Cloth Diapering 101: The CBB Guide to Getting Started with Cloth Diapers

10/13/2008 at 10:00 AM ET

With all the concern about what disposable diapers are doing to our environment, many modern parents are choosing to cloth diaper their babies. Cloth diapering has come a long way since our grandmas slaved away over a washing machine or resorted to a service. New materials and innovative diaper designs have made it much simpler than you may think. But all the lingo and all the styles can be confusing. Most parents also worry about washing cloth diapers.

Click More for our Cloth Diapering 101 as Ciaran breaks it down for you.

Cleaning Cloth Diapers

Washingis probably the #1 fear of cloth diapering newbies, followed bystorage/odor control. You may be surprised to learn that cloth diaperpails smell less than "traditional" diaper genies, and that clothdiapers are quite easy to clean, without resorting to the use ofharsh/toxic chemicals.

Most modern cloth diaper-ers store their soiled diapers in awaterproof polyurethane-laminate (PUL) "wet bag" inside an inexpensivetrash can. When you change a cloth diaper, you shake any solids offinto the toilet (skip this step with a newborn), and toss the diaperinto the washbag. At the end of the day, or every other day, the entirewashbag and its contents are turned inside out into the wash. There isno need to presoak or pretreat before washing. You don’t even need tomake physical contact with soiled diapers. It actually takes me lesstime to do diaper laundry than it took to empty and re-thread a diapergenie.

The diapers are washed in a long cycle using very hot water with amild soap. With a modern washing machine you can be confident that bothyour washer and the diapers will end up sparkling clean and cootie-free. That’s all there is to it! For more specific diaper washing info,and advice about using gentle and organic detergents, see this handy chart.

(Check out my review of Wet Happens wet bags.)

Flatfolds and Prefolds

Stylesof diapers can be very confusing. Try to keep in mind that all diapers/diapering systems involve two chief goals, absorbancy and waterproofing. The most basic system uses the flat or pre-folded diaper.The difference between the two are that prefolds are made with alayered section in the center.  Both of these need to be folded to fityour child and both of these need to be worn beneath a waterproofdiaper cover.

Fitted Diapers

Bumkins Bamboo Bambinex

Intimidated by cloth origami? Then you might consider trying a fittedcloth diaper in place of the prefold/flatfold. These diaper garments go on with snaps or velcro, fitting much like adisposable.  We like the anti-microbial properties, silky softness and super absorbancy of theBamboo Bambinex line from Bumkins. Bambinex diapers also need to be used with a cover.

(Check out Teba’s review of Kissaluvs.)

Waterproof Diaper Covers

Geny Diaper

Themost popular covers today are made from a polyurethane-laminate fabricreferred to as PUL. PUL diaper covers are nothing like the old schoolcrackly plastic pants you may be thinking of. PUL is a soft, safe, andflexible coating that comes from the medical industry. It allowsmoisture to wick away as a vapor, but blocks liquids from leaking. PULcan be used as an inner lining on a cover, or may be coated ontoanother fabric. Fashionista moms will thrill to the hunt when it comesto custom diaper covers. Choose from hundreds of cotton prints, customembroidered versions and soft fuzzy diaper covers made from materialslike plush minky. Many of the most fabulous covers are made by work-at-home moms and sold on sites like Etsy or Hyena Cart.

Longies and Shorties


Inaddition to PUL, Wool and Microfleece have remarkable wickingproperties. Many cloth diapering moms prefer to use a waterproofmicrofleece, or a knit, felted or lanolized (wool made extra waterrepellant with lanolin) cover over their cloth diapers. Knit covers areoften referred to as "Longies" or "Shorties." Our hands-down favoritelongies are the toothy monster ones available from CrankyPants.

All in One (AIO) Diapers

Blueberry Diapers

Ascute as all those covers are, sometimes you want simplicity. Thusparents new to cloth diapering and/or looking to streamline theirroutine often turn to All-In-One (AIO) diapers. The absorbent materialand cover are made all in one piece, so the diaper is a single garment.These are the most similar to a disposable in use – the exception isthat you do not throw them away.  All-in-ones can reduce bulk and canbe less confusing to caregivers at daycare or grandma’s house. Ourfavorite AIO’s come from Blueberry Diapers. These wash up beautifully, dry very quickly, and look like new evenafter constant use. They have the added bonus of having an open pocketwhich you can stuff with a pad or pre-folded diaper for extraabsorbency.

(Check out my review of Blueberry Diapers.)

Pocket Diapers

Fuzzi Bunz

Perhaps the most popular style of cloth diapers today, is the pocket diaper. First introduced by Fuzzi Bunz,this is essentially a diaper cover with a convenient pocket on theinside inside. Rather than use a flat or fitted diaper underneath thecover, on your child, you "stuff" the pocket by inserting a foldeddiaper or a microfiber absorbant pad. This greatly speeds changing timeby giving you one garment to change, and simplifies your wash load aswell. Parents can customize their diapers to the child and situation -choosing from interchangable inserts made of bamboo, hemp, microfiberor cotton, and adding more than one insert on occasion if needed.

Both Fuzzi Bunz and bumGenius offercleverly made pocket diapers that are one size fits all.  By adjustingthe snaps on the diaper, you can configure these diapers to fit yourchild from infancy on through toddlerhood. This makes these pocketdiapers a great value.

(Check out Louise’s review of Happy Heinys and Teba’s review of bumGenius.)

Choosing a System
Ultimately choosing to cloth diaper is a personal choice, and so ischoosing your system. Finding the right cloth diapering system for youmay involve some amount of trial and error. It’s probably best toexperiment with a few styles and brands before you invest heavily inany style/systems. Remember that cloth diapers are garments, and won’tfit everyone the same – you may need to try a couple different onesbefore you find the style that works best for your chubby thighed, orslim waisted baby. Check the fit before you buy into a line! Purchasingeverything you need for cloth diapering can be expensive initially. Butyou will recoupthat expense in savings, week after week when you don’t need toconstantly purchasedisposable diapers.

