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. Julie says

    I have the same question as Jayale about daycares and cloth diapers. Does anyone happen to know if theres a general feeling among most daycares on this, or is it a center by center decision?

    My next question is, how economical do you feel this would be in a household without an energy and water efficient washer/dryer? Our current set is in great condition and only a few years old, so opting for newer models is not going to be the right move for us at the moment. Our baby is due in December so I imagine we would have to use the dryer for a few months at least before opting for line drying.

    • says

      Julie- We’ve actually heard that some daycare facilities have no problem with cloth diapers so it’s definitely something that can vary. We’d recommend calling around to see how different daycare centers feel. As for how economical it would be without an energy efficient washer and dryer, maybe you can google around to find out how much it would cost to wash them vs. going with disposables. We’re thinking that water/energy is still cheaper than disposable diapers but we’re really not sure and it probably can vary by how old your equipment is and what size of a load it does, etc.

      Georgianna- We squeeze the wet diaper out in the toilet (we don’t have to touch the dirty part because we fold the clean outside of the diaper over it and squeeze that) and then carry it back into the pail. No dripping or anything. You could also keep a pail or wet-bag in the bathroom if that would be easier for you. Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

  2. Georgianna says

    Thanks for the rundown. I tried cloth diapering for a very short time and it drove me nuts. I didn’t fully commit to getting a whole set up going, just bought a few very cheap items to give it a go, and it didn’t ever get smooth so I gave it up. But always wished I had committed more fully and saved myself the money. I love the look of cloth diapers, especially the cute ones you have. I have a couple of logistical questions: When you wash the poop out of the diaper at the toilet, do you carry your dripping wet poopy diaper back into your changing table bin? These are the obstacles I ran into, which is why it never panned out, hence the direct line of questioning. If you have overcome these issues, maybe I can too. My bathroom is too small to put the changing table in the bathroom next to the toilet, a solution I’ve seen others do.

  3. Monica says

    Great post! I have no children and no plans for children, but still found it interesting from a ‘green’ perspective. :-)

  4. says

    Thanks for the useful post! My parents used cloth diapers with the safety pins on me and my siblings when we were babies, but modern cloth diapers are so much cuter!

    This isn’t related to cloth diapers, but may I just say that your diaper spray looks like the bidets that we have in every toilet in our home! It can probably be used as one too. Just something to think about. ;D Speaking of bidets, I have often wondered why the concept/idea doesn’t seem to be very common in the U.S. the way they are in Europe in Asia. Any thoughts?

  5. says

    Thank you for this post! We don’t have any bambinos yet but when we do I’ll have this post to show the hubby that I’m not crazy in wanting to use the cloth diapers. Disposable dipes are such a waste! Also, I figure if you have more than one kiddo in dipers you would need at least one set of 12 for each right?

    • says

      True! We’d probably up our stash to at least 24 if we had two kids in cloth diapers at the same time- although we definitely plan to spread out our kiddos so they’re at least 2-3 years apart. Due to complications with Clara’s birth my doc actually recommended that I wait a while before getting prego again, which is just fine with us because we plan to enjoy the beanette for a while before adding to the pack. Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s

  6. says

    Great post! I am not pregnant yet – but we are trying! And I really want to cloth diaper when the time comes. I imagine that we would need more than 12 diapers though – that does seem low – but you also work at home, so that likely helps! Thanks for all of the info!

  7. says

    I love cloth diapering as well, though we bought ours just before bum genius came out with the 3.0. So, we have velcro, which I’ve already had to replace. Still, I’ve found them so convenient and so much nicer than disposable (who really wants to wear paper panties anyway?).

    We do two things differently: 1) we use a water proof bag hung on the doorknob for a pail and just throw it in the wash with the diapers which is fantastic, and 2) now that E is on solid food, we use bioliners which catch the solids and are flushable. No spraying or cleaning or anything necessary.

  8. says

    Thanks for this post! I second Sylvie’s request for a description of your washing procedure. We use Bum Genius, too, and for the most part, love them–the part I don’t love is having to do two separate washes plus an extra rinse. This process ends up taking me 1.5 – 2 hours (plus air drying time, which averages about a day and a half since we hang them indoors) as well as lots of water.
    And I went with the pocket diapers with velcro, and am regretting that decision, as the velcro is the only part of the diaper that has shown wear-and-tear.

    • says

      Hey Kate B,

      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).

      xo,
      s

  9. Lili says

    I never thought that I would have even the slightest interest in cloth diapering… I was a die-hard disposable diaperer with three kiddos… But this post made me see just how cost efficient,(those disposables will make you bankrupt!)and seemingly easy the cloth diapers were… I really am willing to give it a try when we work on number four next spring. Thank you for sharing your input!

  10. says

    Hello! Like other readers, I am also a few years away from changing diapers but will definitely use these. The tips are great. Once you know what kind to buy and how to do it, making healthy changes like this is really very simple.

    Thanks!

  11. Shirley says

    We have had a similar experience with cloth diapers- love them! We used the fuzzi bunz newborn diapers from birth until now (she is outgrowing them) and will be transitioning over to bumgenius soon. My biggest concern is at night and for long naps- I hate having wetness against her skin for so long, so we use disposables … although I think it bothers me more than it bothers her. You mentioned that Clara seems to sleep longer at night with the cloth- does she not mind the wetness? Do you normally change her in the middle of the night still or do you wait until morning? I might have to try that route…

    • says

      Hey Shirley,

      She doesn’t seem to be bothered by a wet diaper, and our pediatrician recommended letting her sleep if she’s just wetting herself (she doesn’t have any poops at night, and the ped said we should only wake her for those). We’re much happier about letting her sleep through the night with a wet cloth diaper than with anything that might have chemicals against her skin (some disposable diapers have odor absorbing additives, etc). Hope it helps!

      xo,
      s