Cloth Diapering Update: What Real Life Experience Has Taught Me

I think it’s about time that I wrote an update to my original posts about cloth diapering.  I love it when I get a chance to talk to people about cloth diapers, especially someone who’s just beginning to consider cloth or is just starting to delve into the world of cloth diapers.  It always brings me right back to the time when I was pregnant with Alex and trying to make sense of all the options and advice out there.  It can be confusing, overwhelming, and daunting!  No, cloth diapering is nothing new (our grandmothers all did it, after all), but, unlike our grandmothers, we have a lot more choices now.  Cloth diapering is more convenient than ever, but the decisions are more difficult.

While I was pregnant the first time, I wrote a post detailing exactly what diapers we purchased to begin with before Alex was born, including prices, pictures, and where we bought them.  At the end there is a summary of the different types of cloth diapers, because that was really confusing for me at first.

Now, here is a short update on what I’ve learned since actually using cloth diapers for two years.  Our original stash was a good one, but there are just a few things we’ve learned along the way:

Types of Diapers-

  1. We really love using prefolds and I would absolutely recommend them as your primary diaper.  P.S. We quit using Snapis a long time ago.  We simply tri-fold them and lay them in the cover.  Snapis might still be nice for really little babies, but once Alex got a little bigger tri-folding was the way to go.  I’ll let you know if we use snapis again with the new baby.

    a size 2 prefold, before initial stripping

    a size 2 prefold, before initial stripping

  2. We have accumulated a few different brands of all-in-ones, but didn’t find them as reliable as the good old prefold and cover.  They are more likely to leak & aren’t as versatile.  They are easier, though, especially for grandparents or babysitters.
  3. We DO love pocket diapers, specifically several Kawaii pockets which we have gotten for free with our orders from Kelly’s Closet.  They’re easy to use, a little more trim than a prefold, and they keep the wetness off of baby’s skin.  Downsides: no double gussets for extra poo insurance, they aren’t made of that nice organic cotton like our prefolds, and you have to wash the whole thing after one use.

    a couple of our Kawaii brand pockets

       a couple of our Kawaii brand pockets

Sizes of Diapers and Covers-

  1. You can get by with using one-size diapers and covers, but I would recommend getting some that come in at least a couple of different sizes.  The one-size diapers can be really bulky on a tiny baby, even after they’ve left the newborn stage.  Another option is to just use disposables for the first couple of weeks until your baby grows into the one-size diapers a little more, but if one of your reasons for cloth diapering includes protecting your baby from the chemicals in sposies, that may not appeal to you. Alex was 8 pounds at birth, so if he was swallowed up in a one-size diaper, a 5 or 6 pound baby would be even more so.  Buying 2 sizes of prefolds and covers wasn’t a huge expense (and we didn’t have to buy the second size right away), but I recognize that if you’re going with pockets or all-in-ones as your main diaper then it’s going to get a little more expensive.  See my post about our beginning stash to compare prices.

    a package of size 2 prefolds

            a package of size 2 prefolds

Number of Diapers

  1. Although the number of prefolds we started out with (24) would have been ok if that was all we could afford, we did end up with another dozen or so to safeguard against running out.  You should estimate that your newborn is going to use at least 12-18 diapers a day at first, so if you only want to wash diapers every other day….. well, you can do the math.
  2. We started out with 6 covers and I think we now have at least 10.  If your baby doesn’t poop as often as ours you will maybe be ok with 6, but certainly no fewer than that!  Once a cover has been pooped in, you pretty much need to wash it.

Types of Covers

  1. We have answered the big velcro vs. snaps question for ourselves.  Definitely snaps.  Takes a little more time to fasten but lasts longer and looks better after a few months of use.
  2. We have tried a few different types of covers and our favorites, hands down, are Thirsties Duo Wrap covers.  We love the gussets for keeping everything in where it should be!  They come in 2 sizes.

