

And don’t miss the AWESOME giveaway running all week long at the bottom of each post in the series along with a coupon code (SWEET) for 10% off any order from Sweet Little Blessings!

This post is all about Getting Started Cloth Diapering

Why cloth?

Coleen:  Cloth Diapers are convenient, save money and are super cute!!  Plus they are better for the environment.

Amy:  I started cloth diapering to save money when I found myself with 2 babies in diapers.  Then I fell in love with the utter cuteness of cloth diapers!  It also felt good to be doing something that didn’t contribute to the trash on this earth.

How much should you expect to spend for one child?

Coleen:  The amount you spend can vary a lot depending on the style of diaper you buy and how many you want on hand.  I would estimate you could spend anywhere from $125 for prefolds and covers to $400+ for all in ones.

Amy:  There are so many different kinds of cloth diapering methods (which we will be going over in the series!), you really have to decide which method is right for you first and then figure the cost.  However, any method you choose will be cheaper than a full supply of disposables (especially if you diaper more than one child!).

What is the cheapest cloth diapering system?

Prefolds and covers are definitely the cheapest option!

Should I buy used or new? 

Coleen:  Buying used is going to save money, but they may wear out a lot faster.  It is a good way to try different styles of diapers and find what you like best.  Then you could purchase your favorites new!

Amy:  I’ve done both and there are pros and cons to both.  Used, you run the risk of them wearing out and also dealing with bacteria from another household that may be difficult to get rid of.  However, it is typically much cheaper.  New isn’t cheaper and you run the risk of buying something you hate that cost you more than you can get back out of it; however, diapers do have a high resale value on places like DiaperSwappers.com.

How do I keep my cloth diapers organized?

Coleen:  A changing table is a great place to store cloth diapers if you have room for one.  I always change our little guys on the floor in our family room and store the diapers in the drawers in our TV cabinet.  Baskets work great too!

Amy:  Currently, I have a changing table (shown below), but I also keep a large flat basket at the opposite end of the house for changing diapers on my bed.  I’ve seen diapers kept in trunks in the living room, cardboard boxes, and plastic stackers.  It doesn’t have to fancy, just functional!

changing table

What else do I need to cloth diaper?

Coleen:  You will need some kind of diaper pail.  A trash can with a liner works well.  I use a FuzziBunz hanging diaper pail on a hook in our laundry room.  You may also want to purchase some cloth wipes or wash cloths.  Just throw them in the wash with your diapers.  I also keep a bottle to squirt water on my wipes as I need them.  You could make your own baby wipe solution, but I find that plain water works quite well.  It might also be nice to have a smaller wet bag for in your diaper bag.  Another extra would be a diaper sprayer to help make clean up easy.

Amy:  I agree with Coleen!  I use a diaper pail that is actually a heavy duty plastic trash can with a flip-top lid that can easily be opened with a yucky diaper in hand.  In my bathroom, I have a diaper sprayer (must have in my opinion!) and another trash can that you step on a lever to open so there’s no touching anything thus eliminating the whole “ick factor.”  I use a plastic grocery sack as a wet bag when away from home simply because I’ve never gotten around to purchasing one!  And I make all my own cloth wipes.

How often should I wash?

Coleen:  I recommend washing at least every other day.  The longer your diapers sit, the more odors can build up.

Amy:  Agreed!  However, there are times when I don’t manage this and have to be a bit more diligent about how I wash them.  (You can read how I wash and dry my cloth diapers.  See also this Cloth Diaper Care series from Mama’s Laundry Talk for more info on caring for your cloth diapers.)

What is your #1 piece of advice for cloth diapering mamas?

Coleen:  There is so much information about cloth diapering that it can be overwhelming at first, but it is really not hard at all!

Amy:  If you can, find another cloth diapering mama and watch her do it!  That was one of my biggest obstacles…I needed to be shown just how easy it was!  If you can’t find another cloth diapering mama, then watch online videos like this one I did on using a prefold diaper…it really does help to see exactly how they work!

Posts in this series:
Getting Started
All About Diapers
All About Covers
Other Diapering Methods

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106 thoughts on “Cloth Diapering Basics – Getting Started

  1. Not sure what I like most. I used cloth on my oldest but wasn’t happy with the leaks, the odors, the drying time. Maybe I just need another type, but I didn’t have anyone to ask back them. I’m really considering cloth for this one, and your post is really helpful!

