Using Cloth Diapers (Tips About How We Do It – And LOVE IT!)

And now for a post that’s a bit more “living” than straight up “home improvement” related. When people ask what question we get here at YHL most often, they’re probably expecting it to be about paint or demo. Not so. It is, without a doubt, some iteration of the following:

How are you liking cloth diapers? How many do you have? What brand are they? Did you get the kind with the liners/inserts? Do they work? Does Clara like them? Are they difficult? Do you regret it? Is it annoying to wash them? Do they really get clean? Are there times when you don’t use them and opt for disposables? How long will they last? Are they bulky? What do you do when you’re out running errands? How exactly do you wash them? What colors did you get? How do you store them when they’re dirty? Does Clara have a lot of blowouts with them? Do they give her diaper rash?

Who knew Clara’s bodily functions (and how we tend to them) could be such a hot topic? But we’re happy to address the many (many) questions that we’ve received right here in this surprisingly exhaustive post. So fasten your seat belts and get ready to read the word poop at least once. And by all means, if you’re not a parent and have no interest in hearing about baby bodily functions, skip this post and stay tuned for more house-related fare tomorrow. You have been warned…

And here’s the beanette now in her very first cloth diaper ever (we love matching them to tops or dresses and skipping the bloomers since they’re so cute on their own):

After a lot of research and chats with family and friends who went the cloth diaper route, we settled on the Bum Genius Elemental One Size All In Ones – the ones that are organic with snaps instead of velcro. They’re so easy to use and should last us through multiple kiddos. We’ve heard that velcro can wear out after tons of washings but snaps are good for the long haul so that’s why we opted for that feature. As for inserts or liners, the ones that we chose don’t have them. We figured if we were going to have to wash part of the diaper we might as well get all in ones and wash them all (instead of dealing with liners/inserts). It seemed simpler and so far we have found them to be extremely easy. Plus we love that they’re one-size-fits-all, which will save us a ton of money (they adjust with some easy snapping to accommodate Clara as she grows).

The dozen that we purchased should not only last us through Clara’s potty training days but we expect to use the same dipes for future bambino(s) as well. We picked up 12 and have never needed more than that thus far but we wouldn’t mind 18, which seems to be the magic number for many other cloth diapering parents. We might grab six more someday, but we’re definitely getting by with 12 so far. Oh and as for diapering duty, you might be shocked to hear that John changes way more diapers than I do around here. He sweetly decided that if I would be feeding her multiple times a day, he could be the go-to diaper guy, which is such a big help and actually really cute to watch (Clara loves to pee on him from time to time).

And as for washing them, we’ve found that with a baby you’re always doing laundry anyway. So tossing in one big load of diapers every day-and-a-half or so is no trouble at all. Really, we anticipated the switch from disposables to cloth diapers to be waaay harder (Clara didn’t fit into her cloth diapers for the first 9 weeks so we had some time to get used to disposables and were shaking in our boots about making the switch). Thankfully it was really easy and fun. They’re just so darn cute on her, and she seems really comfortable and happy in them too. Speaking of the aesthetic factor, we got three orange ones (clementine), three green ones (grasshopper), three light blue ones (twilight), and three yellow ones (butternut). That way they’re gender neutral for any bambinos down the line.

How has our experience with cloth diapering been so far? In short: we love them, they’re no harder than disposables (the time we spend tossing them in the wash seems equal to the time we used to spend trudging out to the store to buy disposables before Clara could fit into her cloth dipes). Clara seems to love them more than disposables too (she sleeps longer at night, never appears uncomfortable, etc) and she has experienced 95% fewer blowouts and zero diaper rash since trading up from disposables (where those occurrences were a tad more frequent). Oh and the only time we don’t use them is when we travel overnight somewhere, since it’s more of a challenge to wash them while road tripping.

