Monday, April 21, 2014


Prepping is the process of washing or boiling inserts, prefolds, or fitted diapers with natural fibers - cotton, bamboo, or hemp - to strip the natural oils out, to make the material absorbent. The more layers you have, the longer it takes to prep. You only need to do this for new diapers before first use.

You don't need to prep microfiber inserts, pockets, or covers. These you can wash with your regular diapers before first use.

Two Ways To Prep

Washing - Common advice is to wash on hot for 3-5 cycles and drying in between. I did that the first time I prepped (they were prefolds), but I couldn't figure out how drying helps strip oils, so the next time I prepped (inserts and fitteds), I did 4 cycles of hot wash with no drying in between. I think I had 30 inserts and 5 fitteds then. Both ways worked fine, and I saved time and utility by only putting them in the dryer after the last wash. 

Boiling - This is the faster way to prep. Just boil for 30-45 minutes and then run through one cycle in the wash. Note that you should only do this if what you're prepping does not have snaps or PUL. There's debate whether you can do this with "blends" - like inserts that have microfiber inside. Some have done it with no issues, some say not to do it because microfiber is synthetic and could melt.


  • After prepping, your diapers may not be fully absorbent yet. It's okay to use them and wash them with your other diapers.
  • Cotton flats only really need to be washed once to prep. I haven't tried bamboo flats, but I would guess they only need 1 or 2 hot washes to prep.
  • From my experience, charcoal bamboo inserts take the longest to prep, probably because of the outer fleece-y layer. After a few more cycles in the wash (between uses), they should reach their full absorbency.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Types of Inserts

Inserts are most commonly used with pocket diapers. There are also those designed to have a snap that attaches to an AI2. (To learn more about pockets, AI2s, and other types of diapers, click here.)

Microfiber Insert - This is the most common insert, although not very well popular. This is the one insert that you should not put next to baby's skin, so it's usually put inside a pocket or behind another type of insert. Why should you not put it against baby's skin? It absorbs liquids a little too well, even moisture from baby's skin. Putting microfiber next to skin could cause dryness, even rashes.

It absorbs liquids quickly compared to other inserts, and it dries quickly after wash.

Microfiber gets a bad reputation of retaining smell even after washing. There are those who do not experience this though, including me! (I try to prevent stink by rinsing all inserts before they go in the pail.)

Another common complaint against this type of insert is compression leak. It's when something is pushing against a wet diaper, like when baby is straddling your hip, and the pressure causes pee to squeeze out of the insert. Personally, I have not had this issue. Maybe I just don't have heavy wetters, so the insert doesn't get saturated before next diaper change.

Microfiber inserts don't need to be prepped before first use. All the others need to be prepped to be absorbent.

Cotton Insert - Cotton inserts are not very common. Prefolds and flats are usually made of cotton, but not commonly used in pockets. Still, there are those who do. They are more bulky than regular inserts though.

Bamboo Insert - This insert is said to be more absorbent than microfiber or cotton. It also feels softer than microfiber (microfiber feels like a terrycloth towel) although it's more "floppy", so it's more likely to bunch up inside the diaper. Bamboo does not have the compression leak issue that microfiber has.

Charcoal Bamboo Insert (CBI) - This is commonly made of gray bamboo fleece-y material on the outside, with 2-3 layers of microfiber inside. The outer layer is gray, so it doesn't show stains. Actually, I think the material resists stains (the way fleece does), so it's more likely that it doesn't stain at all. The microfiber layers soak up the liquids while the outer layers, front and back, keep the liquids in, thus solving the compression leak issue of microfiber material. That stain-resistant layer is also stay-dry and soft, so they feel nice against baby's skin.

Bamboo Cotton Insert - This is similar to the CBI, except the top layer is made of white cotton, which is not stain-resistant or stay-dry. Some prefer this over CBI because the cotton absorbs quicker than bamboo. Others like this simply because it's white instead of gray, or because the cotton material feels more natural than charcoal bamboo.

Hemp Insert - Hemp is the most absorbent of all inserts, also the most expensive, preferred for heavy wetters or for overnight use. It's also said to be the slowest to absorb, so if you have a fast pee-er, you are going to want to put cotton or microfiber on top of the hemp so that the top layer would absorb pee quickly then pass on to the hemp beneath.

