Cloth Diapers for Beginners: All You Need to Know to Get Started

If you’ve been thinking about using cloth diapers on your newborn, baby, or toddler but don’t know how to use them, how to care for them properly, or where to even start, you’re in the right place! I’ve created this simple cloth diapers for beginners guide to help newbies easily get started.

Cloth diapers for beginners: all you need to know

When you first start digging into modern-day cloth diapering, you quickly realize that there are so many different options to consider. From brands to wash routines to the very types of available cloth diapers, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. 

As any cloth diaper advocate will tell you, cloth diapering is actually very simple once you start. The mounds of available information out there have complicated a very simple and natural way of diapering. Today we’re going to give you a solid foundation of everything you need to know about cloth diapers for beginners. 

By the end of this post, you will have all the knowledge you need to get started with cloth diapering!

Cloth diapers vs disposable diapers… which should you choose? 

If you’re here you likely already know some of the amazing benefits cloth diapering has and love the idea of it, but you may not know if the reality of cloth diapering is going to fit with you and your family’s current lifestyle. 

For some families with very limited time, the extra labor required of laundering cloth diapers just isn’t a great option, and that’s ok! Regardless of what option you choose, the most important thing is that your child is happy, healthy, and clean. 

Below is an overview of both the pros and cons of cloth diapers, so you can weigh the benefits against the drawbacks and see if it is indeed an option you want to pursue.

Pros of cloth diapers:

They are better for your baby’s skin.

Skin rashes are far less likely when using cloth diapers (assuming you are changing your baby as needed and there are no allergies to the fabric or washing detergent used.) That’s because there are no chemicals used in cloth diapers like there are in disposables.

You save money in the long run.

It turns out cloth diapers are not just a little cheaper than disposables, they’re much cheaper! Disposable diapers average between $2000 and $3000 per baby for two years while cloth diapers and their accessories run about $800 to $1000 if you wash them yourself.

Even when factoring in the increase in laundry costs, cloth diapering provides a financial benefit that will compound. You can even reuse cloth diapers on any future siblings that come along or since they have a high resale value, sell them and recoup much of the expense!

They’re reusable and more eco-friendly.

Though there is no perfect option, disposable diapers take a whopping 500 years to decompose and create methane and other toxic gasses in the process. Cloth diapers do increase your laundry needs, but when compared to the impacts of disposable diapers this report suggests that they are still the more eco-friendly option.

When paired with non-toxic detergents and line drying when possible, there is no question! A single cloth diaper can be passed onto others, repurposed, and/or used for years, for multiple kids while disposables are used once for a short few hours before they end up in a landfill. 

They can make potty training easier.

The ultra-absorbency in disposables can make potty training harder. Since babies feel wet and uncomfortable sooner with cloth diapers, they have a stronger desire to go on the potty to avoid feeling that wetness! 

They are cuter and more comfortable.

You can buy cloth diapers in any print or color imaginable! 

They offer a lot more customization.

There are so many options with cloth diapers that do not exist with disposables. You can pick the fabric materials, the type of closures (velcro, snaps), the sizing method (one size vs sized) and even add extra absorbency for times when leaks are more likely to occur.

Better blow-out protection.

Babies in cloth diapers tend to have far fewer blowouts than disposables. The key to cloth diapering is achieving the perfect fit. 

The cons of cloth diapers:

Pay upfront.

It can be costly upfront when getting started even though it saves you in the long run. 

More frequent changing.

They are generally less absorbent than disposables, so you need to change them more frequently. 

Less convenient.

It’s less convenient to clean and you’ll need to carry dirty diapers back home with you.


Cloth diapers are bulkier and may require larger-sized pants to accommodate. 

Manual checks for wetness.

No visual indicator to tell you if your baby is wet like the blue line on disposables.

More laundry.

You will need to increase how often you do your laundry! Expect to wash cloth diapers every 2-3 days.

Using cloth diapers doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Many who cloth-diaper switch to disposables for outings, when others are babysitting, or for overnight wear. This is how I started out!

Baby wearing cloth diaper up close picture

How do cloth diapers work?

