Are you a little intimidated at the thought of using cloth diapers and curious to know if they’re worth all the “hassle?” Then let me ease your worries since cloth diapers, specifically pocket cloth diapers, are actually much easier than you would think and definitely worth investing in. This guide tells you everything you need to know to start cloth diapering your baby today!

Cloth diapers have come a long way since the days of safety pins and complicated folds. Now they are so easy and convenient and inexpensive it doesn’t make sense to not give it a go. 

So what is a pocket cloth diaper you ask? A pocket cloth diaper is a reusable and highly absorbent diaper with three layers of protection. A water proof outer layer is sewn together with soft and dry inner layer that forms a pocket for an absorbent insert to be placed. Together they keep baby dry and comfortable just like a disposable diaper.

One of the most cost-efficient ways parents can save money is by using cloth diapers. Yes, the majority of the cost is upfront but after you get the items you need it’s smooth sailing from there. We have been cloth diapering my son for a little over a year now and since our initial diaper and accessories purchases we haven’t had to spend any money on diapers!

An closeup shot of a baby wearing a cloth diaper with owls on it

Why do some people choose to use cloth diapers while others don’t?

The Pros and Cons Of Pocket Cloth Diapers

In order to make a fair and balanced decision you need to know the facts.

Lets go over a few of the pros and cons when using pocket cloth diapers

Pros

Woman places coin in piggy bank

Cost effectiveness Pocket cloth diapers are significantly less expensive than disposable diapers. While the cost to get started can seem a little daunting at first at upwards of $300, once you have your diaper stash in place the costs you will accrue over time is negligible. These costs are mostly through detergent and the increase to your utility bills via water and electricity (or gas).

These costs, in comparison to the prices of diapers, are minimal. On average, a child will use upwards of 2,500 diapers in their first year alone which is a total cost of over $500! Just for the first year! So when you factor in you could be diapering for two to three years, (Or longer if you have multiple children) you start to understand the kind of savings you will receive by making the choice to cloth diaper your children.

It might seem like its more expensive to invest in cloth diapers but by the second year you will see savings.

What about the impact on the environment? Did you know it takes approximately 500 years for a diaper to decompose in a landfill? Think about all the diapers your family will go through over the span of diaper years for your child and you can see how big an impact a single child can have on the environment.

trash heap sits decomposing

However, cloth diapering your baby does use more water and energy than disposables so keep that in mind while deciding whats best for your family.

Easy to use! Worried about complicated diaper changes? Don’t! Pocket diapers are so unbelievably easy to change you really won’t notice a difference.

Cons

I know what you’re really worried about. though. The dreaded soiled diaper clean up.

Woman holds up a poop emoji cookie

Soiled diapers and extra laundry can definitely be a deterrent when it comes to using pocket cloth diapers. I’m not one to argue against the convenience of disposables diapers over cloth diaper either. Disposable diapers are super convenient; there’s a reason they’re so popular.

But, what I can tell you is that the mess is really not as bad as you think. And there are a lot of modern conveniences we can buy that make our lives easier.

There is some good news though; if your baby is still exclusively breastfed you actually don’t need to spray the diapers out before washing them. Their waste is water soluble and will come out easily in the wash cycle.

Be advised, If your child is formula fed or on solids there are a few more steps involved before you’re done with diaper duty. BUT! It’s not hard to spray them off and store them in until it’s time to wash.

Sadly, this mean you’ll need to do a bit more laundry than normal. On average, and depending on your diaper stash, you will need to wash your diapers every 2 to 3 days. I wouldn’t push it any longer than that if you want to keep your house from smelling like a barn.

Frequently Asked Questions

Baby girl sits with her back to the camera while wearing a baby yoda cloth diaper

There are several different types of cloth diapers,  All In One’s, flats, prefolds, hybrids, pockets and so many more. I use pocket diapers for my son and have found them to be really easy to use. And honestly with all the cute prints out there it’s really hard not to buy them all!

How many diapers do I need?

