all about cloth diapers

All About Cloth Diapers

Photo by Vanilla and Lace

It seems that in terms of recent baby trends everyone has been talking all about cloth diapers. You may be considering cloth diapers for your baby for financial, health or environmental reasons. You may also be utterly overwhelmed by the options available or clueless about where to start. This stop guide will help you decide what types of diapers and supplies to select, how to get started and answers your questions all about cloth diapers.

Cloth Diaper Styles


Prefold diapers are rectangular in shape and made from bleached or unbleached cotton, hemp or bamboo. Many parents prefer Chinese or Indian cotton; hemp and bamboo, while more costly than cotton, have antimicrobial benefits and are said to have better absorbency.

Prefolds are classified as 4x6x4 or 4x8x4, which means the outer portion of the diapers have four layers of material, and the middle  has six or eight layers of material. They are typically folded into thirds and placed inside a diaper cover or fitted diaper. Prefolds are the most economical way to cloth diaper your baby.

Fitted and Contour Diapers

Fitted and contour diapers have an hourglass shape to fit comfortably around your baby’s bottom. They are similar to prefolds in that they require a cover to keep baby’s clothing dry. Contour diapers fit nicely into a cover like a prefold. Fitted diapers typically have a snap to secure around the baby’s waist, and elastic that helps the diaper fit snugly around the baby’s legs. Fitted diapers also need to be used with a cover.


Cloth Diaper Covers are used with prefolds, fitted and contour diapers, and are typically made with fleece, wool or Polyurethane Laminate, also commonly referred to as PUL. PUL material is soft on one side, and coated with a flexible and waterproof plastic on the other side. The most common cover style is a wrap that is similar in shape to a disposable diaper and closes with hook and loop or snaps. Other styles are a pull-on or a side snap.

All-In-Ones (AIO)

AIOs, All-In-One Cloth Diapers, are most similar to disposables, as the cover and the soaker (think prefold/fitted/contour diaper) are sewn into one unit. They are as convenient as disposables, but they are the priciest diapers. Investment in AIOs can be lowered by purchasing One Size diapers that are used from birth to toddlerhood. One disadvantage of AIOs is that it takes longer than other diaper types to dry.

Pocket Diapers

These diapers are similar to AIOs, but there is a pocket into which a prefold diaper is stuffed. The advantage is that you can customize the amount of absorbency your baby needs. Pocket cloth diapers also dry more quickly than AIOs. Some AIOs now have an additional pocket so additional layers (known as doublers) can be added. Pocket diapers can be as convenient as in-ones by stuffing them once they have been cleaned.

How Many Diapers Do I Need to Get Started?

For newborns, consider purchasing gently used diapers. They outgrow the diapers quickly, so most used diapers you find can be in very good condition. Fitted diapers with covers are convenient to use during the day, and fleece pocket diapers with prefold inserts are great for nightly use. Once baby has outgrown these smaller diapers, save them to use with your next baby, or resell them.

The diapers you purchase next should last through toddlerhood. The most economical route is to purchase prefolds with covers. Fleece pocket diapers at night keep baby dry, and a few AIOs are handy to keep in the diaper bag for outings.

As far as how many diapers to have on hand, a stock of 18 diapers will require washing every other day. Soiled cloth diapers really should not sit longer than three days, so keep that in mind if you’re considering stocking up on diapers to wash less frequently.

For diaper covers, you will want to have one cover for every three diapers. If you have a stock of 18 diapers, plan on purchasing at least six covers.

What Else Do I Need?

Doublers – These cloth inserts are used along with a prefold or fitted diaper to increase absorbency and prevent leaks. Add one before bed time or a long car trip.

Liners – Similar in shape to a doubler, liners are typically made from fleece and are designed to wick moisture away from baby’s skin, thus reducing diaper rash.

Disposable Liners – Placed between baby’s skin and the diaper, liners are a convenient way to change soiled diapers. For dirty diapers, simply lift the dirty liner out of the diaper and flush it down the toilet.

Cloth Wipes  you’re using cloth diapers, you may as well use cloth wipes too. You could use baby washcloths, purchase cloth wipes, or make your own with soft terry cloth or cotton.

Wipes Warmer – Keep those cloth wipes warm in a wipes warmer. There are a number of diaper wipe solution recipes  available .

Diaper Pail and Deodorizers – While you can purchase a diaper pail, a less expensive solution would be to buy a 13-gallon trash can with a cover. Purchase a cloth drawstring laundry bag to protect the diaper pail. You may want to purchase some deodorizers to place in the pail, or you can make your own.

Free and Clear Detergent – While you can purchase a special diaper detergent, a free and clear detergent will also do the job. If you have wool covers, however, you might want to instead get the Woolwash.

Clothesline or Folding Drying Rack– To extend the life of your diapers and covers, you must line dry your diapers. Drying diapers in the sun will also help to remove stains. You can throw the diapers into the dryer for a few minutes if you want to soften them before use.

It may seem overwhelming at first, but once you begin using cloth diapers, you will develop a natural rhythm for using and caring for them. The financial, health and environmental benefits are also a nice reward for using cloth.

Glad we got to tell you all about cloth diapers, but if you use disposables instead, here’s a list of our favorite diaper brands!


I cloth diaper and my little man is soaking through his diapers at night. What should I do?

How do cloth diapers work? How much are they and how do they help you save money?

Day 1 of cloth diapering and I can’t believe I didn’t switch sooner!

I am due in a few weeks and plan to BF and use cloth diapers – I would love to hear from moms about brands they like

Are cloth diapers easy to use? Are they cheaper than disposable diapers?

Anyone else use cloth diapers as burp cloths?

I was thinking of trying cloth diapers when this baby comes…How do you wash them?

Would love to hear opinions on cloth diapering vs disposable as my first child got burns from disposables

Cloth diaper questions – how much do you pay to get started? How many do you need? Do you use a service?

Just started cloth diapers with my 4 month old but I’m finding it difficult. I want to give it a chance, does anyone have any advice?

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About Darlene MacAuley

Darlene is the mother of two teens and loves the adventure of motherhood. Professionally, she has worn many hats -- most recently, she was a birth doula and childbirth hypnosis instructor, and currently, she blogs about small business tips for childbirth professionals and writes freelance articles for different blog sites. When she's not shuttling her homeschooled daughter to a class or spending the weekend at her son's baseball tournaments, Darlene is usually in the kitchen trying out new recipes she found on Pinterest or is catching up on a favorite Netflix series.