All cloth diapers are comprised of two parts: an interior absorbency fabric and an outer waterproof cover. How these two components are assembled changes depending on the type of cloth diaper. For example, in some diapers, the absorbent fabric and the waterproof cover are sewn together, while in others, the absorbent layer is inserted into a pocket on the cover, placed on top of the cover, or wrapped around your baby’s bottom before it is covered. 

The absorbency layer(s), often referred to as an insert or the actual cloth diaper itself, can come in a variety of fabrics and styles. Microfibre fabric is the cheapest but there are also natural fibers such as bamboo, organic cotton, and hemp to choose from.

The outer layer, also known as the diaper cover, usually offers an elasticated waist and legs and its own fasteners. Its sole purpose is to prevent leaks or accidents. Diaper covers are usually offered as PUL/TPU material, fleece or wool.

How to change a cloth diaper

When changing any cloth diaper, you first scrape off any “contents” sitting on the inner absorbent layer into a toilet. Then you rinse the soiled parts of the diaper with water before throwing it into the laundry hamper for washing (more on this later). 

One-step vs two-step diapering systems

The variety in cloth diapers can make choosing cloth diapers both exciting and confusing.   A great way to understand the different options is to first understand the two main categories of cloth diaper types: one-step vs two-step.

A one-step diaper offers the most convenience as you can quickly change your baby’s diaper in one step similar to a disposable. Diapers that require assembly before use (like snapping in or stuffing) are considered one-step systems due to their being ready to use in one step at the time of changing your baby.

A two-step diaper goes on your baby in two separate steps and the absorbency layer is not secured onto a diaper cover to hold it in place during changes. The first step is fastening or positioning the absorbent layer and the second is fastening the diaper cover over top. 

One-step diapers:

  • All-in-one
  • All-in-two 
  • Hybrid
  • Pocket
  • Sleeve

Two-step diapers:

  • Prefold
  • Flat
  • Contour
  • Fitted
Happy baby wearing cloth diaper

What are the different types of cloth diapers?

There are 9 different types of cloth diapers. Yes – you read that right! It’s no wonder people get overwhelmed when they start. We’ll explore each cloth diaper type along with its pros and cons below.

All-in-one diapers 

All-in-ones have their absorbency fabric and the waterproof diaper cover attached together as one piece. Everything you need is sewn into the diaper, ready to go, so there’s no folding, stuffing, or pinning required! You simply put it on and take it off as you would a disposable, except you throw it in the wash instead of the garbage. AIOs are the easiest option in cloth diapers and typically start at around $20 apiece.

The pros of all-in-one cloth diapers: 

  • Very fast and easy. No disassembly is required before laundering or assembly before use. Pull it straight out of the dryer and wrap it around your baby’s bum!
  • Caregiver-friendly. They are the closest type of cloth diaper to a disposable diaper, making them a great option for caregivers like daycares or babysitters who are new to cloth diapering.
  • Most convenient.  All-in-ones are the most convenient system of cloth diapering, fitting in well with almost any family’s needs, activities, and plans.
  • Less bulky. Often has a slimmer fit when compared to other types since everything is sewn in. 

The cons of all-in-one cloth diapers: 

  • Costly. They are more expensive than other types of cloth diapers. Because all-in-one cloth diapers need to be washed after every change, rather than only replacing the absorbent layer as some other types do, you’ll need a lot of them on hand which increases the expense.
  • Longer drying time. It takes a much longer time to dry since it’s multiple layers of fabric sewn together.
  • Shorter lifespan. Since everything is stitched together, the length of time you can use an all-in-one is much shorter than other types of diapers where some pieces can be replaced as needed. The built-in diaper covers and elastics are usually the first parts to go, and once one part of an all-in-one diaper goes, it needs to be fixed or the whole diaper is useless!
  • Not great for overnight diapering. They do not have as much absorbency as other types of cloth diapers. To combat this you can boost absorbency by adding a doubler or extra insert to the diaper, but due to the slim fit, it can be difficult to fit the amount of absorbency needed for naps or overnight diapering.

