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. says

    One more thing: We used regular enviromentally friendly detergent for about the first 7ish months, Unfortunately, around that time, E’s pee got much stronger and they came out of the dryer still with a bit of smell. So we switched to Rockin’ Green detergent, which is fabulous.

    Too much information? Probably. But, I’m actually pretty excited about the cloth diapering issue. As if you couldn’t tell.

  2. Sharee Armstrong says

    The partners in crime pic of your two “babies” is too cute! Absolutely love the diaper pails attached to the changing table.

  3. Sara says

    I am not a mom, well I do have a fur child, but not a human child. Anyways, a lot of my friends are having bambinos and I am glad that I can now discuss cloth diapers with a more educated opinion. Plus, if I have to change them, this was helpful so I do not look too silly not knowing what I am doing. Thanks! I love the pictures of Clara and Burger, they are so sweet.

  4. says

    Love this post! We don’t have kiddos yet, but I’m totally on board the CD train! I can’t imagine NOT doing it – so many benefits!! But I do love reading what real life parents think about it and what systems work! Thank you!! :)

  5. Karen says

    YAY!!! SO glad you are loving CDing. I get so excited when I hear of a new family joining the ’cause’. We CD here too, and LOVE it. It’s insane how excited you can get about diapers, really. We use primarily GroVia and Rumparooz on our daughter, but also have a few BG and FB’s around here too. If you can snag a few more on the deal sites like, that makes a big difference in cost-effective stash building. :) Enjoy your spraying and putting those adorable dipes on your adorable baby!!

  6. says

    We use BumGenius One Size 3.0 for our diapers. We used them for a year with our first baby and are gearing up for the second go ’round with our Doozy arriving next month. Before we moved into BumGenius (which are so so easy!) we were using PooPockets, which I made myself, with Bummis Whisper Wraps. Overall, we’ve loved cloth diapering our kiddos and I’d recommend it to anyone.

    Just a note on your diaper pail…although they’re less aesthetically pleasing, I’d recommend you switch to a pail which allows for some air flow when you do get to those more smelly poops. You might never have a problem since you wash so often, but the air flow keeps the smell from building (that’s why DiaperGenies are so yucky!). We use a big trash can with one of the swinging tops and a pail liner from WAHMies.

    Glad you’re loving your cloth diapers!

  7. Sarah says

    Thanks for the post!! What do you do when you are just out and about with Clara shopping or day visits at friends/family’s houses and need to change her? What do you do with the soiled diapers? (Do you stash them in your diaper bag for disposle later at home?)

    Thanks again!
    PS: Are you going to the “Blog her” convention in NYC???? You’d surely be a star!

    • says

      Hey Sarah,

      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 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 for a lot of cloth diapering families. As for BlogHer, sadly we thought it would be too much with the little one this year. Maybe next year!


  8. says

    Very cool post you guys!! I just added a cloth post to my small blog cause it seems I get the same reaction from friends of – How do you do it!?! – While I am thinking it’s sooo easy! Here’s how! I will definitely be sending this link to a few friends. Great photos of little one too. So thank you for the post and getting the word out.

    :) BTW BumG diapers ROCK people.

  9. Beylah says

    Wow, I must be a future cloth-diaper enthusiast in the making because I don’t even have children (and don’t plan to for probably another 5+ years) and I read through that entire post, completely intrigued!

    One other thing I was wondering is about changing diapers away from the home. Do you keep a bin in the car or a secure container in your diaper bag to transport them back home? Or do you keep (or plan to keep) a few disposables with you wherever you go, just in case?

    Glad to hear you’re loving being eco-friendly. And that it’s working out for that precious Clara of your too – she is just such a doll! :)

    • says

      Hey Beylah,

      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 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 for a lot of cloth diapering families.


  10. Sharee Armstrong says

    OK, my oldest is now 19 but, I’m a grandmother of a 5 yr. old. I’m so amazed that, todays generation of parents don’t know what cloth diapers are! When my first child was born in ’79, I mainly used cloth. Disposables were considered a luxury (and expensive)but, being a single working Mom, I had to use them when my daughter was in day care. Now that everyone is (or should be) thinking “Green”, clother diapers are in vogue. Reduce your carbon footprint (and save a landfill) by using cloth, if possible.

  11. Viv says

    I really like your idea of putting the pails on hooks. The perfect meld of form and function.

    I have one other suggestion that works well for families with two in diapers- a diaper service. It’s not as inexpensive as cloth washed at home, but cheaper than disposables, and just as easy, because you just get rid of the obvious solid stuff and throw them in the bucket. My kids are now 23 and 22, so I haven’t done the cost analysis lately (!) , but with two, the service was a real deal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *