Cloth Diapering For Beginners: Full Guide From A Mother of Twins

Danielle Alvarado

October 19, 2020

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Are you interested in cloth diapering your little one? Looking to save all those disposable diapers from the landfill and tackle the cloth diaper routine to save money and resources? We have got you covered with this full guide to cloth diapering from a mother of twins!

Our family journey (and let me tell you, it was quite the journey) to minimalism all started with cloth diapers. We were dead set on getting rid of disposable diapers once and for all but I was horribly frightened of the stress and work that cloth diapers would bring to my life. End Result: We love our cloth diapers! I am honored to share this Full Guide to Cloth Diapering with you all today.

p.s. don’t forget to check out our full guide to organic kids underwear (for post cloth diapering!) and also our full list of 21 organic kids brands we love!

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What are the benefits of Cloth Diapering?

1. Cloth diapering saves money

Using cloth diapers will save you approximately $1000+ per CHILD. The upfront investment is well worth the cost savings. Also, you will only need to buy once if you have singleton children. In my case, I had to purchase more upfront (with twins) but was able to make the money right back when I sold them back to the cloth diapering secondhand community after our cloth diapering journey came to an end.

 
The first year, the cost savings are approximately $600 USD and then it just continues to increase as time goes by. My children used cloth diapers until age 3 when they were fully potty trained. Three solid years of diapering two little ones is a LOT of diapers and heck of a lot of savings. We were also able to use our cloth diapers for swimming and night time potty training support.

2. Cloth Diapers help keep disposable diapers out of the landfill

18 billion diapers are thrown into the U.S. landfills each and every year. One adorable baby is responsible for over 5000 diapers in their lifetime. A single use disposable diaper takes 200-300 years to biodegrade. 

3. The health benefits of cloth diapering

According to the Real Diaper Association (RDA), disposable diapers contain harsh chemicals such as…

  • Sodium polyacrylate – found in the fluff layer of the disposable diaper, turns your baby’s urine into a gel; it can absorb 100 times its weight in liquid. Sodium Polyacrylate has also been linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome in tampon use and has been associated with severe diaper rash.
  • Dioxin – one of the most poisonous and carcinogenic substances produced on earth, has been associated with birth defects, miscarriage, cancer, and genetic damage. Dioxin is banned in most countries, but not the United States.
  • Tributyltin (TBT) – a controversial chemical compound.  A study by Greenpeace confirmed TBT in major name-brand disposable diapers. Greenpeace found that TBT causes hormonal problems in animals and humans, and they are demanding a worldwide ban.

4. Cloth diapers have come a LONG way!

Long gone are the days of safety pins and rubber/vinyl pants. Cloth diapers are a one-stop-shop made with velcro and snaps, and materials such as wool, nylon or polyurethane laminate. The diapers are fitted with elastic which makes them fit like a glove and prevent leaks!

The diapers are comprised of a waterproof outer layer and an inner layer of fleece, suede cloth, or organic cotton (these are important things to consider when choosing your cloth diaper! We love organic cotton). The layers are sewn together and have an opening where you place the diaper insert of your choice.

5. Cloth diapering has been known to help with potty training

Disposable diapers, unless left on for far longer than the recommended time, keep the baby completely dry. The moisture is sucked away and the child rarely feels the discomfort of the wetness. Now…if you think about it, what incentive does your child have to begin using a potty if they feel dry all the time?

Cloth diapers allow the child to feel what is happening and communicate with us. At about 11 months old, my children would point to their diapers for changing, and now at 18 months old, they come right up to me for a diaper change (rather demanding as well! haha).

6. Cloth diapers clear up diaper rashes

Before the 1950s (when cloth diapers were number 1), only 7 percent of babies had diaper rash. Nowadays, the number is at about 50% or more. Cloth diapers are changed more frequently, have zero harmful chemicals, and allow your child’s bum to breathe. My eldest son, Alessandro, had a horrible rash from using disposable diapers. Once we made the switch, the diaper rash never came back again!