Our favorite all-in-one diapers:

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Bumgenius freetime AIO cloth diaper for beginners
Freetime™ All-In-One One-Size Cloth Diaper
Misolo classic AIO cloth diaper for beginners
Bambino Mio
Miosolo classic all-in-one cloth diaper

All-in-twos and hybrids

All-in-two diapers are made up of a waterproof cover and absorbent material that can detach and the waterproof cover can be reused for more than one diaper change. The diaper cover is usually wipeable and the absorbent layer (also known as an insert) snaps in place inside of the diaper versus going inside a pocket or being permanently sewn in. At each diaper change, the insert is replaced without having to remove the diaper cover. 

Sometimes, all-in-two’s are offered as hybrids, which gives you the option of either fabric inserts or disposable inserts. This gives you the choice of disposable inserts instead of a cloth insert for times when storing or washing is inconvenient.

The pros of all-in-two cloth diapers: 

  • Easy washing and quick drying. Because the inserts are removable, they can be washed more thoroughly and dried much faster than an all-in-one.
  • Easy diaper changes. After snapping the inserts in place, the diaper is ready to go at change time. You simply replace the insert at every change and continue to use the waterproof diaper cover so long as it isn’t soiled.
  • Simple for caregivers. A very easy option to adopt for those who are new to cloth diapering as you can provide the diapers pre-assembled for changes (for those who are reluctant) or easily teach them how to replace the insert.
  • Economical. Diaper covers can be wiped and reused, and inserts cost less than covers, so you will save money by buying fewer covers and more inserts! You can also save money by substituting inexpensive inserts like prefolds or flats into your all-in-two diapers. You can further cut costs by air-drying the diaper covers and their inserts since they’re so quick to dry which makes them last much longer than when dried in a dryer. Covers are always the first to get damaged or wear out, and when they do, you can continue using your old inserts with new covers.
  • Inserts stay in place. Because inserts are snapped into place unlike other cloth diapering systems, they have less chance of bunching or moving around inside the diaper with an active baby.
  • Hybrid inserts are available. All-in-twos often have a hybrid insert option offered which may be very useful for times when you are out of the home and can’t carry around a soiled diaper insert.

The cons of all-in-two cloth diapers: 

  • Extra preparation. The diaper is more than one piece and requires inserts to be attached before use, and removed before washing. 
  • Need extra absorbency for overnight diapering. You will most likely require an additional insert for overnight diapering. 

Our favorite all-in-two diapers:

BestBottom AI2 cloth diapers for beginners
Best Bottom
All-In-Two Diaper
Grovia hybrid cloth diapers for beginners
Hybrid Cloth Diaper

Pocket diapers or sleeve diapers

Pocket diapers have a pocket inside made of a wicking material that is meant to be stuffed with a removable absorbent insert. You can easily use different inserts to customize your absorbency level. 

Sleeve diapers are very, very similar to pocket diapers. The difference is simply that they have two openings in the pocket– one on each end! 

The pros of pocket cloth diapers: 

  • Fast drying and easy washing. Similar to all-in-two’s, the pocket diaper covers and inserts can be washed and dried separately from one another, allowing for a more thorough wash and faster drying when compared to an all-in-one where it is all sewn together into one piece.
  • Fast diaper changes. Once the insert has been placed inside of the pocket it is ready to use at change time. 
  • Daycare friendly. An easy option to provide to caregivers. You can simply offer pocket diapers pre-assembled and ask them to change your baby as they would with a disposable diaper, except place the soiled diaper in a wet bag that you provide.
  • Covers can comfortably be used with other systems. The diaper covers can double as covers for other systems such as prefolds, flats etc.
  • Inserts stay put. The pocket does a good job of keeping your absorbent layer where you want it. 

The cons of pocket cloth diapers: 

  • You have to stuff them. Inserts have to be stuffed into the diaper as well as removed prior to washing, adding an extra step in preparation. Removal of the inserts can be an unpleasant task.
  • Slightly expensive. Pocket diapers can be on the expensive side as you’ll need many more of them than with systems with wipeable and reusable covers.
  • Can leak when stuffed too full. When stuffed with additional inserts, pocket diapers can bulge and arch. This can cause gaps around the baby’s legs and waist, resulting in urine running down the rounded surface before it can absorb and cause leaks. TIP: To combat this, simply stuff one insert into the diaper pocket and then lay an additional insert on top of the inner liner to double your absorbency.
  • Not the best for overnight diapering. You will most likely require an additional insert for overnight diapering. 