    • If your child leaked the diapers could have been too small. The smell was due to not getting the diapers truly clean, maybe try another detergent next time (we use Rockin’ Green and never have a problem)

  2. I am very happy that you are doing this series. It is perfect timing as we are expecting our fifth baby and preparing to cloth diaper. Thank you!

  3. I have cloth diapered all 4 of my boys and am so thankful we have! I am still using some of the same diapers I started with 9 years ago when my first was born. I’m so thankful for this series though, because I always learn something and I can’t wait to share it with my sister in laws who don’t use cloth yet.

  4. I’ve been wondering about cloth diapers for a while. I have 7 children. I only use disposables with them even though I always have 2 in diapers. I know this would save a lot of money, but I feel like it’s so much work. Do you think that it IS extra work, but worth it? Or do you feel that it’s really not extra work at all? I’m 4 months along now, and it’s hard to see myself using cloth for this baby. Wouldn’t it be crazy to start now? I’m confused. : ( This series should help to answer all of my questions and doubts. Thanks!

    • Personally, I LOVE to cloth diaper and for many cloth diapering mamas it kind of becomes an obsession…or maybe just a really great “passion”. ;) It doesn’t seem like a lot of extra work to me, but I have let it go when I’ve been sick w/ morning sickness or at other “crisis” times in my life. There is a big upfront cost that sometimes stresses people out, but you might run the math on it and see what you think. :)

    • It is no real extra work for me. We just put them in the washing machine, push a few buttons, move them to the dryer or clothes line and put them together (we sue pockets). All the time together for 1 load takes maybe 10 minutes of actual “work” the washing machine and dryer/sun do the rest.

  5. I love knowing that I never have to run out for diapers if I “run out” and I am very happy to know we are not adding to the giant amount of diaper waste clogging our landfills.

  6. Love this! The cute factor is what gets me every time. Not to mention all of the money we’ve saved over the course of 5 kiddos!

  7. Looking forward to hearing more on this! We do use cloth some… want to use them more, but we seem to have bigger issues with rashes when we use cloth exclusively (totally backwards from what I have always heard!). There is also ammonia smells as soon as the little ones use them… I’ve tried switching up detergents and stripping them. I think my biggest problem would be my front load washer… trying everything… but still haven’t found the best wash routine… yet. I have one in night-time pants, one almost ready to train for daytime, and one that is 7 months… Would love to make this work better! :)

    • Have you tried ROckin’ Green detergent? You can check out the website and look through the pics of people who has stripped their diapers then “rocked a soak” and see what came out of the diapers. We have used it from the beginning and have had no problems.
      We have a front load and we do a cold rinse, heavy duty on hot with rinse, then a cold rinse. If he has had a stomach bug, I use the sanitize option in place of heavy duty. I have never had to strip. Also, if you go to Rockin’ Green their customer service is wonderful and great with helping people.

    • It’s really, really, really important to know what kind of water you have. I have very hard water (central Florida) so I have to use a water softener. I use Charlie’s Laundry Booster. http://greenmommydiapers.com/2011/05/26/laundry-booster-by-charlies-soap/

      I’m refining my wash routine, right now I’m doing the following:
      1. Rinse on warm to get most of the yuckies out
      2. Wash/Soak in hot for a couple of hours.
      3. Complete cycle to rinse (add booster, no soap). At the beginning of the cycle, I soak in the hot water for a couple of hours. My machine adds the water and agitates and then stops because I leave the lid open (top loader). I’m do this twice.
      4. Repeat step 3 with cold, but don’t soak.

      My understanding is that the ammonia is due to not getting all of the detergent out. I’ve found that doing the soaks and extra rinses really helps. When I forget to soak and just do the rinse, I notice a difference.

    • You can buy them used but in great shape! You should check out Babycenter Cloth Diaper Swap. Also, ebay has all kinds of new but off brand diapers that are highly suggested. Cloth diapering can be done as cheap or as expensive as you want.

  8. I use fuzzibunz diapers and really love the ease of them. My only frustration has been that no matter what I do, I can not get them clean enough with my front loader washing machine. I think my only option now, is to find a top loader that does not restrict the amount of water usage. Any comments?

