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Cloth Diapering 101

Cloth diapering might seem intimidating but anyone can do it. Now that we are several months in I can’t imagine going back to regular diapers.

Why cloth diaper?

  • It is environmentally friendly. Even with using additional water and electricity for laundering, your carbon footprint with cloth diapering is a fraction of what it would be using disposable diapers. Take into consideration the manufacturing, packaging, and shipping of disposable diapers. Not to mention that once you throw them out, they take over 100 years to break down.
  • It is cost effective. When we use disposable diapers with our baby girl we use the Pampers Pure brand. Depending on what size we are using, each diaper costs anywhere from 30-50 cents. If we figure on the 30 cent end at, say, 7 diapers a day, we are spending $2.25 on diapers a day. That winds up being $15.75 a week. That could buy you 1-3 cloth diapers depending on what kind you buy.
  • They can be used for years. This kind of goes along with being environmentally friendly and cost effective. If you invest in decent cloth diapers, you can use them for several children from baby to toddler.
  • You are diaper secure. At the time I am writing this it is during the Covid-19 pandemic. Right now diapers and wipes are sold out all over the place because crazy people are hoarding them. With our stash of re-usable diapers and wipes, this is one concern I don’t have to worry about.

The Diaper Language: AI1, AI2, CBI, DG, FST, Flat, Pre-fold, Hook and Loop, Pocket, Liner, MF, Snappi, etc.

When I first got into cloth diapering I had no idea what the hell anyone was talking about. It was like I had suddenly moved to Cloth Diaper Country and needed a cloth diapering dictionary. Here is a quick run down of the main abbreviations and terms you might find when getting into cloth diapering.

Types of Diapers

AI1 (All In One): This diaper has everything in one piece. It’s basically like a disposable diaper that you wash. When a baby is wet or poopy, the whole thing comes off and goes in the wash bag.

AI2 (All In Two): The fancier sibling of the all in one, this diaper has a cover and special insert that snaps in. These might also be called Hybrids. If your baby only pees or does a tidy little poop, you just remove the insert for washing, replace it with a clean one, and keep using the cover.

Pocket Diaper: These are covers that have a liner sewn in. The liner has an opening on one end and you stuff an insert in it. The whole thing gets dirty when used so it’s a one-use-then-wash-it situation.

DC (Diaper Cover): This is a waterproof cover that you put an insert in, then put it on your baby. When they pee, you can just throw the insert in the laundry and keep using the cover. If they poop it is hit or miss whether you have to wash the whole thing or just the insert.


Insert: This is something that goes inside your diapers to soak up the mess. They can be made of oodles of things including microfiber, hemp, bamboo, cotton, etc.

CBI (Charcoal bamboo insert): These things are on the pricey side but some people swear by them. I haven’t tried them myself.

FST (Flour Sack Towel): These are a cheap and fairly effective insert you can put in a diaper cover. I have few of these and use them during the day on occasion.

Flat: A large square flat piece of fabric that you use as an insert. A flour sack towel would be considered a flat.

Pre-Fold: This is a diaper liner made of a rectangular piece of fabric that folds up and then goes in the diaper.

MF (Microfiber): This is a material that inserts can be made of.

Other Terms

DG (Double Gusset): Some diapers will have an extra elastic part around the leg or in the diaper, making two gussets total.

Hook and Loop: This is a style of diaper that uses what most people call “Velcro” to hold it together. Apparently “Velcro” is a brand name, not the actual material. Like how you would say “Kleenex” instead of tissue.

Liner: This is a thin piece of fabric some folks put in their diapers to catch poop. They can be reusable or disposable.

Snappi: This little doohicky is a clasp that replaced safety pins in holding together the inner part of a diaper.

How many diapers do I need?

That depends on how often you want to wash them and what kind of diapers you buy.

Let’s say you have All In Ones or pocket diapers (once they are peed or pooped in the whole thing gets changed), and you go through six diapers a day. If you only want to wash diapers once per week, that’s six diapers a day, times seven days in a week: you need forty two diapers. If you want to wash twice per week then you’d be good with twenty one diapers.

