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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cloth Diapering Tips, Episode 1 - Acronyms, Before You Buy, and Washing

When first venturing into the cloth diaper world, it can become quickly confusing. There's so many different types of diapers out there, and acronyms, and washing methods... I remember feeling so overwhelmed that I'd just abandon my research and come back to it later. Hopefully, these tips will help you along the way. If there is something specific you'd like to know, please feel free to email me and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Let's first start with some acronyms and abbreviations I'll be using (and ones that you may come across on your ventures).
  • PF = prefold. Do not buy Gerber Birdseye PFs - they're not absorbent. You will also see CPF for Chinese prefold and IPF for Indian prefold. CPFs tend to be a little more expensive than IPF.
  • AIO =  all in one diaper; These are the easiest to change, almost like changing a disposable but you're not throwing it away. BumGenius and Kushies are good examples.
  • AI2 = all in two diaper; These consist of a cover and a soaker. These tend to dry faster than AIOs. Think Flip and Thirsties Duo
  • OS = One size; adjustable snaps in the front to grow with your baby. These can be applied to fitted diapers, covers, AIOs, and AI2s. Here's an example of a OS pocket diaper
  • PUL = polyurethane laminate; these are what make your covers and AIOs/AI2s from leakin'
  • CD = cloth diaper
And then there's a slew of  brand name abbreviations, but DiaperSwappers.com covers it pretty well.

There's a few diapers I missed but that's because I don't think there's abbreviations for those. 
  • Fitted: Any diaper with elastic around the legs and waist. Can be waterproof or not.
  • Flat: The old school dipes. I would suggest YouTubing and Googling how to fold these (as well as prefolds). 
  • Soakers and longies (wool or polyester/fleece): I don't have much experience with wool soakers. It scares me. lol. I don't want to mess up a pricey cover...I'd Google how to care for these before you decide to buy, but I've heard great things about them. The fleece ones are cheap though...These covers are not waterproof like PUL so you may get some wicking (leaking). Wool is super absorbent when properly lanolized.
  • Pockets: a fitted diaper that you stuff with an insert. These usually tend to be OS, but I'm sure there's some out there that aren't.
  • soakers, inserts, liners and doublers. These are what will absorb your baby's pee and poop. They're all essentially the same thing, different brands call them different names or sometimes it all depends on the diapers they're used in...They can be made from hemp, fleece (which will help baby feel dry), terry, bamboo, etc. Boosters are smaller and are generally used for a "boost" for an outing or a nap. Doublers are optional, in all honesty.
Before you buy, it's important to figure out how much you want to spend. One of the pros of CDing is it's cheaper. Well, it can be, provided you don't go diaper-happy. I know, I know, but there are soooo many cute prints out there! Plus, there's some really expensive dipes out there, I've seen some brands that averaged $30 a diaper. Some I've seen go for $75 (and they need covers!! WTF?), a few have even sold for almost $300. Organic diapers and natural fibers like hemp, bamboo, and wool will be more expensive. I'm not going to go much further right now, since I'll be covering this in a later post (as well as CDing on the cheap), but I will tell you what you need.

  • Diapers - duh. lol. Choose the style(s) you want.
  • A pail - You don't have to get fancy. I just use a large bucket and spray it out when dirty.
  • Natural laundry soap - reasons why covered below
  • Something for diaper rash - Do not use store bought creams (no zinc or petroleum based creams) - they'll screw your diapers up. Use something natural. There are plenty of diaper safe balms out there, but I prefer GSE or even something with calendula in it (it's equally awesome as GSE)
  • A wet bag is nice, but not necessary. For the longest time I'd just use plastic bags. Sometimes extra large Ziploc bags, sometimes I'd post on Freecycle for grocery bags (if they're just going to be thrown out, I'd prefer to use them first)
  • If you wish to use cloth wipes (it's easier than dealing with disposable wipes), I'd suggest at least 2 dozen since they get lost easily, especially if you're using it for other things like faces, hands, etc.
  • Buying a  wipe solution isn't necessary, there are plenty of recipes you can make, or you can just use plain water.  There are sooo many different things you can add to it like lavender oil, aloe vera, calendula oil, etc.
  • My wipes recipe:
  • 2 TBSP baby wash
  • 8 oz water
  • 4-6 drops of GSE
  • I mix and store it in the peri bottle the hospital gave me after I delivered, but you can order them for super cheap...or maybe in your local drug store, I dunno, I've never had to look.


It's important to use a detergent that is cloth diaper safe. You cannot just use any regular detergent as it will mess up your absorbency among causing other problems (scroll to bottom). My personal favorite is Charlie's Soap. For me, it's worked the best and you use very little. However, there are plenty of great brands out there that you may wish to check out such as Rockin' Green, bumGenius detergent, and GroVia Tiny Bubbles, just to name a few. There are some "mainstream" detergents you can use like All Free and Clear, I personally wouldn't recommend it, but I'd use it in a pinch...

I won't go into washing instructions since there's quite a few ways you can do it. I will give some tips and tell you how I wash. My washer only half works, so I get an extra long first wash.

1. Hot or warm wash with soap.
2. I rinse 3 times. Many people do two, but I've been noticing an odor build up. I have hard water and hard water doesn't clean as well.
3. I then tumble dry on a delicate heat cycle. I check to see if they need to be dried further...

Some tips...
You need to have a lot of water to fully clean diapers, so try to do it on the highest setting. When using an energy efficient (HE) washer, use your soak feature to trick your machine into adding more water.
Line drying is best if you want to preserve your diapers. But if you can't, tumble dry on a low heat setting and don't pull on your waterproof diapers or the elastic. The heat can make the plastic brittle, so wait until it cools first.
Natural fibers stain easier than fleece, etc. The sun is great at removing stains and killing microbes!
If your baby is exclusively breastfed, you don't need to spray off the poo before you wash. If your baby's started solids or is on formula, make sure you do since it isn't water soluble like EBF poop.
A diaper sprayer is really, really nice, but not necessary... I don't have one, not yet anyway. I do have a shower head, and after dunking, I spray the remaining down the tub (hot first, then cold). Ew, I know. But I sanitize it after. Whatever, it's what works.
Velcro (also known as Applix) will chain together with all the other diapers in your load. To prevent this you can use the laundry tabs, but I've found sometimes these fail. So, I just attach it as if I were putting the diaper on the baby.
I'm not going to get into stripping diapers just yet, however, I want to say this do not ever use Dawn or dish soap in your washing machine. It can clog up your lines and void any warranties you may have on it.


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