Cloth diapering: your most common questions, answered

prefold cloth diapers in a basket
Photo by Momma’s Baby

I’m currently working on a big resource list of helpful links related to cloth diapering, and it will be published tomorrow. But I wanted to write up a quick “extra” post to address the most repeated questions I found in the comments sections during our Cloth Diapering 101 week.

Q: What about those of us who don’t have a washer or dryer at home (as in, I go to a laundromat, or I live in an apartment and use their machines)? Those coin-operated machines cost so much money, and won’t my neighbors flip out if they hear I’m washing diapers?

A: To answer the last part first — several of you mentioned the “ick” factor about putting soiled diapers in washers, even in your own. A washing machine’s very purpose is to handle the ick in fabric and remove it, making clothes wearable again. Think of those times you’ve washed your newborn’s onesie soaked in runny poo, the sheets your toddler wet at night, or your preschooler’s shirt he vomited on — you put those in your washer, right?

I know it may feel weird at first to consistently use a washer to remove poop, but it really doesn’t make your machine dirty. If you dump the poop into the toilet first, you’re getting the bulk of it off, anyway — especially if you use a diaper sprayer.

Now, I can understand the issue of spending $3 per laundry load in a coin-operated machine — that’s not going to save you money. In this case, if you’re still interested in cloth diapering, I recommend looking up a cloth diapering service in your area. Diaper services are professional laundries who rent reusable cotton diapers to families. The diaper service delivers clean diapers, and picks up the soiled diapers on a weekly basis to launder them. Check out the National Association of Diaper Services for more info.

Q: How many cloth diapers should I get?

A: There’s no definitive answer to this one, because every baby and family is different. If you’re home full-time and can do a load of diapers every other day, you’ll need less. If you like the idea of going three days before doing a load, you’ll obviously need more. And if your child is a heavy wetter, they might need more, too.

Your baby’s age is a factor, too. If you go with one-sized diapers, where you can convert them to the size you need, you don’t need to buy as many. But if you buy diapers in individual sizes, you’ll need to start with a few and add as they grow.

So there’s no hard and fast number. As for me? I have 10 pocket diapers, 3 all-in-ones, one fitted diaper, three covers, and 40 prefolds (head here for definition of these types). I have way too many. I plan to sell some soon, since I barely go through a quarter of my stash before washing.

If you’re unsure where to begin, and you don’t know what kind of diaper will ultimately work best for you, I recommend starting off with only a few. You can always add more as you go.

Q: I love the idea of cloth diapering, but I can’t stomach the up-front cost. Thoughts on how to get around this?

A: Most of use cloth diapers for the money saving benefits — but that doesn’t mean you won’t get sticker shock in the beginning. If you know you want to go with cloth diapering and you’re still in your first or second trimester, start saving now for your system. Just like saving up cash for all things in life, create a sinking fund for your diapers.

Many sites offer baby registry services now, too. Or you can customize your own internet-based baby registry on sites like Wishpot (here’s my list of baby basics recommendations, fyi, as Wishpot’s “Simple Mom Expert” — I’ll make a cloth diapering one soon). Create a cloth diapering registry, and people can load you up at showers.

And if you’re late in your pregnancy, or if your baby’s already here, you can start off small. Just buy a few diapers at first and combo diaper with disposables. Gradually buy more cloth diapers as you find great deals, and slowly taper off your need for sposies.

And finally, remember that cloth diapering doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing game. We still use disposable diapers for long trips — there’s no shame in starting off with just a few CDs.

Q: My husband can’t get around the poop factor — until you can guarantee that my baby will never poop in her cloth diaper, he’s not willing to try going cloth. Thoughts?

A: Aimee already addressed the poop issue in her excellent guest post answering common misconceptions about CDing. But I’ll reiterate it here, too — it’s the poop that’s gross, not the diaper type. You still have to mess with poop in a sposie.

In fact, I don’t deal with poop any more than I did with disposables, and I think the smell is actually less, since we flush 99% of it down the toilet. If he seriously won’t even put a disposable liner into the toilet, I’ve read some comments this week that some people don’t even get rid of the poop before throwing it into the washing machine! Apparently that’s okay.

The other most common questions were mostly related to finding cloth diapering resources. I’ll be sharing a bunch of links tomorrow, so hopefully those questions will find their answers then. In the meantime, let me know if you have any more questions, and I’ll ( or any other CD mama out there) do my best to answer them!

Don‘t forget to enter the cloth diaper giveaway going on right now — it ends Sunday night!

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Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. I wanted to add 2 things to this great FAQ:

    1. I can definitely recommend a diaper service. We used one from right after my daughter’s birth until she was about 2 months old. At that point, we bought our own diapers and began washing them ourselves. The diaper service was really only slightly more expensive (if you calculate for the long run) than buying and washing our own diapers, and it’s still waaaaay less expensive than using disposables.

