Inspired by a couple of friends’ requests for information about cloth diapering, I am finally sitting down to write this review, something I’ve been planning to do for a long, long while but haven’t dedicated the time to. Here is my Great Cloth Diaper Review, for all you families out there thinking about going with cloth.
This post is going to be split into three parts:
- Part 1: Cloth diaper pros and cons
- Part 2: Cloth diaper types, usage, and (a few) brand reviews
- Part 3: Cloth diaper care, tips, and resources
PART 1: Cloth Diaper Pros and Cons
First things first.
Cuteness! In a prefold with a Thirsties Duo Wrap cover
Do I recommend cloth diapering? YES!!
Reason # 1: $$$$$
Although using cloth is more of an investment up front (but not that much, in my opinion) and does take a little more work than disposables, it is far, far less expensive than throw away diapers. We probably invested $250 in our cloth diapers (and I could have spent less) and last I checked a box of diapers at the grocery store is about $20. So my investment (enough cloth to last through potty training) was the cost of about a dozen boxes of diapers. And just let me say that when Harper was first born we were easily zipping through a box of disposable diapers in a week. It’s estimated that the average parent spends about $1500-$2000 on diapers from birth to potty training. Also, if you plan to have future children, you will have double savings by reusing your diapers for the next child.
Reason #2: Environmental
I don’t think this needs much explanation as it’s pretty common knowledge that diapers are a MAJOR source of environmental waste. It will take around 500 years for a disposable diaper to biodegrade. If you’ve been using disposable diapers you know how quickly a mountain of diapers can accumulate (we know, we didn’t switch to cloth until Harper was 2 mos. old). Now add in millions of other babies adding trillions of diapers to the garbage. Not good.
Reason #3: Baby!
I love wrapping my little one up in something soft, breathable and natural. We do still use the occasional disposable diaper and I always feel like I’m putting a plastic sack on his body. I feel like I’m giving Harper such a gift when I put a cloth diaper on. I know it’s healthier and more comfortable than any plastic disposable.
Are there any drawbacks to using cloth? A few.
It is more work to use cloth. Obviously, diapers need to be laundered. Though this isn’t a major issue, it does add another load of laundry that must be done every couple of days.
When babies are exclusively breast-fed (as Harper was for the first 6 mos.), the soiled diapers don’t require much clean-up other than being put through a rinse cycle prior to washing them. Once table food is introduced into the equation diaper clean-up takes on a little more effort. Solids must be cleaned out of the diaper and put into the toilet before washing, and this can be a little daunting at first. We just use a plastic spatula for this deed, though sprayer attachments can be purchased that would allow you rinse the diaper instead.
Now onto the diaper reviews…
PART 2: Cloth Diaper types, usage, and (a few) brand reviews
Cloth diapers have come a long way from the days of pins and plastic pants. There are so many brands of cloth diapers out there today, and many are made in the U.S. at small family-owned companies (for handmade options, check out Etsy). There are several different types of diapers out there, including prefolds, pockets, and All-in-Ones (AIO’s). I have used the prefolds and pockets, so that’s what I’ll be reviewing.
- System 1: Inserts, Prefolds and Covers
The least expensive option for cloth diapering is prefolds and covers. Prefolds are a kind of baffled, multi-layer cotton diaper can that be folded in a variety of ways and covered with a waterproof cover. When Harper was little (2-8 months) we primarily used prefolds or inserts with covers. I purchased my premium cotton prefolds off Craigslist and paid about $20 for 25 prefold diapers. They are super durable and the lady that I bought them from had also purchased them used. They are major workhorses! They were size large, so I would tri-fold them (fold them in thirds) the short way and lay them in his covers.
Thirsties Duo Wrap covers stuffed with prefolds (orange) and gFlappers (blue)
I also purchased some G-flappers inserts ($6 each from Elegant Mommy and made by The NappyShoppe) and would lay these in his cover as well. The g-flapper is a two-layer insert with a fleece top layer and an absorbent hemp bottom layer. The advantage of using this insert over the cotton prefold is that the moisture is wicked through the fleece and absorbed into the bottom hemp so that wetness is pulled away and baby’s skin stays nice and comfortable.
left: premium cotton prefolds, center: thirsties hemp prefolds, right: gFlappers inserts
I also purchased a few Thirsties Hemp prefolds, but I don’t like using these. They are super soft and feel like jersey, but once they’re wet they basically take on the feel and shape of a sopping wet t-shirt. They also take forever to dry since hemp is so absorbent.