    • What is your wash routine? We have a front loader and use Rockin’ Green. Never had a problem. We do a cold rinse, then wash on heavy duty with hot water and rinse, then another cold rinse. Every now and then (if he has been sick) I will use the sterilize option (very rarely thought). Also, you can lay them in the sun to dry, it will bleach them white, remove smells and kill some germs.

  9. I love cloth diapering! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do it as long with my third child as she was SO sensitive to anything damp on her bottom. Five minutes in a wet diaper meant a nasty rash. (I tried stripping them, using different kinds and everything!) Happily we are close to potty training, so it won’t be much longer in disposables. :) My favorite part of cloth diapering is hanging them on the line in the summer. I like to sew my own, too. That is one of the ways I nest when I am pregnant. :D

  10. I love cloth diapering because I feel the baby is more comfortable and because I don’t have the expense and hassle of bringing all those diapers home from the store.

  11. I just wanted to post and say that I AM NOT ASSOCIATED WITH ROCKIN’ GREEN. I love the product and it has worked wonderful for us. There are no chemicals, 3 different formulas (1 for sensitive skin, 1 for hard water and 1 for regular water) and have wonderful customer service. Cloth diapering is kinda an obsession for me :) haha

  12. We’re expecting #4 and giving serious thought to switching to cloth diapering. I’ve never tried it before, so I’m trying to learn all I can. This giveaway would certainly help with the start up expense. :) Thank you!

  13. I love cloth diapering! I am looking forward to gaining even more info than I’ve learned through my research with this series! Thanks!

  14. I am pregnant with my second. Considering cloth diapering this go around. Just now looking into it and seeing what all it involves. Thanks for all the great info! Very helpful!

  15. My favorite thing about cloth diapers is putting something soft and clean on baby’s bottom instead of paper and chemicals.
    But honestly- we have been using disposables a lot lately because I have been struggling with finding a good routine overall in our home, which leads to not being able to wash the diapers as promptly as I’d like. And we also have front loaders, so I’m really curious to see what tips others have for getting diapers fully clean and rinsed in a front loader.
    I’ve never used them, but I bet flats would wash up easier in a front loader because there aren’t all those layers of fabric to trap buildup, etc. But then you’d have to like using flats…
    Looking forward to the rest of this series!

  16. As a mother of twins I can realy apreciate cloth dipers. My mother in law purchased many of ours becouse we are on a very tight budget, and now we feel so secure knowing that need is met within hours of starting the laundry. :) It truley is a gift that keeps on giving!

  17. I am very excited that you are doing this. I know the Lord must be guiding me in this journey because today is the very day that my first delivery of cloth diapers is due to arrive! Then I saw what you were blogging about that and was thrilled! My youngest (of 6 children) is almost 1 years old and I am just now starting with cloth diapers. Better late then never I guess! Thanks for all you do to encourage us moms. You are such a treasure and have lifted my spirit more then you know. I pray the Lord blesses you with the desires of your heart.

  18. Last time I had babies, it was so hard to do cloth because there were not as many choices. This time, I am committed to using cloth and would love to win the certificate! Better for my baby, better for the money. Thanks

  19. Thanks for sharing this. I am on my 3rd cloth diaper baby right now. After trying many different styles and brands I can honestly say we love Prefolds better than AIO and I like covers with snaps instead of velcro. That velcro wears out and attracts so much lint.

  20. My second grandbaby just arrived on Sunday evening, and I know my daughter desires to stay committed to cloth diapering…this giveaway is so timely, and a blessing!

  21. Thank you so much for doing this series!! I just bought a few used cloth diapers last week so that I could “dip my toes” in trying it out and love that I found this info to go right along with it!!! Thank you!!!

  22. Thank you for this series! It is well timed to help out a friend of mine who is considering using cloth for her first, due in May. I love cloth diapering our baby, and enjoy any chance I get to encourage another Mama to try.

  23. So thankful for this series! The information about cloth diapering is overwhelming and I have no idea where to start. Expecting my 3rd baby in May and desiring to use cloth diapers with him. Looking forward to all of your wonderful insight! Thank you!

  24. Just what I need riight now. My 6th son is due in 6 weeks and I got rid of ALL my cloth diaper stuff years ago, but now I will need it again.