7. Cloth diapers keep their resale value

We purchased 15 of our 30 cloth diapers USED and for a pretty good price. Highly recommend joining Facebook cloth diapering groups to find some secondhand diapers for your journey!

8. Cloth diaper inserts can be upcycled into so many things!

The inserts that we love are absolutely amazing. I purchased a few too many and use the extras for that time of the month. Yes…I just said that…I use the inserts as my own reusable pads. No shame over here – the best pads I have ever used in my life!

How to wash cloth diapers

  1. Rinsing is the first step to washing your cloth diapers. If soiled, use a toilet hose first and rinse off in the toilet. Add no more than 12 diapers to the washing machine and run through a pre-rinse in cold water with no detergent.

2. Use the regular hot water cycle option and pair with a trusted detergent (see below for our take on detergents!). Be VERY careful about detergents – the wrong one could destroy your cloth diaper and cause leaks and smells.

3. Hang dry (hammock style) or toss in your dryer! If using a velcro cloth diaper (I love them!), be sure to use a low tumble dry or hang dry.

Best laundry detergents for Cloth Diapers

Update: for further reading on best natural and low waste laundry detergent, check out our full guide to the BEST eco-friendly laundry detergents on the market!

When home laundering cloth diapers, it’s very important to select detergents that are free of enzymes, brighteners, dyes, softeners, bleach, and synthetic fragrances.

This is a non-toxic biodegradable soap that gets rid of dirt and odors beautifully. Charlie’s Soap is great for cloth diapers, people with sensitive skin and allergies, and children’s clothing. You only need 1 tablespoon per load and it is available in 80 or 1000 load containers.

Price: $18.99 for 100 washes

Shop Charlie’s Soap Here

The esembly cloth diaper laundry powder is specially formulated by diaper laundering experts!! Great for everything from cloth diapers to workout clothes and even pet beds.

Clean-rinsing, mineral-based formula is ph balanced, biodegradable, and free of all the nasty junk like fragrance, dye, fabric softeners, parabens, optical brighteners, phosphates, and SLS/SLES.

Price: 2 pack for $37.00

Shop Esembly Washing Powder Here

This is the detergent that you need if you have a specific type of water issue. Whether it be hard, soft or regular. Sometimes our detergents just do NOT work with our water! Drives me crazy haha. This soap is biodegradable and has a lower pH than most of its competitors which makes it even gentler for our little ones.

Price: 90 washes for $21.99

Shop Rockin Green Here

Powerful quadruple-enzyme formula fights tough stains and leaves cloth diapers fresh. Hypoallergenic and made with  sensitive skin in mind: 0% fragrances, dyes, or artificial brighteners.

The fast-dissolving laundry pods work in high-efficiency (HE) and standard machines. Hot and cold water!

USDA Certified Biobased Product 94% made with plant-based ingredients.

Price: 90 washes for $25.94

Shop Seventh Generation Here

Formulated with earth and plant derived ingredients, Molly’s Suds Baby Laundry Detergent Powder is extra gentle for newborns, babies and toddlers. 1 tablespoon sized scoop of Baby Laundry Powder deep cleans and gently deodorizes 1 load of clothes. Naturally made with safe, simple ingredients. No dyes or artificial fragrances. Hypoallergenic and gentle on your newborn’s skin and the environment.

Price: 120 loads for $24.99

Shop Molly’s Sud’s Here

Do I need to use vinegar with Cloth Diapers?

What about Vinegar? And what is "stripping"?

  • Vinegar is a magical tool in the laundry that gets rid of yellow stains, soften materials, stop static clean and it also attacks mildew and mold!
  • Add vinegar to the final wash of your cloth diapers cycle to “strip” them. You want to strip your diapers if they start to smell of ammonia OR if the diaper is leaking (build-up can cause the diaper to lose the absorbency). This is quite normal and just means that you need to strip away some build-up with good old vinegar.
  • In order to strip your diapers, you want to wash in hot water (no detergent), rinse 2-3 more times in the rinse cycle. After the last rinse with just water, rinse AGAIN with 1 cup of white vinegar. Hang dry or toss in the dryer.
  • Hard water: If your water is hard, try just 1 tbsp of vinegar for the rinse. Test this out and see how it goes. Add a little bit more if needed.