I purchased about 8 Thirsties Duo Wrap Size 1 covers to use with the prefolds or inserts. These run about $12-$14 a piece. I like Thirsties duo wraps because they have an inner leg gusset that traps messes and leaks. We never really had any issues with blow-outs or leaks (except for night time leaks–when he was very small we used covers and inserts at night, but in my opinion a cover and prefold/insert system isn’t absorbent enough for night time diapering). My only issue with the Thirsties covers was that the Aplix (velcro) tabs seemed to wear out quickly. A few of my covers had the back laundry tabs detach from the diaper. I purchased one of the covers with snaps instead and though it’s not as quick as the velcro the diaper has held up much better.
gDiaper stuffed with a gFlapper insert
I also bought a couple gDiapers covers to use with a tri-folded prefold or the g-flappers. gDiapers covers have a detachable plastic liner and the cover itself is made of a stretchy soft fabric. They are decently-priced and easy to put on and take off. However, one of my covers kind of came apart early on. I had to sew back on one of the velcro tabs, and later on the other came off. For this reason I haven’t bought any more of these covers, though it might have just been a fluke with the one cover.
Besides being inexpensive, another economical reason to use the cover and prefold/insert option is that if the diaper is just wet, you can remove the insert, wipe the cover out and place a fresh diaper in the same cover. This is great because it greatly reduces the number of covers you need to buy (especially when you have very small baby who goes through a dozen diapers a day).
Thirsties make a two-size diaper cover, and when Harper was about 8-9 months he outgrew his covers and we sized up and I purchased about 4-5 new Size 2 covers all with snaps. Since Harper is now much more active simply laying the prefold or insert into the diaper is still an option, but it’s hard to get the diaper in there straight (and stay straight) with the little one squirming all over, and it becomes more of a concern of leaks or blowouts. I bought a Snappi (a flexible 3-pronged device that “grabs” the fabric of the diaper with its teeth and allows you to fasten the diaper on without pins) so I could put his prefolds on like an actual diaper. I use the angel fold to put on his prefolds. It’s simple and quick (even Wyatt says so) but I must admit I kind of cringe having to put prefolds on him now. My first reason is that he is really difficult to change–it’s like wrestling a flipping and spinning alligator and getting the prefold on, hooking the Snappi, and putting on a cover is just too many steps when alligator wrestling. (Also, a few of my larger-sized Thirsties covers have snaps that don’t seem to stay snapped too easily) My second reason for disliking prefolds and covers now is that he is much heavier wetter and I hate for him to be sitting in a soaking wet cotton diaper that is completely encircling his bottom. For this reason, I much prefer our pocket diapers for an older baby.
Harper with a prefold secured with a Snappi
Harper escaping from me before I can get a cover on
Bottom Line: Covers (with snaps) and prefolds/inserts are the most inexpensive cloth diaper option and they were my cloth diaper of choice for a younger baby.
covers on the left, pocket diapers on the right
Pocket diapers are a system where you have a cover with an inner fleece or terry cloth liner that absorbent inserts are “stuffed” into (thus, the “pocket”). Because pocket diapers are made out of a wicking material and have a liner, baby feels much more dry than using cotton prefolds.
Pocket diapers are more expensive (usually $16-$22+ each) and the whole diaper (cover and everything) must be changed each and every time it is wet. This means you need to buy enough of these diapers to last you a day or two (for this reason I am finding it much more affordable to use these as the main diaper for an older baby who only goes through 6 or so diapers a day). Pocket diapers are a very user-friendly diaper because they are put on very similarly to a disposable diaper, and many families with day care (myself included) have been happy to find out that the day care provider will use the cloth diapers.