Our favorite pocket diapers:

Nora's Nursery pocket cloth diapers
Nora’s Nursery
Pocket Cloth Diaper
Rumparooz cloth pocket diapers
One Size Cloth Pocket Diaper

RELATED: For a more in-depth guide and comparison of all inserts (plus how to layer them), check out my post on cloth diaper inserts!

Prefolds and flats  

Prefolds are just the absorbent layer of a diaper, often pre-stitched into 3 smaller rectangles for easy folding. Their outside panels are typically thinner than the middle panel for more absorbency where it matters. There are two basic ways to use prefolds. You can fold it in thirds length-wise and then simply lay it onto any diaper cover, or you can fold it and fasten it around your baby’s waist before covering it with a waterproof diaper cover. There are two different fits available for prefolds, “better fit” is shorter so it can fit within a diaper cover as an insert, whereas the traditional longer one is meant for fastening around a baby’s waist.

Flats are the oldest style of cloth diapers. Flats are large, single-layer pieces of fabric that are very customizable, flexible, and very cheap. They are similar to a prefold diaper in that they are just the absorbent layer of a diaper and require a waterproof diaper cover, only they are not yet folded. 

The pros of prefold and flat cloth diapers: 

  • Considered the most economical cloth diaper system. If you are on a tight budget and don’t mind folding or fastening each diaper yourself then prefolds or flats with diaper covers are a great economical option.
  • Quick drying and easy washing. Flats and prefolds are all very quick to dry and allow you to thoroughly wash each piece since they are not attached to a diaper cover. Air drying is quick with flats and prefolds.
  • You can reuse diaper covers. You can re-use diaper covers until they become soiled rather than replacing an entire diaper at each change, which means you can own fewer covers than actual prefolds or flats.
  • Can be used with other diaper systems. Prefolds and flats can easily be used as an inexpensive insert for other diaper types like the pocket diaper and all-in-two. These are excellent options for added absorbency with other diapering systems.
  • Flats offer customization. Flats can be folded in a million different ways to suit your preference for your baby. You can fold it so there’s more absorption in the front or towards the back, or any way you’d like!

The cons of prefold and flat cloth diapers: 

  • Extra folding & prep. Flats and prefolds require extra folding to be able to place them into a diaper cover and put them onto your baby.
  • Not the best for caregivers. Since there is an additional step and a potential learning curve, this is not the best option for daycares or other caregivers.
  • You have to purchase diaper covers. Since flats and prefolds are only absorbent layers, you will need to purchase separate diaper covers to work with them. 
  • More prone to bunching. If simply placing flats or prefolds into a diaper cover you don’t have anything securing the inserts in place and they may move or bunch with active babies. Most often this happens due to a fit issue, and flats are better at not bunching than prefolds.

Our favorites: 

Osocozy unbleached prefolds
Unbleached Prefold Cloth Diaper
Humble bebe prefold cloth diapers
Humble Bebe
Prefold Cloth Diapers
Osocozy bamboo organic cotton flats
Bamboo Organic Cotton Flat Cloth Diapers

RELATED: Learn how to fold flats for newborns.

Fitted diapers and contours

Fitted diapers are an absorbent layer that has been shaped to wrap around the baby’s bottom. Fitted’s have the same shape as disposable diapers, but they require a waterproof cover overtop. They have snaps or velcro closures and elastics at the legs and waist and are great for whenever you need a lot of absorbency or leak protection. 

Contour diapers are very similar to fitted diapers in that they are shaped like disposable diapers but they are less absorbent and do not have elastic at the legs or waist. They are also very similar to prefolds and flats as they don’t typically have any velcro or snaps and require your own fasteners. 