  25. I’ve used cloth and paper diapers and since using the cloth ones, I’ve noticed that the paper ones have a wierd smell. Cloth is so enviro and baby friendly and, expecting #9 in June, I will be using cloth again! Thank you for hosting this :)

  26. My fav for newborns are fitteds and covers. The fitteds contain the bf poo best, IMO. For an older baby eating solids, you don’t need the fitteds so much so I like prefolds and covers. I make my own prefolds using hemp fabric.

    TIP 1: For older babies eating solids, use a liner (I use a cloth liner) and invest in some flushable Cottonelle wipes. It’s much easier to deal with getting poo off just a liner. Sometimes, I can just pick it off the liner with the wipe and toss it in the potty.. I don’t often need/use my diaper sprayer.

    TIP 2: Keep an easily cleanable, plastic container large enough to hold a dipe nearby your changing station. (I use a shallow plastic chinese take-out container). I usually put the flushable wipe with the poo in it to be tossed in the potty when I’m done and then can just toss the dipe in the pail.

  27. What I love most. Well, that’s difficult to describe. There is just a feeling I get when I’m putting a cloth diaper on my baby. It’s awesome!

  28. I have never cloth diapers but I want to buy some cloth training pants for my 7 month old. I am doing elimination communication with him and am ready to use something different and better.

  29. I loved cloth diapering my little one! She is pretty much potty trained now, but the cloth diapers never gave her rashes! We ended up at the last six months after I got over the cuteness factor of cloth diapers to buy some work horse diapers. Kawaii worked for us, and they are about 7 dollars a diaper. They don’t work for everyone, but were great for us!

  30. I love cloth diapering because I feel so good about not having plastic and chemicals next to my daughter’s skin all day long, and I honestly have so much fun cloth diapering, I’m a girlie girl and love picking pretty new prints/diapers :) I also love saving the $$ over disposables!

  31. I seriously enjoy cloth diapering. I made a few mistakes in the beginning and thought about giving up, but once I got into it, it’s been great. I agree you can spend a lot to diaper or a little, either way works. WHAT I LOVE MOST… Cloth diapering helps me to keep up with my laundry. And I LOVE that I don’t have to worry about spending the money to buy more diapers. I think cloth diaper babies potty train quicker too. And cloth diapering can bring you out of the matrix and help you see the way people used to do it.

  32. I like the self-sufficency of using cloth diapers. No more having to run to the store with four preschoolers just for diapers. Plus it saves us money!

  33. I loved using cloth diapers. My daughter was allergic to disposables, so we had to make the switch. Who would have ever guessed that a rash would turn out to be such a blessing!

    I loved making my own diapers. I also purchased several brands. One of the greatest hurdles I hear moms complain about is the cost to start cloth diapering. It’s not expensive to start up at all, if you get a little resourceful! You can even do it for free! Here’s a video on how to make pre fold diapers from a kitchen towel. I hope you find it useful! http://youtu.be/p4_MYoRNtQY

  34. This is something I need to look into, I am 37 weeks pregnant with baby number six and I have never try this before, but I think its worth the try! Thank you for posting this:) God bless

  35. I actually have not cloth diapered, but would love to try! We have 8 children, 2 that are currently in diapers. Our family has been working hard at becoming debt free, and I cringe every time I purchase diapers. I would love to purchase cloth, but don’t have the money to start. I have started making my own reusable wipes out of old receiving blankets I cut into small squares.

    • A good way to save up some money is every time you purchase a package of disposable diapers put that same amount of money in a jar. There are some super cheap and very functional cloth diapers from China that will cost little to start up. Many of my readers rave about Alva Baby, another is Sunbaby.

  36. I cloth diapered all four of my babies starting 11 years ago. I did everything you are apparently not supposed to do now. :) I used pre-folds made by Gerber with rubber pant covers and pins. I used A and D ointment, bleached them every two months, and rarely swished a diaper in the toilet due to the use of rice paper liners. I still have some of those diapers and was able to pass the rest on to another family that is still using them. We rarely had diaper rash, and all of my children potty trained by age 2 and a half. If I was able to have more children I would still use cloth I love them so much! I am so glad it has become such a positive thing now.

