I can’t believe I’m cloth diapering

Guest post by Kellbot
My baby! In a cloth diaper! Photo by Kellbot.

Anyone who knows me in real life knows I am not an earth-hugging hippie. And now I’m cloth diapering, something labeled “too crunchy” for some of the crunchiest parents I know.

Why? Because my daughter is peeing us out of house and home. She can’t stand to be in a diaper that is even a tiny bit wet for any length of time. Other babies might pee two or three times between changes, but I’m throwing out 15+ diapers a day — most of which have only a tiny spot of pee on them. No there is nothing wrong with her, yes we asked her doctor. She just hates pee.

Not only is this expensive (~ 20 cents per diaper), but it’s creating a horrifying mountain of waste. Even I, the prototypical consumer who is far too lazy to do things like compost, am disgusted by the amount of garbage we’re producing here. And so I embarked on a cloth diapering experiment.

After contemplating a dizzying array of options (prefolds! all in ones! pocket diapers!) I purchased a 6-pack of osocozy prefolds and one Thirsties Duo cover. Worst case, if I hate it I can use the prefolds as burp cloths and give the cover to a cloth diapering friend.

Using these is pretty simple: you place the prefold in the cover sort of like a maxi-pad, and then snap the cover around your baby just like you would a disposable diaper. I swap out the prefold every time my baby makes a mess of it, and give the cover a quick once-over with a baby wipe. If she’s made a huge mess or I’m out of clean prefolds, I chuck the cover in a plastic bag with the dirty prefolds and we’re back to disposables until I run the wash.

So far it’s going pretty well. Since I’m already doing at least one load of laundry a day, throwing some diapers in with it is not a big deal. Because my daughter is exclusively breastfed at this point, even her messy diapers aren’t too gross. They do however tend to stain the prefolds, which I’m told is just something I’ll have to get over.

The initial investment was $22, so if we replace 4 disposables a day with cloth they’ll pay for themselves in about a month. Maybe a little sooner, since we use a Diaper Genie pail for the disposables, which requires special bags (yes, I know, we’re suckers).

On days we cloth diaper we’re saving six disposables, but I haven’t been cloth diapering every day. The good news is our daughter is spitting up a lot less, so I’m not doing her laundry constantly. But since I’m not willing to run the wash just for six cloth diapers it means we’re only using them every other day or so. This is fine, and it’s still a financial win. At 20 cents per disposable, I need to replace 110 disposables with cloth to break even. At this rate I’ll hit that the first week of September.

As soon as I mentioned trying out cloth diapers, a friend offered up some prefolds and a cover her son had outgrown, thereby doubling my stash! So now I’ve got 12 prefolds and 2 covers. One thing I’ve noticed is that many people who like cloth diapers are really into cloth diapering, so if you want to try it out without making a huge investment check to see if any friends have diapers they’d be willing to pass on.

A few people have mentioned diaper services, but the ones I’ve checked out in my area aren’t any cheaper than disposables. The good news is they’re not any more expensive either. Since finances are a big part of why I’m doing it, it just doesn’t make a ton of sense for us. As my daughter moves up in disposable sizes (and therefore prices) it might be more of a win, so I’ll reevaluate in a few months.

I don’t think I’ll ever do cloth full-time, for a handful of reasons. Disposables are a lot more convenient when we’re out and about, as well as overnight. There’s also the question of whether I’ll keep doing cloth once the baby starts eating solid food. I’m not so sure I’ll be dying to launder Serious Business myself. But even if we only get 3 months out of these 12 diapers, we’ll be saving 540 disposables from the landfill and about $86 cash. I’m going to consider that a huge win.

Comments on I can’t believe I’m cloth diapering

  1. Has anyone out there started cloth diapering later? My daughter is 16 months and I recently lost some hours at work, so I’m trying think of ways to shave off some expenses. Since potty training a 1-year-old seems almost impossible any advice on starting cloth diapering after a year would be wonderfully appreciated!

    • I haven’t personally, but a good friend of mine did. He wears disposables when he is at her mom’s house, but at home she started using cloth diapers when he was about 18 months. He didn’t seem to care a bit.

    • I’d imagine that it would be a great way to transition into potty training – because there’s no absorbent gel, a kiddo FEELS wet and has more motivation to use the potty.

    • Yes – I started when my baby was little & quickly quit, but still had the stash of birth to potty nappies we had been given. When I wanted to potty train at 22m I switched her into the cloth nappies for most of the time. Then I continued to use them for her night nappies.