Regardless of the type of diaper you buy, you’re going to want to make sure you have enough for at least three days worth of use. That means you will want about 30-40 diapers in your stash.

It’s okay to slowly build your stash up over time and there are less expensive ways to build your stash.

Where to buy cloth diapers?

You can purchase cloth diapers from Amazon, small businesses online, or even buy used via Facebook groups. I haven’t seen too many major retailers stock cloth diapers but you might have some luck in your area.

Consider reaching out to other families. We were fortunate enough to have friends donate their daughters old stash to my son. This generous offer helped cut our overall cost in half. But, even if you don’t know anyone able to let go of their stash you can still get them relatively cheap used.

Used cloth diapers are a really good way to get started and once they are washed and dried it doesn’t matter that they were previously owned.

And, as an added bonus, when you’re family is done with diapering you can sell your diapers to make back some money.

baby girl lays on her back while wearing a cloth diaper

How do I wash pocket cloth diapers?

Everyone has their preferred wash routine that works best for their family but this is what I do for mine.

  1. Pre- wash with HOT
  2. HOT Wash with Soap
  3. Rinse with HOT

The pre-rinse and hot rinse can sometimes be confusing to people not used to washing diapers. Do you need to pre-wash your cloth diapers? What does the hot rinse do and can I skip it? Unfortunately, you can’t.

You have to run the diapers through all those cycles to make sure they work well and don’t have an odor. The pre-rinse is essential as it gets rid of any preliminary waste on the diapers and the hot rinse makes sure no soap is left behind to affect the absorbency.

Depending on how many soiled diapers my son has gone through since the last wash, I have even done a separate prewash of just his poopy diapers to make sure the water isn’t too dirty when I toss in the rest.

I highly recommend buying pocket diapers with snaps versus Velcro as Velcro can easily stick together in the wash. These pocket diapers are designed with several button snaps along the outside of the cover. They can adjust to any baby’s size so you don’t have to keep buying new ones as they grow.

Note: The diapers I bought off Amazon have a tag that says to wash them in cold water. I do not follow those instructions because you can’t clean them properly with just cold water. I tried it for a few days and my son constantly smelled like a barn. If you want your diapers clean and smelling fresh, I recommend using hot water. 

Do I need to strip my diapers?

Do really dirty diapers need to be stripped? Frankly, you really shouldn’t need to strip your diapers if you’re properly washing them. However, if you would like to strip used diapers or for any other reason here is an excellent article on how to strip cloth diapers. 

What’s the best detergent to use?

Powder Tide detergent

It’s important that you wash your diapers with the appropriate detergent. The wrong soap can leave a build-up on your diapers that will make them less absorbent and harder to clean. Two things you do not want in a diaper.

I use Tide Powder in a box to wash my son’s cloth diapers as it’s the most cost efficient and easily accessible detergent. Since it works well for clothes, I save money by buying only one type.

However, there are several other detergents that work well on diapers.

How do you dry cloth diapers?

Dryer or no dryer?

Well… it depends; Let me explain why I say that. The inserts for your pocket diapers will do okay in a dryer on a medium to low setting (no fabric softener – ever). However, the covers or any part with elastic or Velcro should not be put in the dryer in order to maintain their quality. Perhaps in an emergency it’s okay but over time this will damage your diapers and considering how expensive they are, it’s a good idea to treat them with care. 

Cloth diapers hand on a drying rack in the sun

So what to do instead? Just hang them to dry! I use a drying rack that holds the perfect amount of diapers and I can then leave them to hang overnight.

Note: I live in the very dry climate of Phoenix, Arizona so depending on where you live the drying process might take longer.

Stuffing Diapers

Cloth diaper cover and insert lay open and ready for stuffing

Pocket diapers come with cloth inserts that are extremely absorbent. They go inside the diaper cover which is then placed on the baby similar to a disposable diaper.  After you wash and dry your diapers you’re going to want to stuff and fold them before putting them away. It’s very difficult to prepare a cloth diaper while the baby is wiggling on the changing table so take the time to fold and put them away as soon as possible. 