Aside from the obvious benefits of being better for the environment andyour long term budget, cloth diapering has one other excellent benefit.Thanks to more breathable materials and more attentive/frequentchanges, your baby will have less diaper rash! And that is somethingevery parent and child can be thankful for.

— Ciaran

Want more info on cloth diapering? Check out our Cloth Diapering 102: Five Cloth Diapering Accessories All Parents Need.

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Showing 19 comments

Linda on

just wanted to say great article. The one error is fuzzi buns does not make a one size diaper. The 2 main companies are happy heinys and bumgenious that make these.
Also another great detergent for cloth is country save many parents love this because it also works great on all their laundry.
Finally a great rash cream for cloth diapers is grandma el’s this works well on all diaper rashes and it will not harm the diapers at all.

Jennifer on

I use the bumgenius 3.0 with my 6 month old…they are fantastic! I only wish I had found out about them sooner. They wick moisture away from her skin so well that you can’t even tell she’s wet without checking the insert. They wash and dry beautifully as well. I highly recommend them- feel free to email for more info🙂

tara on

We’re expecting our second son in just a few weeks, and we plan on cloth diapering him as we did with our first. It’s a little intimidating to settle on a diaper when you’re brand new to cloth diapering, but I HIGHLY recommend pocket diapers, particularly for older babies/toddlers. Very easy, and they fit better than disposables or other variants of cloth.

KH on

Awesome article! CDing is fun and simple and such a great thing to do. I am so glad to see such a positive and informative article. Way to go!

Sammy-xx on

I’m 16 and I plan to use cloth nappies(diapers). The first nappy I changed was actuality a cloth on so I learned to change nappies using cloth nappies.I can still remember how to fold the towel into the nappy shape, so simple once you know it.

Sarah on

Great article! We began cloth diapering our 6 month old about 2 months ago and we LOVE it! I never thought I would be one of “those” moms… ha! It is amazingly simple and fun. I consider cloth diapering a hobby because there are so many cute diapers to choose from. BumGenius 3.0 are our favorites. I can’t tell you how much I love not having to buy those scratchy old disposable diapers anymore!!!

Kristy on

You forgot to mention G diapers! A happy alternative to both regular diapers and cloths!

molly on

I used cloth (pocket Fuzzibuns) and gDiapers. Love them. Highly recommend both. My son is now 20 months and has never had a diaper rash, which I attribute to the lack of perfumes (may not be the case but hey thought I would share). They are great for the environment and look better than disposables.

Tina on

I cloth diaper, and with my little guy’s sensitive skin, probably couldn’t use anything else. I have used BumGenius all in ones since he was about 3mos old. We did battle an awful rash that we finally determined was caused by too much apple juice. However, we found that Eucerin Cream (or the generic version) worked well without messing with the diapers. We also use wash cloths instead of wipes. He’s so sensitive:)

Great article!

Jenny on

We love Fuzzi Bunz the best and they are the diapers I always grab first to use. They have really strong snap closures. I find the other diapers with velcro to wear out WAY too fast – especially on the happy heneys and bumgenus. Plus, they clean soo much better than bumgenus – trust me on this one….

erica on

I cloth diaper my daughter. We primarily use bumGenius, but also some other brands mentioned like Blueberry. I highly recommend cloth diapers to every mom I meet – there really is something for everyone!

Aimee on

Any ideas on where I can find a waterproof polyurethane-laminate (PUL) “wet bag”….this will be our first and I’m learning the ropes to cloth diapering! Thanks!

sara on


You can find wet bags at cotton babies or Most cloth online stores carry them.

congrats on cloth diapering.

Carolle on

You can get a wetbag on!

I just started CDing my 7 month old and I LOVE pocket diapers!! I bought an inexpensive one-size pattern and learned how to make my own! So if you’re put off by the $$ of the pocket diapers that are out there and you can sew in a straight line, make your own!!!

It costs me anywhere between $2 and $4 to make 1 pocket diaper, compared to the $20-$30 for the “brand name” ones!

Nicole on

I found the super cute Geny diaper covers from the article at We have cloth diapered both of our kids since day one and love it! Even traveling to the Caribbean and South America with a baby in cloth diapers has been pretty easy! I also love to use wool covers, so soft! Global Enfant even has cashmere covers once in a while (they seem to sell out fast), how much more luxurious can you get than cashmere?!

Abbey on

I’m not a mom or planning to become one anytime soon, but I’ve been researching clothe diapers for awhile & I’ve got a question for anyone who knows:

I’ve seen flushable liners (like Bummis Bio-soft liners) and am confused about them. Do they replace inserts or are they used just as a reinforcement? Do they act like G-Diapers ( If you can explain how & why these are used, I would much appreciate it.

Thanks so much for this article, btw. very informative.

sara on

flushable liners are for sold poop. That way you can just flush the wast away with out dunking or spraying.

you will still need a insert since that is the thing that soaks up the pee.

Carolle do you use PUL on your pockets. Was there a hard learning curve? If so Where do you get your PUL its not cheap at least where I have looked. I have made some fitted diaper for my son and have a Kam snap press.

Carolle on

Sara.. I bought my PUL online for $8 CDN and minimal shipping.. You can make 4-5 diapers from 1 yard.

The first two diapers I made were my learning curve. They’re functional, just not quite as “pretty” as the diapers I make now. If you can sew in a straight line you can sew a diaper!! Email me if you wanna talk more diapers!

Abbey on

Thanks, Sara, that explains a lot. i wasn’t really sure what the flushable liners were for.

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