      • Thank you. Mine wants to train early, the older learning the underwear, and one is about to be born. This tells me it could be better to invest in detergent!

    • i waited a year before i even ordered cloth diapers. i had planned on CDing from the beginning, but was quickly overwhelmed by everything about parenthood. around 10 months i started calming down, realized how much money were spending, joined a co-op, BAM. all the diapers and supplies we’ll need until potty training for under $200. it took us a week or so to get used to them, and now we hate disposables. baby tears them off with ease! ew.

    • I’m interested by your comment “Since potty training a 1-year-old seems almost impossible”. Most asian and some European cultures have their children trained by six months, so its definitely possible! I wonder if anyone else on OBM has potty trained their kids early?

  2. I used cloth dipaers for the first several months, then when my son outgrew the covers my mom made, I got some bigger ones. By then he was just too wiggly and angry for diaper changes, and I had a hard time getting the prefolds and a snap cover on. I kind of wish I would have gottens some “all in ones” but at this point I feel like it’s too late to invest in more diapers. I was thinking I’ll go back to cloth when it’s time for potty learning instead of disposible Pull-Ups. For now, I use generic diapers and they are about $.13 each, and since they hold a lot, he can pee a lot more than in the cloth. I still fee guilty for all the carbage.

    • I have a super wiggly son, and it takes me like ten minutes to change him now! We have to put the prefold on then the cover, and he tries to turn over and crawl away the whole time, while screaming. But we soldier on. I’m hoping it’s a phase. Good luck with your wiggly kid.

    • I have prefolds and covers and the all in ones. With a wiggle-worm, the all-in-ones are so much easier to put on. However, if you put the prefold and cover under the butt together, it is easier than to put the prefold on and then get the cover on. Basically, treat it like an all in one even if it doesn’t have the inside lining, and you might have better luck.

  3. I really love the balanced viewpoint of this post. Cloth vs. disposable doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. My little one is still baking, but we have a ton of disposable diapers given to us by family and friends. I want to try cloth diapers as well and it is reassuring to know that someone else has split time between the two and made it work for their family.

    • We use cloth probably 85% of the time. Pretty much every day we use cloth, though sometimes not. And she’s in disposables at night because they hold so much more so we don’t have to wake her up for diaper changes. It’s definitely not all or nothing! We also didn’t start cloth until she was about 10lbs, so those diapers from baby showers came in handy!

    • We use disposables whenever traveling for longer than one or two diaper changes, and some days when I am too lazy to run the laundry. Cloth diapering never has to be an all or nothing. My son slept in a disposable last night because the laundry wasn’t done until during his final diaper change, and now he is in a cloth diaper. Keep a good stash of both, and they will both have their use in your constant use of diapers.

  4. We’ll probably end up doing a mix of the two – diaper service at home, compostable diapers on the road. The service in our area is marginally cheaper than disposables, but even if it was slightly pricier, I’d probably use a service anyway. I’m not ultra-crunchy, just a little, but I don’t think I could face how many plastic diapers I’d end up throwing away. I can see why parents would rather use disposables, though.

    • We did a mix of diaper service and composting service too, and it really was the best of all worlds, for the first year. With not buying prefolds and getting used covers on CL, the initial investment was very small, and the monthly service fee was pretty reasonable. Several people mentioned asking for supplies for your baby shower. Asking people to prepay your service fees is another idea.

      • Im planning on asking for gift certificates to our local cloth diaper service ($20CAD/week) I’m hoping I can get enough for the first month or two of baby’s life just to help me adjust. I’m sure I’ll appreciate it to no end, but otherwise I’m just too cheap.

  5. For anyone wanting to start cloth diapering, understand that it’s quite an investment up front, but it will pay off in the long term. To make it a little easier on the pocketbook we have: looked for diapers on Freecycle (most of my diapers were obtained this way!); shoped at consignment shops-check for diaper specific ones in your area or ask about the diaper section at any consignment shop in your area; called the diaper service to see if they wanted to sell any used covers; made our own (most Joanns have the stuff to make at very least water-proof covers with snaps or velcro). Check out Craigslist, too, for moms selling their stash at a discount. Most cloth diaper sellers online will also offer you a discount for buying in bulk,or will let you return diapers after you try them. You will also want to invest in some diaper-specific wash to keep your diapers from being stinky, and check up on pretty much any cloth diaper blog for proper washing instructions, since you don’t wash them like normal clothes.

    Good luck guys! I’ve been cloth diapering for almost 3 years. The great thing is that at any point, I can buy the super cheapo papers for travel, and go back to my adorable cloth diapers when we are home. Savings is savings, ya’ll.