Step by Step Directions

1. Grasp the insert with your dominant hands and fingertips then lay across your forearm.  
2. Grab the diaper cover with your non dominant hand and place the insert into the cover. 
3. Pinch the ends together and slowly pull your hand out making sure to smooth the folds and crinkles as you go.
4. Flip the diaper over and snap in place.

I store my diapers in the drawer under my son’s changing table. This makes it so much easier to grab one and go. If this is not available, keeping them within arms reach from the changing table will make things much easier for you.

Cleaning Soiled Diapers 

Let’s get into the major reason people are hesitant on using cloth diapers for their family… Changing, storing, and cleaning a soiled diaper.

But, please let me ease your fears! it’s really not a big deal and only takes a little more work!  

Items needed:

Urine diapers are very easy to store until wash day. You just pull out the insert and place it and the diaper cover into a wet bag which you then can easily toss into the washing machine. But what about poops?

If your child is still exclusively breastfed you don’t have to worry about rinsing off their soiled diapers before washing them. Breast milk waste is water soluble which means you can wash them with regular diapers with no problems.

Disposable biodegradable diaper bags

If your child is formula fed or on solids there are a few more steps involved to the clean up. Normally, when wiping with a disposable, you can discard the wipes into the diaper and fold it up before tossing.

However, it’s a little harder to do that with a cloth. To combat this issue, I keep small biodegradable bags in his diaper setup area for dirty wipes and to help transport the soiled diaper to the bathroom and bucket.

A bidet installed next to a toilet

After the baby is cleaned and in a fresh diaper you need to take the soiled diaper to the bathroom to spray off the excess clumpy waste and flush it.

There are several handy items that you can buy to make cleaning the diapers more convenient and I highly recommend purchasing anything that will make your life easier that is within your budget.

I use a a bidet and shield when cleaning out my sons diaper. The diaper shield has a convenient clip that will hold the diaper in place while I spray off the waste. You can adjust the pressure of the bidet to any mess level and the shield keeps everything contained.

A plastic shield is used while spraying out a cloth diaper

Once you have rinsed the diaper off you need to soak it in a bucket of water. I found 5 gallon buckets with lids to be the most effective.

Be sure to get a bucket with a lid so you don’t have standing soiled water sitting around which can be dangerous for small children.

How often should you wash them?

I wouldn’t let soiled diapers sit longer than two days in the bucket because it can get pretty gross otherwise with the stench.

A note on diaper rash:

Since diaper rash cream is designed to repel moisture and cloth diapers are meant to be extremely absorbent you can not use traditional diaper rash cream on your baby’s tushie without affecting its absorbency.

As an alternative, there are tons of options that are cloth diaper friendly and just as easily accessible as the brands you might be more familiar with. 

Overnight

You can cloth diaper your baby over night by doubling up on the inserts to give the diapers more absorbency through the night.

Out and About

Going out with a baby that uses cloth diapers is a little different than disposables. We all know it’s frowned upon to toss soiled diapers in public bathrooms but a urine soaked diaper is usually acceptable. Disposing of cloth diapers after soiled with poo is not done as they’re way too expensive to just toss and go.

Three wet bags with animal print

This is when diaper bags and wet bags come into play again. If my son needs a urine soaked diaper changed I just place it in the wet bag to wash later.

These bags do a wonderful job of holding the ammonia smell in and it’s fine to keep it in your diaper bag for a few days. However, you’re going to want to clip the soiled diaper to the outside of the diaper bag until you can get home and clean it properly. I learned this lesson the hard way.

So that’s it! That’s all you need to know to start your cloth diaper journey with your little loved one. After over a year of cloth diapering my son I can say with certainty that cloth diapers are a fantastic way to diaper any baby. They come in so many fantastic and cute designs and are beyond easy to use. Once you start cloth diapering you will wonder why you ever did it any other way!