    Thirsties Duo Wrap Cover photo source: kellyscloset.com

    Thirsties Duo Wrap Cover
    photo source: kellyscloset.com

Washing Cloth Diapers-

I also wrote a post before Alex was born about washing diapers, and not much has changed, but here are some points to recap:

  1. My husband actually, somehow, became the diaper-washer in our house, something I am A-ok with! He faithfully soaks them every other night, turns on the washer on when he wakes up in the morning, and usually puts them in the dryer before he leaves for work.
  2. We have always used a dry pail in the nursery (with a step-lever lid), and it’s totally the way to go.  We put a big wet bag inside, and then just pull the whole thing out when it’s time to wash.

    Kangarooz Pail Liner photo source: kellyscloset.com

    Kangarooz Pail Liner
    photo source: kellyscloset.com

  3. We still use and are happy with Charlie’s Soap (we actually use it for all of our laundry now), we use baking soda and vinegar for odor control, and we use a bit of peroxide to disinfect.  When we need to strip our diapers, we just wash them with some blue dawn and then give them lots and lot of rinses.
  4. We give our prefolds, pockets, all-in-ones, covers, and wet bags the same wash treatment, but we let our covers and wet bags air dry to prolong their life.  The covers dry very quickly on top of the dryer or hung on the laundry room shelf.  Every once in awhile we pop them into the dryer to make sure the PUL stays properly sealed.
  5. The sun is still our favorite way to get rid of stains, although (confession time) we’ve been super lazy about sunning them recently.  I’ve been thinking about where to put up a clothesline, however, so we can get back to that, especially once we’re dealing with those super stainy breastfed poops again…… in only a couple more months!!!!

I hope the things I’ve learned will be helpful to you.  I always welcome questions on things I might not have mentioned.  Happy cloth diapering!!!!

How to Wash Cloth Diapers Using Charlie’s Soap

When considering cloth diapers, the big question in people’s minds is: What about all that poopy diaper laundry??  They worry about the time, the extra expense of water and laundry detergent, and the general ick factor they associate with diaper laundry.  My husband worries about the diaper pail smell and tries to convince me that I should launder every day instead of every other day as is my plan- haha!  I’m thinking every other day will be ambitious enough, especially with a newborn baby.  Before I digress, however, let me tell you about my plan for cleaning diapers.  This is based on what I have read from multiple sources and the advice given by other moms before me.  I’m sure it’s not perfect and that I’ll have to make adjustments, but you’ll get to discover along with me whether or not it works out!  I’ve tried to make my explanations as simple and easy-to-follow as possible so that if my plan works flawlessly you could totally copy what I’ve done 🙂

Ok, from the beginning.  I’ve already talked about the kind of cloth diapers I’m using.  I plan  to fold a prefold in thirds (no snappis or pins), set that inside a diaper cover, and put the whole thing on.  That’s it.  Pretty straightforward.  When the diaper needs changing, I’ll throw the prefold into a wet bag-lined, lidded trash can and there it will stay until I do diaper laundry later that day or the next.  I will use the dry pail method, which basically means that I won’t fill the diaper pail with water. (The image of lifting, carrying, and pouring “diaper soup” into the washer was enough to convince me that dry pail is where it’s at.  Also, I’ve seen it recommended over wet pail numerous times.)  Now, we plan to get one of those diaper sprayers that attaches to your toilet and we could rinse the poopies off each time if we choose, but I have heard from many moms that breastfed poos really don’t stink so badly and don’t require rinsing at all.  We’ll see.  If that’s true, we probably won’t have to rinse poopies until Baby is eating some solids (at 6+ months).  If the diaper cover is clean, I’ll simply reuse it.  If it’s dirty, I could wipe in clean, let it dry, and then reuse it, or I could toss it in the pail and wash it with the rest of the diapers.