    2. Poop is poop, no matter what the diaper, and I think it smells far less offensive in a cloth diaper. I can’t say why – maybe it’s the interaction of the poop and the chemicals in the disposable – but the smell is So. Much. Worse. in a disposable diaper. Really, the ick factor is minimal with cloth diapers and huge with disposables. In my opinion. 🙂

    Stephanie´s last blog post…five weeks pregnant

  2. Thanks so much for this excellent series! I’ve learned so much and I’ve been cloth diapering for over 2 years now. A question I had is what to use at night time. We’ve tried double stuffing with everything, it seems like and still have soggy girls in the morning. We now use disposables at night which isn’t horrible, but would like to use the cds we have. Any tips would be appreciated!

    • Have you tried using wool covers at night? When my daughter went through a bigtime super wet stage, I would put her in a pocket diaper stuffed with hemp that way she didn’t have to feel being wet all night. Then I would put a wool cover over that. Yes, pretty bulky, but kept our bed and her jammies dry!

      Lisa´s last blog post…Free Patterns for Cloth Diapers

    • Check out Super-Do inserts. I was doing disposables at night, too, but they are fantastic. They have multiple layers of microfleece and hemp. I would recommend trying that in a pocket, and then if it is still leaky, add a fleece or wool cover over the whole deal. NOTHING should get through that! 🙂

  3. Is anyone else frustrated with the barrage of posts here? I could care less about cloth diapering and give aways, and my reader has just been slammed with posts. Sorry, maybe I’m just having a PMSy week.

    • I’m sorry you’re frustrated. I do have that in mind when I think of the readers here who are probably not in the diapering stage of life. But there’s only one more day of Cloth Diapering 101 week, and it’s just a simple link love post.

  4. I wish I had tried out more styles before ordering a big amount of prefolds (I only have 2 covers) because I’m really happiest with pocket diapers like Bum Genius and GroBaby- but it’s very fun trying new things and IS a subject so many are interested in and want to know more! I’m due for another CD post soon and I’ll definitely be linking to your helpful posts!


    Adventures In Babywearing´s last blog post…I Can’t Stop It

  5. This has been a lot of great info this week. Thank you!

    My question:
    After learning about all the choices. What CD is MOST recommended for a mom with a new infant? I’m not sure what to get. There are no stores for SEVERAL miles that offer CD so I’m trying to choose from Internet pictures-very frustrating. I’m leaning toward one-size all in ones.

    ANY input is very welcomed! And what are must-have accessories (like a sprayer or diaper pail. Any others?)

    • I just used prefolds with a wrap style cover. These are the cheapest option and since a newborn does not stay tiny for very long, I didn’t want to spend a fortune for newborn sizes. Then, when my babes are a little bigger, I move into the more expensive options like Fuzzi Bunz, or whatever diaper you choose.

      Lisa´s last blog post…Free Patterns for Cloth Diapers

      • I would agree that prefolds work great with a newborn. I also tried Kissaluvs because they were so loved by so many people, but by the time my LO was two-weeks old, he needed a doubler in them. I thought that was nuts! If you don’t go with prefolds, I hear good things about Thirsties and FuzziBunz. I personally am a one-size girl, but those really didn’t fit my baby until he was at least 10 lbs.

  6. This is great. We do not have kids yet, but are thinking cloth diapers when we do. What does one do when you have to use child care? Are more okay with it?

    Crazy Daisy´s last blog post…May photo of the month

    • I’m not sure what *most* daycare providers will or won’t go along with, but our daycare center has been totally fine cloth diapering our girl, and that despite the fact that she’s the *only* kid in the entire center who wears cloth! We were prepared to meet with some resistance, but luckily, one of our girl’s group caregivers is a bit older, and she had no choice but to use cloth diapers on her kids back in the day. Perhaps this was what helped smooth the way for us. Sometimes they’ll put her in a disposable if they’re going to be outside for a long time, but we’re OK with this.

      Stephanie´s last blog post…cloth diapering love

  7. Adrienne says:

    I’m still thinking about doing the switch from disposables for my second daughter, who is now eight months old. I do have a question though, and I apologize if it was answered already in some of the previous posts’ comments. Anyway, with CDs, do you need to change more often than with disposables? I’ve always heard that the baby feels wet sooner with CDs and in order to prevent diaper rash they have to be changed more often. Have any of you CD moms experienced this? Thanks for all the great advice!

    • I think it depends on the type of diaper you use. If you are using a prefold, you may need to change more often because the wetness is sitting next to baby’s skin. My son did not do well with that, so we would have either needed to add a stay-dry liner on top of the prefold or switch diaper types – we switched. We are using BumGenius 3.0, and I would say I change diapers just as often as I would with disposables. In the morning, after he eats, and at night.

