Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cloth Diaper Reviews: The Basics

I’ve decided to try an experiment. I’ve been diapering children for the last SIX years, with perhaps a 6 month break (although I did have 2 kids in Pull-ups during that break, so I’m not sure that counts). I HATE buying diapers. I have spent thousands over the years on diapers, dealt with poo explosions, treated diaper rashes, and thrown away thousands of diapers. So I’ve decided to try cloth diapering. It’s become quite the in-vogue thing to do, and I can definitely see why. The cloth diapers that they have now are CUTE. As in, “Why would I put my child in clothes that will just cover up her diaper?” cute. They are easy. No pins and complicated folding. You’re not throwing away diaper after diaper. You don’t have to make midnight runs to the grocery store because you don’t have enough to last through Sunday. Apparently children in cloth diapers are 80% less likely to get diaper rash. And from what I’ve been told, poo explosions are practically non-existent with cloth.

After tons and tons and tons of research (when I get into something, I REALLY get into something), I decided to try several different varieties of cloth diaper and just see how it went. I figured I really couldn’t lose: if it went well, then fabulous! If not, cloth diapers have excellent resale value. I could just sell them for nearly what I paid for them, continue buying disposables, and feel good that I gave it a shot.

After talking with my mom about what I did and didn’t like after 5 days of use, she suggested that I write reviews so that people who are interested in cloth diapering can have an inside look at the different diapering systems. It also might help convince others to give it a shot. It’s not only crazy tree-huggers that cloth diaper (although I have to admit, I am a bit of a closet environmentalist—don’t tell!). It really is a viable option for normal moms who want to save money.

From my (not vast) experience, here’s what you’ll want to get started:

1. Wet Bags: These bags are made of polyurethane laminated fabric (PUL), which is what most diaper covers are made from. The laminated backing keeps liquids from escaping, and the seams should be waterproof. Wet bags can zip, have a drawstring, or remain open.

How many: I would suggest 1 small size wet bag with a zipper for out and about (more if you have multiple diaper bags or if you want one in your car). Wet/dry bags are also nice because they have a separate pocket to store clean diapers on the same bag. You will also want 2 large wet bags for home. You can use them in a pail or a garbage can with a lid, or you can buy hanging wet bags. I suggest two so that you’ll have one to use while the other is in the wash.

Brands: I’ve got 2 large Planet Wise pail-liner wet bags, and they seem very nice. I haven’t had any leaking at all, and you can order them through Amazon Prime. Always a bonus. I’ve also heard really good things about the bags from Leslie’s Boutique. If you’d like to make your own, I found an adorable tutorial:

2. Storage System: This is easy. If you’ve got a dresser near your changing table, use it. I have ours in our closet, so there’s no room for a dresser. Instead, I use a three-drawer cart with relatively deep drawers from Target. They were super on sale right before school started, so I just grabbed 2 of them. They work perfectly.

3. Cloth Wipes: This is not a necessity, but it makes it easier, since you just toss the wipe in the wet bag with the dirty diapers and you don’t have to worry about using a separate trash can. One of the goals of cloth diapering is to generate less waste, and this is one way to do it. There are several different materials they can be made from: flannel (most common), velour, sherpa, or a combination of the three seem to be the most popular. I purchased wipes made from flannel on one side and velour on the other.

How to use them: Right now we just wet ours in the sink. Easy, since it’s about 5 steps from the changing table. Save the peri bottle you come home from the hospital with. You can make up a solution using water, baby wash, oil, and essential oils, fill the peri bottle, and squirt it on the wipes. There are a million different recipes for this on the internet. There are also tons of people who sell different wipes solutions. Seems like overkill to me, but I bet they smell really good.

How many: Probably 2-3 dozen, depending on how messy your baby’s changes are and how frequently you want to wash.

