Cloth diapering: my method, ideas, and tips, with photos!

I'd like to start by saying what a blessing cloth diapers have been to our family. I remember the excitement of pinning a cloth diaper onto Yehoshua for the first time, when he was a few weeks old... and then later the realization that cloth diapering (or changing diapers, period!) was a never-ending process and everyday part of my life. :)

My cloth diapers have been a blessing, first of all, because they were all gifts. I think 6 different people have helped build up my diaper supply (mostly at the baby shower for Yehoshua) by giving me diapers. I was even given some Gerber vinyl covers, which lasted for a long time with Yehoshua and finally wore out with Eliyahu. I have a variety of different thicknesses and kinds of cloth pre-folds (the most basic, cheapest variety of cloth diaper) and have so many that I can wash a full load of diapers and still have some for the baby to wear!

Cloth diapers have also been a blessing financially. I use cloth diapers for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason, I confess, is financial. Even buying the least expensive disposable diapers, and changing the child infrequently, is still more expensive than cloth diapering. If I can avoid spending money every week for disposable diapers (and then spending money on trash pick-up to get rid of them!) we actually do save a lot. (Yes, even including extra water and electric costs and washing machine wear.)

I like the feeling of soft clean cotton against my baby's skin, and being able to change my baby whenever he wets without worrying about how many diapers we're going through. The clean diapers smell so fresh and nice, unlike disposables (which in my opinion stink unless they have perfumes added, which is probably bad for the baby!). I don't mind doing the extra laundry; it's a nice feeling to have a basket full of clean dry diapers, waiting to be used again.

And, it's nice to know that I'm not creating a lot of waste. The average child goes through 7,000 diapers before they're potty trained. That's a lot of waste when it's all in disposables in a landfill. I like washing my diapers. The "waste" goes down the drain and the trashcan doesn't stink. (At least, not from diapers. :D) And can I tell you how nice it is to not need to empty the trash every night because it's smelling up the downstairs?! Better yet, I don't even need to take out the trash anymore because it's all either recyclable, compost, or burnable! :)

And, too, the age-old arguments of the convenience of not having to buy big packages of diapers, and never "running out" of diapers (though there have been times where I was so far behind in things that I was running out of clean ones :D).

I think cloth diapers are more work than disposables. So I'm not going to argue that they're easier. In some ways, yes, they are. But not in every way. For us, the benefits and blessings have outweighed the extra work (which isn't maybe as much as you'd imagine).

I enjoyed using cloth diapers with Yehoshua, and planned to use them with Eliyahu as well. With both children, I have used disposables for the first few weeks, particularly at night, while I was adjusting to new schedules and recovering from the birth. Newborns are so unpredictable (at least, mine were) but after a few weeks, we were settled into somewhat of a schedule.

What I didn't know with Eliyahu (at first, anyway), was that he was sensitive to something (still don't know what, exactly) in disposable diapers. By his third day of life, he was already starting to get diaper rash. It continued despite all my efforts to get rid of it. Someone had given us a package of Huggies diapers, and I somehow realised that when we used that brand, his rash got better. We used Huggies and the rash did start clearing up noticeably within about 12 hours. I tried a number of different brands of disposable diapers, and all caused an awful rash. Huggies diapers, even with coupons, were outrageously expensive, so to cloth we went.

Eliyahu hasn't had a single rash since we started using cloth diapers. Yehoshua only got diaper rash once when he was a baby, and I discovered it was due to some detergent residue in the diapers. I have had such good success with cloth diapering. My house doesn't stink, and I know that my children are in soft, dry, nice-smelling diapers. (I never understood why people used the term "paper diapers" for disposable diapers, until I used cloth for a while and then felt a disposable!)

So there's some back ground for you; just my personal thoughts and why we personally like cloth. Now, for the how-to!

I have a kind of diaper called a "pre-fold". There are a lot of "fancy" (and expensive!) very nice cloth diapers out there. I haven't had experience with them, so I won't be talking about them in this article. (As a side note, I have used flat-fold diapers, and don't mind them, but pre-folds do save me time, so I sewed all of my flat-fold diapers into pre-folds.) Pre-folds are the cheapest, most-durable, and easiest-to-wash diapers. They require some sort of waterproof cover, like the Gerber vinyl covers sold at Wal-mart (which I don't recommend--keep reading). 

Prefolded diapers in varying thicknesses

Here is a picture of some of my pre-folded diapers. At the top left, you see a very thin diaper with a washcloth folded in thirds and laid in the center, to increase the absorbency. At the top right, there is one of Eliyahu's nighttime diapers, which is really just two thinner diapers with a washcloth folded inside. The bottom right diaper is a fairly thin daytime diaper for Eliyahu, and the bottom left is Yehoshua's daytime diaper, a medium-thick one.

You can probably see that there isn't really one right way to "do" cloth diapers, at least with pre-folds. I take whatever I have and make it into the absorbency I need. Washcloths are great for increasing the absorbency without increasing the bulk too much.

Here is how I fold my "pre-folds":

Diaper waiting to be folded

   Sides in...

Front up a little...   ...and front up the rest of the way.

This much folding would be good for a very small baby. A larger child would need very little of the front folded under (step 3). The diapers can be folded to fit whatever size baby you have, which is one of the reasons that pre-folds are more economical than fitted diapers, where a variety of sizes are needed.

