Cloth Diaper Primer

I posted about using cloth diapers with my daughter awhile back. I focused solely on what I was using at that time to make it simple since it was all I had experience with at the time. I go into all the ins-and-outs of the day-to-day of cloth diapering as well. Today I’m going to give you a little primer of the vast world of cloth diapers now that I have more experience with the diaper types. I’ll also tell you about some cloth diapering accessories that might be helpful during your diapering days. Fine and Fair also has a bunch of information regarding everything you ever wanted to know about cloth diapering so check out her series as well. This is probably a good time to also mention that if you are local and want some more in person information on cloth diapering, I’ll be teaching Cloth Diaper 101 May 25 at 1pm at Natural Baby downtown. Come learn and see types of each diaper in person! (Some of the links to follow may be affiliate links.)


We’ll start at the very beginning. Flats are what most people think of when they think of cloth diapers. Flats are the old school type that your mom (or at least mine) used. They are flat, square pieces of cloth made of one layer of material that need to be folded on to your baby and then secured with pins or a Snappi. Really, any piece of cloth will work, but generally birdseye cotton is the material flats are made of. To make these waterproof, you will need a cover (which is described below). There is a Flats Challenge every year hosted by Dirty Diaper Laundry that challenges you to use handwash and use flats for a week. To learn more about Flats, I recommend you check out all the resources at Dirty Diaper Laundry (at the bottom of the linked post) starting with this video intro to Flats.

My Experience – None, unless you count when I was a baby myself. 😉


Prefold with SnappiI have used Prefolds with both of my kids. I’ll be sharing a review of some later this week, too so if you want to learn more, look out for that. In the meantime, I’ll give you the lowdown. These are somewhat similar to Flats in that they are a piece of cloth but instead of one layer they have multiple layers and they are a rectangular shape instead of a square. They are made of cotton or hemp. Generally people use these as burp cloths. The middle layer is thicker normally as well. The prefold is meant to be folded into thirds and can be secured with pins, a Snappi, or a prefold belt…or not. My personal preference is to use a Snappi or a prefold belt if going without a cover for around the house. (The prefold and prefold belt is great for EC!) They come in sizes so if you are buying, make sure to buy the right size. You will need a cover to make these waterproof (which is described below).

My Experience – Like I said above, I have used these with both of my kids. With Marcella, I used prefolds at night with a Snappi and Thirsties Duo Wrap Covers. With Jude, a prefold was the very first diaper he wore. We used prefolds and covers with Snappis in our newborn days and still use them occasionally now.


Mudshrimps Pocket DiaperThese are my preferred cloth diaper. A pocket diaper is a shell made of a waterproof material on the outside and a wicking material on the inside (the part touching your baby.) There is an opening at the top (or sometimes both sides are open) for you to place an insert. Some pocket diapers include inserts (one or two) and some don’t. I like using these because they are fast drying and you can customize the absorption by what type of inserts you use. Inserts come in a range of materials like microfiber, hemp and bamboo with hemp or bamboo being most absorbent and thinner than microfiber. They are also pretty simple for someone not familiar with cloth diapers to use. If they are already pre-stuffed, it is very similar to a disposable diaper. They come in hook and loop (Velcro) or snap closures with most people preferring the snaps as they don’t wear out like the hook and loop does. I am in the minority and prefer hook and loop, as do most who aren’t familiar with using cloth. I like being able to get it as tight as I need to whereas with hook and loop you are limited to the snap locations. One last note on pockets, you can get these in sizes or in a one-size style. I prefer one-size as it is much more cost effective by some people prefer the superior fit of sized diapers.

