How to Start Cloth Diapering

drying diapers

photo credit: photoann


My biggest issue when I was trying to decided whether or not to cloth diaper, was where to start! I think most people have the same thoughts when it comes to it:

  1. The ick factor. I knew cloth diapering was better for the environment, better for baby’s bum, and better on my wallet. But the memory of my own mom dunking and swishing poopy diapers out in the toilet (plus the nasty smelling ‘wet pail’) totally turned me off to it. Totally. Plus, how in the world do you wash them?
  2. So many options, and everyone seems to have their very own ( and very different) opinion.
  3. The upfront costs of cloth diapers makes just about anyone run scared. And frugal ‘ol me was having a hard time wrapping my head around it! Plus, it’s a big enough purchase that I didn’t want to buy the ‘wrong’ ones.

So let’s debunk a few things and chat about how to make it work!

1. The Ick Factor

Yes, there will be ick. I won’t lie to you.


Did you know that disposable diaper manufacturers also tell you to dump the solid wastes? Go ahead and look on the package, it’s there.

The actual changing with cloth diapers is no different than with disposables. And if you use cloth wipes, it makes it super easy because the wipe and dipe get tossed into the same pail. But it’s what to do after the fact that had me stumped. Well….. if the baby is exclusively breastfed, unless it is a super huge mess, you don’t have to rinse it off. Just toss the dipe in a dry pail that’s been fitted with a wet bag (got that? no more wet pail – you just have a diaper liner in either a garbage can or diaper pail). Done.

If your little one is on solids of some sort, one of two things might happen depending on how they go. You’ll just shake it a bit into the toilet or take a diaper sprayer (cost to buy one is about $40.00, cost to make your own about $5.00) and spray it off. Then drop it in the pail.

You should wash every other day as the ammonia can build up and cause the pail to get quite rank. And it can have an effect on the elastic within the dipes. What you do is take the whole bag of diapers, turn it inside out into the washing machine (you never touch the dipes!) and toss the wet bag in too.

  • Wash on cold for one short cycle with a small amount of detergent- helps to rid the diapers of any solid matter left over
  • Wash on HOT for a long cycle with a small amount of detergent- cleans and deodorizes
  • Rinse one final time – helps rid the diapers of any leftover detergent
  • Dry according to diaper directions or dry outside to “sun” the stains out

After cloth diapering my son from 20 months old until he was completely without diapers (about 10 months later) and now after having my daughter in cloth full time for two years and nights/naps for the last few months, I now realize it’s not near as icky as I thought it would be. And the extra washing isn’t a big deal either, though it took me a couple months to get a good system down so that I wasn’t running out of diapers!

2. The Options

Prefolds, pockets, one size, all in ones, fitteds, velcro, snaps…….ahhhh! So many options out there, where do you even begin to start! To make it easier, many cloth diaper companies are now offering a diaper trial.where they send you a few diapers to try and then you send them back after you use them for a couple of weeks. This way you get to really see how they work without a lot of upfront cost.

You could also buy a few different types to try them out. My experience has been that they all work – it’s just a matter of personal preference. And the great thing is about cloth diapers is that if you take good care of them and keep them in good shape, they are easy to resell! I’ve purchased many used diapers at half the price and they work just as good.

My advice is to just start! You don’t need to have all the supplies, and 24 diapers all at once. But a few and use them while you supplement with disposables until you find out what you really like to use. I started out with 3 diapers and now have built up a stash of about 14. (though I would highly recommend about 24 – you’d do laundry less and also not run out as often as I forget to wash!)

3. The Cost

Yes, cloth diapers are expensive. Spending $15.00 to $20.00 per diaper seems like way to much! There are cheaper options like prefolds (but remember you have to buy different sizes as the baby grows) but even that it still just less than $100.00 to buy what you need all at once. So what do you do if you want to try cloth but can’t afford the upfront cost?

Ways to buy diapers frugally:

  • The Cloth Diaper Foundation offers scholarships for cloth diapers that you can use for a few months until you build up a suplly of your own. {free of charge}
  • Buy used through a site like Diaper Swappers or craigslist
  • Check Cotton Babies for ‘seconds’ (dipes with slight blemishes but completely usable)
  • Sites like etsy and ebay have sellers who make their own diapers and many are great quality and cheaper than name brand (just check out their reviews!)
  • Cloth Diaper Clearance is also a great site to check out

Cloth diapering is an economical and ecological solution to diapering. Not only do you save about $2000.00 for the first child that uses them (second child it’s basically free if your dipes are still in usable condition, as most would be) you save the landfills from about 1 ton of diapers per child. And those diapers will take about 500 years to decompose. Not that’s really the ick factor!

Do you cloth diaper? How did you get started?

If you don’t what’s stopping you?





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This blog is for educational purposes only. The information provided by Donielle, or any contributor, is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. If you are seeking medical advice, please search out a qualified health practitioner.

About donielle

Donielle is a natural momma of two, lover of real foods, and owner and editor of Grand Rapids Natural Living and Naturally Knocked Up. You can usually find her in the kitchen whipping up some nourishing foods, cuddled on the couch reading books to the littles, avoiding the laundry and Mt. Saint Dishes, or tapping away on the laptop. Her husband puts up with her sometimes crazy "hippie" ways, but loves her regardless. Welcome to my home away from home.


  1. Great info, thanks! I just started cloth diapering my 10 day old baby #4! I am loving it so far. I was convinced we needed to try it, but as his birth drew nearer, I was seriously nervous to start! I had researched, and bought what I thought we needed (newborn prefolds and covers for the most part), but it came down to just jumping in! It was surprisingly easy, to my relief! A great feeling for a postpartum mom, who feels like everything is already overwhelming! I will be checking out some of you resources. Thanks!

  2. Yep, love cloth diapers! I prefer the pocket diapers. If you sew or know someone who does — check out Sew A Straight Line for a great free diaper pattern and tutorial on how to make your own! I’m planning to do this soon to add to my stash!

  3. Thanks for the links! I didn’t know about some of these sites! 🙂

  4. What is your opinion on G diapers?
    On my fifth child, and just starting to rethink this diaper thing! Thanks

  5. ShorterMama says:

    I started by registering for them!! I talked to a friend about what her set up was and how many I needed. Registered for them as gifts. I knew the little one mainly needed a place to sleep, a few articles of clothing, and diapers. I just kept my registry minimal and let people know that we really wanted to cloth diaper. We did do disposable for the first two months, but from there we went cloth the super cheap way – through gifts 🙂