  37. I love saving money with the cloth diapers,,, my first ones I got were alva baby diapers and you can get 20 for about 84 dollars and they are a one size pocket diaper and they work on a 3 month old and a 2 and a half year old at the same time… at first I even used Flat diapers in a diaper cover ffor the 3 month old but now I have enough pocket diapers to do both my kids and I am loving it

  38. I love the idea of cloth diapering, but I’ve only given it one shot. I was so enthused about trying it when my 3rd son was 15-16 months old. Then he got a horrible rash and while I was trying to figure out a better way to rinse and wash the diapers, I got pregnant again and the smells and issues were too much. I’d really like to try it again with my 5th baby (who is more like a toddler now).

  39. I’ve been battling funk/ammonia. I’ve tried so many things and I’m stumped. Even went back to disposibles, but I’ve been itching to get back into cloth. I love cloth! I even took a class yesterday to learn how to make them (the ones I made, not so great lol), not that I don’t have enough….they are just to darn cute!
    Please, any help on the funk issue is greatly appreciated!

  40. I started cloth diapering with my 3rd baby! I love it as well. I don’t think the sprayer is a necessity, but the ick factor doesn’t bother me. I used all in ones at first and they only lasted me a year. Someone gave me the idea to cut out the liner and use the outer part as a diaper cover.

  41. would love to add to my small stash of cloth diapers. I changed from prefolds to all in ones so only have about 9 right now. this would be wonderful to win.

  42. For the first time in 11 yrs in parenting all my little people are walking around in undies…and new baby is on the way. Would love to buy some fresh cloth to help me gear back up.

  43. I am so glad that you are doing a cloth diapering series! I have a 3 month old and just started cloth diapering in the past 3 weeks…so far so good! I have several different types of cloth diapers so we can figure out what works best for my husband and I…looking forward to expanding our stash so that we can CD exclusively!

  44. I love this! Just this past weekend, I considered posting a “Cloth Diaper 101″ thing on my blog this week. Cloth was intimidating in the beginning. But once I realized the benefits, not only financially but physically (no more rashes), I was hooked. I never realized all of the chemicals that were in paper dipes that could affect my little one’s sensitive skin.

  45. I absolutely love clothe diapering and have another one coming soon, so I need to start stocking up! Can’t wait to hear all the info for a refresher course!

  46. Thank you for this series, we are wanting another baby and I have been thinking more and more about cloth diapering becuase of the whole cost of diapers and the fact that my son has now decided he DOESN’t WANT to potty train…he knows what to do but simply refuses to do it on a consistent basis.

  47. I am the proud mother and stepmother to seven children. We have a blended family, my husband has a four year old and two year old; I have a eleven, ten and two year old and we just had two month old boy/ girl twins together. So our average size families became an instant large family with four in diapers! I have always wanted a large family and we love it but are trying to quicky learn the ropes. I would like to put at least the twins in cloth diapers but iur finances are tight. Any suggestions?

  48. I’d love to use cloth diapers, but I live in an apartment building with shared washing machines. I feel a little bit bad about the idea of washing soiled diapers (even if they’re pre-rinsed) in a shared machine. What are your thoughts?

  49. I tried to do the cloth diapering with my son for a while. But when i went somewhere i ended up using disposable. Because there wasnt a way to rinse them out in the restaurant or stores and stuff. What would be your advise for when i have a baby number 2. I want to do them full time with the next one. Also. The bags that you said you used. Do you put water in those to soak the diapers? Or do you not recommend that? I had bought used ones for baby number 1 and they stunk really bad! Couldnt get the smell out! And every single time i washed them i would wash them 2 times or sometimes 3 and then hang them out on the line? And every single time he peed in them it smelled again? So should i buy new diapers or what would be your advice about that? Thanks in advance!

    • Hello! For travel, I use FuzziBunz (because they are compact) and I carry some sort of wetbag (even if that just means a throwaway plastic shopping bag. When baby is older, I will try to drop into a toilet any solids from the diaper before putting in the bag, but otherwise, I wait until I get home to clean them out. For a smelly wetbag (or diaper for that matter), you can try rinsing with vinegar. Often, I run my diapers through a full cycle w/ about 1/2 c of vinegar per full load because it keeps them from smelling. I love my Bummis wetbag and have never had an issue w/ smell. Hope all that helps!