How to Use Cloth Diapers

Ready to save money and keep waste out of the landfill? Follow these tips on how to use and wash cloth diapers—the eco-friendly alternative to disposables.
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We spoke with Beth Eckert, founder of The Cloth Diaper Connection, to get the need-to-know info on cloth diapers. Here, she shares her best tips for getting started with the environmentally friendly alternative to disposables: 

Test it out. Before you spend a fortune on cloth diapers, you might want to try out a few different options to find what works best for you and your baby. The most popular kinds of cloth diapers are:

  • Pre-fold: These are rectangular shaped diapers that are divided lengthwise in three sections and can be enclosed in a Velcro- or snap-fastened diaper, or with safety pins.
  • Pocket: These consist of a waterproof outer layer, a stay-dry inner layer, and a pocket opening in which to insert a soaker.
  • Fitted: These resemble disposable diapers but are fastened with either Velcro or snaps (you'll need a waterproof diaper cover).
  • All-in-One (AIO): These fitted diapers have an outer waterproof layer.

Buy the right amount. Once you decide what works best for Baby, you'll probably wonder how many diapers you'll need. Keep in mind that newborns and infants generally need 10 to 12 changes a day; toddlers need 8 to 10. Invest in enough diapers so that you only have to do a wash every 2 to 3 days.

Wash new diapers. Just as you do with new baby clothes, you'll want to run just-bought cloth diapers through the laundry. Set the cycle on hot with a bit of mild detergent. The exceptions: diapers made of hemp, which need to be washed as many as 8 to10 times before becoming absorbent; cotton, which needs to be washed 4 to 5 times; and bamboo, which should be washed 2 to 3 times.

Change often. How often you change your baby depends largely on how often he pees and poops, but the general rule is not to go longer than two hours (unless the baby is sleeping).

Find the right fold. If it's your first time using a cloth diaper, folding it on Baby (and getting it to stay there) can be a bit confusing. There are quite a few different folds you can use with a pre-fold, so you simply need to find the right one for you. Learn about the different folds and get step-by-step instructions at The Cloth Diaper Connection.

Think about diaper covers. These eliminate the need to snap or pin the actual diapers, making life a little simpler for you (and speeding up diaper changes). And you can buy covers in a variety of cute prints!

How to Wash Cloth Diapers 

After stripping cloth diapers, rinse before placing them in a holding container. Eckert calls this the "wet/dry pail combo." Moms who use cloth diapers often debate whether to put dirty diapers in a wet pail (filled with some water so they can pre-soak before a wash) or in a dry one. Eckert's combo gives you the best of both worlds: Instead of having an actual pail full of water, you rinse the diapers off after changing your baby, then throw them into the dry pail. This way your diapers are still getting the benefit of getting rinsed and a mini soak because they're in the pail soaking wet. You may find it helpful to keep your cloth diaper pail in the bathroom if you use this method.

Follow these basic steps to launder cloth diapers:

  • Remove inserts from pocket diapers.
  • Always use the highest water level allowed by your washer.
  • Begin with a cold rinse, no detergent.
  • After the cold rinse, run a regular wash cycle on hot, using 1/4 cup detergent. If you're using a cloth diaper detergent, follow the instructions on package.
  • Follow up with an extra rinse on cold.

Another option: Find an eco-friendly cloth diaper service in your area—try searching the EcoBusiness Directory—that will clean everything for you.

From professional athletes to A-list actors, these fathers are not afraid to get their hands dirty (literally!) and change their kiddo's diapers. You'll never guess which celeb dad actually described diaper duty as one of his passions!

1 Comment

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