Diaper covers

Here are some diaper covers. These are the four different kinds I have. There are other, "fancier" covers with which I haven't had experience, so do your research and check your budget and make choices based on what's best for you. I'm just writing about what has worked for me. :)

At the top left, you see a diaper cover that opens at the sides and has snaps. The snaps are very nice, and adjustable (so it fits while the baby grows!), and there's some airflow at the sides because of the snaps. These are all very good features. Side opening = no poop on baby's legs. Adjustable snaps = fits baby longer. Airflow at sides = less chance of rashes. The only slight issue with this cover is that sometimes during a long nap it will leak, especially if the diaper inside isn't as absorbent as it should have been.

At the top middle, you see a Gerber vinyl diaper cover. These can be found at Wal-mart, and they are cheap for a reason. They do work well, but they don't last long at all. If you buy these, you can almost plan on replacing them in a couple months' time. I have found that when these covers crack, plastic tape can be placed over the cracks and will go through the washer and last for a while longer. I don't throw mine away until they are beyond tape-repair. :)

At the bottom of the photo, there is a velcro cover. This cover is vinyl, with cotton cloth on the outside. It has velcro, and elastic around the waist, so it's adjustable and comfortable. There are a lot of great things about this cover (like the first cover mentioned) but a few drawbacks. The cotton on the outside wicks moisture from the edges of the diaper. Velcro wears out a lot faster than snaps, even when it's washed correctly. And this cover tends to leak during naps or nighttime use.

At the very right is my favorite diaper cover. I purchased these nylon diaper covers when my vinyl ones all wore out in the smaller sizes. I can't say enough good things about this cover. It doesn't leak. It's still fairly soft. It's machine-washable. It's affordable. It doesn't wear out. If I have to buy more covers, I plan to get this kind. At $2 each, they're much cheaper than the very nice ones. 

cloth diaper wipes

And the last of my supplies: cloth wipes. If you're washing diapers, you may as well wash wipes, too. And it's so much cheaper and nicer than buying the commercially made ones laden with ingredients I can't pronounce. Top left is a plain white washcloth, top right is some inexpensive baby washcloths. Bottom right is some homemade washcloths which were a gift to me, and bottom left is unhemmed wipes cut from old baby bath towels and socks.

You can also make homemade baby wipes using Bounty paper towels, boiling water, a little baby bath soap, and olive oil. I have made those in the past, but I find it simpler to just use washcloths with plain water.

Eliyahu, getting a clean diaper put on  Eliyahu, with a clean diaper

Here is what the diaper looks like when it's pinned on. I prefer regular pins because they hold well. (I've never poked the baby, though I have poked my own finger a couple times!) I do have a snappi but it won't snag most of my diapers and I'm so clumsy at using it anyway. I know others who love snappis, so I think it's a matter of preference. :)

Cloth diaper covered with Dappi Nylon Diaper Cover Clothes snapped up over diaper

Here is the diaper, covered with a Dappi (brand) nylon cover. And, the happy baby, all snapped up :).

So, my basic supplies are: cotton pre-folded diapers, nylon diaper covers, and a pair of diaper pins.

Optional supplies for me include rectangular fleece liners (cut from an old blanket) which can be used to line the diaper so the baby feels dry; I don't mind using them but found that they were more bother to hang on the clothesline than they were really worth.

Now for the exciting part: washing and drying cloth diapers.

I want to be sure to mention that cloth diapers is just another part of parenting, and your method will probably depend more on your circumstances, such as your house or lifestyle, rather than a certain "right" or best way. I have changed how I do things several times. Here is a basic overview:

With a baby who is exclusively breastfed, diapers can just be thrown into the washer. Do a pre-soak/rinse, and then your normal wash cycle with an extra rinse. I did this with Yehoshua, and it saved me a lot of time (rather than washing out all the poopy ones). With Eliyahu, he likes to fill his diaper only once every day or two, so I wash his out in the toilet since they're so full and far between. :) With a child who is eating solid foods, diapers need to be rinsed/scrubbed out in the toilet.

I have always done a "dry pail" which means I don't keep any water in my diaper pail. I do sometimes toss some baking soda in the pail with the diapers, but not always.

The night before I plan to wash the diapers, I put them in the washer and start it (cold water). I leave the lid up so it washed and then just soaks. The next morning, I continue the wash, adding a small amount of detergent and some baking soda. Then I do a second wash/rinse (warm/cold) with plain water (no more soap). This gets the diapers nice and clean. If I remember, I add a couple tablespoons of white vinegar to the final rinse water, as a natural fabric softener and to combat hard-water smell.

And lastly, if at all possible, I hang the diapers (and covers!) out in the sun. Any stains on the diapers magically disappear after a few hours in the sun, leaving bright white diapers and somehow also helping combat the likelihood of diaper rash. Sun-drying diapers is the way to go if at all possible.

My clean basket of diapers and pail of dirty ones...

This is the usual state of my diaper supply: a laundry basket full of unfolded clean diapers, and a pail of dirty ones. I love to have my diapers all folded and stacked neatly. With both children still in diapers, I use about 25 diapers + 10 wipes/washcloths/liners each day. I have about a 3-day supply of diapers. All my efforts at folding and neatly stacking are used up within 48 hours. So for now, I just store them in the basket and grab what I need. The exception is that I do fold nighttime diapers, so I can change Eliyahu during the night with minimal effort. (I change him on the bed in the dark!)