The pros of fitted or contour cloth diapers: 

  • Fitted’s are the most absorbent cloth diaper. The elastic at the waist and legs in a fitted diaper makes them best for containment and absorbency. Contour diapers are not considered to be as effective at absorbing as fitted diapers.
  • Fitted’s are excellent for nighttime. Because of how absorbent they are, they work great for nighttime, naps, and heavy wetters. Contours are not considered a great option for nighttime cloth diapering.
  • Ability to reuse diaper covers. You are able to reuse the diaper cover with diaper changes, allowing you to save money by buying fewer covers.
  • Contours have great drying time. Contours are not attached to a diaper cover, so they dry much faster than an all-in-one or even a fitted, which is usually much thicker than a contour. 
  • No bunching. Fitted or contour diapers wrap around your baby, securing them from moving around or bunching with active babies.

The cons of fitted or contour cloth diapers: 

  • Longer dry time. (Excludes contour) fitted diapers are bulkier than other types of cloth diapers which makes them take longer to dry.
  • Two-step system. You need to secure a fitted or contour diaper onto your baby before covering it with a diaper cover.
  • Need to buy diaper covers. Since a fitted diaper or contour diaper is only the absorbent layer, you will need to purchase separate water covers to work with them.
  • Elastics may not endure the length of time your child will wear them. Especially with one-size diapers that are intended to grow with your child. 

Our favorites:

Motherease Sandy's fitted cloth diapers for beginners
Sandy’s Fitted Cloth Diaper
Nicki's Diapers Natural Snap Bamboo Fiited Diaper
Nicki’s Diapers
Bamboo Fitted Cloth Diaper
Bumkins contour cloth diapers
Reusable Cloth Contour Diaper

Sized vs. one-size diapers

A one-size diaper is meant to be used the entire time baby is in diapers, while a sized diaper is only used while your baby is in the specified weight range. 

One-size diapers are adjustable to fit your baby as they grow. However, many one-size diapers do not fit well during the newborn stage. They tend to be bulky for newborns due to the one-size-fits-all approach. If you have a large baby, one-size diapers may be appropriate from the start. For most newborns (<9 lbs), you should consider buying some newborn-specific or small-size cloth diapers to get you through those first few months, or just use disposables at the very beginning. Only having one set of diapers is much cheaper than purchasing a whole set of diapers in multiple sizes, so one-size diapers tend to be the more economical option.

Sized diapers are less adjustable and will fit your baby for a shorter time frame, so you will need to purchase sets in multiple sizes as your baby grows. Each size will provide a weight range that it’s intended to fit, so when your baby is within range the overall fit will be snugger and trim when compared to a one-size. This, however, is a more costly option due to needing to purchase a set of diapers in each size. 

Cloth diaper materials

The materials used in the cloth diapers you choose for your baby are equally as important as the style of diaper you choose.

Diaper cover materials

Most diaper covers are made of materials such as PUL (polyurethane laminate) and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). If you are going with a traditional PUL or TPU cover, ensure that the manufacturer does not use any amount of formaldehyde in the spray-on water repellents that they use in the production of their covers as they are known to be a human carcinogen, and we don’t want that anywhere near our babies!

Wool cloth diaper covers

Though most diaper covers are made of materials such as PUL and TPU, there are other options available like fleece or wool. Wool is the most natural and breathable material available for use in diaper covers. They cost more, but wool covers or wool soakers need far less washing so you really only need 2-4 covers! They are naturally resistant to bacterial growth and when lanolized, are incredibly water resistant.

See our top 5 wool diaper cover recommendations and learn more about their benefits!

Cloth diaper absorbency/insert materials

For the absorbent layers, common materials are bamboo, cotton, organic cotton, hemp, modal, polyester, fleece, wool, and “stay dry” fabrics. Some fabrics are even used together. When picking out your cloth diapers, remember that the quality of the material is also important. It’s recommended to go with a natural and organic certified material if you can afford it. My preference is hemp inserts with organic cotton doublers or boosters.

Inserts, liners, soakers, doublers, and boosters: your absorbency options

These terms kept confusing me when I first started looking into cloth diapering, but here’s a simple rundown. 

Inserts are simply a rectangular absorbency fabric that is typically made of at least 3 absorbent layers and are designed to be placed into, secured onto, or stuffed into cloth diaper covers. They are what makes a cloth diaper absorbent.

