An Overview of Cloth Diapering

November 20, 2023, sierraharlan

Baby smiling at the camera sitting surrounded by stacks of cloth diapersBefore having my baby, I researched cloth diapering, and there was so much information and conflicting opinions that the idea of adding one more new thing to our life as first-time parents was overwhelming. I couldn’t find a concise article that was straightforward and presented all of the information that I needed, and I spent hours reading blog posts, watching YouTube, and scrolling through posts on Facebook cloth diapering groups. Now that I am five months into cloth diapering, I have a solid routine down, and I still remember the questions I had when I was first looking into using cloth diapers with my little one. In this post, I will share my cloth diapering experience and hopefully help answer questions that folks who are new to cloth diapering have.

Preparing for cloth diapers

Unless you have a specific brand/style of diapers that you are set on using, I would recommend trying a few different styles. You may be able to find them for free on Facebook groups (I have seen them on local “gifting” groups, such as my local Buy Nothing group) or for affordable prices at second-hand baby stores. If you do use secondhand diapers, you will need to “strip” them, which simply means adding some additional ingredients when you wash them to ensure that they are thoroughly cleaned. There are a lot of different methods for stripping cloth diapers. I would recommend looking up directions for your diaper’s specific brand, as some products can harm certain types of materials.

Little baby wearing a pink cloth diaperYou will also need to test your water hardness. If you have “hard water,” this means you have a lot of minerals in your water, which can impact how well the cloth diapers wash. My family lives within city limits, and we were able to use our local water report (here is the one for Benton County), which discloses water hardness. I have read that there are other factors that can impact your water hardness, such as your water pipes, so it may be worth purchasing a water hardness test kit. These are straightforward to use. If your water is hard, it is recommended that you add a water softener.

Finding a cloth-safe diaper cream or balm is something else you will need to look into. Some ingredients, such as zinc oxide, can make it so cloth diapers are not as absorbent or damage them in other ways. There are a lot of cloth safe diaper creams and balms available.

Washing cloth diapers

Cloth diapers hanging while drying under the sun on clothesline. I wash our cloth diapers every other day. Let’s be honest, the idea of throwing poopy diapers in the washing machine is gross. People have different wash routines, and I will share what works for us. We have a diaper sprayer that attaches to our toilet and a plastic bin without a bottom that sits on the toilet. We hold the diaper on the bin with clips and spray them off this way. We use a “wet bag,” which is a washable waterproof bag that we throw in the wash with the cloth diapers. I dump it inside out into the wash so I don’t have to touch the dirty diapers. Our baby has not started solids yet, so her stool is still runny.  Once our baby is on solid food, we plan on using liners that are flushable and will go in her cloth diaper. This way, we can flush any excrement. I wash our diapers on the longest wash cycle with cold water and then the short wash cycle with hot water. I use a specific detergent from the diaper brand we use, but there are a lot of cloth safe detergents as well as DIY recipes for making your own.

Using reusable wipes

Using cloth wipes fits into our cloth diaper routine. We purchased cloth wipes, but I recently read that folks also use soft scrap fabric, such as a cut up cotton t-shirt. We have a spray bottle at our changing table and spray a little water on the cloth wipes. Our daughter has very sensitive skin, and we have noticed that when we do use disposable wipes (we use them when we are away from home), her skin becomes irritated. We like that the cloth wipes are more sustainable and also gentle on our baby’s skin.

Be realistic and give yourself grace.

Blue eyed baby looking at the camera. Blonde mom kissing baby.My number one piece of advice for folks who are interested in cloth diapering is to be realistic and give yourself lots of grace. We use a disposable diaper overnight and when we leave the house. Cloth diapering is more work than using disposables, and if I am having a hard day, I’ll give myself a break and use a disposable. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It is a learning curve, but I found that once I started doing it, I learned quickly. Starting was the most intimidating part. There are a lot of great Facebook groups that are dedicated to cloth diapering.  Cloth diapering is more work than using disposables, but it is so rewarding! If it’s something that you are interested in, I hope you will give it a try.