Combatting Diaper Rash

Here are some things I have found useful for keeping diaper rash away:

1. Change baby frequently. Check for wet diapers all the time, and change as often as needed!

2. When changing a diaper, gently pat (not rub) the diaper area with a soft dry washcloth, removing any excess moisture. Allow baby's bottom to completely air-dry between diaper changes; don't just stick a new diaper on right away. Give baby a toy to occupy him during this length of time :D

3. Switch covers. Diaper covers that were used for wet diapers don't need to be washed after every use. However, they should be air-dried between uses. I usually have 2-3 covers "in rotation" so I always have a dry one to put on the baby.

4. Make sure you use very little detergent when you wash your diapers. Very little. Open your washer and look to see if there are soap suds in your final rinse. You might be surprised at how far a little detergent goes.

5. Don't use perfumed detergent. Don't use fabric softener (ever!!).

6. Give your diapers as much sunlight as possible.

7. Use only water when you clean baby's bottom. Be sure to air-dry after you've washed baby's bottom AND when changing wet diapers (which don't require wipes). Allow baby's bottom as much exposure to the fresh air as is possible. My diaper changes usually take 5-15 minutes.

8. If the rash is really bad, lengthen the amount of fresh air it receives. Consider using a little rash ointment for your baby's comfort. (Try not to get the ointment on the cloth diaper, though, as it's nearly impossible to wash out!) Switch to disposables if needed, so you can use a more liberal amount of ointment without ruining your cloth diapers.

This has gotten long, and I'm sure I haven't covered everything! If you have questions, please leave comments and I will either reply to your comment or edit my post. There are also some great websites about cloth diapering, such as diaper safari, the diaper hyena, and diaper pin.

Comments

I enjoyed your detailed post on cloth diapers. I always planned to use cloth diapers on any children I had, and my Mom spoiled both I and my sister in law (first grandchildren were born 6 days apart:) by making us velcro tab prefolds that have 3 layers sewn into the inside and then flannel and terry cloth liners if we choose to use them. I also line dry (actually line dry EVERYTHING as I haven't had a dryer in 9 months) and it makes for nice smelling clean diapers.
I'll have to send a picture as my Mom did a wonderful job on the diapers and has made them for quite a few other people who were "intimidated" by traditional cloth diapers that needed to be folded and pinned.
Heather

...I was afraid it was getting too long for anyone to be able to read it all ;) Your homemade diapers sound wonderful! I have recently tried making prefolds out of old t-shirts, but need to experiment more before I can say I'm satisfied with the results :|. :)

Oh, I just looked at your profile! I "know" you! ;) I read your article in HW yesterday. I really enjoyed it, and it was a good reminder to be thankful for what our Heavenly Father sends our way :D

I enjoyed reading that. I just started using cloth with our latest baby. I have enjoyed it so far. I love hanging them outside to dry!!There are so many cloth diapers to choose from. So far I have used fitted diapers, which I sewed up and I also have terry nappies. I use motherease covers which are wonderful!

~Tanya

How often do you wash diapers? How old were your older children when they were potty trained? Yehoshua is still is diapers, so I wash every 2 days (but always on Fridays and Sundays, so sometimes two days in a row :D). I've decided that potty training isn't something to get frustrated over... so we'll see when it happens! :)

I wash about 2 or 3 times a week. it depends if we are out on Sabbath. I still will use diaposibles while out... I have yet to master that one. :) All older children were all trained by 2 1/2 yrs or less. :) One day, I would decided that today we would learn to use the potty, so I put them in training panties and away we went. Didn't take them to long to be trained at all.

~Tanya

I solve the cloth-diapering-on-the-go hassle by trying not to go away very much :D Actually, I personally think taking children out is a big hassle, cloth diapers or not! :D

:) Sounds like a good idea. We mainly are go on Sabbath's. For shopping, I will use cloth. Just when we are gone most of the day. :) I could use cloth, but I would need an extra bag for the wet ones.

~Tanya

...I was away all day today and brought home a grocery sack full of diapers :)

Hmm, thanks for the informative post! It was almost enough to convince me to try it on Ike... until I read the washing part. = P Gross. My mom used cloth for my two brothers (which I helped with a lot) and after doing that I told myself that I wouldn't use them for my children. =D Disposables are expensive, for sure. That's why I wanted to train Lyddie as early as I could. Thanks for taking the time to share this! Who knows, maybe I will at least give it a try sometime. = )

The toilet part? With Yehoshua I didn't wash any of the diapers out in the toilet (until he started solids). With Eliyahu I do, but only becaise it's One Very Full Diaper every 1-2 days rather than Ten Not Very Full Diapers every day. :D What can I say... you get used to it? :)

I always like reading about cloth diapers.:-D

Have you tried wool covers at all? I could sing their praises.:-D Good ones are a bit pricy but SOOO nice. The difference between an overnight diaper in a wool cover and a nylon/vinyl/PUL cover is really amazing. With wool so much more moisture evaporates, it is really quite amazing. The hand washing and re-lanolizing take a bit of time but you rarely have to do it.

