Cloth Diapers For Dummies: A Breakdown

When we decided to start seriously looking into cloth diapering I was completely overwhelmed with all of the info, types, brands, accessories etc. In this case, Google was NOT my friend. It was mind boggling, frustrating and very overwhelming, trying to weed through all the info and opinions. For days, I went to bed dreaming of different types of diapers and it was constantly a scramble in the back of my mind. Frustrated, I contacted a friend of mine who had been cloth diapering her daughter who is a bit older than Marley and asked her to point me in the right direction to decipher everything I was reading. Hallelujah!  I did some further investigation on my own, talked to a few other people, and I now feel like I have a way better understanding on the differences of all the types, what I will need and how to decide on what will work for us. In a effort to help you avoid the stress I went through, I am going to break it all down for you here, so you can go into it with a clearer head.


Types of Diapers

Prefolds: Probably the cheapest way to cloth diaper. Prefolds are made of a soft, absorbent material, varying from cotton, to bamboo. They are usually one size and can be adjusted to fit your baby. They are usually held together with a snappi, for the brave out there, a safety pin, or a snug fitting cover. Yes, these are exactly how your mother or grandmother might have done it.

I really like: Bummis and EconoBum are both quite popular, and I have heard great things about them.

How many do you need? Approximately 24-30 prefolds are needed if you do laundry every 2 days.

Fitteds: These diapers are basically a disposable diaper but made out of a soft, absorbent fabric. They typically close with snaps or Velcro and have elastic at the legs and back, which means they are great at containing messes. Sizing can vary by brand, some are one-size and some are sized accordingly. Since they are not water proof they require the use of a cover, but by using a fitted diaper instead of prefolds or contours, your covers will get dirty less often which means they will last longer.

I really like: Thirsties Duo Fab Fitted, Motherease Sandys and Kissaluvs.

How many do you need? approximately 24-30 fitteds are needed if you do the laundry every 2 days.

Covers: These are made up of varying materials, including: wool, fleece, or PUL (polyurethane laminate). They typically have Velcro or snap closures, and leg gussets to prevent leaks. Covers can be one-sized or sized accordingly, depending on brand. If you are going to use prefolds or fitteds, a waterproof cover is needed. Once the prefold/fitted is soiled it just needs to be changed out, but the cover can be reused until it becomes soiled as well.

I really like: Thirsties Duo Wrap

How many do you need? Approximately 4-8 covers, depending on your system.

Pocket Diapers: These diapers are probably the most popular and universal. They have a waterproof outer layer and a pocket inside that a absorbent insert is then stuffed into. They typically have a fleece or microfiber liner, to keep the baby’s bottom dry. These are nice because you can control the level of thickness and absorbency of the diaper depending on the situation. For example you can add a second insert for night time use or a long trip. Once wet or soiled they need to be changed completely and a new one must be used. Pocket diapers are typically one-sized, meaning they will fit from 8-35lbs, but there are sized systems out there as well.

I really like: BumGenius 4.0, Fuzzibunz, Kawaii

How many do you need? approximately 24-30 of these.

All-In-Ones: These are as easy to use as disposables. The absorbent insert is sewn into the cover which meaning you don’t need to “stuff” the diaper with an insert unless you would like to add another liner to boost absorbency for nighttime. Once they are soiled they need to be changed with a whole new diaper and placed into the laundry. These are the most convenient, but are usually the most expensive. All-in-one diapers can be sized accordingly, or one-size, depending on brand.

I really like: BumGenius Newborn, BumGenius Freetime, Kissaluvs Marvel

How  many do you need? Approximately 24-30 of these.

All-In-Two/Hybrid: These combine the ease of an all-in-one diaper with the cost-saving aspects of prefolds and covers. They consist of a cover and a insert, which is made of varying materials and thicknesses. Some companies have even come out with a disposable and biodegradable insert, to make travel easier. Like prefolds and fitteds, instead of changing the entire diaper for each time, only the insert is replaced and the cover is reused. Sizing on these are one-sized or sized accordingly, depending on brand.

I really like: AppleCheeks, Grovia, FlipDiapers

How many do you need? 8-10 covers and 24-30 inserts

Swim Diapers: These are typically made of a mesh material, allowing water to comfortably move through the diaper while keeping any solids inside. Much more earth friendly than disposable swim diapers (you don’t actually think they keep the pee in the diaper, right?), and easier on the wallet. These are usually sized accordingly, to ensure a proper fit and minimal leakage.