    • I find that I maybe change one more diaper a day than I do with disposables. But it’s mostly to prevent diaper rash, not because my son is leaking or whining about anything. I don’t notice any difference, really – that doesn’t affect the frequency I do the laundry.

    • I don’t change more often than I do in disposables. But an added benefit, in my opinion anyway, is that when they are pooping all day or when they need to be changed an hour before bed, I don’t find myself cringing over the use – and cost – of an extra diaper.

      Mandi´s last blog post…Stress-Free Vacation Planning: A Step-by-Step Plan

  8. This series has been great. I have been sending thse to my sister who is 3 months along and started thinking about cloth diapering. My mom did it with both of us. It’s a great way to go.

  9. Wow, Tsh, I’ve tried before to do online research on CD, but now you’ve created the most thorough (and less biased) compilation of information on the subject. Those videos were so helpful thanks for taking the time to do it!

    Crystal´s last blog post…eating sand and other fun adventures.

  10. My husband cannot stand the thought of cloth diapers. He absolutely will not change them unless it’s an emergency. I don’t say this to get down on him, because I don’t think it makes him a bad person or anything like that, and he’s a wonderful father who accommodates most of my whims and “crazy” habits.

    CD’ing is gross to him but important to me, so diapering is my thing. I change the diapers, and if I want more help from him, I use disposables. And he will get them off the line for me once they’re dry if I ask him too. 😛 We follow a basic “it takes two yes-es” rule for stuff like this, and it’s been a great compromise for us.

    Just to encourage any other moms out there whose husbands can’t get past the ick factor. 😉

    Mandi´s last blog post…Stress-Free Vacation Planning: A Step-by-Step Plan

  11. Jessica says:

    Thanks for all of this fabulous info. I don’t know if it’s just me & my inability to process it all or what…but, I feel like my brain is still swimming. There are soooo many options, I don’t even know where to begin. I have a 5 m.o. that I’d love to switch over to cloth. I have a 2 y.o. that I wouldn’t mind switching either.

    Can anyone reccommend who I should switch over first? I just talked face-t0-face with someone about gdiapers & those seem cool & easy enough…I like those. But, I don’t want to have to buy the inserts over & over…so what’s something similar that I could get w/o having to buy anything extra after the initial purchase?

    (i.o.w. somone be my brain & just tell me what to do. :-))

    • Jessica, I totally understand your feelings! If your older child would fit in one-size diapers, you may want to try some of those and then try them out on both children. I think pocket one-size diapers would be perfect, and they aren’t much different from g-diapers. You could also look into trying a cloth diaper trial from a retailer to try out different kinds of diapers before committing – in that case you would have to pick one child or the other to start on so that you can get diapers in that size. Good luck!

    • And, if you find a retailer you like, give them a call. Most of the sellers I know are ga-ga over cloth diapers and love talking people through all the choices. Don’t be afraid to ask!

      Lisa´s last blog post…Free Patterns for Cloth Diapers

  12. Melanie says:

    I’ve been using CDs for almost a year…since my son was 3 mos. old. I haven’t had any problems, really…but now we’re dealing with a lingering urine odor…even after washing. I have been using Charlie’s Soap (recommended by friend) with a double-rinse cycle. It’s been fine until recently…but just doesn’t seem to get the smell out anymore. Any suggestions?

    • Sounds like it is time to strip your diapers! You probably have some build up on your diapers which can be caused by a number of things – detergent, hard water, diaper rash cream. Here are some tips for stripping cloth diapers. easily.

      Lisa´s last blog post…Free Patterns for Cloth Diapers

      • Mine were starting to have a bad urine smell until I switched to making my own laundry soap. Now I wash them with homemaid soap and a scoup of oxiclean and they are great. I was using all free and clear.

        • Abbie do you mind sharing your recipe for homemade laundry soap?

        • Free and Clear detergents do not work well with cloth diapers and cause build-up. I have been using Allen’s but in my HE machine it just didn’t do the job to get rid of stains. I actually switched to original powder Tide and that has worked great!

  13. I didn’t really know about CDing with my first son. I mean, I knew about it but didn’t know about all the NEW found CDing styles! Now that I’m 3 weeks away from delivering our 2nd child, I’ve made the decision to start making my own CD. I printed the Rita’s Rump Pocket pattern and will hopefully be getting started on sewing this week. I haven’t really had the funds to buy any CD so decided I should try and sew my own! I’m sure we will use both CD and disposables as well.

  14. Jake Smith says:

    I thought mostly men read this blog? jk

    Actually that’s the most ridiculous thing, that men won’t do CD duty or any diaper for that matter. It’s a cop out.

    Personally I’m grossed out by the thought of people picking up after their dogs! But my sons? no problem at all.