And have we mentioned that they’re hugely cost effective? Especially thanks to our Energy Star front loading washer and dryer (which make the cost of cleaning them negligible and keep our water/energy usage extremely low). We also often line dry our diapers out in the sun to save even more energy and keep them looking mint (more info on that in a minute). For around $265 (for a 12-pack of cloth diapers) we have unlimited dipes on hand for the rest of Clara’s diapering days. Plus we’re not sending tons of disposable diapers to the landfill so that makes us feel good. In retrospect, the only thing we would have done differently is purchase some newborn sized Bum Genius diapers as well. The one-size-fits-all versions are a bit loose on most newborns, so they also make cloth newborn-sized dipes, which we opted to skip since we didn’t know how big Clara would be at birth (the doc estimated she’d be 10lbs (!) but she was only 7lbs 10 oz in the end). So since we skipped the newborn sized cloth diapers, Clara’s first nine weeks were spent in Seventh Generation disposable diapers- and we learned just how expensive the non-reusable diaper route really was.

We’re actually happy we experienced life with disposables so we have some point of comparison. If we hadn’t relied on them at first, we never could have kept track of the money we spent on them (and the money that we would thereby be saving moving forward). After nine weeks of disposable diapering we had spent more than $180. That’s only a bit less than we spent on our entire stock of Bum Genius diapers that will easily last through the end of Clara’s diaper days and hopefully through future babies’ as well! And by our $180 for 9 weeks estimation, we could have easily spent another $3000+ on disposable diapers to last her until she turns two. Crazy, right? We also hope to make the change to cloth wipes sometime soon for even more savings in the future (we’re currently using Seventh Generation ones, which we like a lot).

As for our dirty diaper system, we have a pail for dipes and a smaller pail for wipes in the nursery (we snagged both pails at World Market). We rinse the dirty (read: not just wet) ones with the diaper sprayer that we mentioned a while back (pictured above). Some people say that you don’t need to spray dirty diapers when a baby is exclusively breastfeeding but we have found that a quick spray helps them come out a lot cleaner and less discolored so it’s worth it to us (and for what it’s worth, our friend Katie Bower also had the same experience). What can we say, we’re pro-spray kinda girls. And it only takes a second. It’s kind of fun too (but I won’t get into that as I’m probably one of the weirdest people on the planet since I get an inordinate amount of joy from cloth diapering).

After spraying the dirty ones, we place them in the larger pail, while only-wet ones go right into the same pail without a spray. The dirty wipes go straight into the smaller pail for disposal (both pails are lined with “recycled” plastic bags that we have laying around from places like Target when we mindlessly forget our reusable ones). Note: we hung the pails off of the hard-to-see corner of the dresser with coat hooks and anchors, which keeps them much easier to reach than placing the pails on the floor. Then we added small strips of weatherstripping on the bottom edge of the pails (where they meet the dresser) to keep them from scratching the wood.

We haven’t experienced any issues with odor thanks to the lids (of course we hear that things can get stinkier once we transition to solid foods but we have a few family friends who still use the pail method so we don’t anticipate having a problem as long as we continue to wash our diapers every day and a half or so). Which brings us back to dirty diaper laundering. As recommended by Bum Genius, we prefer to launder them at least every other day. We usually wash 11 of them in one big load every day-and-a-half while Clara wears the remaining 12th diaper- that way we’re not washing just a few at a time.

And as for our detergent, we use Seventh Generation Free & Clear (update: we learned our diapers would last even longer thanks to Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder so that’s now all that we use) and we just wash them once on the warm heavy duty setting and either machine dry them or lay them out in the sun. We have heard that you can do a cold pre-wash before the warm heavy duty wash, but so far that hasn’t been necessary (possibly because we pre-spray the dirty diapers into the toilet as soon as they come off).

Oh and we learned that occasionally one may come out of the wash with a slight orange tinge (very rarely, this isn’t an everyday thing). The good news is that it’s 100% clean and sanitized, sometimes one every few weeks is just a bit discolored from breastfeeding poop (since the pure organic cotton liners are awesomely absorbent). It’s kind of like how old tupperware containers can get stained from tomato sauce and even if you run them through the dishwasher and they’re totally clean they can still have that tint. Luckily we learned if you lay them out in the sun while they’re still moist from the washer it bleaches them white again- it’s like magic! Seriously, you might want to cross your fingers for that tinge every once in a while just for the fun of seeing the sun undo it in a few hours. We wish Clara was old enough to watch in wonder like we do. She’d probably make this Zoolander face:

Oh and they’re also pretty easy on the go (we only use disposables when we’re traveling somewhere overnight, but for day trips and errands and things we stick to cloth). If we have to do a diaper change while we’re out – at Home Depot for example, haha – we just slip the dirty cloth diaper into a plastic bag and rinse it when we get home. We hope to upgrade to a reusable zippered wet bag for dirty diapers while we’re on the go (we currently just reuse Target bags and stuff that we have laying around) since we’ve heard those work well and contain everything nicely (no smells or leaks).

