If you’re about to have a new baby in your life, you’re probably already thinking about everything you need to buy to get prepared before they come. And for many, that includes disposable diapers – purchased in giant, expensive packs from the store and used just once before they head to the landfill. But what if there was a better way? There is with cloth diapering! Cloth diapering, when done properly, will save you money, create less irritation and diaper rash, and reduce the amount of waste we’re sending to the landfill. Want to learn how to use cloth diapers in your life? Read on to learn how!
What You’ll Learn:
- Why cloth diapering is sustainable, and how to wash and care for cloth diapers
- Different types of cloth diapers and how to pick one that works for you
- All about disposable and reusable inserts for cloth diapers
Cloth Diapering Basics
Why try cloth diapering?
For the planet!
There are so, so many reasons to try cloth diapering…. But we think the most important one is that it’s way better for our planet! This is due in part to how wasteful conventional single-use diapers are, as Americans throw away about 27.5 billion disposable diapers a year – that’s enough diapers to circle the planet at least 90 times! Typically, a child will use around 7,000 disposable diapers before they’re potty trained, and those diapers will take up to 500 years to decompose in a landfill. In short: your child’s diaper might still be around when their great grandchild is born (yikes!)
Compared to those 7,000 disposable diapers, a baby using reusable cloth diapers only needs 20 to 40 diapers total. Cloth diapers can be washed and reused hundreds of times for many years, meaning they don’t go straight to the landfill like their disposable counterpart. Plus, on a practical note, using reusable cloth diapers means you don’t have to rush out the door to buy more diapers when you run out! Overall, studies suggest that cloth diapers are 40% less harmful to the environment than disposable diapers…. Making your little one an eco-warrior before they can even walk!
For less diaper irritation!
You definitely want your baby to be using and wearing the healthiest products, which is another reason to try cloth diapers! Disposable diapers can contain chemicals, dyes, and gels that can cause irritation on sensitive baby skin. Plus, wearing them is basically like wearing paper underwear, which doesn’t sound comfortable for anybody (no thank you!)
The skin is our largest organ, and baby’s skin is soft, thin, prone to rashes, and ten times more sensitive than our adult skin! Because of this, your little one is more prone to things like eczema, diaper rashes, and other skin irritants or allergies. Babies are also more sensitive to heat, moisture, chemicals, and synthetics, which often are byproducts of disposable diapers. Cloth diapers will give you peace of mind that your baby is comfortable because they’re made of natural materials, like cotton, modal, or hemp – and contain no added chemicals or toxins. Cotton is one of the most soft and least allergenic materials, while hemp is naturally breathable and resistant to bacteria growth. Step aside scratchy diapers, and hello to silky soft bottoms designed for your baby’s bottom!
For your wallet!
As if you needed another reason, we love cloth diapers because they’re a whole lot easier on our wallets. Shall we do some math to see how?
It’s estimated that a baby will use about 6,000 diapers in the first two years of their life. Disposable diapers cost an average of $.24 per diaper. Assuming a family uses around 60 diapers a week, disposable diapers cost $62.50 a month, $750 a year, and around $1,500 over the estimated two years it takes to potty train. That’s a whole lotta cash on disposable diapers – and it can get even higher with certain brands of diapers! Not to mention the cost of driving to the store, or having them shipped to your door each week. These numbers also vary depending on your baby’s age and how often their diaper needs to be changed – we believe every baby is unique and not just a statistic!
In comparison, buying cloth diapers is an upfront (smart) investment that in the long run will save you money. Our GroVia brand cloth diapers cost on average between $15 (newborn size) to $24 (all-in-one diaper)! If you need roughly 30 diapers (roughly 20-40 diapers is the average a family uses), and we estimate an average cost of $20 per diaper, that’s just $600 for 30 diapers that will last you years – and can even be donated when you’re done with them to help families in need. Again, the cost will vary, depending on what type of diaper you buy, but whatever you pay for these is the only cost! That means no changes in diaper costs in your budget, and the diapers can also be used if siblings come along! That’s nearly 1/3 the cost of disposable diapers – which we count as a win for our wallets!
How many cloth diapers do I need for 1 baby?
Depending on your baby’s age, and how often you want the wash the diapers, the amount of diapers you need will vary. Newborns will need around 25-40 diapers for 2-3 days. Older babies will need less, roughly 15-25. It’s suggested to change cloth diapers every 2 hours or so, but there are instances when that time range will change, for example if your baby has gone #2, or is asleep!
How do I change a cloth diaper?
Changing a cloth diaper is very similar to changing a disposable one – although there are some differences between types of cloth diapers! You’ll need a flat changing area, baby wipes or cleaning wipes, and a clean (cloth) diaper. The only difference is that instead of a trash can, you’ll need a wet bag or dry pail to store the diaper in until you wash it. Read on to learn more about washing and laundering cloth diapers!
