Cloth Diapers 101: How to Use, How to Clean, and More!

Updated on July 5, 2018
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Owner of MommyDaddyKids and mother of two, Meagan is passionate about her family and sharing real-life advice with everyday people.

New parents are bombarded with advice from friends and family, and it's not uncommon for someone to voice their opinion about cloth diapers. Many people use this type of diaper because of its low impact on the environment while others just want to save money. Whatever the reason you're contemplating the idea, you'll want to make sure you've researched it enough to make a solid decision, and the information below can help with that.

What Are Cloth Diapers?

Disposable diapers were not invented for quite some time, but before that, people still needed a way to contain a baby's solid waste, so parents would wrap a cloth around their child's lower extremities.

Over the years, people improved the design and made it much more sanitary for everyone. One housewife even created a rubber underwear to go over the cloth diaper so babies would not leak through. Today, you can find reusable diapers in a variety of materials, colors, shapes, and price ranges.

Changing Cloth Diapers

Since reusable diapers come in a variety of designs there's really not one "right way" to change a cloth diaper. However, you can follow this basic step-by-step process for most of them:

How To Change a Cloth Diaper

  1. Assemble any supplies you may need first and put them within arms reach of where you'll be changing your baby.
  2. Undo the waterproof cover, pull it back, and then unpin the cloth diaper.
  3. Pull back the reusable diaper.
  4. If your baby has pooped, use the cloth diaper to wipe the majority of the waste off their bum.
  5. Fold the diaper under your baby so the clean, outside part of the diaper is touching your babies back, but the poop is contained inside the soiled diaper.
  6. Wipe your infant. If you have a boy, be sure to cover their privates, so they cannot pee all over you. If you have a girl, remember to wipe backwards starting at the front to avoid infections.
  7. Once your baby is cleaned up, you may remove the dirty diaper from underneath them.
  8. Lift your child's legs gently and slide the clean (possibly folded) diaper under their bum. Be sure to line the top of the cloth diaper up with your child's waist.
  9. Pull the front of the diaper up over the front of your baby. Watch out for the umbilical cord if your infant still has one.
  10. Adjust the new diaper so it fits comfortably. Keep an eye on the fabric between their legs because if it is bunched up, it could cause discomfort.
  11. Fasten the cloth diaper. Some reusable diapers already have straps that secure the diaper onto your baby while some still need to be fastened with pins.
  12. Put the diaper cover back on.

Cleaning Cloth Diapers

One must have a strong resilience to poop in order to be successful with cloth diapers. There will be days when you couldn't imagine anything worse could come out of your baby, and then worse will come. If you want to know how to clean a cloth diaper plug your nose and follow the steps below.

How To Clean a Cloth Diaper

  1. Change your baby and set the diaper aside.
  2. Roll the diaper up so the soiled part in on the inside.
  3. Take the diaper to the washroom.
  4. Shake—or spray—the solid waste off from the cloth diaper into the toilet.
  5. If you have a diaper sprayer attached to your toilet, use that to spray the diaper off.
  6. If you do not have a diaper sprayer, you can rinse the diaper off in the toilet or a bucket of hot water.
  7. Once you've gotten as much of the poop out as you can, place the diaper in a wet bag or diaper pail.
  8. Launder diapers when needed as you would wash any other laundry. You can wash with other things, but most people keep them separate from their clothing.

How Many Cloth Diapers Will I Need?

A newborn can sometimes have up to ten bowel movements a day. They likely won't go this many times every day, but being prepared is never a bad thing. The diapers will be thrown into a wet bag and will start to mildew if left too long, so it's suggested that they are washed every other day. If you follow this wash routine, you should probably keep 25-30 diapers handy. If you wait longer between washes, you will need more.

Can You Actually Save Money Using Cloth Diapers?

The amount of money you ultimately spend on cloth diapers depends on the brand of diaper you get. You can find starter kits anywhere between $10-$100. For this article, because we are trying to calculate the lowest cost possible, we will compare the cheapest of the two.

Data Type
Cloth Diapers
Disposable Diapers
Start-Up Cost
$100 - $400 Depending on type, brand, and accessories.
Montly Cost
Diaper washing service = $100 Replacing diapers, inserts, or accessories = $10-$50
$50-$100, depending on brand

If you're buying popular brand name diapers and using a diaper washing service, the estimate will change significantly. In that scenario, you'll actually be spending quite a lot more money.

Parents who are passionate about saving the environment like cloth diapers because they don't end up polluting landfills around the world like disposable diapers do. To them, it's worth spending that extra money every month. However, if you're thinking about reusable diapers because you want to save money, you may end up disappointed.

Should I Use Cloth Diapers Instead of Disposable Diapers?

There is no right or wrong answer to that question, and every parent will need to make a personal choice based on their own feelings and beliefs. A lot of research and thought should be put into the decision because it can be a lot of work sometimes, and you don't want to invest the money to start only to end up hating the idea. Make sure you're ready and willing to:

  • Spend the money upfront to get started.
  • Put the work into changing them.
  • Spend time rinsing the soiled diapers.
  • Do laundry frequently to keep wet diapers from becoming mildewed.
  • Stomach the messes that are bound to occur.
  • Change your baby frequently because cloth diapers are not as absorbent as disposable diapers.

If the above points didn't scare you away, and you still like the idea of cloth diapers, give it a shot!

Reusable Diaper Care

While constantly changing, rinsing, and washing might sound like a lot of work, it's really not bad when they're cared for properly.

How do I wash cloth diapers?

By following the care instructions on the package or tag. Some diapers have inserts that have special care instructions, and they must be followed to the letter to avoid ruining your diapers.

Can I dry a cloth diaper in the dryer?

Most diapers may be machine washed and dried, but check the care instructions just to be sure.

How often should I wash my cloth diapers?

Since soiled diapers are stored in a bag or pail they'll need to be washed frequently to reduce mold and bacteria from forming. It's recommended to wash them every 2-3 days.

Have you used cloth diapers before?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Meagan Ireland


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