A doubler (also called a booster) is an insert with 2-3 layers of absorbency that should be used with an existing insert or another doubler. Essentially “doubling” the absorption. 

A liner is a thin one-layer fabric that will stop the solids, but allow moisture to pass through to eliminate the need to scrape solids off your inserts. They are available in disposable or reusable and is only used to simplify clean-up or protect cloth diapers from potential stains.

The word soaker can be confusing since it is applied to two different items: 

  1. A soaker is sometimes considered to simply be the insert used in your cloth diaper. 
  2. A wool soaker is a diaper cover that is made of wool instead of the typical PUL/TPU material. A wool soaker repels any liquid so that your baby’s diaper will become wet, soaked even, but it will not leak through the wool cover. 

Wool is a natural breathing fiber so it’s better for your baby’s skin than a PUL cover – causing fewer rashes and offering a more natural material for sensitive babies. They do not need to be washed after every use and they’re known to be an excellent choice for heavy wetters. 

Baby wearing cloth diaper

Cloth diaper accessories you actually need

There are many cloth diapering accessories available for parents to simplify cloth diapering even further. While cloth diapering accessories are awesome, they are not necessary to begin cloth diapering. You do NOT need to buy much to get started, but you do need a few essentials such as:

  • Diaper pail and pail liners, or large waterproof bag
    You will need a diaper pail or large waterproof bag to store dirty diapers between laundry days. You can purchase reusable machine-washable waterproof liners for the diaper pail of your choice or just hang them without their pail. I recommend getting two reusable liners to rotate between the two while the other is in the wash with a load of dirty diapers.
  • Travel wet bags
    Zippered wet bags are not 100% an essential cloth diaper accessory but it’s extremely helpful for carrying wet diapers when traveling. They can also be used for wet swimsuits and other gear!
  • (Optional) cloth diaper sprayer, spatula, or liners
    If your biggest concern with cloth diapers is handling poop, then a cloth diaper sprayer, silicone spatula, or disposable liners may become your most essential cloth diapering accessory! 

RELATED: Cloth diaper accessories that make life easier

How many cloth diapers do I need?

How many cloth diapers you need will vary on your baby’s age and your laundry habits, but a minimum of 24 is recommended to get started.

We’ve got an article that helps you figure out exactly how many cloth diapers and covers you will need based on the system you use, your baby’s age, and more.

Beginner cloth diapering shopping checklist

  • Minimum 24 cloth diapers of your choice
  • 6-8 diaper covers (if not included with a diaper, less if using wool covers)
  • 6 Inserts/doublers/flats/prefolds for extra absorbency when needed
  • Travel wet bag
  • A diaper pail and its liners, or a large waterproof bag for storage
  • Cloth diaper-friendly laundry detergent
  • Cloth diaper-friendly diaper rash cream
  • Whichever extra accessories you’d like to add, like a diaper sprayer (optional)

Nicki’s Diapers is one of my favorite go-to sources for cloth diapering needs as well as Amazon. For any Canadian deliveries, I go with Lagoon Baby.

Cloth diaper wash routine

Here is a simple routine for washing cloth diapers and their covers that is a great starting point. We recommend starting simple and adjusting only if necessary for your baby, water type, or if your diaper brand suggests otherwise. A laundry load every other day is recommended.

Note that the washing method for wool diaper covers will be different and you will need to handwash them with a lanolin wash.

Step 1: Remove solids and rinse.

Wipe any solids from the diaper directly into the toilet or remove the liner containing solids. Then use a diaper sprayer to rinse away as much residue as you can. Alternatively, you can hold the diaper by a clean end, dunk it into a clean toilet bowl, and swish it around until the diaper is clear of residue. Rinsing the diaper with water helps stains come out in the wash. While urine typically doesn’t need to be rinsed off before you start your wash routine, overnight diapers can benefit from a rinse if they smell too strongly. If your baby is 100% breastfed, you do not need to remove the poo as it is water soluble. Removing the insert(s) from pocket diapers or all-in-two’s now will save hassle later.

Step 2: Disassemble.

Remove any snapped-in or stuffed absorbency materials. It’s much more pleasant to do this as soon as you change your baby’s diaper rather than waiting 2 days as smells fester.