I just got my kangaroo print pail liner today and I’m in love with it- who doesn’t love little kangaroos in diapers?? 😀

When it comes time to do diaper laundry, I made a little protocol for myself.  Here’s the first draft that I made a couple months ago (I actually framed this and hung it in my laundry room 🙂 ):

NO bleach  •  NO fabric softener  •  1 T Charlie’s Soap per load  •  12-18 Diapers

1.                      Cold Pre-rinse or overnight soak
 
2.                      Hot Wash Cycle with detergent
 
3.                      1st Cold Rinse
 
4.                      2nd Cold Rinse
 
5.                      Dryer or Sunshine

Removing Odors = ½ cup baking soda in pre-rinse,

½ cup vinegar in 1st rinse- prefolds only!

Removing Stains = lemon juice + sun!

Don’t run to copy this down just yet, however, because I’ve tweaked it a little since then, and I’ll explain why later.  First, though, I put at the top some cloth-diaper no-nos: no bleaching or using fabric softener, or you’ll end up with residue substances on your diapers that will decrease absorbency and potentially irritate your baby’s bum.  I also put the amount of detergent that I’d need to use per load and the max number of diapers per load, as well as some reminders at the bottom of what to do if I needed extra help removing stains and odors.

After reading about different baby-safe detergents, I discovered Charlie’s Soap (and it’s actually a detergent, not a soap, despite the name).  It contains zero additives or ingredients that will bind to fabrics and leave a residue behind.  This also means that it doesn’t contain added antibacterial agents (I guess some detergents do?), which means that you will have to disinfect your diapers using something like hydrogen peroxide or vinegar added to your rinse.

I took it out of the original package and put it in a cute little container 🙂

Now, if you do a basic internet study on Charlie’s Soap, you will find mixed information- some people love it and some report some very bad experiences with it involving burn-like rashes.  So what’s the real deal?  Is it a wonderful, cleaning-rinsing detergent or a dangerous, rash-causing toxin?………..

Here’s the information that can be found on the Charlie’s Soap website under frequently asked questions:

———————————————————————————————————

Can Charlie’s Soap be safely used to clean a baby’s diaper?
We believe that clean, dry, residue free and sanitized (frequently changed and disinfected) diapers are best for babies and babies’ bottoms. (See: Mayo Clinic)

Our detergents contain no ingredients or additives that are designed to bind to fabrics; and they contain no antibacterial agents, either. Subsequently, Charlie’s Soap is residue free. Since your results using Charlie’s Soap may vary due to your particular water conditions, your washer and your baby’s sensitivity to bacteria, we suggest you follow a successful procedure like the one listed here.

Our own recommended instructions are available here.

Charlie’s Soap is not a disinfectant. Follow care instructions on your child’s diapers, but make sure to kill bacteria that might have survived the washing process: boiling, sunning, ¼ cup vinger (rinse), ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide (rinse) or 1 tablespoon bleach (wash), etc. Left alone, such bacteria can cause severe, burn-like reactions.
——————————————————————————————————-

Based on that information, I believe that people who have had problems with Charlie’s Soap had a build-up of bacteria on their baby’s diapers and needed to use a disinfectant to make sure all bacteria was eliminated.  I love knowing that I’m using a detergent without additives that is non-toxic and environmentally friendly, so I’m absolutely willing to add a disinfectant.

Note: 1 tablespoon of bleach to disinfect is not the same as using a whole bunch of bleach to whiten.  The latter will probably leave some bleach residue on your diapers, in which case you’d just need to run another load with Charlie’s soap to get all of the bleach out.  I was confused about that at first.

I’ve also begun to use Charlie’s Soap on all our regular laundry so I won’t have to worry about any residues being left in our washer between diaper loads.  Per instructions, the first thing I did was to run a hot load of old rags with 2 doses of Charlie’s Soap just to clean everything out, and then I began doing my regular loads.

Anyway, now that we have that stuff out of the way, here’s my new diaper washing protocol (added steps in bold):

NO bleach  •  NO fabric softener  •  1 T Charlie’s Soap per load  •  12-18 Diapers

1.                      Cold Pre-rinse or overnight soak
 
2.                      Hot Wash Cycle with detergent and disinfectant
 
3.                      Cold Wash Cycle with detergent
 
4.                      2 Cold Rinses
 
5.                      Dryer or Sunshine

Disinfecting = ¼ cup peroxide- prefolds only!