Several of the most popular pocket diapers include FuzziBunz and bumGenuis, which are the two kinds I own. A big advantage of pocket diapers is that they can be purchased in One Size, meaning they can adjusted to fit your baby from birth to potty training. This means that you could just buy a stash of these when you baby is born and not worry about buying dipes again. Of course, this is an investment initially, but as I illustrated above it will save you tons of money in the long-term.
FuzziBunz One Size
FuzziBunz One Size are soft and snugly diapers that cost around $20 a piece. They have an elastic band with button holes in the waist and legs that can be adjusted as baby grows.
Adjustable elastic for sizing the diaper
We own three of these and originally purchased them as night time diapers when Harper was small. They worked well for this purpose, but now that he is grown and is wetting heavier we’re finding that they leak at night. This might be because I don’t have the elastic adjusted perfectly for his size, or maybe we need to triple stuff them. In any case, we like these diapers, but the biggest drawback I’ve found in them is the elastic sizing, which in my experience has required a bit of an art to figure out. However, I know many people who use FuzziBunz as their main diaper and absolutely love them.
bumGenius 4.0: A quick shot before Harper yanked the diaper out of the picture
bumGenius 4.o is actually our most favorite diaper of all. They are a little less expensive (around $18) and I found a deal from CottonBabies to buy 5 and get one free (making them $14.50 a piece). I bought all six of my BumGenius diapers with snaps, since I had heard that the main complaint for people with bumGenius diapers is that the Aplix tabs wore out. I’ve been using these for about six months and they have worked fabulously. They are super durable and the snaps are strong and easy to use. Changing the diaper size is super simple– all that is required is adjusting the three sizing snaps on the front of the diaper. We very rarely experience leaks (just sometimes if a night time diaper is overloaded) and I don’t think we’ve ever had a blow-out in them.
In a "Bum Genie" as Wyatt calls them
Bottom Line: Pocket diapers can be more expensive but are very user-friendly and a better night-time diaper. I recommend buying diapers with snaps rather than Aplix. Pocket diapers are my diaper of choice for an older baby.
PART 3: Cloth diaper care, tips, and resources
Cloth diapers should be washed with a detergent free of petroleum products, oils, etc. I use a homemade laundry soap for all of my washing and the recipe can be found here. Covers and inserts can be washed together. I do one pre-rinse, then a hot wash. Sometimes I do a rinse again at the end if the dipes seemed like they needed it. I also try to add a little half-scoop of an oxygen cleaner to the load for extra cleansing.
Some covers can be dried in a machine, but others need to line dry. Be sure to read the instructions when you buy your diapers. We dry all of our covers on hangers rather than in the machine to reduce wear and tear on them. In the summer I like to dry all my diapers outside since the sun works miracles as a bleaching agent and erases any stains you might have.
If my diapers ever develop a smell, I put JUST the inserts or prefolds in the wash and add a little bleach to the cycle. DO NOT wash your covers with bleach unless it says you can on the washing instructions. Bleach can ruin the waterproofing on your covers. However, adding a little bleach to the inserts has taken care of any smells or staining that might develop.
We use a regular diaper pail to store our diapers in until they are washed. A 1/4 cup or so of baking soda is added to the pail to keep smells at bay.
I keep all of our diapers organized on a little shelf near where we change Harper. As you can see, as the little one grows this area is now a point of interest for him and as fast as I can fold and put the diapers away he pulls them out again laughing wildly at the fun. Oh well.
Elegant Mommy is a great local resource for cloth diapering. Shelly, the owner, carries a variety of brands and is happy to talk you through your options as well as provide information on care. Even if you don’t live near Sioux Falls you can order through their website.
Mothering.com is a fabulous resource on cloth diapers. There are many articles relating to the subject on the website, including this video resource and this article. Mothering is an amazing website in general and has a lot of information on subjects like natural living, healthy eating, parenting, breastfeeding, etc.
Well, I hope this has been helpful! It’s been a labor of love to get this blog written, but I’m glad to spread the good word on cloth diapering! Please share your own experiences in the comments section, and feel free to ask questions. I love to hear about how other people are doing things. If you have a favorite diaper or method, please share!
Happy cloth diapering!