Full Guide to Cloth Diapers
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 toay.
Benefits of Cloth Diapering
Using cloth diapers will save you approximately $2000 per CHILD. Need I say more?
Protect the environment!
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. This is absolutely ridiculous and we need to change this ASAP.
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.
New designs and ease!
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 material 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.
Easier 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 diaper for changing, and now at 18 months old, they come right up to me for a diaper change (rather demanding as well! haha).
Diaper rash be gone!
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!
We purchased 13 of our cloth diapers USED and for a pretty good price (for us and the seller!). These diapers look brand new and we plan on using them for many many more years!
Inserts can be used for almost anything!
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!
Why I was so SCARED to start!
I remember finding our chosen brand on a Facebook cloth diaper selling page and I jumped the gun without much thought. “We have to do this”, I kept telling myself and as soon as I received the bag I felt completely overwhelmed.
“Oh no…what the hell do I do with these things?!” was my first thought haha! We spent about a week testing them out and watching as many youtube videos that I could get my hands on to learn the tricks of the trade.
At the end of that first week, I was a cloth diapering PROFESSIONAL. I had all the tools I needed and it did not stress me out or add any significant amount of work to my day. Phew!!!
How to Wash Cloth Diapers
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.
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.
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.
Detergents / Vinegar / Soap Nuts
I am going to start with the best zero waste options to washing your diapers FIRST and then end with the most popular form (only due to convenience and brand popularity).
When home laundering cloth diapers, it's very important to select detergents that are free of enzymes, brighteners, dyes, softeners, bleach, and synthetic fragrances.
- Soap Nuts:If you are new to the zero waste or just cloth diaper life, you may not know what soap nuts are! Soap nuts are a berry shell which naturally contains a cleaning agent that works like detergent. They grow on the Sapindus mukorossi tree in the Himalayas. Saponins (cleaning agent inside) circulate in the wash water, freeing dirt, grime, and oils from clothing. I cannot recommend soap nuts enough for all laundry needs. Not only are soap nuts the most natural way to wash your clothes, but they are extremely budget-friendly and cost-effective. You can do over 1000 loads of laundry for around 50 USD. Need I say more?!
- Charlies Soap: 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.
- Grovia Tiny Bubbles: This detergent is Vegan, never tested on animals, completely biodegradable, very gentle and EPA designed. The detergent contains natural chelating agents that soften wash water. It is safe for all kinds of cloth diapers. 1 box will wash up to 60 loads.
- Rockin Green: 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.
- Seventh Generation Ultra: This is probably the most popular detergent out of the “Eco” group but the above detergents are more eco-friendly and do just as good a job (if not better).
- Tide Regular / Detergent: This is the MOST popular detergent out there for cloth diapers. I used Tide for the first 2 months of the boy's cloth diaper journey and it worked absolutely fine.
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.
Must-Have items to start your Journey
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 13 cloth diapers for $100 on a Facebook Cloth Diaper group (retail about $280)! Purchasing cloth diapers used will always give you the best deal, but you can also purchase Bum Genius online through Amazon and feel good about it!
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. These bamboo inserts are HEAVEN. 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!
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 into the toilet!
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.
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 haha.
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 bidet (which is quite uncommon in America) so you are WELCOME haha!!