Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Easy Cloth Diapering on a Dime

We all know the shpiel about cloth diapers: they're frugal (if you are careful with your purchasing!), easy on the environment, excellent for keeping poo out of landfills, and they make baby bottoms adorably fluffy.  But in many circles (or maybe just mine, I don't know), when an expectant first-time mom announces that she wants to use cloth, the reaction from friends and family is not exactly reassuring!  Out of all the people I told about my cloth diapering before Einstein was born, I think two people said, "Oh, that's a good idea, I did cloth too."  The rest had reactions varying from "Well, if that's what you want to do, more power to you," to "Why in the world would you put yourself through that?"  

I was delighted to find a whole community of cloth-loving moms online and, later, in my community MOPs group.  They are encouraging, excited, and full of good ideas!  I am also amazed at the variety of products out there, from ultra-absorbing polar fleece (keeping bottoms super-dry, but not meeting the all-natural, organic criteria of some), to hand-knit organic merino-wool pull-on covers at $40 a piece (fantastic, but not exactly on my list of frugal purchases).  

Okay, we are not cloth-diapering super-heroes at our house.  We don't do cloth when we're out and about in town (we tried it for a while, and with 2 in diapers, it was just a little too much for me), and we don't do them at night (because my kiddos have enough trouble sleeping through the night to have to deal with a soggy bottom as well).  

But every little bit helps, right?  Now that we're on kiddo #2, the diaps have completely paid themselves off.  Any cloth diapering I do results in pure savings.  Here is our easy, hassel-free, frugal method for around-the-house cloth diapers.  

We do prefold diapers with a snappi and sized velcro diaper covers.  Thank you to little Miss Euler for modeling this stylish attire: 

This is the key to our diapering success: Cotton prefold diapers (this is unbleached and medium-sized).  These diapers are called pre-fold because they have extra layers of cotton in the middle panel to make them extra-absorbent there.  Contrary to what their name indicates, they still have to be folded around baby's bottom.  I chose these diapers because they are cheap, they hold up incredibly well to washing, and they get extremely clean.  I have heard that some styles of fitted diapers and all-in-ones (the kind of diapers that look like a little disposable made from cloth) are a little more difficult to get thoroughly clean because of the way they are structured.  That is not a problem here.

Now, you don't have to do this next step, but I think it makes the diaper really stay in place well: I secure it with a snappi fastener.  This makes diaper pins unnecessary.  The snappi is a lot like those fasteners you can use on ace bandages with little teeth grabbers that you pull tight to secure.  They also come in a wide assortment of cute colors (the only cute-colored part of my diaper collection!)
<em>Snappi</em> Cloth <em>Diaper Fasteners</em> (1 pack)

After snappi-ing (or not), you cover up the whole works with a diaper cover to hold everything in place and make the system water-proof.  I think I use nearly the least-expensive diaper covers out there, the Pro-rap Classic.  They are not cute or fancy, but boy are they hardworking.  They do their job, they are super-sturdy (even though mine occasionally get tossed in the dryer by accident), and they wash up perfectly.

Yup, that's all you need.  They're not fancy, but are extremely effective.  If I were to re-buy my diapering essentials, I might splurge the extra $1 a piece for the same diaper covers with cute designs on them, but having white makes them unisex - added value!

Okay, so we have all this gear, now isn't it a hassle to store it all somewhere and actually use it?  It actually takes about the same amount of space to store 36 cloth diapers as 1 big package of disposables from the store.  I keep most of mine in a little covered basket in the living room (it doubles as seating for the kids), and keep my covers, snappis, wipes, and accessories in another little basket stashed in the bottom of my hutch in the attached dining room.  We do most of our playing in the the living room, so diapers are handy when I need them.  The cloth diap takes about 45 seconds to put on a kiddo, as opposed to 30 seconds for a disposable.

When a diaper is wet, I take it off and toss it in my lined diaper laundry hamper (An old uncovered trash can) in the laundry room.  If the cover is just a little damp, I just wipe it off and use it again.  For a dirty diaper, I flip whatever poo I can get off into the toilet and toss the diaper and the cover in the hamper.  That's it.  I don't have soaking buckets, deodorizers, or fancy diaper pails.

At wash time, if there have been diapers sitting in the hamper a long time getting dried out, I will soak them a while before washing, but this is not always necessary.  I flip my diapers into the washer, along with the waterproof and washable hamper-liner.  This way I don't even have to touch the diapers, and the hamper is left clean and dry, ready for the next batch.  I wash once on cold, once on hot, and then do an extra hot rinse.   I make my own laundry detergent, so I don't have to worry about buying anything special.  If I have a really stubborn stain, I'll just use an oxy-cleaner that I have around the house.  Very effective.  