1. Lay baby down and remove the dirty diaper, place in pail. Flush solids down the toilet and put the soiled diaper in the pail or wet bag. You can also rinse the diaper before placing it in the pail or bag, this will help avoid stains and help the diaper wash more easily.
2. Clean your baby with wipes – bonus points if they’re made from natural materials with no chemical additives!
3. Slightly lift baby’s legs and bum off the changing area, and slide the clean diaper underneath your baby. If using an unattached soaker pad or booster, snap or stick it in place on the diaper before sliding the diaper under your baby.
4. Around two fingers below the belly button is where baby’s hips are. This is where you want to place the top of the cloth diaper and fasten it. If using a cover, double check the back and legs of the diaper, so the absorbent layer isn’t sticking out. For one-size diaper users, make sure the rise fold of the fabric is pointing up to avoid extra bulk. And you’re done!
How can I travel with cloth diapers?
Traveling with a baby can seem daunting, no matter how long you’re going away for. You have to remember things like the stroller, car seat, bottles, bibs, blankets, the list goes on! And of course, diapers are included. You may be tempted to grab some disposable diapers for traveling because they seem more convenient, but it’s not like you can bring a whole box with you, especially if you’re flying. Plus, chances are if you use disposable diapers, you’ll end up having to restock during your trip, and let’s be honest, nobody wants to leave the beach, golf course etc. to buy diapers! Cloth diapers are easier because you can easily pack extra in your luggage, and you’ll never run out! You can wash them in the sink and relax while traveling knowing that you’ll never run out.
Our favorite type of reusable diapers to travel with are hybrid cloth diaper shells paired with BioSoaker pads. The hybrid cloth diaper is awesome because it was specially designed to be used with the BioSoaker pads, which are ultra-absorbent inserts that are snapped into the cloth diaper. That way, when a mess is made, you only have to remove the soaker pad – and replace it – meaning less laundry building up while you’re traveling. For an even easier experience, pair your hybrid diaper shell and BioSoaker pad with a disposable liner. These provide another layer of protection, keeping your diaper shell and soaker pad cleaner for longer, and can be easily disposed of (but are biodegradable!) for mess-free traveling.
Laundry with Cloth Diapers
How do I clean cloth diapers?
Same with your baby’s new clothes, you’ll want to wash cloth diapers a few times before using them for the first time. When preparing for first time use, wash hot with detergent and tumble dry – repeating this process 5-6 times before first use. They will continue to gain absorbency with more washes! After this, cloth diapers should be washed every 2-3 days (depending on what type of diaper you get), and we suggest you always read the care instructions on your specific diaper – but we’ll talk about how we clean our GroVia cloth diapers!
To start, cloth diapers should be washed separately from other clothing – and only after you’ve removed as much solid matter as possible from the diaper shell. Place the soiled diaper in a dry diaper pail (no soaking necessary) When you’re ready to wash a bundle of diapers, do so on warm heat, then tumble dry low (PUL or TPU covers or shells need to be air dried). Make sure to stay away from fabric softener, additives, fragrances, and if your washer has a pre-wash cycle, use it! We suggest you don’t use bleach, enzyme cleaners, or fabric softeners – as these will damage the absorbency of your diapers.
Here’s an easy way to remember how to wash cloth diapers:
S — Simple wash routine
U — Use enough detergent
D — Duration of wash (at least 45mins!)
S — Stay away from additives in the laundry
What detergents are right for cloth diapers?
There are a lot of different detergents out there, so how do you know which one is best for cloth diapers? No matter when brand you choose, make sure it’s non-toxic – and contains no chemical additives, parabens, sulfates, or phthalates which can irritate sensitive skin and damage diaper materials. Our go to for deep cleaning? The Mighty Bubbles Laundry Washing Powder from GroVia! It’s specially formulated to remove the buildup of urine and other minerals from fabric, and is awesome for the occasional deep clean. Washing diapers with a high quality cleaning detergent is essential for the cloth diapering process – if not, you may feel discouraged with the entire process, especially if your diapers are smelling or staying yucky after washes. Detergents like Tide, Gain, All Free & Clear, Persil, Whisk, Arm & Hammer and more will get the job done!
Types of Cloth Diapers
What type and style of cloth diaper is right for my lifestyle?
There are many different types of cloth diapers, so we’ve tried to break it down to the best and easiest to use styles.
Prefold Cloth Diapers: Prefold diapers are a bit more old school and will have to be bought in different sizes as your baby will grow out of them! However, they’re easy to use and clean, versatile, inexpensive and can be paired with more modern companion products. Prefold diapers are rectangular and have “creases” to show you where to fold, so you can fold them over and fasten it onto your baby. Prefolds can be used with a waterproof cover, which vary from wool pull ups to the waterproof diaper shells.