Now for the bulkiness question. They’re definitely a bit bulkier than disposables but nothing too terrible. In fact we think they’re super cute! Clara can still fit into a few newborn sized outfits with them on and she’s almost three months old! So they can’t be that huge, right?

So there you have it. Over 2,000 words on cloth diapering. Can you tell we’re enthusiastic? Of course this is a completely personal parent-how-you’d-like-to decision, so we’re just sharing our experience when it comes to diapering. And we’re not anti-disposable by any means! Tons of our family and friends opted to go that route because it worked best for their household and we still rely on disposables when we travel. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in three months of parenting it’s that there’s no right way to raise your wee one, and it’s all about sussing out what works best for you and your family. So go forth and diaper your beans and beanettes any way you’d like with a smile on your face. Or am I the only weirdo who grins every time I snap a fresh diaper on those cute little buns?

UPDATE: We switched from diaper tins to wet bags a while back (since they’re super easy to toss into the laundry with our diapers too keep things smelling fresh – here’s that info for ya). As for how cloth diapering is going, we still love and use the same 12 cloth diapers that we purchased over a year ago! That’s it (we haven’t purchased any more or tried any other brands). They still look mint, work well, and don’t smell or anything. Best money we ever spent.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Our cloth diapers are still holding up really well two years later. Check out the update post here.

Comments

  1. Jayale says

    Thanks for all the great tips and feedback. We have no children yet, but I may be willing to give this a try someday. However, I’ll be a working Mama, and wonder what daycare feedback is on this? Do daycares do cloth diapering also, or would you need to bring disposables there for the time the child is in care? Thanks everyone!

    • says

      Hi. Just saw this post (I know it’s old), but I wanted to tell you that we did get a daycare to use cloth diapers. We got a not from our pediatrician that said something about sensitive skin and that the cloth diapers were better for him. It worked! The only down side was that we lost one or two to the trash while he was there…a little frustrating considering the cost!

    • Brenda says

      I used to work in the infant room at a daycare, and we had one family who used cloth (the Bum Genius, in fact). They provided a foot-operated trash can that was lined with one of those reusable bags (unreal how pretty they look). The diapers fit well, were super cute, and weren’t overly bulky (it is still a diaper, after all). We did have another family who had old-school cloth diapers with a plastic shell over the top, and those seemed to be more difficult to get the hang of, but it’s another option out there.

    • Jacy says

      We too used cloth at daycare (and plan to with #2 on the way). Like Gail, they lost two diapers over the course of two years. We also had to have a note from our pediatrician, required as the daycare said its against state rules to use cloth at daycare (I’m in MI), unless you have the doctors note.

  2. says

    well-written and informative post! I just got back from the store where I purchased some cloth diapers for a friend’s baby shower, and I was amazed at the great options moms have these days!

    we used the ‘old-fashioned’ nappies (diapers) with a Snappi to keep them closed. dad was on diaper washing duty, and we hung them to dry in the hot Australian sun, no stains to be seen after baking out there! most people we knew also cloth-diapered, using disposable ones whilst travelling.

    love the diaper pails, too cute!

  3. Lauryn says

    Im so glad you guys are loving these!! And isnt the sun awesome? It also kills alot of bacteria so its bleaching out the stains and killing bacteria while using zero energy. And I think line dried clothing smells better anyway :-)

  4. says

    I have never heard of cloth diapers before reading this post! My sister just had a baby, and I think these would be a great present for her. I’m so excited to buy them!

  5. Taylor says

    We are due with our first baby in January, and I have never in my life considered cloth diapers until now. I’m going to have to do some more research! Thanks so much for enlightening us!

  6. Erika says

    I don’t have any kids, but like to read these posts just in case I ever do! My friend used cloth diapers and LOVED them.
    Good tip about the sun. It seems everyone talks about how “bad” the sun is, but sunshine has so many wonderful benefits!!