My Experience – I go in depth on pocket diapers in my original posts on how I cloth diapered Marcella. I still use the BumGenius with Jude although they are in the process of having the hook and loop replaced by Quacks and Waddles at the moment. I also still use our Fuzzi Bunz diapers at night for Marcella. While I was pregnant with Jude, I bought some more pocket diapers from Mudshrimps, a WAHM. These diapers are super cute! The patterns are just downright adorable and my favorite diaper I own is from Mudshrimps (Hungry Caterpillar). They come in 2 one-size diapers and Jude is currently wearing her size 1’s. They aren’t quite as good as BumGenius at holding in leaks but still superior to a disposable. They also don’t come with inserts so you do have to buy separately or she recommends using prefolds inserted in. I have some other pockets as well that were just China Cheapies (I know, I know) that are cute and were, well, cheap. I also had some Thirsties Duos and wanted to love them but wasn’t as impressed as I thought I would be. I did love that they were open on both ends which meant I did not need to take the insert out for laundering (only works if you have a top loader though). Jude outgrew them so I sold them.


bumGenius Elemental - Albert PrintThese are the priciest cloth diaper type. It is just like it sounds, a cloth diaper with just one piece with an absorbent inner and waterproof outer. These are an excellent choice for the beginner or a care provider not familiar with cloth as they are the most like a disposable. They come in sized or one size types close with hook and loop (Velcro) or snaps. The biggest drawback, aside from the higher price tag, is they take forever to dry.

My Experience – I never used this style with Marcella but have some for Jude. When he was a newborn we had 4 of the L’il Joey Rumparoos. These are newborn sized and had the nice benefit of a snap down setting for the umbilical cord to heal. I had mixed feelings on these. They did take a longer time to dry (although, since they were so tiny, it was not excessive) and they did leak on occasion. It was incredibly nice, though, to just throw it in the diaper pail, especially with the unpleasant runny newborn poo. They were definitely Josh’s favorite. He never cared much for the prefold/cover combo. We also have one of the BumGenius Elemental diapers, and it is one of my favorites. The tabs are stretchy which make getting a good fit easier with snaps, and it dries more quickly because of the design. It is a true all-in-one diaper but the extra fabric is on the outside attached which means it can separate while attached and dry more quickly. It is also a trimmer fit than my other one-size diapers. The fabric on the outside is softer it seems as well. If they weren’t so expensive, I would have a lot more of these but the cost is just too high for me.


Itti Bitti TuttoThese are similar to all-in-ones except your absorbent layer is on the outside inner part of the diaper and is detachable for quicker dry times and for customization. The outer layer is waterproof. These also come in sized or one-size and attach with snaps or hook and loop (Velcro). They are pricier than pockets but a little less than all-in-ones, depending on brand. Someone not familiar with cloth may be all kinds of confused with the pieces flying out at them when they open the diaper to place on the baby so that’s something to be aware of.

My Experience – I only have one brand of All-in-Twos, Itti Bitti Bitti Tutto. My review for these is mixed. They are seriously cute with a soft, minky outer. However, they do leak more than my others it seems and are low riding, as in my son looks like the proverbial plumber while wearing them. Snapping the inserts in can also be tricky and confusing, although they are color coded.


Fitted are the cloth diaper type that confused me most for some reason initially. I think the term “fitted” threw me. I expected that to me sized but that is not at all what it means as fitted diapers come sized and in one-size styles. A fitted diaper is just the absorbent part and you close it with hook and loop (Velcro) or snaps. It is not waterproof and therefore requires a cover. So the term fitted is referring to the fact that, unlike a prefold or flats, you don’t need to fold or attach with pins/Snappi. It fits to your baby.

My Experience – I have two fitteds, a Tots Bots Stretch Bamboozle and a Silly Bear Handmade (WAHM). I love the Tots Bots! It is made of super absorbent bamboo and has a snap in soaker. I use it exclusively for night because it is trim but holds a ton (and Josh can put it on easily.) The only disadvantage is it does take longer to dry and you have to touch the peed on part to unattach it. I also like the Silly Bear Handmade but it gets really wet really quickly or at least it seems that way. It also comes with a snap-in soaker and takes more time to dry.


These are pretty popular with a lot of people although I have never used them. A hybrid diaper marries the reusability of a cloth diaper with the convenience of a disposable insert. You can also use reusable cloth inserts as well. These are said to be a good system for traveling as you can use the cloth inserts at home but while on the road use the disposable inserts and have less to wash (and pack!). The cover is waterproof and is the washable part and you lay the insert on top. This means the cover can be used for more than one diaper change as long as it is not soiled. The disposable inserts are biodegradable and, I believe, can be flushed or composted (or thrown in the trash). These come either sized or one size and attach with hook and loop (Velcro) or snaps.

