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.


  1. Lauren says

    This post was great! I’m expecting in late October and can’t wait to try out cloth diapers. Looking foward to your future post(s) with the answers to some of the questions posted in the comments.

  2. loreejo says

    regular cloth diapers are way cheaper and just use diaper pins! they are one size fits all and you can put whatever cute cover over them that you wish. we used regular flat diapers (not prefolded) and only washed a load every other day and hung them out to dry. honestly, it didn’t take long; but the time you hang the last one, the first one is dry and ready to come off the line for folding. then when they are out of diapers you can use the dipes for years to come in cleaning chores!

  3. Lexie says

    Great post! We’re not expecting our first little one for another four months or so, but we’re definitely set on cloth diapering when she gets here. I thought I’d share a little wisdom from my sister-in-law, who owns a natural toy and cloth diaper store; she makes her own wipes by cutting a roll of paper towels in half with a serrated knife, then putting it in a snap-top Tupperware container with the following:
    1 T oil (baby oil, or she uses Young Living V-6 oil)
    1 drop lavender oil (which is terrific for skin ailments and has a calming effect)
    1 T liquid soap (she uses a baby soap that is available in bulk from our local health food store)
    2 cups warm water

    After turning the Tupperware container upside down for about an hour, the paper towels are soaked all the way through and ready to be used as wipes.

  4. Cathleen Pearson says

    Just wanted to add that instead of using disposable wipes, we use regular baby washcloths with a water bottle to spray our babies bottoms and then we can just wash them with the cloth diapers. Also, I use Fuzzibunz and LOVE them! No velcro that can wear out over time. Fuzzibunz also makes a diaper pail liner that you can throw in the wash with the cloth diapers and then there’s no trash bags to buy and throw away.

  5. Katie says

    Do you have to wash them separately from other garments or can you throw in other kiddie clothes with them as well?

    • says

      Hey Katie,

      We imagine you can wash anything else that you’d like with them assuming you’re ok skipping fabric softener (since that can hurt their absorbency).


  6. says

    Adorable post and extremely informative at the same time. This is something I’m definetly going to consider when having my baby. I grew up wearing cloth diapers made by either my grandmother or my mom. :)

  7. Holly says

    Thanks for sharing your experience. We thought about cloth diapering my son (now 1.5 years old), but we both work full time and we just didn’t think it would be possible. Hopefully I will be able to stay home by the time we have another baby and I want to try cloth diapering!

  8. says

    I am cloth diapering baby boy #3 :) and love it. I recommend it to all my friends! Im also photographing the BUM GENIUS LINE for!! Im so excited about it.
    For fun heres a few of the latest sessions ive done with them:

    & a newborn in them! (he was over 9lbs tho)

    Have you tried rockin’ green cloth diaper detergent? its awesome!

    Also IKEA has a fun little OCTOPUS drying thing that you can hang when its rainy out and cant “line dry” your covers, I love it, I actually will connect the diapers together and hang like two to one clothes pin (if that makes sense) They are 5 bucks and you can hang them from up high so nothings in the way.

    Id get atleast two.
    Mines blue although on the website I only see darker colors. I think I remember them having a green too.

  9. Jennifer Gessner says

    THANK YOU for posting this. I’ve been so overwhelmed with the cloth diaper options and cost/benefits. This post cleared up ALL of the questions that I had. We have a baby due in January and this article has provided so much info that I needed to read about. Thanks so much!! :)

  10. Jill says

    I have been thinking about the BG cloth diapers for a while, thanks for this post. My only concern with the snaps is that my son is 10 months old and is a total wiggle worm when I am changing his diaper, or cloths for that matter. I am usually snapping the bottom of his onsie as he stands up holding on to his crib, changing table, wall, laundry hamper, etc. As much as I agree the Velcro could wear out, it my also save my sanity. I will have to keep on thinking on this, and then somehow get my husband on board.

  11. Snickrsnack Katie says

    I am DEFINITELY cloth diapering when I have a wee little one! The hubs and I are going through fertility and we are expecting to be expecting soon (I expect! :-) I really am curious, though, as to how many people cloth diaper and have their kids in daycare. I am going to have to send our bambino to daycare at three months (sad face) and wonder – do daycares accept cloth diapered kids? I sure hope so!

  12. says

    We are a cloth diaper family too, and absolutely love it. Cloth does make diapers fun, and the bumGenius are so cute. We use cloth wipes, I just got a bunch of those ultra cheap baby washcloths, and we use some water on them and good to go. none of those chemicals from disposable wipes.
    I applaud your ability to maintain such a simple stash (all the cute syles out their make me want to try them all!), but I would assume that means you are usually putting them in the dryer? If so, you should know that the elastic and the PUL (which makes the outside leakproof) will not last for the next bean if they are regularly put in the dryer.

    • says

      Erica- Thanks for the tip! Our high efficiency front washer actually makes it possible for our diapers to come out of the washer nearly dry- so we can hang dry them in the house or outside and they’ll be totally dry in about an hour. Definitely better than tossing them into the dryer (which is only what we do occasionally, in a pinch). Hope it helps!

      Brittany- It’s really a personal preference thing but we did some research and asked other cloth diapering friends and family members and they were the most often brand that we heard. They also had won some ease-of-use awards from places like Cookie magazine and other online sources so we decided to go for it. No regrets!

      Snickersnack Katie- We imagine that depends on the daycare. Maybe try calling around to see what certain centers are willing (and not willing) to do? Good luck!


  13. says

    Until I read this I have never considered using cloth diapers. It always seemed like too much work to do the research on them (not my specialty). They seem like a great idea, and once you get used to them I suppose they are no more trouble than disposable. Why did you go with this brand/company versus the MANY MANY others out there? I’m pregnant with my third and possibly going to be working from home after it’s born. I would like to give them a shot. Any more advice from anyone would be helpful. This was a great post. THANKS!

  14. AKK says

    We are due with our first in December and cloth diapering was just an obvious choice to us… it’s fascinating how it’s such a big deal to others. They say “oh, so you’re getting a service”. When I say “no”, they look at me like I plan on keeping our baby girl outside in a dog crate or something.

    I was also wondering of the Bum Genius dipes are bulky. The all-in-one sounds great, but I’m wondering if it makes them puffy and bulky. Yes, I’m concerned with diaper fashion! I’m getting a few prefolds & covers also just to see which we like best!

    One thing we’ve been looking at that you didn’t include in your plan is the reusable/washable/waterproof liners. I plan on trying those as well in a flip-top metal kitchen trash can. Your pails are super-cute, more so than my idea!

    Bravo to your family for making responsible choices, even if they are not (yet) the popular ones!

    • says

      Hey AKK,

      They’re definitely a bit bulkier than disposables, but we haven’t seen any other cloth diapers that are much slimmer looking (even though ours have some extra fabric & snaps, they fit under regular onesies and Clara still fits into many newborn outfits even with them on- and she’s almost 3 months old!). Hope it helps!