    By the way, I work full time-my only time investment with cloth diapers is an hour every other evening for the wash cycle while I veg on the couch and watch Dr. Who.

  6. Anyone have suggestions on doing it in an apartment?

    Seriously, my only hesitation with cloth diapering is that we live in an 8 unit apartment building with one washer and one dryer. I hear from people that sometimes you have to wash them more that once, and when it costs $1.25 to wash and $1.25 to dry a single load, it kind of loses that economical side.
    Right now we sort of “save up” our laundry and take it to my partner’s parents house and wash it all at once for free, but I have a feeling that doing that with stinky diapers wouldn’t go down so well…

    • We also live in an apartment, and cloth diaper a baby as fussy as Kellbots (we go through 20 diapers a day some days, yikes!) we bought a Haier apartment sized washing machine and do one load everyday. It was $275 for the machine, and we have made up for the cost of having it in just a few short months (because we wash all of our clothes as well). We hang all of our prefolds and covers to dry on a drying rack which is free, and we use hangers on our canopy bed for our big people clothes.

      For quick drying diapers I would not recommend all in ones or fitteds, stick with pocket diapers and inserts or covers and prefolds. They usually dry within 24 hours if we have a fan blowing on them.

      That was cloth diapers which we bought on kijiji for like, no money- saves us tons! I don’t know how we would have done it without our kickass washer.

      • a couple people with kids that hate to be wet used that as an oppertunity to do elimination communication, EC the ultimate in saving money. they learn to tell you sometimes that they have to pee! super cool. pee haters seem motivated enough to learn.

        • We EC occasionally too! She hasn’t figured out how to tell us when she has to go, but I offer the potty every time she wakes up from a nap and she pees in it most of the time now. She’s even started to hold it until I offer the potty.

    • We initially used a laundering service that collected once a week. We had about 50 prefolds & chucked them in a bin – there were no problems with smell (pre solids!). I would say that would work fine for you atthe beginning if you wanted to save up for a weekly wash.

      Now we wash our own, I do a load about every other day, still no problems with smell while they wait a wash so I think if I had a big enough pail I could do a weekly wash. I never wash them twice btw.

  7. The money saving factor is why cloth diapering is the one aspect of my pre-baby crunchy parenting plan that’s survived. Teo sleeps in disposables, and we bring them on trips, but generally I cloth diaper the rest of the time. I bought a whole bunch of different kinds (secondhand) and the ones I use most a year in? Prefolds and “countours”, which are shaped like a disposable but have no velcro or snaps.

    The cheapo part of me LOOOVES doing the math and figuring out how much money I’m saving by using cloth.

  8. Just a tip on the staining, since your baby is breastfed, drying the diapers in the sun is supposed to lift out the stains.
    I started cloth diapering my now 5-month-old a few months ago and it’s a lot easier than I thought originally. I use mostly pocket diapers (mostly cheap China ones that cost $6-$9 per diaper, but also a few of the higher-end brands.) We use Bummis flushable liners to avoid having to spray poo off the diaper. It’s super easy and our daycare lady doesn’t even mind using them. She just throws the dirty ones in a wet bag and I put them in my diaper pail (just a trash can with a lid) when we get home. Then I throw them all in the wash every other day or so, do a pre-rinse, regular wash and then an extra rinse. Then the inserts go in the dryer and I hang the covers to dry. It’s actually not much of a burden at all and I feel a lot better not throwing all the diaper trash away. Plus, and this may be a bad thing, there are some super cute diapers out there, so it’s really fun looking at/buying new ones.

    • I’m hoping to use cloth as well (baby’s due end of September!) and we live in a very humid part of the country AND we also have no dryer.

      But I’m still going to give cloth a go.

      Sometimes our clothes take two days or longer hanging on the line to dry. When that happens we bring stuff indoors and hang it inside under the fans. I guess I’ll just do the same with the nappies. And, before I reach for disposables as a backup, I hope I’ll think: what would my mum/gran have done in this situation? Because they used cloth (only thing available) and didn’t have a dryer either.

      • You may want to go the flat diaper or prefold route, rather than any of the newer all in one/pocket/insert style diapers, if only for the decreased drying time.

        • THIS! When I started looking in to cloth nappies I bought some cotton prefolds and a couple of fancy all in ones/twos (soft bamboo yum yum). I washed the lot, hung them up to dry and guess which ones were dry first?