I really like: AppleCheeks, Motherease

How many do you need? 1-3 depending on your needs

(image via google)

How Sizing Typically Works

One Size (OS): These usually have have snaps in the front so you can adjust the rise as your baby grows. These will typically save more money in the long run because you do not have to buy a variety of sizes. On the down side, in my oppinion, they do not always fit newborns nicely until they are around 10lbs plus, and can be on the bulky side. They typically fit 8-35lbs and over, depending on the build of your baby.

Example of the evolution of a One-Size Diaper:

(image via google)

Sized diapers: The typical breakdown on sizing. Make sure to check the manufacturers size charts to be sure. Be careful when going by pounds, also take into consideration the build of your baby, some may fit into them longer or shorter than specified.

  • XS (Extra-Small) – fits from 6-12 pounds. It is intended for a newborn and fits low, below the navel, to keep the umbilical area dry. These diapers are designed to fit during that itty-bitty newborn stage.
  • S (Small) – fits from 8-16 pounds. This diaper is slightly larger with a higher rise than the XS. These are usually intended for after your baby’s umbilical cord has fallen off.
  • M (Medium) – fits from 15 – 22 pounds.
  • L (Large) – fits from 22 – 30 plus pounds.

Washing and care

Laundry detergent: Here is a great resource for making sure you are using the proper detergent. I can not stress enough, the importance of using proper detergents and washing methods. Proper care and technique will keep your diapers fresh, clean and in peak performance.

I really like: Rock n Green (especially for hard water) and Claudias Choices.

Washing instructions: Here is the recommended washing technique from BumGenius, and the one I use:

  1. If you have velcro tabs, fasten hook tabs to laundry tabs on slot cover.
  2. Pre-wash cold, no detergent.
  3. Wash hot (100F/40C) with a cloth diaper safe deterget.
  4. Extra rinse.
  5. Line dry everything if you can. Tumble dry on medium if need be.

Tips on washing and care:

  • If soiled, remove poop from diaper (if breastfeeding and they are not eating solids, this step isn’t needed.).
  • Use a dry pail, that has a wet bag liner.
  • Wash every other day, every three days at the most.
  • Wash no more than 12 – 18 diapers at a time.
  • Use your washer’s highest water level.

(image via urbanpioneerwoman)


Diaper sprayer: For the removal of poopy messes at home, there are multiple companies that make diaper sprayers. They attach easily to your toilet and can be discrete. The diaper sprayer is a high-pressure spray that rinses clean even the messiest diapers. The mess goes where it is supposed to go – and your hands stay clean. Once they are sprayed down you can toss it into your diaper pail.

I really like: BumGenius Diaper Sprayer

Wet bags: These are laundry bags, that have a waterproof lining to prevent leaks. You should line your wet pail with one of these, and wash them with your diapers. They come in a variety of sizes, ranging from small travel sizes, to large laundry size. You should also some handy for your diaper bag, while out and about.

I really like: Planet Wise

Wet Pails: The popular diaper pails of today will not work for cloth diapers. For easy, and sanitary storage of soiled diapers, a wet pail or wet bag is recommended. Wet pails vary from cloth diaper specific ones, to regular step garbage pails, depending on preference. These must be lined with a large wet bag, to keep the mess to a minimum.

I really like: The Ubbi diaper pail is awesome.

Disposable Liners: These are thick, paper-towel-type materials usually. They are meant to be laid on top of your diaper, between your babies bum and the diaper, catching any poop. What does this mean? When you have a soiled diaper, you just toss this liner into the toilet/garbage, and keep your hands clean.

I really like: AppleCheeks Disposable Liners

Great Resources

Some of my favorite places to answer tough questions, get deals or browse:

Check out reviews on different brands and types of diapers: Diaperpin

Whew. I think I have covered most of the basics and I hope I have given some clarity to you. I felt a million times better about making a decision once I figured all of this out. If there is anything you would like me to add, or you have further questions, as always, leave them in the comments section!

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  1. 1

    Shannon says

    Okay couldn't find your email so I am gonna leave a comment. Sorry it doesn't relate to your post, though I admire your cloth diapering know how.

    Well my friend, GG's dress is from Carter's and I picked up at Dillard's (a department store).
    But I did a quick google search and found that you can pick it up here

    For a fraction of what I paid for it!


    Have a good one!


  2. 4

    rkingma says

    Hey Krys!
    Thanks for the info! Can I ask what brands/types you're trying out, and what you love best so far? Did you get them second hand?

  3. 5

    bidetsprayerman says has the best selection of Diaper/Bidet Sprayers which are actually hand bidet sprayers meant to be used to clean yourself, not a diaper originally. Great way to save allot of money on toilet paper and help the environment. They even have some stainless steel models that come with a 5 year warranty = the best in the industry!


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