Cloth Diapering 101

Now that you have decided to use cloth diapers and you’ve selected which brands and styles work best for your family the “oh crap… now what?” moment is upon you. Time for a quick start guide to get you on the path to cloth diapering happiness!


Enough cloth diapers to go 1.5-3 days between washing (your preference for length of time, budget, and your baby’s age will make this number vary from as little as 16 up to 32 or more)
2 Large Wet bags or reusable pail liners and a diaper pail.
1-2 Travel Size wet bags for outings.
Extras: Diaper Sprayer, Flushable liners, Spray Pal, cloth wipes, and a cloth wipes dispenser like the OXO Tot version that works nicely with cloth wipes.


If you have an assortment of new cloth diapers you will need to “prep” them before using them on your baby.
Covers and Shells do not need prepping because they are not absorbent. Only the absorbent items such as the inserts, soakers, prefolds, and fitteds will need washing.
Natural Fiber inserts, soakers, All in Ones, prefolds, and fitteds will need to be washed 2-6 times before becoming fully absorbent. You can wash with a small amount of detergent and dry in between or take a “lazy prepper’s” advice and wash 1-2 times and let future washes of dirty diapers do the rest. If you use the lazy method you’ll want to only use those new diapers for daytime use until they reach full absorbency.
Synthetic Fibers such as microfiber, microterry, or minky need only 1-3 washes in order to be fully absorbent. With these diapers I would only wash and dry once and then let nature do the rest.

Using Your Diapers:

It would be impossible to say a quick sentence on how to use your cloth diapers because each diaper is designed differently, however you can usually break it down into “One Piece Systems” and “Two Piece Systems.” A one piece system acts the most like a disposable and is therefore more convenient and less time consuming to put on the baby. This includes All in Ones, Pockets, and All in Two’s. A two piece system requires placing the initial absorbent diaper on first- a fitted, prefold, flat, or contour, then placing your waterproof cover over the top.

All in One diapers require no prior assembly but you will need to stuff your insert into the pocket before putting it on the baby or snap in the soaker pad into the All in Two before placing it on baby then it is all one piece! Most parents like to ready their one piece systems after laundering by stuffing them all at once or readying the All in Two shells by placing an insert in. Then they put their diapers in baskets or other containers at the place they change diapers most.
Once the diaper is soiled if it is a Pocket diaper or an All in One the entire diaper will need to be tossed into your wet bag or diaper pail until wash day. For parents using All in Two’s you will remove the wet insert and snap in a clean one unless poop has touched the cover- in that case you need a new shell and soaker. For parents using prefolds, fitteds, or flats you will put the dirty absorbent diaper in the pail or wet bag and replace with a clean one and reuse the cover unless it has been soiled with poop.

Washing your Diapers :

A simple and basic washing routine is totally fine! Keep it totally basic and you will succeed- if trouble arises then you can look into the deeper causes but never start complicated. When trouble does arise I always say it is best to seek local advice because above anything, your water type will have the biggest impact on your washing success. As a general rule, those with hard water should use more detergent than those with regular or soft water. Using a detergent formulated for cloth diapers will have less risk of any buildup. Look to the graphic for a simple wash routine and tweak as needed.


Thanks to the Dirty Diaper  Laundry for the above tips!