      • 3 ideas
        1 different materials of insterts dry at different rates, not sure about what’s what i’ve just noticed. 2 We have a top load washer that spins after the wash removing lots of water. Has anyone tried to bulid a home spinner for laundry? like a salad spinner but 5 gallon bucket sized? This could also be worth it for all people that have to pay for the dryer. If it worked it would decrease air drying time.
        3. do you have a smaller encloseable space you can put a plug in dehumidifier in? would that decrease air dry times?
        cross over to offbeat home post?

      • i think some of my prefolds actually dry slower then the all in one diapers. i super like the new bumgenius free times, they are a little harder to do standing changes in but there is no stuffing! and they definitly don’t dry any slower.

    • Since we moved into a house I haven’t had to worry about space but when I was pregnant we lived in a one room apartment with a dog and super expensive laundry facilities. I did a lot of research when we were in that situation concerned about the same thing and it seems that the internet is full of people tight on space who cloth diaper. Drying in the sun is way more effective on preserving the quality of the diapers than using a dryer. When you wash in the washer you are going to want to do a rinse cycle first, followed by a heavy duty cycle. Once the diapers are through the wash the smell and evidence of waste is gone so air drying is easy. I’d look into the different types of diapers and maybe select a system that will dry quickly, my inserts are super thick and absorbant and take forever to dry naturally. When it comes to space, you can easily get a rolly cart or baskets that hold all the supplies. Cloth diapering takes up about the same amount of space as disposables in my experience. There is just the extra step of laundering as opposed to tossing a bag into the dumpster. I went with the One Size Fits all option with absorbant inserts so after I do laundry, I just take a few minutes and pre-stuff all the covers to cut down on space and toss the extra inserts into a basket under the sink for the next round of cover stuffing.

    • If your dryer has different speeds, set it on the fastest. Otherwise do a final spin at the end to really get out as much water as you can. I find keeping the nappies near the ceiling helps them dry faster, as the air is warmer up there, plus having a dehumidifier on while they’re drying makes it super fast!

  9. I love when OBM posts are crazy relevant to my life. We just started full time cloth diapering last week. When I was pregnant we told everyone that we were doing it and called crazy by pretty much everyone. Sailas was born and in our fumbley sleep deprived state we caved and decided to do disposables until we got the handle on baby butt maneuvering. In a crazy downpour we found ourselves at a baby store buying whatever cloth diapers we could find because us awesome parents were three hours from home and neither of us remembered to grab the stocked diaper bag. So thats how we came to actually trying out the cloth that we had talked up pre-baby.

    Sai also hates wet diapers, the tinest bit of moisture near his boy pieces result in his change-my-diaper-now-dance. The cloth diapers we picked up on a whim was enough for only 24 hours of changing and a hassle because we did laundry constantly. After an encouraging pep talk from my much less crunchy husband we went online and dropped hundreds of dollars on cloth diapering supplies. Mathematically we are saving huge and can reuse the system for other little ones to come. We may never have to buy diapers and wipes ever again! Apprehensive and a little scared we opened the box and set up our eco friendly cloth diapering station. We got a diaper sprayer, large wetbag, travel size wetbag, cloth wipes, wipe juice, 30 inserts, 10 covers and a roll of the flushable poo catcher sheets. And it has been surprisingly EASY.

    As someone who went from disposables with a very similar experience to the author, to part time cloth, to now full time cloth, I can tell you that full time cloth is much more simple and feels like the regular thing we do after only a few days. Anyone that is struggling with cloth diapering part-time, I encourage you to seriously consider going full time because its simplicity might surprise you.

  10. When we switched from disposable to cloth (around 2 months & 8 lbs), my LO would cry immediately because she could feel she was wet, so I borrowed some fleece liners from a friend – literally a sweater she cut up – and they are the perfect barrier to keep her tushie feeling dry.

    Sunning your prefolds will definitely remove staining from EBF poo – even if it’s old stains.

  11. if you have a shower registr for your cloth diapers!! you have to make a decision in advance but you will get some of them as gifts instead of other random stuff.

  12. A very funny and interesting post!

    Just out of curiosity, does your daughter tolerate the wet cloth diaper any better than the wet disposable?

    I’ve heard that kids that can’t tolerate even a little wetness will potty train “earlier”. ( No, I don’t know what “earlier” means in this context.) I’d love it if you wrote another post after your daughter is potty trained and let us know how the cloth/disposable mix worked out over time.

    • Eh, not really. It’s a little hard to tell because the disposables absorb so much, but I think either way she cries immediately after peeing.

