Five Questions on Getting Started With Cloth

By Theresa Rodriguez Farrisi

It costs about the same to use cloth and disposables, right?

No way! If you launder cloth diapers at home, you can save as much as $1,500 over the entire diapering period. This includes all your diapers, covers, and wash products. In fact, each time you use a disposable, it costs you nearly a quarter. By contrast, home washing can cost as little as five cents per change. And, if you decide on a diaper service, it will run about $.20 per change.

What should I buy to get started with cloth diapers?

Your newborn will need to be changed from ten to 15 times a day, your older baby, eight to ten. State-of-the-art products are now available that make cloth diapering easy. You can get anything from low-tech wool soakers to high-tech breathable synthetic covers to organic and green cotton prefold, contour, or fitted diapers. Here's what I suggest as a basic diapering layette:
3-5 dozen cloth diapers, or 5 dozen pocket diapers or all-in-ones
5 diaper covers per size (unless you are getting pocket or all-in-ones)
2-3 dozen cotton washcloths
a decent, nonvinyl diaper bag
1-3 washable, waterproof ditty bags (for traveling)
Diaper rash cream, ointment, salve, lotion, or powder of your choice (Don't use talc; it's bad for baby's lungs - peaceful parenting suggests the use of Calmoseptine for soothing/healing.)
Pins, clips, or Snappis as needed (unnecessary with many diapers today - pinless diapers and/or covers).

You can't possibly go out or travel and use cloth diapers, can you?

Sure you can. For trips of less than a day, just keep some waterproof, washable ditty bags handy for your soiled diapers. For extended trips, many parents still choose cloth diapers when they have access to laundry facilities along the way. Other hard-core cloth users bring a small suitcase or use part of a larger one to hold plastic bags with rinsed cloth diapers that are washed once the family is back home. Others reserve use of disposables just for traveling.

Nighttime diapering is such a hassle. Do cloth diapers work at night?

Of course. In fact, many cloth diapering combinations (including all-in-ones, superabsorbent terry diapers, prefolds with a diaper doubler, and a substantial diaper cover) are so absorbent that many parents find they can go a whole night without a wet bed or an unhappy baby. Some parents simply use two prefold diapers, one folded in half in the middle of the second one, along with a secure diaper cover that fits well around the legs.

I can't believe anybody spends the time soaking and washing cloth diapers!

You will find that an extra couple of loads a week is no big deal. And having children means more laundry in general. Keep a diaper pail with a lid next to your changing area and put soiled diapers in it after a brief rinse in the toilet when necessary. You can put water in the diaper pail, but most moms omit the water after awhile. The diaper pail can be deodorized with a little laundry detergent, baking soda, vinegar, or borax. There are nonsoaking diapering methods that I describe in my book and ways to keep your time doing laundry to a minimum.

If you do use water in your soaking pail, run diapers on a spin cycle first. Use a gentle detergent such as Ivory Snow, Dreft, Ecover, Bio-Kleen, or Castile soap. Add borax, baking soda, vinegar, or bleach. Some prefer nonchlorine bleach, and others like the whiteness of chlorine bleach, although chlorine bleach can wear out diapers over time (and you wouldn't use it on green cotton diapers). If baby has a diaper rash, change laundry soaps and see if it makes a difference.

Don't wash more than a couple of dozen diapers at a time. Wash with hot water and rinse twice. Dry at high heat for at least 45 minutes or hang diapers outside in sunlight, where ultraviolet light will naturally disinfect them.

Theresa Rodriguez Farrisi is the author of Diaper Changes: The Complete Diapering Book and Resource Guide.


  1. LOVED this post! I have a 3 year old and I used only disposables on him. Now, pregnant with #2 and realizing I spent in the ballpark of $3,000.00 on diapers with #1, I am going to go the cloth diaper route. I am excited to go on this new adventure to save money, reduce toxins on my baby and help out the environment all in one fell swoop. Thank you again!

  2. This is a good article but FIVE dozen diapers is outrageous. Almost everyone I know agrees 20 is perfect for pocket diapers or AIO's and you can get by just fine with 3 covers and 20 prefolds.

  3. Agree with Kate - we went with full adjustable pocket diapers so we could use them from infancy through potty training and we only needed 2 dozen. Unless you are NEVER washing your clothes, there is no reason for 5 dozen.

  4. Wow, this article make it sound so much more complicated than it really is! I use the dry pail method, with Mother-Ease diapers, liners and covers, and a pail liner. Every 2 days I throw the whole thing inside out into the wash. I use Charlie's soap, just like with everything else and a splash of vinegar and turn it on my hottest setting. I do not have problems with stains or anything. For drying, I put them in the dryer for 20 minutes, then hang them up to finish air drying. It really is that simple.



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