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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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Some REAL Cloth Diapering Basics

Everyone does their research – and everyone talks about how overwhelming all the information out there about cloth diapers can be.

It drives me crazy though, how many times (it seems like a million!) I have read the same “basics” over again. That modern cloth diapers aren’t anything like the old-fashioned kind and that there are basically four types (all-in-ones, hybrids, pockets and diaper-cover combos).  Some throw in there the pros and cons of snaps and aplix/hook-and-loop (and by that they mean Velcro). Yes, we get it.  That part was easy to figure out.  But having used cloth diapers almost exclusively for about 5 months now, there are plenty of OTHER things I wish someone had spelled out so simply.  Buying the diapers was the fun part, but using and caring for them is another experience.

So here are my recommendations for the must-knows about cloth diapering (a verb) as opposed to cloth diapers (noun):

  • When prepping your diapers to use for the first time, natural fabrics need washed several times. You don’t have to wash microfiber repetitively to get them to full absorbency. That is something that doesn’t seem to be widely understood.
  •  Even when you’ve read a thousand articles to help you choose the best system for you, you might be surprised by what you end up liking. I’d recommend trying a few different types of diapers before throwing all your money into one kind.
  • As for keeping them clean, well, let’s just say this can take some practice and LOTS of water. Expect your water bill to go up some. Expect to sniff diapers on a regular basis. Expect to be paranoid about if they’re actually clean. And then just when you think you have it all figured out, expect something to throw you off track again. I still struggle with all this, but the basics? Be very careful about what you put on your diapers. The only truly safe thing in my humble opinion? Strive to make skin, pee, poo and a cloth-diaper safe detergent the only things to ever touch them, ever.
  • I’ve read about adding everything from vinegar, baking soda or bleach to the wash but before you do anything to risk harm to your diapers (They are an investment, people!), try a few things first: rinse each diaper as it’s dirtied; soak them with your cloth-diaper safe detergent for awhile; do some extra rinses, and then some more extra rinses.
  • Also, the less time the waterproof fabrics spend in the dryer, the better: My routine is to hang up all the shells while the inserts go in the dryer.
  • Despite many articles you might read about how wonderful cloth is for baby’s skin, it’s unrealistic to expect that you won’t ever have a rash again. Acidic foods, bacteria, a too-wet diaper, the switch to solids, are all among the things that can still make rashes happen. When they do, take care to protect those costly cloth diapers from making any contact with butt cream. This has probably been my biggest battle.
  • When you experience leaking or other issues, don’t give up. I have been lucky in this department, but after all the reading I’ve done I know there’s a solution for everything, so seek help from someone who knows what they are doing (the wonderful people at The Cloth Diaper Whisperer’s Facebook page are always willing to give advice!) and don’t give up.
  • Even when you have it all figured out, don't assume other people do. When you let someone else (dad, day care, grandma) put a diaper on your baby, make sure they have it down too or else you might end up with the dreaded butt cream, an upside down insert or too-loose snaps, to name a few.
  • And finally, expect to become an obsessed advocate. Even when there are times the things drive you crazy, you’ll fall in love with how much less trash you and your baby are creating, how much better your house smells (Have you ever emptied a full Diaper Genie?), and not having to throw diapers in the shopping cart week after week.

 Jessica is a working mom of one toddler and recently started blogging about her juggle with going green at


Laura said...

LOVE this article! Great tips!
Check out mine at
(look on sidebar in cloth diapering posts)

Christina D said...

Excellent post! I've been cloth diapering for a few months now and there are some tips on here that I didn't know about. You learn something new every day!

One Sassy Mama said...

Finally, someone said it! I wish I'd known many of the things you bring up in your post. Thank you!

Lauren said...

Excellent article! Thanks for putting together cloth diaper 201...there are more than enough 101s out there that just don't explain enough of the finer points. :) I'll be bookmarking this for when I get questions from cloth diaperers-to-be.

Momma said...

Well put! My diaper pail smells 1,000 times better than it did when we used disposables!