  7. says

    awesome! we love our cloth diapers. been using them since about 6 weeks on our now 18 month old little boy!

    to answer Jayale, we’ve been to two daycares with our baby and both have been accommodating about the cloth (they were in-home daycares though- I’ve heard that bigger centers may not be so happy about them!) We use SmartiPants brand because you don’t have to remove the liner so it’s much easier for our daycare provider! When he started on solids, we also started using flushable Tushies brand liners in the diapers so that she could just flush any poops away without having to spray anything.

  8. says

    Very cool guys. Since all three of ours were in diapers at once, we loved that cloth was one-size-fits-all, economical, and green, even back then. We also found that washing was a breeze, and my husband made the same diaper changing deal with me. I’m sure your post will encourage a lot of new parents to give this option a try.

  9. says

    Yay for cloth diapers! I’ve finally got my little guy in them as well. (He was also too small for them at birth.) You mentioned that you have the all-in-one bum genius dipes. We have a few of them and a few of the one-size bum genius (which require liners). I agree that the all in ones are easier to use, but won’t you have to buy another dozen once little Clara outgrows the smalls (I assume she’s in size small)? Or maybe your diapers combine the all-in-one and one-size features (mine do not)? I’m trying to decide whether to invest in more of the all in ones (for convenience) or just stick with one size option. Thanks in advance for the feedback!

    Oh, and I purchased a can liner (this one: http://www.diaperjunction.com/planet-wise-diaper-pail-liner.html), which makes laundry even easier (and no need for a “recycled” plastic bag either)–just throw it in with the dirty nappies.

    • says

      Hey Amy,

      They’re actually one size fits all (the snaps adjust the size as she grows) so we won’t need to buy bigger diapers in the future (although we might add more of the same size). Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

  10. Misty says

    Wow! My son is 9 now, so its been a while since Ive done the diaper thing. But the $3,000 is what got me! Honestly, isnt that an insane amount of money?? I lived in an apartment that had no laundry included when my son was in diapers, so I had to choose disposables. But holy cow!!! $3,000??? Dude, I could have taken one heck of a vacation!

  11. says

    Aw, I love this post! It is so nice to hear that CD can be easy because I want to do it so badly when we have kiddos. Still have a couple of years to convince the husband but I think the cost savings alone will help sway his mind toward CD’s. Would you consider doing a follow up blurb in about a year or so to see if your opinion has changed over the long run?

  12. says

    I don’t have children (still a couple years away for us), but this has totally inspired me to want to do cloth diapers in the future. They really have come a long way!!!

    Keep up the good work!

    xoxo,
    Lindsay

  13. says

    I just had my 3rd baby and have seriously considered cloth diapers but have always been scared to use them. What do you do if you are out and she gets a dirty diaper? At home its so easy to just throw in the laundry. Your post has made me lean more towards purchasing cloth. Thanks!

    • says

      We just toss that diaper in a plastic bag (we recycle them from Target, etc- and eventually plan to buy a reusable wet bag that we can throw them in). When we get home we rinse the diaper (if it wasn’t just wet) and drop it in the pail. Easy!

      xo,
      s

  14. Sylvie says

    Thank you for the informative post. I am definitely considering cloth for our first baby (eta 1/12/11).

    Could you elaborate on your washing procedure – what detergent do you use? What about water temps to ensure sanitizing? And do you wash these separately from her other clothes?

    • says

      Hey Sylvie,

      We use Seventh Generation Free & Clear (the kind with no fragrances or additives which is super pure- Clara hasn’t had any negative reactions to it at all) and we just wash them once on the warm heavy duty setting and either machine dry them or lay them out in the sun. We have heard that you can do a cold pre-wash before the warm heavy duty wash, but so far that hasn’t been necessary (possibly because we pre-spray the dirty diapers as soon as they come off right into the toilet). We could easily wash them with other clothes but to keep things straight we usually just do them as their own load.

      xo,
      s

  15. bindc says

    Thanks for the update! I definitely appreciate it. We had looked into g-diapers with our kids but they were relatively new back then and since then, we’ve heard from other friends that they didn’t work as well as they had hoped. I’m glad the cloth diaper engineers are coming up with better options for all of us eco-moms/dads.

    Kudos! Oh, and Clara’s zoolander face is priceless. She is an absolute doll!