Real Simple Mama

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What I Wish I Would Have Known About Cloth Diapering

Ok, so cloth diapering is fantastic. I honestly enjoy it: it’s fun, cute, easy, and saving me boatloads of money.

But I’ll be honest: there’s a lot to learn. And it seems intimidating as hell. Putting diapers soaked with bodily fluids in your washer, and then back on the butt of your babe, leaves a lot of room for error. I feel like I’ve gotten the hang of all things fluff, but it’s been a long stinky road to get to where I am now.

In plain English, here’s a list of my tips for cloth diapering beginners. I wish I would have known!

I do have affiliate links in this article. I’ve bought these products with my own money and I brag on the ones I like!

First, let’s define a few things.

If you are completely new to CD, you can learn some basics about types and processes on my introductory 101 article here. But essentially here’s how it works: you have your diapers, wipes, and a wet bag to put the dirty diapers until it’s laundry day. You’ll need to make a wash routine which consists of a rinse, at least one wash with detergent, and at least one rinse at the end. Then you can dry then out in the sun, or in your dryer. You also have to occasionally strip the diapers, meaning doing an intensive process to “strip” off any residue which acts as a barrier; if you don’t strip when you should, the diapers will either hurt your baby’s skin and/or lose absorbency.

cloth diaper fluff baby child wash What I Wish I Would Have Known About Cloth Diapering - Real Simple Mama

You can make a wash routine that’s really cheap and really low effort.

Like a lot of things, a wash routine is super customizable. I know moms who wash their diapers daily, and just drop them straight into the washer after a change. You can have a newer “high efficiency” washer, or a really old washer with an agitator. There are liquid and powder soaps that work. And honestly, even with the added rinse cycles each time you do a load of fluff, your utility bills will not go up significantly. (In other words, it’s still a hell of a lot cheaper than buying disposables!) Do some research on your water quality and the type of washer that you have, and then go from there. But even parents who work full time can easily care for cloth diapers. Don’t let the wash routine be the reason you don’t use cloth diapers! My sample wash routine can be found here.

Don’t be scared of using detergent!

Less is not more. I always thought I’d be cheap and make my laundry soap last longer by being a bit stingy. But all it did was cause issues, which took me a few months to diagnose correctly. Just use the recommended amount. I always reference the detergent index page on Fluff Love. And I’ve been using Arm and Hammer powder for a while and absolutely love it. It works for all of our clothes and it’s quite affordable, which makes me a fan!

Toddler pee stinks. Period.

Uuuuugh. Guys, I spent so much time trying to figure out why my prefolds smelled so bad after my daughter wore them overnight. (I’ll admit, I’m lazy and she wears one extra-stuffed diaper overnight, which is 10-12 hours.) I stripped and changed my wash routine and did all this work… just to realize that hey, toddler pee just smells awful. Her overnight diapers still have a pee smell when I take them off of her, but I shake some baking soda over the diaper before I toss it in the wet bag, and it helps tremendously until I get those stinky things into the wash. Once they’re clean again, the smell is gone.

cloth diaper fluff sunshine wash dry What I Wish I Would Have Known About Cloth Diapering - Real Simple Mama

simple beauty, dontcha think?

Do the least invasive thing first.

Some moms advocate these major overhauls for cleaning and stripping diapers, like using dish soap and bleach and Borax. If you feel that you have an issue, and you need to fix it, do the least invasive thing first. Remember that these diapers are worth money, and they’re going to be on your precious baby’s skin. And hey, if you’re still in the middle of “what in the hell do I do and how do I fix this?”, you can always buy a pack of disposables in the meantime. I’m just saying, don’t go crazy with crazy solutions and weird products until you’ve tried the simplest thing first. I have lots of suggestions on my Pinterest board for fluff, from experts and fellow mommies.

The sun is your friend.

Ah, wonderful sunshine. Man is it great! If the weather allows, and you have time, take your freshly washed diapers and covers, and put them in the sunshine. Sunlight acts as an antibacterial and a bleach, which will zap stains while drying. (That photo above was before they’d dried – all those stains were gone by the end of the afternoon!)

I always am in a better mood after hanging up diapers outside! I feel like I’m on my own little homestead, I get to breathe fresh air, and I’m saving a bit of energy too. If the diapers seem a bit stiff, just agitate them in the dryer for a few minutes. Tah-dah!

What I Wish I Would Have Known About Cloth Diapering - Real Simple Mama

my tiny girl loves her fluff!

Finally, I honestly couldn’t have guessed that I would actually enjoy cloth diapering! There’s something organic about hanging soft fabrics and cute patterns out in the sunshine, clothespins held in my teeth and birds singing around me. I love mastering this new hobby, I love that my baby loves it, and I love that I’m helping the earth in more ways than one.

I hope that this article has helped you feel more comfortable and confident about trying (or continuing) to cloth diaper. I have more articles about cloth and am always willing to help with any questions or frustrations!


  1. I cloth-diapered with my third kid. I tried it with the other two, but I knew nothing. And let’s face it, Gerber cloth diapers are made to be burp cloths and nothing more. Once I got some Indian prefolds and some covers, I was set. In the end, I liked the prefolds better than anything else, though the newborn Bummi’s super-whisper wraps were ADORABLE!

    When my son was toilet trained, I sold the whole kit and caboodle on Craigslist and at a consignment sale. And most of it had been purchased used to begin with. Cloth diapering doesn’t HAVE to be expensive.

    What I wish I had known with my first two is what proper equipment really is. You can’t buy it at Target, friends. You just can’t. Not yet, anyway.

    • The Mama

      January 5, 2017 at 8:54 am

      Yay for making money off of cloth! I think that’s something people often forget about. And we do prefolds too! Thanks for your feedback – you’ve got great points!

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