For people who are grossed out by washing diapers/emptying poop into the toilet: like you said, with most breastfed newborn baby poop it's not necessary as it so easily rinses away with water in the machine. With solid food poop I do find using fleece liners really helpful. For the true solid stuff it just rolls right off (is anyone getting grossed out yet?) and even with the slightly messier stuff it kind of peels off when you swish it in the toilet. If you really don't want to deal with it some people get something called a "Little Squirt" attached to their toilet which sprays stuff right off. I've never used one but I know people who use and love them. And then there is the other thing: people see disposables as a way not to have to deal with poop but you are actually NOT supposed to just throw away a poopy disposable. You're still supposed to empty it into the toilet (which diaper packages all state, as far as I know, but most people don't pay attention to it). Considering most people don't do that I think the options of either a) rinsing out a poopy diaper in the toilet where fecal matter belongs and then washing it or b) throwing fecal matter into a landfill where it will sit and contaminate the air and water around it...hmmm, which one sounds more gross to you?;-)

... our garbage was gross when we used disposables for Yehoshua's solid-food-poo. It only got more disgusting. At least cloth gets clean and fresh :D.

No, I've never tried wool... I should, if it's that good. I just don't understand how it works. (i.e. doesn't leak but allows airflow?) :D How often do you have to wash it out? I saw an online video one time of how to wash and re-lanolize. I'm just afraid to try something new (and expensive!) on my own! knowing me, I'd ruin it! :0

 

A good wool cover is pretty durable, I will say. When I was staying with my family (lots of kids taking turns with laundry) a couple of my wool covers got accidentally machine washed SEVERAL times (that's a no no!) but it hasn't seemed to effect them at all. I guess it allows airflow better because it is a fiber, unlike vinyl, nylon or PUL. THe lanolin in it is what makes it waterproof...but that's all I know, I just know they work really well for me.:-D

Do you think they would be easy to make? (I mean, do yours look complicated?) I could always watch for free wool sweaters (or cheap ones) at garage sales :D

I found this post on WellTellMe while looking for information on a different way to wash cloth diapers.
I love cloth diapers! I am using them on my fifth child (although a couple of my older kids didn't wear them as long as this baby is...I used disposables a bit) I think pins are neat and tidy and enjoy hanging diapers on the line. (although in blizzard weather like we have today, the basement lines are the ones I use!) I also found the nylon pants to be softer and last a while, but started using wool part time last summer. I love mine and got them from a really nice WAHM who makes them from recycled wool sweaters for WAY cheeper than new.
I have been using clorine bleach on my diapers, but want to stop. Do you think that your diapers get disinfected with your washing method? Is the baking soda for smell control?
Here is my blog address... http://wifemomteacher.blogspot.com/
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Heidi

Hello, Heidi! Welcome! Thanks for commenting! :) I have heard lots of great things about wool, but have never seen a wool cover "in action" and haven't been brave enough to try something different from my pre-folds and nylon covers. :)

I don't think my cloth diapers get disinfected from my washing method. Our hot water is VERY hot, so I do think that a hot wash gets them pretty clean. Sometimes I just do a warm wash though. What really disinfects the diapers, is hanging in the sunshine outside. :) However, even without sunshine, the diapers don't stink or anything.

The baking soda freshens (by eliminating odors) and softens. I use vinegar sometimes, too... can't remember if that kills anything, but it does soften and cut down on soap residue.

I may be a little... strange... but I'm not really worried about a few germs. I think with washing (and doing at least one extra rinse) and then hanging outside, the diapers get clean enough without adding bleach. Bleach will cause the diapers to wear out more quickly, and isn't good against the baby's skin. My mom always had a wet pail for dirty diapers, with a little bleach in the water. I use a "dry pail" for mine.

If you pre-rinse (or scrub out in the toilet) and then do a hot wash with some detergent and baking soda or vinegar or whatever works best, do at least 2 rinses, and then hang (in the sun, especially) I woul dthink you'd be fine.

I've read numerous things... one article said to only dry cloth diapers on low if using the dryer. Another article said on "high" to kill germs. If I use the dryer for my diapers, I use the low heat setting. If I were having smell or germ issues, I might change the setting. :)

I don't know if you keep up with the comments in old posts but on the chance that you do I've got a question if you have a moment to spare. We are in the process of switching over to cloth diapers. This is the first time we've had two in diapers and it really makes the expense of disposables sink in when you're buying for two! Anyway, we are easing into it by starting our 21 month old in cloth training pants with a diaper cover. My question is, do the nylon diaper covers leave an elastic ring around the legs like the vinyl? We got vinyl covers to start with because no store in town had anything else! Not even Babies'R'Us! Bethani really, really dislikes the stinging feeling when we take the plastic pants off. We tried going a size up thinking they were too small but it still happened and we don't dare go up another size because they will fall off :)! I'm planning to try the covers you suggested but since I have to order them online I thought I would ask about this first. Thanks :)! And have a great day!

Hi, Shelby! Our stores here only carry the vinyl covers, also. I would have never discovered the nylon ones, except that someone gave me a very old, well-used one, and I loved it so much and saw from the tag that it was made from nylon, so I looked it up online! Ahh, the wonders of technology. What CAN'T you Google these days?! :) By the way, good for you, saving money by going with cloth! :) The nylon covers do have elastic around the legs and waist, but it's covered with a soft "fabric" almost. It's stretchy though. It never leaves a mark on the leg (I think if it did, the baby would need the next larger size) and is very comfortable. The whole cover is really soft compared to vinyl. My boys didn't mind the vinyl covers, though... In fact, Yehoshua still has one that he wears at night and he says it "tickles" but doesn't complain at all! :) I do use covers large enough that they have slightly loose leg openings. I don't want the baby to be uncomfortable, and the diapers don't leak when they're changed frequently, even if the openings are a little loose. Also, it helps get more airflow, which is a good thing. :) The Dappi covers are really nice and affordable (they don't compare to Fuzzi Bunz, but I love them, personally!), and I imagine you would like them much better than the Gerber vinyl type. The sizes do run smaller than Gerber, though. Yehoshua, at 33 pounds, is in the Toddler size at night. Eliyahu, at 21 pounds ( a few months ago) needed to be in the Large size. I'm not sure how old/big Bethani is, but I think Toddler size in the Dappi covers is equal to x-large in Gerber. :) Hope this helps! :)

For your time and knowledge :). I feel so much better about ordering something online when I've had a good review from someone trustworthy :).