Fitted Cloth Diapers: Fitted cloth diapers give a closer fit thanks to their leg and back elastics, which makes the shape similar to a disposable diaper, and fastens together with a snap or loop. These diapers are made of layers of absorbent material, but still need to be used with a waterproof cover to avoid leaks. They may come in different sizes (S-L), or one size that is expandable. Because they’re so absorbent, they’re especially good for nighttime use, however, they are more expensive than some other options.
Pocket Diaper: The pocket diaper is perhaps the most “modern” type of cloth diaper. It’s made of a single waterproof cover with a pocket on the inside that needs to be stuffed with absorbent layers, or an absorbent pad made specifically for cloth diapers. While these diapers can be considered modern, they tend to have a bulky fit, and can be seen as hard to use because the absorbent pad or layers need to be taken out before washing. However, they close with expandable snaps to change sizes as your baby does, and you can customize the amount of absorbent layers.
Hybrid Cloth Diaper: Hybrid diapers are made of a waterproof shell that is paired with a variety of absorbent layers. The type of absorbent layer is up to you, which makes this option very popular for families that are busy or on the go! Either cloth or disposable absorbent layers can be used, some families will use cloth when playing at home, but disposable layers if they’re traveling. Be careful of hybrid designs without leg gussets or hourglass shape as this can lead to leaks. Ours have the choice of a snap, or hook and loop closure depending on your needs. Explore both patterned and solid colors of Hybrid Diapers – and pick the ones that work for you!
All In One Diaper: These diapers are made up of many absorbent layers and a waterproof outer layer. They’re the most similar to disposable diapers as it expands as your baby grows up to potty training age, has some elastic, and prevents leakage. They feature adjustable side snap to fit babies from 10-35+ pounds, and has a trim fit with stretch sides. They’re good for quick changes, and the design is simple to use. Explore both patterned and solid colors of All in One Diapers – and pick the ones that work for you!
On EarthHero, we have a few types of cloth diapers we love. These include the All in One Diaper, the Hybrid Cloth Diaper, plus a specially designed Newborn Cloth Diaper – and a Training Cloth Diaper for the transition to potty training.
Yeah, what about potty training with cloth diapers?
Potty training is a process for both you and your child. There are some reusable cloth diapers (like this one!) that are made especially for potty training with a unique pull up design. Some parents choose to stick with whatever reusable diaper they’re using, but just put it on a bit looser, so their child can pull it up and down. With potty training, it’s important for your little one to recognize the feeling of being wet, so that they can connect the feeling of a full bladder with wetness. This will lead to them being uncomfortable, and when they’re learning to use the toilet they’ll put it all together and learn that it’s a way more comfortable experience! Cloth diapers play into this process because the inserts and the amount of absorbency can be customized, as opposed to disposable diapers. This means you can choose when or how to start helping your child connect the potty training dots!
What are the different types of disposable or non-disposable diaper inserts, and which are right for me?
Diaper Booster Pads: this is a reusable cloth insert with 3 layers of organic cotton that basically takes the place of a Soaker Pad in a Hybrid Diaper Shell. It is a long, rectangular pad insert that can be added to nearly any diaper and then washed and reused! Great for traveling, car rides, and nighttime.
Diaper Soaker Pads: this is also a reusable cloth insert, again with thick layers of non-toxic organic cotton and a waterproof backing. It pairs with hybrid diaper shells, and seriously extends the wear time of your cloth diaper shell by absorbing wetness with ease.
Disposable Diaper Pads: this is a disposable diaper pad, but is made from biodegradable plant-based fabrics. It features 2 adhesive strips, and can be easily added to the inside of nearly any cloth diaper – and could even go on top of a Booster Pad or Soaker Pad for situations like long car rides. It has an extremely absorbent core, and is perfect for both All in One and Hybrid diapers.
Disposable Diaper Liners: this is a disposable diaper liner, not a pad, but also made from biodegradable plant-based fabrics. Fragrance free, dye free, and chemical free, these liners are a great way to add a thin layer of protection to your diaper set-up to keep moisture away from baby and reduce rashes. They allow liquid to pass through, keeping baby dry, while keeping solids contained for easy cleanup. Perfect for both All in One and Hybrid diapers.
Okay, okay: we’ve thrown a LOT of information at you! Feel like an expert in cloth diapering? Us neither. There is SO much to learn about cloth diapering, and this is just some of the amazing information available out there. Start slowly, find what works for you, and stick with it! From saving you money, to reducing landfill waste, to less diaper rash and irritation, there is a million and one reasons to cloth diaper your baby. Whether you decide to try All in One or Hybrid, or use disposable inserts, reusable inserts, or both, there are no wrong answers when it comes to cloth diapering – all that matters is that you’re taking steps in there right direction away from wasteful conventional diapers. Have you tried cloth diapering, and if so, how did it go? Leave us a comment below!