Cloth Diapering For Beginners: Tips & Advice

I feel like there are so many of you who are brand new to cloth and have a multitude of questions just burning at you. Okay, not burning like it’s the only thing on your mind, but you know what I mean. You probably have a lot. Which diapers to get? How many? Where? What detergent? How? What size?

I was right there with you not to long ago. If you’re new to cloth, this post is for you! Granted, I’m practically a newbie myself as I’ve only been using cloth diapers for 6 months now, but hopefully I can shed some light on your questions!

Which diapers do I get? I can’t decide!
When they say variety is the spice of life, they really mean it. Variety in all shapes and ways, really is the spice and the sugar and all things sweet. I don’t know if I can call it a mistake, because I’m pretty happy with the diapers we ended up using, but we started our stash with only two kinds of diapers. I researched and asked around, and bought the two that were the most popular and met my wants and needs. I’m happy with my diapers however because I didn’t buy many different kinds I wasn’t able to do a lot of experimenting first.

When starting your cloth diaper stash, my advice would be to buy a couple of each kind that you think you might like. That way, the ones you like you can buy more of and you’re not stuck with a bunch you hate!

What colors should I get? Prints? Solids? White or bright? How do I decide?
Maybe this seems like a silly thought to some of you, but I know I’m not the only one who stands in the cloth diaper store staring at the different colors and prints for 10 minutes trying to decide which ones to get. Oh the cuteness! My advice? Go fun. Don’t be afraid of colors. I bought four white diapers and they are my least favorite. One of the great things about using cloth is you have the choice to buy cute diapers. Buy one in every color!

Thanks to Slee for showing us her beautiful cloth diaper stash!


How many do I need?
In my opinion, the more the better! The more you have the less you have to wash! You only need enough for a day I suppose. You can wash as often as you need to. I think the “ideal” amount is about two dozen, but I’ll have you know that I survived with 14 diapers for 4 months and life is dandy.

Sure, I’m rather sick of my washing machine. But hey! What else do I have to do all day!


What detergent do I use?

There are many kinds that will work. You have to experiment and find what you like best. Check out this site for a list of all detergents and how they can be good or bad for your diapers.

Do I have to use cloth diapers all the time?
You can do whatever you want. Truly! If you want to use cloth diapers just on Thursdays, so be it. If you want to use cloth on days when you feel like it, fine. Don’t let the concept of “all or nothing” turn you away from cloth diapering because it doesn’t have to be that way.

Leave your advice!
** Comments now closed! Thanks for all your advice for the newbies! Those of you who left a comment stay tuned for an extra giveaway entry!**
For all my cloth diapering mamas… what is your #1 cloth diapering tip? Let’s help the newbies out! Leave your tip or words of advice in the comments section of this post and I’ll give you an extra entry in a cloth diaper giveaway I have coming up!

Published by Samantha Mellen

Certified personal trainer & health coach helping women transform their lives through fitness, abundant mindset coaching and internal peace. Mom of two boys, living life in Alaska.

17 thoughts on “Cloth Diapering For Beginners: Tips & Advice

  1. Have you ever tried Smartipants diapers? Just wondering how well they work. They are pretty new, but I've already read several good things about them. 🙂

  2. My number one tip? Don't knock it til you try it! People I knew laughed in my face when I said that we were using cloth diapers! But 6 months later we are still going strong…and they are still going to the store every week for their diapers!

    Oh, and get a hanging wetbag. I tried to go cheap with a trash can and a cloth bag from walmart…did not work. It stank, for one. And it leaked. And made my life miserable. And then I broke down and paid the money for three hanging wetbags….I am in love.

  3. Anon,

    I do have 6 smartipants in my stash. I like and dislike them…I love how the insert agitates out in the wash. A big plus! You don't have to pull out a stinky insert and maneuver it all into the wash. Just toss it in and it takes care of itself.