Shelby, you're welcome! :) One more thing I was going to say, but forgot: My children's diapers do tend to fall down, because I don't put them on too tight. So, what I do, is always have a onesie on that snaps at the bottom. The onesies seem to hold everything together. Yehoshua's too big for onesies now, but he's potty trained and at night, I put a cloth diaper on him in case of an accident, but since he's not running around in it, it doesn't fall off. Actually, it's very convenient to pull down to take him potty during the night and just pull back up. Eliyahu, on the other hand, is always in a onesie. :)

I wouldn't leave this commment on just anyone's blog but I think being the fellow mommmy that you are you'll understand ;). I ordered diapers and the diaper covers that you suggested from your link and they arrived a couple of days ago. I had to wash them before I used them so we are just now going on 24 hours in the cloth diapers and I am amazed. It has been so easy! It hasn't taken me nearly as long to change them as I thought it might :). And the covers are so nice! I could tell straight out of the package that they were going to be such an improvement. They don't pinch Bethi's little legs at all, she hasn't complained once since I switched her (and, you're right, you get what you pay for...every one of the Gerber diaper covers already have little holes in them :1). Anyway, I chose now to comment because Andrew just had a really good "test" diaper ;) and it didn't leak at all! The Huggies diapers would have! Only a fellow mommy could understand my elation :). Thank you once again for your input Tammy :).

Shelby, that is great to hear! I am so glad you are satisfied with the covers you ordered. I am often afraid of ordering things online since, unless you know exactly what you're ordering, it may or may not be exactly what you're expecting. :) I'm glad you're enjoying the cloth diapers! I love using cloth. I'm so accustomed to it, it's just a way of life. :D

Did this method hold up well for you when the boys started walking/becoming toddlers? Thanks for your great website.

Yes, this is still the system I use for cloth diapering... pre-folds and nylon (or vinyl, though I prefer nylon!) covers. :) And I use pins, because I couldn't get the snappi to work with my diapers. :)

A couple comments above this one, I describe to Shelby about how I don't pin the diapers very tightly on my babies, so once they get really mobile, I make sure they're wearing a "onesie" that snaps around the bottom. That helps make sure everything holds together and their pants (or shorts) and diaper doesn't fall down. Especially with my boys' big bellies and small(er) bottoms! :) My mom didn't use onesies (I don't think they were invented back then!) so I remember her pinning the diapers on a little tighter. :) So, anyway, basically I make sure my diapered toddler has a t-shirt that snaps around the bottom, and we're all set for running everywhere! :)

I was just wondering what kind of detergent you use to wash your diapers. I'm expecting my third child in about two months, and I am planning to use cloth. Chinese prefolds and Bummis Super Whisper Wraps, is what I'm planning on.

I make my own laundry soap. It has plain bar soap (Dove or Ivory), baking soda, and Borax. I also do vinegar in the rinse water (I use a Downy ball, since I would never remember to do it on my own). I usually wash in cold water, as some folks on WellTellMe.com said this was the best for keeping smells out of clothes using homemade detergents.

Do you think this will get the diapers clean enough? I'm not too worried about germs either (I sometimes joke that my children are so healthy because they eat off the floor!). I'm just worried about smell and stains. I would love to hang them outside, but we are surrounded by gravel, which I think would just be a big dusty mess!

Any advice on what kind of laundry soap to use? What has worked best for you?

Thanks in advance for your ideas!

Beth

Hi, Beth! :)

I have, for the majority of the past 3.5 years, used "All" Free and Clear laundry detergent for my diapers. I use about 1-2 tablespoons of detergent for a large load of diapers.

I have used homemade laundry detergent (soap, washing soda, and borax) on my diapers, but then read that the soap in the recipe can cause build-up. Since I use very little detergent anyway, I just went back to my jug of All, which will probably last me for years! :)

This website has a great chart comparing the ingredients of laundry detergents for cloth diapering. :)

Wool is great! I have never had diaper rash from using it, and its oh so natural. I copied this info for you, because I think she says everything. Honestly, I would never use vinyl or PUL because it doesn't breath, and because I have never used it I have never had any problems. My DD is rash free :)