      I’m definitely going to do some follow-ups on diapering over on my own blog, as we’re also doing elimination communication part time. When she wakes up, she pees in a tiny potty. Saves a diaper!

  13. Is anyone diapering with Grovia cloth diapers? That’s our plan. Except they’re expensive and no one is buying them off of our registry. A diaper expert I talked to told me that instead of the expensive soaker pads (which snap in) we could just take a prefold and fold it in thirds, and then use the Grovia cover. Is anyone doing anything like this?

    • I think if you’re considering doing prefolds inside of a Grovia cover, you should probably just look at other covers. The reason most people choose Grovia is because the backs of their inserts are waterproof, so they don’t leak onto the cover. The insides of their covers are not wipe-clean (like a Thirsties cover or something), so using a prefold in it will mean you have to change the cover a lot more often.

    • I have been cloth diapering for about two months. I got almost everything off of Diaperswappers.com and have tried a few different types. My Grovias are my fav’s because they are less bulky to me and they fit under clothes nicer. The inserts work well. I have NOT tried using a prefold inside but I suppose it would work but you may have to use a new cover each time. I’ve also seen inserts on ebay for a good price.

    • Grovia is supposed to be pretty good. I really like the Flips covers, haven’t tried the Grovia yet. I like the Econobums too, which are just covers and one-size prefolds, made by the same people who make the Flips. I have friends who swear by Grovia, I just haven’t had a chance to check them out yet. My daughter is finally growing out of the covers we have (other than the one sizes), which lasted my other daughter past a year! She’s only 8 months. Anyhow, going shopping for new ones. I’m also a big fan of GenY and Mudshrimps and a few other smaller brands. I mostly did bumGenius pockets with my older daughter, but found that I hated the velcro and also the microfiber tends to get a funky smell that isn’t always easy to get rid of. Love prefolds and fitteds in natural fibers. Hemp prefolds are awesomely absorbent, but pricey. Cotton work well too, and bamboo rocks.

  14. I always liked the idea of cloth nappies and I may still use them when it comes to potty training my now 20mth old, looked into it when she was very little but for me and my washing machine that is only used once a week with my inability to actually do washing (out of sight out of mind thing (the amount of things i have destroyed presoaking)) I knew we would prob end up spending heaps on reuseables and then end up always using disposables out of convenience, which is a pitty cos those covers are gorgeous and would look so cute under dresses etc.
    and before anyone say I know I have been told many many times by cloth diperers “its not that much more washing” but for me it really is.

  15. We have a service. We live in an apartment with one shared washer/dryer for 9 units and are not allowed to hang laundry outside. It just doesn’t seem feasible to wash our own. I hand wash the covers (a mix of bummis and wool that I crocheted) and that’s enough for me right now. The service is not cheap, about $20/month over what disposables would be but for us it’s worth it. We never have to worry about making sure we have diapers on hand (or running out in the middle of the night for more), and I just feel better with cotton against my baby’s butt then all the chemicals that are in regular diapers. If we ever move to a place with our own washer and dryer I’d consider washing our own.

  16. If you’re using tri-folds, you might want to discover the wonder of Snappis. Search for cloth diapering on YouTube and you’ll see a bunch of moms using them (that’s how I found out about them — I was like, this who fake maxipad business is *not* working!)

    True about GroVias being hard to clean, though I liked other things about them.

    My favorite covers are the old-school Thirstees, no snaps, simple velcro tabs… and we do have a diaper service, which just rocks.

  17. I didnt get through all the comments so dont know if someone mentioned that to get stains out just hang your diapers in the sun until is bleaches out. Usually takes less than a day and they will look goodas new. They can be wet or dry. Love my prefolds and they save a ton of money.

  18. Also, for once baby starts solids, I highly recommend a toilet sprayer. Gets rid of a LOT of the ick and the mess. Not very expensive either, and makes it much easier to continue with cloth.

  19. What a great idea! I’ve thought about using cloth diapers, but we go through a ton of laundry already…part-time cloth would be fantastic (my daughter also fusses at the littlest poop-fart)

    It might not be for everyone, but I’d like to suggest Elimination Communication, Please do some research into it if you have the chance, the idea is you watch for baby’s cues that they are ABOUT TO go to the bathroom and with a sound you’ve gotten them to associate with peeing or pooping (by making it while they do so) you hold them over a potty, toilet or other receptacle and they just let it go. It might seem gross or sound kinda silly, but we’ve cut back on diapers a lot (we don’t catch everything!) and potty training will be a snap later 🙂

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