So far, my clothesline is only a dream, so I dry the diapers in the dryer and the covers on my drying rack.  The whole washing process only takes a little bit longer than a normal load of laundry, and it's not much more complicated, just instead of pulling out a load of normal laundry, I pull out a load of fresh, fluffy, sweet-smelling diapers, ready to be used again!

Now, as I admitted, I use disposables too, at night, on the go, or when I am just really overwhelmed (okay, this is more often than I would like).  And, in case you wonder whether having cloth diapers sitting in the laundry stinks up the house, I can tell you from personal experience that a "diaper genie" full of disposables smells about 100 times worse than my laundry hamper.  The air flow in the hamper keeps the stink down considerably (that's why I don't use a lid), and the bulk of the solids are in the septic system, where they belong.  In fact, I have to keep my diaper genie outside because I can't handle the smell of dirty diapers inside, and I've never once had a problem with my cloth diaps.  

There are about as many ways to cloth diaper a baby as there are babies.  But here is one easy, practical, and low-cost way to do your bit for your budget and the environment with cloth diapers!

Be sure to catch up on the latest update on our cloth diapering, too.

Posted at Works for Me Wednesday at We Are That Family


  1. Friend I have several mommy friends that cloth diaper as well and I think they have had similar reactions from family and friends regarding cloth diapers. But they also love the savings!

    I do plan to be a cloth diaper mom when that time comes, but would you mind sharing your homemade soap skills? I would be interested in making my own detergent now!

  2. Thank you so much for posting this! My husband and I are starting to talk about having a baby, and we wanted to cloth diaper (or at least try!). You're right, most "real world" people think it's crazy!

  3. Might have some cloth diaper stuff for you. Tried it, didn't mind it, but Jesse hated it. I think we're going to give it up and go with disposable for the dude.

  4. I second the request for more info on your homemade detergent... hmmm...

  5. Amanda and Valerie, sure, I will go look for my soap recipe. :)

    Jackie, it takes a little getting used to, but once you've got it down, it's very simple. Good luck with your family planning!

    Kara, I hear you. We are pretty much just getting back into it now that we don't have a tiny infant and things have calmed down a little.

  6. You are SO right about the smell!! When my son was almost 2, a friend was over and saw me change a diaper and toss it in the pail, and he said, "I can't believe that's all you do with it! I'm just realizing, I've been here a million times and never been able to smell the diapers, but most people's houses you can tell there's a baby the second you walk in the door!" The few times my son wore disposables, they smelled so bad we couldn't stand to keep the trash in the house!

    We used cloth diapers almost exclusively, with both parents employed outside the home, so I want to reassure all future parents that it CAN be done. Here's my method.

  7. Becca, the smell factor is one of my biggest motivators to keep doing cloth! I really enjoyed your method - sounds like we have a lot in common. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Hi again! We cloth diaper too, and it's basically the same method as you except that I do have some pockets and AIOs for when we're out and about and when we have a babysitter. I love my cloth diapers and yes, you are completely right about the smell. Sposies STINK!

  9. Jenna, it's amazing how un-stinky cloth diapers are, isn't it? If we ever have another kiddo, it sounds like pockets and AIO's are a great idea for out-and-about, instead of disposables. Thanks for the idea!

  10. We are a cloth diapering family. We use Fuzzibunz one size cloth diapers and we LOVE it! It is super easy to use and clean. We also use cloth wipes, or shall I say just recently. But, when other moms see that I am using cloth, they are always amazed by it. If only people were more aware of the simplicity of using cloth and see the benefits of using cloth, such as how much less waste they will have in their trashcan and how much money they will save, I feel more people would jump on board and use cloth.

  11. Jen, sorry for the very late response! I haven't ever heard of Fuzzibunz before, but they sound like a great option. You are so right - I think a lot of moms just aren't aware of how easy cloth diapers are. They're convenient in so many ways! Thanks for stopping by.

  12. Oh man, I love my cloth diapers. We're using a combination of prefolds, all cotton fitteds, and flats with wool covers (not hand knitted though). Recently we flew out of state to visit my inlaws so they could see their new (4 month old) grandson and I thought TSA must think we're so weird b/c one of our bags was nothing but diapers... which to them (unless they too cloth diaper) just looks like a stack of fabric.

    My kiddo was goes through a *huge* number of diapers. We would have been flat broke for the first three months (before he slowed down) if we were buying disposables. And although I've never diapered with disposables it doesn't seem like it could be more convenient. Cloth just isn't that big a deal... but then I already do a lot of stuff "the hard way" so maybe my frame of reference for "convenient" is different.


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