Why choose wool? Wool covers are just more proof of what those making natural parenting choices already know - that nature is no less than perfect. Nature's gift of wool can maintain three seemingly contradicting qualities simultaneously. First, a wool cover is thermal - "it can store water vapour up to 35 per cent of its own dry weight yet it remains dry to touch and speeds up the body's own cooling system." (2) To attest to this fact, wool is most regularly suggested for night-time usage when leaks most often occur in abundance, although certainly can extend to everyday wear. Second, while absorbent, they still remain breathable, allowing for a maximum amount of circulation around baby's bum. This helps prevent diaper rash, but also alleviates the health concerns of trapped heat within a diapering system. Finally, wool contains natural lanolin which creates a natural waterproof barrier or repellancy. For more information on the benefits and structure of wool as a workable natural fiber for cloth diapering systems, read Marc Pehkonen's Diapering Articles: Right Down to the Fibers.
Wool through the ages. Though it is unknown the exact moment the revelation of wool as a choice textile came to mankind, "the earliest dated surviving textile, found in a Danish bog, originates from 1500 BC, while the oldest fine woolen fabric dates to the fifth century BC and was found in a Greek colony." (1)
Wear and tear of Wool. Before going any further, let's talk about the 'wear' of wool. After all, our concern is that baby be completely comfortable and cool, right? Wool boasts of the finest comforts - "its elasticity means garments fit so well and yield to body movement, it absorbs moisture, allows your body to breathe, yet never feels damp and clammy." (2) Baby can bend, stretch, crawl, pull-up easily and get the added benefit of a completely breathable diapering system. Cloth diapering enthusiasts often veer away from choosing wool because of a common misconception that wool products are not easy to care for and/or maintain. First, I would like to point out that wool need not be washed as regularly as synthetic diaper covers. Wool is "dirt resistant - the crimp and the scales prevent dirt from penetrating the surface of the wool fibre and the static resistance also helps to resist dust and lint from the air." (2) That, in and of itself, makes it a more agreeable diapering item for those wanting ease of use because it will cut down on the amount of time dedicated to diaper laundry. Wool is also known for its longevity and durability due to "the interlocking protein molecules . . . wool fibres have the power to elongate, stretch and recover, creating an extremely robust fabric that will last for years." (2)
Naturally antibacterial. Shortly following diaper changes, wool covers may smell of urine, however a system of rotating and airing them out (as seen in the picture above) will cause the smell to dissipate completely. Why is this? The same natural properties of lanolin that allow wool to be virtually waterproof pull double-duty as an anti-bacterial, thus killing germs. One way to know that a wool cover needs laundering (outside of being soiled with fecal matter), is if the urine smell does not fade after an airing. This means the lanolin has worn thin and most likely the wool diaper cover is losing its waterproofing as well.
So how DOES wool wash up? As with any cloth diapering system, it is important to read the wash and care information given by the WAHM (Work-At-Home-Mom) or manufacturer who produced the specific wool item purchased. Some wool does require a simple hand washing system, while others can be placed on a gentle cycle in a washing machine. It is important to pay attention to these details lest one end up with a doll size wool cover for their life-size baby. However, in general, the following applies.
Do an initial rinse in cold water to cleanse away any surface urine or solid waste. Then fill the sink with warm water, adding the wool wash. The amount of wool wash needed is directly in proportion to the amount of covers being washed and the amount of water being used - the brand of wool wash that you use will stipulate tsp. per gallon increments.
To simplify, we choose to use Eucalan® No Rinse Woolwash. As the name stipulates, it does not require a rinse . . . cutting down water usage and making the process easier. It is a non-phosphate gentle cleaner that contains lanolin for waterproofing and conditioning wool. More often than not, I have found that it is suggested/recommended and/or sold by those that sell wool products.
Once the wool wash is added, soak your covers in the mixture . . . I usually get busy with tasks around the house and tend to leave it in the soak for 15 to 30 minutes. Once it has soaked, gently squeeze out all excess water. It is unnecessary and counterproductive to writhe and wring the cover. I usually lay the covers out flat on a towel, and roll it up for a bit to absorb a bit of the moisture, then unroll and place on a fresh/dry towel or hang to dry. Our covers are normally washed about once a month. We have several wool covers in our rotation which extends the washing routine.
Machine washing is much the same - again, read the washing guidelines that come with your wool item as some specifically state NOT to machine wash. Fill the washing machine with tepid/warm water FIRST before adding wool wash . . . gently agitate the wash to 'mix.' ALWAYS utilize the gentle cycle when washing wool covers. Add wool covers once wool wash has been agitated to mix well with the water. Allow the washer to agitate. Remember, if using Eucalan® No Rinse Woolwash, the rinse cycle is unnecessary. Either way, pull from washer and hang to dry. If 'no rinse' . . . follow the same steps used when soaking in the sink (above).
Here's a little humor for you - I came across a Terms & Definitions list for textile people and fiber producers. The term Blowout Factor means "The rapidity with which an animal's fiber diameter thickens with age. (A bad thing.)" (4) Here in the Diapering World the term Blowout Factor has a slightly different slant, however it does still deal with rapidity and possible thickening with age (a bad thing) as well. :)
Other products can be used to wash wool as well. Some prefer to use baby wash for cleansing and lanolize with melted lanolin. Lansinoh® is a commonly used brand. To use Lansinoh®, dissolve a teaspoon or so per diaper cover into very hot water - adding just a tad of natural soap to maintain a fluid consistency to the Lanolin. This HOT mixture can then be added to warm water already drawn in a sink. Add the wool covers and soak. With this system, if the 'soak water' does not stay warm, the lanolin may begin to harden and clump in the water and/or on your covers. So watch the water temperature carefully. Pull out and gently squeeze, roll in towel to absorb excess moisture and hang or lay flat to dry.
Variety of styles, hues and textures. Wool is a very versatile fiber used to make a wide range of products from upholstery to . . . well - baby's diaper covers! Wool diaper covers can be found in any shape or form that a synthetic diaper cover can take and more - from front hook and loop (velcro/aplix) or snap closures to side snapping or pull-on soakers, there is a broad spectrum. Wool is also recognized for being "easy to dye - the scales on the surface of the wool fibre tend to diffuse light giving less reflection and a softer colour and wool holds its colour well as the dye becomes part of the fibre." (2) Many WAHMs in the diaper sewing industry are experimenting with all sorts of methods of hand-dyeing wool for their custom creations. Everything from Kool-Aid dyeing to basic Vegetable Dyes are being utilized to add vibrance, or as Lori Taylor of Fuzbaby would say, to create 'Diaper Art' on wool diaper covers. For Helpful Tips on using natural plant dyes for your own wool dyeing experiments a very informative site is The Joy of Handspinning.
Peruse Karla Fischer's very detailed and extensive wool reviews at Cloth Diaper Geek's Recommendation of Wool Covers and Wool-In-Ones.
Last Thought: Storing your wool diaper covers for the next baby. With the onslaught of plastic storage containers that can fit anywhere from between your washer and dryer to under the bed or stackables for your closet . . . you may not think twice regarding storing your wool (or any other textiles) in that manner. However, due to a lack of air circulation within plastic containers or bags, it is not a choice environment. Fabric "needs to breathe and storing it in vinyl airtight containers causes fiber deterioration from chemical interaction and imparts awful odors over time." (5) "Any moisture remaining in the container will result in a musty smell at best, and possibly even mold or mildew damage." (1) So what do you use? To protect your wool covers from mold, mildew and moth larvae, try storing them in cedar wood, wicker baskets with cedar chips, cotton bags or any other type of container that will allow the textile to breathe. (1) For the best protection, choose acid-free products, as well as boxes containing rag content or linen stationery (you can get these from printers - just ask for their empty boxes). Do not store in cardboard shoes boxes as they are produced from less than 'friendly' products. However, cardboard shoe boxes can be lined with acid-free tissue so that fabric will not touch cardboard if it is your only alternative. Another suggestion is to store your wool covers in newspaper. Yep, you read right! Moths do not like newspaper, so simply wrap your wool covers in tissue and then in newspaper and store them in dresser drawers, closets, cabinets or wherever there is space. Remember to store away from direct sunlight, damp basements, hot attics and/or dusty garages. (5)