    -Jake (CDs with his wife to two sons, older one now potty training – AND that’s messy!)

    obCDing: get a diaper sprayer to attach to your toilet. It makes life easier.

  15. I just wanted to say I really enjoyed running through these posts. My babies are 18 and almost 21, and I didn’t notice one comment on the joys of cotton to skin – I am sure its there. My children are tactile sensitive types but i chose CD for environmental reasons. I used diaper service for a while and then bought some second hand diapers and did the wash. I still to this day remember the sweet feeling of a clean diaper on that tender skin! I ended up doing just plain old pins for much of the time and there wasn’t a lot of options but honestly – I never liked using disposables as I never trusted putting questionable stuff near their privates…. It is such a brief blip on their life and changing diapers a few more times gives you some nice quiet time with your little one.

  16. Rather than keeping up with all the different types of inserts for the pocket diapers, is it fairly easy to just use prefolds for everything (pocket and wrap)??

    Jill´s last blog post…Cancer Can Kiss My ASS!!

  17. Are all pockets diapers and inserts pretty much interchangeable? I am leaning toward buying up a lot of the FuzziBunz one size b/c they grow with the baby, but the online registry I found doesn’t carry FuzziBunz inserts. Do you think the Thirsty Hemp would work (they carry infant and toddler size so I would use diff ones as I expanded the one size diaper)?

    Jill´s last blog post…Cancer Can Kiss My ASS!!

    • Yes, more or less, though the inserts that go with the pocket do fit best (as you might guess). But they all do the same thing, so you could easily put any type of insert into a pocket — a prefold, a different insert, or an insert you make or buy separately.

    • Jill, as Tsh mentioned, the diapers and inserts can be interchangeable. I just wanted to note that I just got some FuzziBunz one size for my store and they come with two inserts already. The Thirsties hemp inserts would be good to add below the microfiber inserts that FuzziBunz sends to add more absorbancy at night.

      Good luck! 🙂

      Sara´s last blog post…Diaper Daisy is now on Twitter

  18. OK, last question I swear! I’ve noticed some FuzziBunz packages will come with 2 pocket diapers and 4 inserts. Are there times that the fleece lining is dry enough to where you change out the insert and reuse the pocket diaper (assuming no poop)? Or is that just with prefolds and covers that you can sometimes do that?

    Jill´s last blog post…Cancer Can Kiss My ASS!!

  19. Just a question– I realize these posts are a few weeks old, but I was wondering if you are still going to post a list of CDing resource websites? I switched my 18 mo. old daughter to cloth 6 weeks ago. I wish I had known how easy it was, sooner! I am due with #2 in October and plan to use all cloth. I am really enjoying learning about it, so any web resources you could provide would be great! I LOVED the rest of the series!

  20. Diaper Rash Mystery: We use organic unbleached prefolds and Brites covers. We switched to cloth at 15 months and then out of the blue at 18 months she started getting wicked diaper rash. (She never had diaper rash in disposables). It happened to coincide with a broken washing machine so we went back to disposables for a week and it cleared up, no more problems. 1 week back in cloth and the rash was back. Back into disposables for a day (no cream) and it was gone. We hadn’t made any changes in our detergent, we change her right away (she tells us when she’s wet) . . . I can’t figure it out. Before the last rash, I boiled the diapers, changed the fold I use (I did just a simple trifold and into the pockets, but now I’m doing a bikini fold to keep the cover away from the skin), and gave my husband a stern lecture just in case he’s the weak link in the chain. Today is the first day back in cloth and I’m sad, but if the rash comes back I’m going to have to give up the cloth. It’s not just a redness, it’s full-on sores. Any suggestions?

    • How strange. Perhaps it’s an allergy to your detergent? Which one are you using? I know that may not be it, if she hasn’t had a problem with regular clothes, but since the diaper area is sensitive, perhaps it has something to do with that.

      Other than that, I can’t think of what it might be. I’d encourage you to ask the very wise mamas at Diaper Swappers. They seem to know everything CD related! They’ve answered lots of my questions.

      I hope you find your answer…

    • You could have yeast from the rash that hasn’t been killed in the diapers. You can try using some Tea Tree Oil or even bleach to kill it. Check out a thread here: http://www.diaperpin.com/forum09/forum_posts.asp?TID=41718. Good luck!
      .-= Sara´s last blog ..Insights from a cloth diaper newbie =-.

      • Thank you so much for the responses! I decided to give it one more go after reading these and the suggested resources. We’re a week in and no rash (fingers crossed). Looking at pictures, I think it was a yeast rash. I soaked all of the diapers in boiling water with tea tree oil, before washing them again. I also made up a wipe solution of diluted cider vinegar and tea tree oil. So far so good!

  21. Sorry, I hit submit before I finished – this is a great blog, I’m so glad I’ve come across it. Thanks for the postings.

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