Removing Odors = ½ cup baking soda in pre-rinse,

½ cup vinegar in 1st rinse- prefolds only!

Removing Stains = lemon juice + sun!

The one thing I haven’t decided is whether or not I’m going to disinfect every load and, in that case, whether or not I truly cannot use peroxide or vinegar on the diaper covers and wet bags.  That would be a pain because I don’t want to have to separate that stuff.  I also don’t know if that second cold wash with detergent will really be necessary, but it’s what the Charlie’s site recommended, I think to make sure all the disinfecting agent is removed. 

I’ll have to do an update when I’ve figured those two things out, but for now this my plan!  I hope this wasn’t all too confusing for anyone.  I’m sure there are other great diaper-washing detergents out there, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned regarding the one I’m planning to try.  

I would love to get advice from anyone who has successfully used Charlie’s Soap or something similar and has come up with a no-fail washing regime!

My Beginning Cloth Diaper Stash

A few months ago I posted about my research on cloth diapers and my thoughts on what to do at the time.  Well, I’ve since changed my mind a bit, and after just ordering the last of my beginning diaper stash today, I thought I’d update you on my plans.

Basically, I’ve decided to go with prefolds and covers.  I was set on All-In-Ones (AIO’s) for convenience, but realized that #1 I would have no idea going into it which brand(s) would work well for us, #2 they might not be absorbent enough for nighttime if we have a heavy wetter, and #3 there are even more economical options.  AIO’s can be $20+ each, so even though you’re saving a lot of money over disposables in the long run, you’re still spending almost $500 for a beginning stash of two dozen diapers.  For these reasons, I decided to start with a full stash of prefolds and then try other types of cloth diapers at our convenience.

I bought my diapers from kellyscloset.com.  They seemed to have the best selection of all the cloth diapers and accessories that I needed, and I always got free shipping with their deals.   I ordered most of my diapers and covers and a couple of wetbags a few weeks ago and then today ordered again since a couple of the covers I wanted weren’t in stock the first time.  Plus, I ordered an AIO and SIO (snap-in-one) to try out.  I also got a couple more wetbags, this time from Amazon since kellyscloset didn’t have the patterns in stock that I wanted (and I got tired of waiting)  🙂

So.  Here’s the complete breakdown of exactly what I bought and how much it all cost, complete with pictures for the visual learners out there (that’s me!):

From Kelly’s Closet-

Bummis Organic Cotton Unbleached Prefold Diapers (they come in packs of 6)

  • Size 1 (infant 7-20 lbs, 12″x16″)
  • 24 diapers= $72

 

 

 

Thirsties Duo Wrap Diaper Cover

  • Size 1 (6-18 lbs)
  • Closure: SNAPS
  • Color: Hoot
  • 1 cover= $13.75

 

 

 

 

 

Thirsties Duo Wrap Diaper Cover

  • Size 1 (6-18 lbs)
  • Closure: Aplix
  • Color: Meadow
  • 1 cover= $12.75

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rumparooz Diaper Cover

  • Size: Newborn
  • Closure: Aplix
  • Color / Print: Kangarooz
  • 1 cover= $12

 

 

 

 

Hiney Lineys Versa Cover

  • One Size
  • Closure: Hook and Loop
  • Color: Yellow
  • 1 cover= $16.95

 

 

Econobum Cloth Diaper Covers

  • One Size
  • Cover Trim Color: White
  • 2 covers= $17.90 (these were recommended to me by a friend and are some of the most economical covers you can purchase)

 

 

 

Planet Wise Wet Bags

  • Size: Medium
  • Design/Color: Orange Woods
  • 1 wetbag (to use in the diaper bag)= $16.50

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rumparooz/Kanga Care Pail Liners

  • Color/Print: Platinum
  • 1 pail liner (I’ll line a lidded trash can with this and it will be our diaper pail)= $18.97

 

 

 

 

 

