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Contemplating Cloth (Part 3)

If you’re contemplating cloth, we suggest that you check out Part 1 and Part 2 of Krista’s series about cloth diapers!

Okay, I’m really thinking about making the switch.  I think I know what kind of diapers I want and where I’m going to purchase.  Tell me the practical stuff…how difficult is this going to be?

I’ll be honest, at the beginning, it will seem like more “work” and you might wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into. But soon, it will feel totally natural!

You will want to set up your diaper changing area with plenty of diapers (ready to use, so stuff those pockets!), wipes, and all of the supplies you will need (Snappis if you are using prefolds, changing pad, wipes). Especially when you are first figuring out how to use your diapers you don’t want to have to look through drawers to find all of your things!  I keep all of our pocket diapers in canvas bins on the two shelves underneath our changing table.  I have our cloth wipes folded and stacked with the spray bottle with wipe solution in an old wipes container.  It is on one of the shelves under the changing table (my 15 month old gets really grabby when he’s being changed, so I can’t keep much next to him!).  Also under the changing table I have a bunch of plastic grocery bags for poopy diapers (more on that later) and a plastic basket.  Place your diaper pail close by so you don’t have to travel to dispose of the wet/soiled diapers.

One of my many former diapering area setups

What happens with the wet and dirty diapers?

Wet diapers go straight into your diaper pail!  If you’re using pockets that close with velcro, be sure to affix those laundry tabs so you don’t end up with diapers stuck to one another after you wash them.  And unless you’re using a type of diaper that is designed so that the insert will agitate out, do your best to shake out the inserts into the pail.  You want the inserts to wash outside of the diaper.  If you use diaper covers with your fitteds or prefolds and if the cover isn’t soiled or stinky, you can air dry it for another use (I just lay mine wet side up on the top of the diaper pail).  Make sure you don’t throw your Snappi into the pail (not that I’ve done that before or anything…).

When you’re ready to wash, just carry your pail (or your liner if it is waterproof) full of diapers to your washer!

That doesn’t sound so bad, but tell me about the POOP!  Oh my gosh, the POOP!  Are you up to your elbows in poop all day??

I promise, I don’t have poop up to my elbows.  In fact, I believe the only time I have accidentally touched poop while changing a diaper was a time my son was wearing a disposable diaper!

Another way I have set up our diapering area, back from our prefold/cover days

So here’s what I do with poopy diapers.  I realize not everyone does it this way, but this is what has worked for us for 2.5 years.  I have a small plastic basket that I line with a plastic grocery bag.  I take a second grocery bag and put the poopy diaper into it along with the cloth wipes used.  I tie off the bag and keep it in the basket until I have a few spare minutes later in the day to rinse it off. I know lots of moms take it straight to the toilet and rinse it off, but not me.  Usually one of my kids is needing something by the time I finish changing the diaper and I just don’t have time to deal with it. Especially when I had two in cloth diapers, this was really helpful.

When the kids go down for a nap or I find myself with a few minutes to slip away into the bathroom, I take the basket with the poopy diaper bag into the bathroom.  The basket goes on the floor next to the toilet, close enough that no yucky water will drip on the floor.  I lift the lid and the seat, then take the diaper out of the bag and dunk it in the toilet. This is where a diaper sprayer would come in handy.  Other moms use a discarded kitchen spatula, and I have experimented with using an empty dishwashing liquid bottle filled with water as a makeshift sprayer, but currently dunkin’ and swishin’ is my game.  Sometimes I need to flush an extra time to get enough water around the diaper to get everything off, but other times (depending on the, uh, consistency) it’s a pretty easy move to get all of the solids off. I hold the diaper out of the water for a few seconds to let the water drip off, then I move it back into the now double-lined basket and carry the basket back to the diaper pail and dump it in!  Voila!

Oh!  So here’s a bonus for all of you breastfeeding mamas out there.  When your baby is exclusively breastfeeding, there’s no need to rinse poopy diapers before you wash them. You can just dump them right into the pail. After your baby starts on solid foods or has any formula, that all goes out the window, but it’s pretty cool that it washes away perfectly like that.

I’m out of diapers! Now what?

Time to wash, huh?  Hopefully you have done your research and chose a detergent for your diapers that you are comfortable with. Don’t worry if what you thought would be awesome turns out to be just kinda great. There are many brands and types out there, you’ll find something that works for you and your family.

Take your diaper pail to your washer and dump everything into the washer, liner and all!

Here’s my wash routine:

  1. Cold Rinse (to rinse out all the pee and get any stray poop off of the diapers) – My washer has a Pre-Wash setting where it fills the tub, agitates for a few minutes, then soaks for 20 minutes before agitating again and spinning.  Perfection!
  2. Hot Wash with Detergent – Yes, you want it hot!  Read the instructions on your detergent to know how much to use.
  3. Cold Second Rinse – Too much detergent or leftover detergent can cause functionality problems for your diapers, so you want to be sure you get everything rinsed out.  Cold is best for rinsing.
  4. Pockets (and/or covers if you use them) are dried on a clothesline or drying rack and inserts (or prefolds or fitteds) are dried on low heat in the dryer.  AIOs I would probably dry in the dryer because they take longer.  Every so often you might need to dry your covers and pockets in the dryer to reseal the PUL, but they will last longer if air/sun dried.

When everything is dried, it’s time to re-stuff your pockets and get your changing area set up again!  You’ll be surprised at how much fun diaper laundry day can be!  I think it’s neat to see how clean those diapers got with just a little effort on your part!

If your diapers ever need extra care due to stains or leaking, check into sunning and stripping.  I won’t go into details here, but those two things can do a lot for the look and use of your diapers!

I’m a little concerned about leaks.  Do I need to carry a bunch of extra outfits in my diaper bag all the time?

If your diapers are good quality and don’t have any known issues, they shouldn’t leak.  I will repeat that…your diapers shouldn’t be leaking. If you are having leaks, you need to figure out what the problem is, don’t just give up on cloth diapering!  Sometimes the PUL is defective or needs resealed. Sometimes extensive wear can cause issues, or maybe your inserts have started repelling.  There are ways to find out what’s going on and possibly fix it, but it isn’t normal for your diapers to leak!  I think some people are worried about poop explosions in cloth diapers, but cloth has contained huge poops much better than disposables, in our experience!

Is there anything else I should know?

Yes, there is one thing about cloth diapering that everyone should know before they get into it.  It’s a pretty serious thing, so make sure you’re reading this carefully.

You will be addicted to cloth.

You will talk about cloth diapering to people who may or may not give a rip about diapers.

You will spend a lot of time thinking about diapers.

You may post photos of your diaper stash on Facebook.

You will look at diapers and say “I have to have that diaper!!!” and other people will think you are crazy.

Don’t worry, I won’t think you’re crazy!

Okay, cloth diapering mamas, what did I miss?  Still on the fence?  What else do you need to know?  I’ll answer any questions you have in the comments below!

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About Krista

Krista is a full-time working mom of two boys, currently aged 6 and 7. She lives in Kentucky with her husband, Brandon.


  1. When we cloth diapered, we bought most of our diapers from Pinstripes and Polkadots. Sarah has a ton of information available, including detergent comparisons, safe creams to use with cloth diapers, and a size chart by diaper brand. It might be a good place to look if you need more info!

  2. I use pockets, and I currently only use one microfiber insert. I’m having leak issues. Should I up the inserts? I desperately need to buy/make some new ones.

  3. I’m having the same issues right now, Shaina, and they’re starting to smell. Thanks for the links, Krista!