Cloth Diapers 101

Think cloth diapers are impractical? Think again. They've changed a lot since Grandma's day. Here are the facts.

Cloth Diapers: The Basics

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For disposable users out there who wince when contemplating your family's personal contribution to the local landfill but even more so at the thought of the alternative, cloth diapers are an option you may want to consider again. They're not what they once were.

Say goodbye to your notions of the pins, the big square pieces of cotton, leaky kids, and the daunting task of cleaning up. Easily laundered all-in-one diapers are the order of the day. With snaps or Velcro closures, waterproof banding around the waist and legs, and natural, breathable fibers that require no soaking, cloth diapers can be a more palatable choice than you may imagine.

For the fashion conscious, there are all the cool patterns to consider. For those concerned with keeping little bottoms pristine, you won't have to worry about blowouts and suspicious chemicals used in making disposables so absorbent. Add to this the potential savings and you may want to give cloth-diapering a try.

The Bottom Line
If you go cloth and launder them yourselves, the cost over three years will be between $800 and $1100, half as much as disposables. And diapering a second child will only cost you the laundering (about $400 for three years).

Home Laundering 101
Don't worry that your house will become a toxic waste dump. There's no longer any need to soak, rinse, or flush a diaper. Simply shake solids into the toilet and drop the diaper into a plastic-lined pail after a change. When the pail is full, tip into your washer. Wash once with a detergent like Tide or Cheer Free, reset washer, add more detergent, and wash again. Don't use bleach. Rinse twice to be sure all residue detergent is completely rinsed away and dry on hot. Not as bad as you thought! And it won't leave your washer stinky. It will be exactly as clean as the diaper and drains to the same place your toilet does.

Stocking the Changing Table
Experts estimate that you'll need about 2-3 dozen diapers if you get to the wash every third day, about 75-80 if you use a weekly diaper service. Many diaper services include diaper rentals in their price but you sacrifice choice.

Eco-Friendly Diaper Services
If your motivation to use cloth isn't based on finances, and the prospect of home laundering is an intimidating one, you may want to opt for a local diaper service. As a rule, services now use biodegradable detergents in their cleaning process rather than the harmful phosphates of old. Like disposables, the costs of using a diaper service plus diaper covers will fall in the range of $2000-$2500 over a three year period.

    Top Picks From a Cloth Devotee

    We asked cloth diaper guru Catherine McDiarmid (who has a Website at for her top picks of cloth diapers:

    Bumkins Finer Baby Products
    "The workhorse of All-In-One (AIO) diapers, most easily available, the most popular, with great prints."

    Fuzzi Bunz by Mother of Eden
    "A pocket-style AIO diaper. You can stuff it with anything -- even a kitchen towel -- to adjust the absorbency to suit your child's needs."

    Motherease AIO
    "Another workhorse diaper, popular, and a great price."

    *For better deals on pricing, Bumkins suggests using one of their top resellers, rather than ordering direct:

    Baby J:; 888.873.231

    Babyworks:; 800.422.2910

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