    What I don't like is the sizing. they only have one row of snaps, so getting a good fit around the legs can be difficult if you have a skinny kid with chubby legs, for example. For the rise, they only have two snaps across instead of three, which creates a bit of a gap. I haven't really found this to be an issue, though.

    Also, they only come with one insert. Now for most people that would be fine, but my boy is a very heavy wetter…I double stuff all of his diapers, even during the day. I've put the smartipants on him a couple times and he's peed through in less than 20 minutes. Again, this is because he just pees so. darn. much! If you have a lighter wetter this wouldn't be an issue. But I highly doubt anyone could use this diaper for overnight without purchasing and using an extra insert.

    Personally, they aren't my favorite. But they are a very trim diaper at cheaper price point, and I know many people have had very good success with them. I'm glad I have a few in my stash, but I wouldn't buy more.

  4. My number 1 tip/advice is to just jump in – it isn't as hard or gross as you think it would be. I have mostly bum genius 3 and a few knickernappies. There are so many cute ones out there that I'd love to try, but the BG 3.0's work so good for us. And a few drops of tea tree oil take the stink out if you can't use the sun (our apt patio gets no sun).

  5. I'm using disposables but have considered going cloth. However, the questions that hinder me are as follows:

    How do you clean them (soak first?)? How long do you spend cleaning them? If they stain, is it safe to use bleach? Is it really economically better considering how much water you use to clean them? How much do they normally cost? Do they leak easier (through the fabric or around the edges)? How do the sizes range? Can you buy them separately or have to buy a whole pack (I've heard they are expensive, especially the good ones)? Do you usually have to change them during the night? How often do they get old and need to be replaced? Which brand really is the best? What color makes the most sense to have (maybe dark to hide stains? Or white to know the stains are gone?)?

    That's all I can think of right now. I'd love to hear answers from Moms who have found an easy and successful way of using/maintaining cloth diapers. Thanks!

  6. My number one tip is to go at your own pace. There are a lot of people who are very gung ho about cloth diapering and balk at the idea of anything like disposables. We started out using disposables whenever we went out places and at night, but slowly we have gotten to the point where we are able to use them 100%.

    Jill, there are a lot of different ways you can clean your cloth diapers. Some people do a wet pail (soak) before putting them in the wash, and some (like me) use a dry pail and put them right into the wash. I have heard that if you dry them in the sun, the stains are less noticable, but I'm not sure about bleach. I have only been cloth diapering for about 4-5 months so I still don't know all there is to know.

    Economically, I don't know. I don't do it for those reasons 🙂

    They cost varies by type and brand. I just bought 6 covers and 12 diapers and it all came to $94. Not bad.

    Sizes, you can get a grow-with-you type, or you can get anywhere between Newborn and Large.

    You can buy separately!

    I do not change my son's during the night. He gets changed when he wakes up, and his diaper does not leak!

    My favorite brands are Bum Genius and Thirsties 🙂 I have heard a lot of good about Swaddlebees, as well!

    Uummm. Most diapers I see are white on the inside. So I guess that is all up to your preference!

  7. Anonymous,
    I have never tried Smartipants!

    Jill,
    I love all your questions! 🙂 It would take me forever to answer them all here, but maybe I will do another post on it some time! Did you see my article on how I wash my cloth diapers?

    You can buy them separately. I use disposables at night.

  8. I use prefolds and covers. And I love it. I think people are afraid of them because they aren't as “convenient” as all in ones or pocket diapers. But they are awesome, the cheapest option by far, and so much easier than people think. Got my package deal from Clothdiaper.com. And I make my own covers in AWESOME prints:)

    ps if you need an extra boost in absorbency, I made diaper doublers out of my son's old hospital receiving blankets- just cut 4 rectangles, stitched em up and poof, instant extra absorbency. We use them for overnights!

  9. My tip echoes a lot of the others- get a variety. I use different diapers for different purposes. Some of my diapers are trimmer and better for going out, some seem super comfy but are a little bulky to fit under clothes. Cloth diapers are lots of fun! Don't go crazy buying all at once!