Recommended Items to Start The Cloth Diaper Journey

1. The Cloth Diapers

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Choosing a well-made and trusted cloth diaper is key to success. I researched for hours and hours before finally deciding on the Bum Genius brand. I was able to snag 15 cloth diapers for $100 on a Facebook Cloth Diaper group (retail about $350)! Purchasing cloth diapers used will always give you the best deal, but you can also purchase cloth diapers online and feel comfortable in knowing you can sell them back when you’re done (or use them over and over with more kiddos).

SKL Cloth Diaper Recommendations:

  1. Bum Genius
  2. Grovia Reusable Hybrid Cloth Diapers
  3. Alvababy Cloth Diapers
  4. Bambino Mio All In One Cloth Diaper
  5. Rumparooz Cloth Diapers
  6. Green Mountain Wool Cloth Diapers

2. Cloth Diaper Inserts

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The next step is to find very high-quality inserts. These will simply go inside the diaper of choice and hold most of the moisture. We recommend choosing organic cotton or hemp inserts for best absorbency. I went through about 5 different brands and types and this one was the keeper. I use these for way more than cloth diapering too – they are fantastic!

SKL Cloth Diaper Insert Recommendations:

  1. Hemp & Organic Cotton Inserts
  2. Charcoal Bamboo Inserts
  3. Organic Cloth Diaper Inserts

 

3. Cloth Diaper Liners

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Your child will not need these until they are off the breast milk and onto foods (about 6 months and up). If your baby is formula-fed, you will need these right away. Here’s why: When breastfed babies poo, their waste is water-soluble! You can put the diaper straight into the rinse cycle and then wash as normal. When formula feeding and introducing solid food, the waste is not water-soluble and must be rinsed off. These liners catch the waste and then you simply lift off the diaper and flush it into the toilet!

SKL Cloth Diaper Liner Recommendations:

  1. Compostable Diaper Liners
  2. Bamboo Diaper Liners

 

4. Reusable Wipes / CompostableWipes

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These little guys work wonders. For the first 4-5 months I used old cut up t-shirts and towels with water (which is absolutely fine!), but I was gifted these by a dear friend and fell in love. Simply add water and you have a baby wipe instantly! These are reusable and can be used for so many things. I keep a few in my bag, a few in the car, and a few in the first aid kit just in case.

SKL Recommendations:

  1. Compostable Wipes
  2. Reusable Baby Wipes

 

5. Wet Bag

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These are wonderful for holding the dirty diapers and not having to worry about leaking or smell. I keep one of these bags in my stroller at all times and also have on in the nursery for busy days. Also great for when friends/babysitters have to change the baby – I wouldn’t expect anyone else to want to deal with all of that without experience.

SKL Wet Bag Recommendations:

  1. Alvababy 2 wet bags
  2. Hanging cloth diaper bag
  3. Charlie Banana Cloth Diaper Pail

6. Hose Attachment

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This is something that you may not NEED but you will kick yourself for not getting. I promise you. While the liners pick up most of the waste, sometimes you have a sick baby on your hands and it is just a mess, am I right? This hose connects to your toilet and rinses of the diaper, straight into the toilet, without any work in between! Plus, you get your very own handheld bidet!

This was your full guide to cloth diapering!

Hopefully, this guide answered most or all of your questions and you are prepared to tackle the amazing cloth diapering lifestyle! Always remember – you do not have to go ALL in to start. Many families do half and half with disposable diapers to begin and always keep some disposable (compostable diapers are great!) cloth diapers on hand for emergencies. Remember, it’s your journey and you need to find what works best for your family. Best of luck!

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