GroVia® All In One Stay Dry Newborn Cloth Diaper

  • Size: Newborn
  • Print: Bicycles (this print was for my husband, who loves mountain biking 🙂  I hope he likes it)
  • 1 AIO= $14.95

 

 

 

 

itti bitti bitti d’lish SNAP-in-One (SIO) Cloth Diaper (I decided to try this diaper because you can use it as an AIO or, if you purchase extra snap-ins, you can potentially just replace the insert and reuse the outer part until it’s soiled)

  • Size: Small
  • Color: Turquoise
  • 1 SIO= $19.97

 

 

 

 

 

From Amazon-

Planet Wise Diaper Wet Bag

  • Size: Medium
  • Color/Pattern: Bumble Dot
  • 1 wet bag= $16.50

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kanga Care Pail Liner

  • Color/Pattern: Kangarooz
  • 1 pail liner= $18.95

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

Prefolds- 24
Diaper Covers- 6
Medium Wet Bags- 2
Large Wet Bags/Pail Liners- 2
AIO’s- 2

Total Spent on Beginning Stash= $251.19

I tried to get a variety of covers- different brands, different closures (snap or velcro), and different sizings (some one-size, some sized).  Hopefully by the time I need to get more covers (when baby has grown out of the size ones), I’ll have some idea of the brands I prefer.

I guess the amount of time this stash will last us really depends on the size of our baby.  Eventually we will need the next size of prefolds and covers.  I will also probably get some hemp doublers eventually, if we need them for extra absorption at night and stuff.  For now, though, we’re all set!  So I spent about $250, an average price for a cloth diaper start-up, and it could have been even less if I hadn’t bought the AIOs, two of each size of wet bag, had bought all Econobum covers, and had bought non-organic prefolds.  I still plan to make some cloth wipes by cutting pieces of flannel into squares and hemming the edges.  More on that later.  The only other cloth diaper related expenditure I’ve made so far is some Charlie’s Soap for washing- about $25 for detergent to last 80 loads and some pre-spray.

So that’s my stash!  We’ll see how it works.  I can’t wait for the last few dipes and bags I ordered today to arrive in the mail!  🙂

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In case you missed my previous post, here’s  the overview of the different types of cloth diapers:

  • Flats– these are the oldest kind of cloth diapers and are probably what your mother or grandmother used. Disadvantages: They require folding and pinning with pins or Snappis, and you must use a waterproof diaper cover.  Advantages:  They dry very quickly and are the most inexpensive option ($20 for a dozen-  less than $2 each)
  • Prefolds– these diapers are similar to flats, but have several layers.  Disadvantages: They also require folding or pinning, and a waterproof cover.  Advantages: They are very economical ($1.75-$5 each) and extremely absorbent.
  • Fitteds– they look like disposables and fasten with snaps or velcro.  They come in a variety of cute colors and prints.  Disadvantages: Like prefolds and flats, a waterproof cover must be used, and they will cost more than a simple prefold ($8-$25 each).  Advantages: No pinning or folding is required and they are still very absorbent.  A variety of commercial and homemade fitted diapers are available.
  • All-In-One’s (AIO’s)– these diapers, like fitted, and pocket diapers, look like disposables and fasten with velcro or snaps.  Advantages: They combine the absorbent part of the diaper with the waterproofing of the cover.  Basically, they come as one piece and are extremely simple to use.  The only difference between these and disposable diapers is that you wash them after use instead of throwing them away. Disadvantages: Some people find them less absorbent than fitteds or prefolds, and you don’t always have the option to increase their absorbency when needed as you do with pocket diapers.  They are also more expensive then prefolds ($15 each for newborn sizes, $22-$30 each for other sizes or one-size).
  • Pocket Diapers– this type of diaper is basically a waterproof cover with a fleece liner into which you may stuff any absorbent material, from specially made stuffers to prefolds.  Advantages: The fleece liner keeps the baby dry, and the absorbent material can be chosen based on the absorbency you are looking for.  These diapers are also quite easy to use.  Disadvantages: They aren’t quite as straightforward as an AIO, and they cost more than prefolds ($15-$25 each).

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