My Experience – None


I am still intimidated by wool although I know others who rave about it. I will say wool is incredibly cute. Take a look at this rainbow soaker from Anktangle for instance. The beauty of wool is you don’t have to wash it unless it gets soiled. Yes, you read that right. If your wool is only peed in, no need to wash! When you do need to wash it (about every month or so unless it gets poop on it before then), you hand wash it and lanolize it. (A video tutorial for lanolizing is available at the linked text.) Wool is a fantastic fabric because it is very breathable as well as warm in winter and cool in summer. If your little one has issues with rashes at night, try wool! If you can sew, you can make your own wool covers which would be good because wool is not cheap. If you want to try wool but are intimidated like me, That Mama Gretchen has a great post on building a wool stash up slowly.

My Experience – None


Bumkins CoverCovers are what you need to, well, cover non-waterproof diapers like fitteds, prefolds and flats. They are made of a waterproof material and some have gussets at the leg holes to help keep leaks from occurring. They come in sized and one-size and attach with hook and loop (Velcro) or snaps.

My Experience – Covers are my go-to for nighttime. I pair them with either my Tots Bots fitted and an additional insert or a toddler sized prefold with Snappi and additional insert. I very rarely have leaks with this system. I do occasionally use covers during the day either with a prefold and Snappi or my Silly Bear Handmade fitted. My favorites are the Thirsties Duo Wraps but, for cuteness, I love the Bumkins Covers Dr. Seuss prints!


I cover several accessories I use in my how I cloth diaper posts so I’ll just mention them here.

  • Once solid foods start to change your baby’s poop consistency, you have a lot of options with what to do with the poop. I personally go for diaper liners and my absolute favorites are Imse Vimse liners. They are big and very strong. If they have only been peed in, I just throw them in the diaper pail along with the diaper and wash them, hang them to dry and reuse! If they are soiled, they got flushed down the toilet. Easy, easy. Alternatively, you can make your own cloth liners but, of course, you won’t be able to flush them. 😉
  • I find using cloth wipes the most efficient way to cloth diaper. No fooling with two different disposal methods, just throw the wipe in the diaper pail. You can certainly make your own cloth wipes, but I just bought mine. I reviewed the 3 types of cloth wipes I owned when I started my cloth journey (and still use today) as well as the super snazzy ones I have from CurlyMonkey Organics.
  • When you use cloth, you can’t just use any old diaper/rash cream. Of course, hopefully you aren’t dealing with a lot of rashes anyway because babies tend to have less when using cloth, but if you do, you’ll need something that isn’t going to ruin your diapers! I have used and like Earth Mama Angel Baby Angel Baby Bottom Balm and Monkey Baby Naturals Baby Goo. Breastmilk and coconut oil work as well!
  • I mentioned Snappi’s several times above. These are nifty little stretchy things that have grips on the end (that are really sharp, ask me how I know). They are much easier/safer than using pins and are my go-to for attaching prefolds.
  • For laundering my diapers, I use soap nuts. I love that I can forgo the extra rinse cycle that you need with other laundry detergents and it is completely non toxic and safe for diapers. It also makes them soft which is really great since you can’t use any type of fabric softener with cloth diapers.
  • For storing your wet/soiled diapers until you wash them, I recommend a plain old lidded trash can, preferably a step-on one. If you are washing the recommended every other day, you aren’t going to have any stink problems, or at least I never have. I line mine with a pail liner. I used to recommend the Mommy’s Touch brand but after two delaminated on me rather quickly (well another one is still going strong 4 years later), I don’t recommend them anymore. So far I have been happy with my Planet Wise Pail Liner and it came recommended. I recommend having 2 so you aren’t stuck without while one is in the wash.
  • For on-the-go diapering, you’ll want a wet bag. There are a ton of super cute ones (or plain if that’s more your style) on the market. I recommend having 2 so if one is in the wash, you have another to take it’s place.
  • Cloth wipes can be used with plain water but I prefer something that feels more like it’s cleaning them. I adore Baby Bits wipe solution (type “baby bits” in the search bar at the top of the site in the link to find them) and a close second is a wipe bit made by SewLittle. You can also make your own cloth wipe solution.

Shared at The Tuesday Baby Link-up




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