Same scenario but with covers and liners (you just change out the insert and reuse the cover): Baby goes through six diapers in a day. You might use 2-3 covers and six inserts per day. If you want to wash once per week you’ll need 42 inserts and 14 covers. If you wash twice per week you can get away with 21 inserts and seven covers.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. See my full disclosure here.

Where do I buy cloth diapers?

You can get cloth diapers on Amazon, Target carries a line, Ebay, and direct from the retailers. Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist might also be good options.

If you do buy used cloth diapers, make sure to see if the elastic is worn out or in good condition. I was gifted some used ones and had to replace all the elastics. It’s not super complicated but it is a bit tedious. Here is what a diaper with worn out elastic looks like versus a diaper with good elastic.

What a difference new elastic makes!

You may also have to “strip” used diapers. This is basically a process of washing them in a way that will remove the residue that eventually builds up from detergents. I’ll be adding a new post soon on how to complete this process.

What is the most economical cloth diapering option?

Most folks will tell you that cloth diapering is expensive. There definitely is an initial cash investment and there is a continued investment of your time. Even still, the monetary investment does not have to be huge.

Let’s say you want to use pocket diapers and you are going to go with the Mama Koala brand. You are fine with doing diaper laundry twice per week, so you’ll need around 22 diapers. A six pack of Mama Koala’s is $40. You can buy four packs of those for $160 and you basically have all you need.

If you want organic materials only, then I’d say covers and inserts is your cheaper option.

Do I have to learn complicated diaper folding?

Look, I was terrible at origami too, so I get it. Some folks who are using inserts with a diaper cover use specific folds to keep the inner part of the diaper on their baby better. Personally, I just fold the insert into a rectangle and stick it in the diaper. Works fine. If you want to get into fancy folds there are plenty of videos on YouTube that can walk you through it.

Odds and Ends

Spray pal with my currently non-functioning spray hose.

There are a few other items that are not essential but very useful to have when cloth diapering.

  • Wet Bag: This is a large bag that your dirty diapers go in. It has a liner that keeps the moisture inside the bag. I have one that snaps on to the end of my changing table and it is all I use. Some folks will use a pail or garbage can with a liner for their diapers. For me, the wet bag works fine.
  • Travel Wet Bag: If you intend to cloth diaper on the go, you’ll want a travel-sized wet bag. This is a mini version of the bag above. Typically it will have two pockets, one you an keep clean diapers in and another pocket for soiled ones.
  • Re-Fillable Wipe Container: If you decide to use reusable wipes along with your diapers, one of these refillable wipe containers works great for throwing a few cloth wipes in when on the go.
  • Sprayer: These basically function like your kitchen sprayer. After your baby poops, you can use this to spray it off the diaper and into the toilet.
  • Spray Pal: Definitely more of a luxury item here, but this gadget holds your diaper in it and provides a shield to help keep spray splatters to a minimum.
  • Cloth Wipes: If you are already washing the diapers, it is really no added work to wash wipes too. I picked up some organic cotton flannel wipes on Amazon for a buck a piece. We still needed a few more so I cut up an old flannel receiving blanket.
cloth diapering wet bag and wipe bag
Re-usable wipe bag and mini wet bag.

Cloth Diaper Brands I Recommend

If you are going with covers and inserts, I am a big fan of the Flip brand. They are sturdy, feel as if they will have room to grow with my daughter, and are easy to launder. They also have stretchy tabs where you button them on the waistband. My favorite feature is the little flap on each end that helps hold the insert in place.

Mama Koala is a great and affordable pocket diaper. Widely available on Amazon, they run $40 for a pack of six. Quick tip: If you pull up the different pattern options, then click “Sort by price” you can occasionally find cheaper patterns for $32.

How do I wash these things?

Check out this blog post for a rundown of how we wash our diapers.

How do I put on a cloth diaper?

Check out my YouTube video below for a quick guide to putting on a cloth diaper.

Watch and Learn

There is so much to cover when it comes to cloth diapering. For more information on this topic please check out my YouTube video on Cloth Diapering 101.

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