  10. My routine:
    Baby wears diaper
    Use diaper sprayer for poopy dipes
    all dipes and cloth wipes go into plastic diaper pail with foot release
    (sometimes I line pail with old pillow case, most of the time I just use diaper sprayer to wash out pail and dump into toilet)
    About every other day I do a load
    Dump diapers in wash
    Rinse cold
    Wash w/detergent HOT
    Rinse cold
    Hang covers
    Dry inserts
    Stuff then next day (or stuff as I go, depends on my laziness)
    Baby wears diaper again
    SO SO SO SIMPLE

    I thought I didnt like smarti pants, they LOOK cheap they do come with 2 inserts each, Im not sure what previous commenter said that. I love their inserts. I double the diaper up for Zealand who sleeps 12 hours and havent had a leak yet.
    I like my BG OS which I double or triple at night. I hate the velcro, but they are discontinuing it, so no worries there.
    I like Fuzzi bunz OS, because both my kids can wear it, but hate the inside adjuster, and these often leave marks on Zealands legs (we have never tried these overnight)
    Overnight favorite is Drybees fleece. Never a leak although I hate how you cannot overlap the waist, so skinny babies suffer:(
    Happy Heinys are GREAT and really made for the larger baby…similar to BG but larger and prints!
    Covers and fitteds is just one extra step I dont wanna take.
    Never tried wool.
    Use the right detergent, build ups and stank is NO FUN!
    I never change diapers at night
    Each diaper was around $18.00 if not I won it through a blog
    I used 12 then 15 diapers for just Zealand for a WHOLE YEAR….definitely doable.
    Look at Diaper Pin for a cost analogy with water detergents and energy factored in.
    Yes you can use bleach, but you'll be surprised at how LITTLE staining there is and how easy the sun will remove said stain.
    All colors will show the same, it is the insert that will stain, not the actual diaper. I sent my BG back twice because of the velcro but they have a one year warranty. Snaps is the way to go!
    Inserts come with the diaper and you can buy them individually, but sets of 3 are cheaper.
    Good luck!

  11. this post was so informative – thank you! i'm due with a little girl in just six weeks, and am starting my cloth diaper research now.

    so many different opinions, but i'm already getting an idea of what i need, i think. thanks again!

  12. I have to agree with melinda–buy used!!! My husband was kind of grossed out by this but I figure we wash them in really hot water all the time, I don't think it's a big deal. I've gotten tons of diapers off craigslist and from swapmamas and that allowed me to try all different kinds. I don't think I would've been able to try as many kinds if I'd bought brand new.

  13. My number 1 tip: buy a diaper sprayer! Cloth Diapering is a topic near and dear to my heart and I often write about it on my blog. Please feel free to ask anything you need to! I have posts written about the different types of CD's, washing, stripping, troubleshooting, as well as tons of reviews. http://LifeMoreSimply.blogspot.com . Good luck in your endevor!

  14. Thanks for the reminder that it is not “all or nothing.” I realize that in someway I feel that way about a lot of things: baby sign language, solid foods (once I start I HAVE to give so much every day), and so on. It is reassuring to realize that there is no “failing” if we need to use disposables on a vacation or overnight or something. I am SO glad I switched to cloth! It is cute, chemical free, saves us money, comfy for the baby, and good for our environment.

    We use prefolds (wonderful soft cushy things) from Green Mountain Diapers. There is a WEALTH of information on that site and some of the nicest prefolds out there at an economical price. Also there are so many cute covers out there to try! On our chubby baby, Bummis are currently our favorite.

    The Diaper Pin website is a wonderful resource to look up every variety of diaper to learn people's opnions on them. Also, JILL, their cost savings calculator is very helpful: http://www.diaperpin.com/calculator/calculator.asp

    I hope that can help someone!

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