Thanks for sharing! Would you mind giving me the link where you found this info? :) I have heard lots of good things about wool diaper covers, and I know they can be affordable if you make your own. :)

These are recycled wraps and soakers

https://www.affordablediapers.com/servlet/Invoice?invoice=1808902&smode=show

This is the link with all the info on diapers including wool.

http://www.thediaperhyena.com/index.php

And, if you have never heard of diaper swappers, its your best friend in the diapering world! You can buy trade and sell used diapers! I have bought all my diapers from there including my wool, and when I am done I can sell it back as long as I have taken good care of it, I can get what I paid for. Not to mention tons of tips and forums. Its the best thing that I ever discovered for diapering. You see what you are getting, and you can see if the mamma who is selling it to you has a decent rating. There is great accountability there because of the rating system, and I have never had any issues at all with diapers or covers I have received. So check that out as well.

http://www.diaperswappers.com

Good luck, let me know if you have any other questions,

Here is my e-mail if you want to talk
chocomilko@gmail.com

If you need a reference e-mail to get on Diaper Swappers, I will give you that as well, but would rather not post it here.

Thanks

Oh, and I'm sure you will find this extremely useful!!

http://www.borntolove.com/frugal-column2.html

Hi Tammy,

You said, "With a child who is eating solid foods, diapers need to be rinsed/scrubbed out in the toilet."

I'm new to cloth diapering my toddler. I'm sorry to say this but could you be more descriptive as to how you do this? Basically, you get your hand into the muddy, poopy water and scrub? (This idea really does gross me out.)

:o)

Thanks,
Debra

Well I can tell you that certainly don't stick my hand in the toilet water. Ew!;-) (The idea grosses me out, too, and I am a veteran cloth diaper-er.) My method: dunk, swish, flush. (Dunk the diaper in the toilet bowl and swish to get the bulk of it off. And then--while holding tightly to the diaper--flush, maybe swishing a little more while the water runs over the diaper. Easy, I don't touch anything more than the corner of the dirty diaper, and it goes straight into the diaper pail to be washed later. No stains.

Okay, well... I have heard of people not dunking the toddler diapers in the toilet, but just shaking off what comes off, and washing the diapers in their washing machine. That always sounded gross to me, but, every child is a little different, so perhaps it was just because my boys' diapers were filled with a creamy don't-want-to-come-off substance. Every time.

Another option is to buy the washable/disposable/flushable diaper liners, which you put in each cloth diaper. The wet ones can be laundered and re-used, and the poopy ones get flushed (not safe for septic tanks though!). Someone gave me some of those to use, and they did make things a lot easier with Eliyahu (we're on city sewer). I probably wouldn't spend the money for them myself, though... we went through at least 3 a day (poopy ones that got flushed) and I think they are $12+ for 200 liners. But, if it's worth it to you, it'd be worth it! :)

And the third option, which is what I do (or did! Yay for potty training!) is to dunk the poopy diaper in the toilet. Usually a few dips will remove a good portion of the solids. It depends on your toilet somewhat, though. Some have more water than others in the bowl, and some flush better than others. I'm weird about what goes in my washer, so I usually did end up getting my hands wet (though using the liners took care of needing to do that!). Sorry if it sounds gross... but I guess I figure I clean my toilet and it doesn't seem that yukky to me! And Joshua told me that he read that cell phones are usually more germ-y than toilets, so... ! :)

The best thing I found is the mini diaper sprayer that attaches to the plumbing at your toilet. It has be the best purchase for cloth diapers. I got it at http://www.monkeybunz.com . You just spray the diaper in the toilet and then throw it in the diaper pail, very easy.