Step 3: Store.

After rinsing, toss the wet dirty diaper into your diaper pail or waterproof bag until you’re ready to run a load.

Step 4: Pre-wash.

Run a short, warm wash cycle that will agitate the diapers, not only soak them. This will help get rid of any residual poo before the actual wash. No detergent is necessary for this step.

Step 4: Wash with an extra rinse.

Using a cloth diaper-friendly laundry detergent (and a water softener if you have hard water) run your diapers through a warm-to-hot cycle and add an extra rinse if you have the option. Be sure not to use too much detergent as it can produce build-up over time. If using reusable machine washable liners for your diaper pail, throw it in the load as well as any used wet bags if you’d like! 

Step 6: Dry.

It’s best to air dry cloth diapers in the sun as it removes stains. However, many families dry their cloth diapers in the dryer. Tumble dry on delicate or low if using a dryer.

Step 7: Assemble for next use (if necessary)

If you have issues with too many suds or if your diapers start to smell very quickly, you should check your water hardness and adjust your routine to troubleshoot. 

Deep-cleaning cloth diapers

Funky smells in cloth diapers mean there is an issue to fix in your wash routine. Whether your water is too hard, or too soft, or you are using the wrong detergent, you will need to troubleshoot the issue otherwise your diapers will continue to smell or not absorb as well over time. 

However, if you ever feel that your diapers can use a deep clean, try washing your cloth diapers 3-5 times on a hot cycle, without detergent, then lay them out in the hot sun to dry. 

Stripping cloth diapers

While stripping diapers is a wonderful tool to help rejuvenate diapers, it is not a gentle process, so stripping should be done only when absolutely necessary. You should try the above deep cleaning method before resorting to stripping cloth diapers.

The do’s and don’ts of cloth diapering


  • DO follow your cloth diaper manufacturer’s instructions for ongoing care and their recommended preparation before first use. Most diapers require a few washes prior to first use to “enable” their absorbency. For some, one wash will do and following washes will only make it more absorbent. For many, multiple washes are required upfront.
  • DO wash your wet bag(s) and pail with every load. We’re working with poo and pee here, let’s not mess around!
  • DO separate your covers from their inserts before you put them in your diaper pail (unless you have AIO’s). You’ll regret skipping this step when two days later you have to go back and separate old, extra stinky pee-smelling inserts from covers to stick them in the wash.
  • DO make sure you are using a laundry detergent that is safe for cloth diapering.
  • DO make sure to adjust your rise snaps first and your waist snaps second when putting on cloth diapers.
  • DO try different styles and fabrics. What works for some may not work for others.
  • DO use natural fibers like cotton, hemp, and bamboo for heavy wetters. They tend to be much more absorbent. 
  • DO change your baby’s diaper every 2 hours throughout the day to avoid leaks and diaper rashes. 
  • DO wash every 2-4 days. I wouldn’t go longer than 4 days at most.
  • DO always check your fit. Make sure there are no gaps in the legs, your rise is on the right setting, and the diaper is not on too tight. Pink marks are completely normal with cloth, but red marks are NOT.
  • DO consider snaps over hook and loop/velcro. Velcro simply doesn’t have the longevity that snaps do, plus snaps make it more challenging for your baby to rip their diaper off.


  • DON’T use zinc-based diaper creams. They’ll damage your diapers and cause them to absorb less. You need to use a natural diaper cream that doesn’t contain zinc, such as Earth Mama Organic’s Organic Diaper Balm. If you do run into a bad rash and want to use zinc-based diaper cream, consider using a disposable diaper liner to protect your inserts.
  • DON’T use your diaper cover as a swim diaper. Swim diapers work differently and allow for liquid to seep through the cover, whereas cloth diaper covers are meant to contain everything, even liquids. This means when you lift the baby out of the pool with a diaper full of poo and water, the poo will slide right out of those leg holes along with the water!
  • DON’T use fabric softener or dryer sheets. If you’d like to battle static, consider using wool dryer balls.

If you still have any lingering questions, please leave a comment! I’ll respond to you personally and update this guide to help others.


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