Brands: I ordered mine from a work-at-home-mom (WAHM) that I found on They’re sewn very well and I love the x in the middle to keep the layers from shifting. I know a lot of people love the Thirsties wipes. Or you could simply make your own. I just knew I would never get around to it, although it’s extremely simple and only involves sewing straight lines. Here’s a great little tutorial I found if you’re interested:

4. Laundry Soap: This is probably the most controversial aspect of cloth diapering—bet you never knew that diapers could be controversial! The diaper companies all claim that you need special detergent to wash diapers to help them stay absorbant and prevent build-up. Others claims that you should just use whatever gets them clean and doesn’t irritate your baby. I think I would have gone with the second group, except I started getting rashes from our laundry detergent. We switched all our laundry to Charlie’s Soap and Charlie's Laundry Booster and Hard Water Treatment. It seems pricey, but you only use a tablespoon per load. You can buy an 80-load tub for $12, which is 15 cents a load, very comparable to what Tide costs (if not less). If you buy the 1000-load bucket for $97.50, you’re looking at less than 10 cents a load. Charlie’s Soap is approved by all companies for diapers, and the hard water treatment really helps to get out extra stains. Our laundry is cleaner now that is has been in a long time. It’s also nice that we don’t have to wash the baby’s clothes in a separate load with a special detergent. Bonus: Free shipping on Amazon!

How to wash: This will depend on your washing machine and the type of water you have. Here’s what’s been working for us:

a) No need to rinse out poo if baby is exclusively breast-fed. If on solids, poo should be disposed of in toilet before putting in wet bag. Apparently a sprayer really helps with this, but we’re not at that stage yet.

b) Make sure all velcro (technically Aplix, since most diapers are made of this softer hook-and-loop tape) tabs are secured to the laundry tab on the diaper. I do this before I put it in the wet bag so that I can just dump everything in when it’s wash time.

c) Short wash or rinse in cold water with no detergent. This will prevent any stains from setting in.

d) Two full hot washes, each with detergent. This will kill any germs and get the diapers very clean. It may be overkill, but right now I’m okay with that. I also make sure to run the hot water from a near-by faucet so that the water going into the washing machine is very hot.

e) Check all diapers as you put them in the dryer. Anything with staining should not go into the dryer. Instead, put it into the sun to dry. Sunning removes stains miraculously. I usually only have an item or two that I need to do this with per load.

f) Dry as usual. Some people use wool dryer balls to cut down on drying time. I toss in a tennis ball, which also reduces drying time.

It sounds a lot more complicated than it is. It’s not a lot of work; just plan on some time to go through all the loads. And remember, these are going on a baby’s bottom to be pooed on. If it’s not pristine, it’s probably okay.

5. Diapers of your choice: This is the fun part. There are a dozen different styles to choose from: flats, prefolds, fitteds, covers, soakers, pockets, all-in-ones, all-in-twos…so much fun! Really. It is!

My opinion of cloth diapering so far: I’m really enjoying it. I love choosing the different styles and patterns. I adore how fluffy her bum is when she’s in cloth. I really like the fact that I’m not throwing diaper after diaper into a landfill. Mostly I love thinking about how much money I’ll save by the time she’s potty-trained. And if we have another (very unlikely, but not impossible), the savings will be compounded. Aaron and I ran some numbers last night, and even if you buy the most expensive diapers out there, you’re definitely at least breaking even, and that’s if you don’t factor in the resale value. If you go a cheaper route, like prefolds with covers, you make your money back in only a few months. Can’t shake your head at that!

I’ll review all of the diaper styles that I try out. If you’re not interested, sorry. But I’m really excited about this right now, so I’m going to share. If it does more than cement my status as the weirdo of the family, great! If not, I’m okay with that too.


Karin said...

We have been using cloth diapers for months now with Stella and we love it! I totally agree with everything you said- we figured out that we are saving about $1000, that is if she potty trains at 2 yrs and that is with only one child. I love not throwing diapers out all day, not seeing my Costco total double once they scan the diapers and wipes, and they are super cute to boot! We tried several brands and love the BumGenius 4.0 with snaps- one size so it fits forever, different inserts so it is only bulky when you need it to be, like at night, and really nice fit! I'm so excited that you guys are making the switch. I'd love to hear which brand and styles you end up with! I've been meaning to blog about our cloth diapering experience so far, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Thanks for sharing your info!