When i think of wool, I think of itchy and scratchy material. Are the diaper covers made of a softer wool?

I've never used wool covers, but I don't think they're itchy. They're coated with lanolin to water-proof them, I know that much... :)

okay I have had to clean out underwear in the toilet while potty training my youngster. Which sounds gross but what other choice did I have? It leaves the awful smell on my hands which I find extremely hard to get rid of. Soap just did not cut it. So I thought about using rubber gloves which could get spendy. Does anyone else have any ideas? The poop does not come off great in the toilet without scrubbing and if I toss it in the washer it tends to get on the other clothes. HELP!

Maybe try Fast Orange (or an equivalent; not sure what the off-brands are called), which is a heavy-duty grainy hand cleaner. We use it occasionally and it seems to clean really well.

If it's just a smell (and not a cleanliness issue) perhaps rubbing a little lemon juice or baking soda on your hands would do the trick! :D 

I have never tried to cloth diaper but would love to. I have a 17 month old and a 3 year old. My 17 month old is still in diapers. We are also thinking of having another one soon. I just don't know where to start though. I don't want to spend alot of money and find out it isn't what I want to do. I can also sew a little, but not sure if I could sew a diaper. I guess my main question is what would be the best way for me to start? Where could I find some cheap good diapers? I don't know anyone in or around my area that cloth diapers and I know when they find out they will think I am crazy. I don't really care what they think though. I am just looking for ways to save money and I know diapers are a big expense. I started to use homeade wipes last year and liked them, but we don't use that many anymore so I started to buy them again. I would appreciate any suggestions.

Hi there! :)

Here is a good post with questions and answers about getting started cloth diapering. :)

You can also look through the archived posts here for more posts about cloth diapering (just scroll down). 

You said that you can sew a little, so I am sure you could make pre-folded cloth diapers from old receiving blankets. This is the cheapest way I have found to make diapers, because the receiving blankets can be found at garage sales or thrift stores for about $0.25 or less, and sewing them into pre-folds takes very little time. Over the years I have been watching for good deals on receiving blankets and have been able to collect quite a few, and they do work really well!

Regular wash cloths make great wipes in my opinion, and I have also cut apart baby bath towels or burp cloths (all from thrift stores or garage sales of course!) and hemmed the edges for wipes. There are so many options and ideas!

The first post I linked to above also has links to some diapers that are inexpensive and good quality... and there is tons of info out there online about cloth diapering! Keep reading and decide what would work best for your family/budget/desires! :) And let me know if you have any more questions. :) 

I saw that you recently started using wool covers for Ruth. Do you put pants over the cover or do you just use the cover as the pants? I just switched to cloth and I knitted some covers and longies. I haven't lanolized them yet, so I haven't tried them. I'm still confused about how they work. If you put pants on over the top wont the pants get wet through the wool? What about if they are sitting for a while? Sorry for all the questions, I just don't get how they work?

Wool diaper covers were very confusing to me, even after reading several articles about them! When I was given one, it started to make sense, after seeing it in use. :)

The wool covers repel moisture (when lanolized), still allow the diaper to "breathe" (since they are not "waterproof" in a sense like plastic, but rather act as a moisture-resistant barrier of sorts), and are also anti-bacterial, meaning they stay clean and fresh for weeks (unless soiled by a messy diaper).

The wool covers can also absorb some moisture if needed, but really, their function is to keep the wet diaper (the DIAPER is doing all the "holding") from wicking onto other fabric.

The wool covers can "leak" (allow some wicking) but that can be prevented by proper lanolization and using a thick enough diaper. A diaper that is completely saturated might wick a little through the wool cover -- but I think that has only happened once to me in the past year, and I do not use extra thick diapers with a wool cover.

As far as wearing pants on top of the wool soaker -- it just depends. In the summer I expect Ruth will be sporting a wool soaker and a t-shirt much of the time (we don't have a/c at this apt.!). In the winter, I have had her in long (warm) dresses or a shorter dress with pants over the wool cover -- the pants don't get wet. I think wool longies would be great since you have a diaper cover + leg warmers in one = less stuff to take off for a diaper change!

Anyway, in short, wool is amazing and I love it (no plastic, soft, natural, breathable, etc...) and it really does work! :) let me know what you think when you've tried the things you knitted! :D

I used cloth diapers for my son (whose now 5) and I loved them also. All my diapers were either given to me or I sewed them out of flannel and cheaper brand washcloths for the soaker part. I also had some extra layer liners for over night. so the only part I had to buy was the covers, yeah. Like you I used cloth wipes and washed them as well. I agree there is just something so basic as to wash the diapers and see them hanging on the line to dry. In a weird way I'm sad that it appears my little guy is the only one that might get to use these :) (I just can't seem to convince any of the gals that I know who are having babies to use these!, they think that working moms just don't have the time to bother)

My dad is appreciative of them and everytime he visits he steals some out of the bin to take home for shop rags...

Little House on the Prarie mom :)

I noticed that you are right on the aspect that disposables are more expensive in reality. My daughter is learning to potty train and they are so much harder for her to get off. So I was wondering how much you spent starting out. Not to mention that our trash can smells of dity diapers and not only do i have to spend extra money on disposable diapers but diaper rash cream and powder. My boyfriend might get a little grossed out, but I htink it will be fine.

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