Hemp is stiff and a little rough.

- The more absorbent the insert, the longer it takes to dry.
- Cotton, bamboo, and hemp are made of natural materials; microfiber is synthetic; CBI is a mix of both.
- Prepping is the process of stripping inserts of their natural oils. This is what makes them absorbent. Microfiber is synthetic and doesn't have oils, so it doesn't need to be prepped. There will be a more detailed post about prepping. Stay tuned!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Types of Cloth Diapers

There are quite a few cloth diaper options out there. I'm going to try to list all of them. Let's do this alphabetically!

All-In-One (AIO)

This kind is most like a disposable diaper because it comes in one piece. Nothing to stuff or pin; just wash, dry and wear, and you won't need a cover. This is also trim fitting (not bulky).

Pros: Easy to use; trim.
Cons: You can't separate the absorbent layer and the waterproof layer, so the whole diaper needs to go in the dryer or hang dry. It also takes longer to dry and it's not as flexible (in increasing absorbency).

Needs cover: No

All-In-Two (AI2)

An AI2 comes in 2 pieces: a cover and an insert that you snap in to the cover. As with most covers, if it hadn't gotten dirty from last use, you can just change the insert and re-use the cover for next change; or, you can rinse, hang dry, then use once dry (it dries quickly).

Needs cover: No


This can be made of PUL, TPU, fleece, or wool. There is also an old style cover that is pull-up, made with nylon.

A cover is not absorbent in itself. It needs an absorbent piece, like an insert, prefold, or fitted.

Cover options: Snaps or velcro, single or double gusset, flap inside (front and/or back) for tucking in a prefold or insert and preventing leaks.


These are very absorbent since the whole diaper is made of absorbent material, plus it has one or more snap-in inserts. The fitted itself could be cotton, bamboo, or hemp. The snap-in inserts have the same material as the fitted, with a stay-dry layer on top on some options. These are commonly used for overnight, but can also be used for day time. If more absorbency is needed, an insert can be added.

Fitted needs to be washed in hot water at least 3 times before first use.

Pros: Very absorbent.
Cons: Bulky.

Needs cover: Yes. You can skip the cover if just hanging out at home. You have to get a cover made for bulky diapers.


This is a big square piece of fabric, usually made of cotton or bamboo. It can be folded into different styles and sizes.

Flour sack towels (FST) that can be found in the kitchen aisle can also be used as Flats.

Flats only need to be washed once before first use.

Needs cover: Yes.

Hybrid Fitted

These are Fitteds that have a waterproof / water resistant layer. The added layer may be PUL or fleece. These are not completely waterproof, since they still can get wet around the edges. These are usually made by a WAHM (work-at-home-mom) and can come in unique prints (any cotton print can be the outer layer).

Needs cover: Not for day time use. Yes for overnight.


This is like a cover with a stay-dry fabric sewn inside. There is also an opening inside (the pocket) where you usually put an insert. You can also use a small prefold to 'stuff' it with. You can add more inserts for more absorbency.

Once the insert is put in, a pocket diaper looks like an AIO.

Most of my kids' diapers are pockets. I stuff them all at once after laundry, so they are all ready to use by the changing stations.

Needs cover: No.


A prefold is several layers of fabric, usually cotton, sewn into a rectangle. It is divided into 3 sections, with different number of layers. The middle section has the most absorbency. When buying a prefold, the description should have the number of layers mentioned. For example, 4x8x4 means there are 4 layers of fabric on each side and 8 layers in the middle.

A prefold can be bought bleached or unbleached. Bleached prefold is white while unbleached is the natural color of the fabric. Unbleached is also softer, but needs more time to prep to reach full absorbency. (Prepping is the process of washing new diapers made of cotton, bamboo, or hemp, in hot water, 3 to 5 times, to strip it's natural oils to make it fully absorbent. Boiling is also an option.)

Needs cover: Yes.

*** I'll edit this post as needed (I know I forgot a few things!), and I'll add information based on questions you may have about specific diapers. ***

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Washing Cloth Diapers

Most cloth diaper wash routines are like this: Pre-rinse, Main wash with detergent, Rinse, Extra Rinse, Dry.

All washers have different features, so you would most likely have to do a trial and error to see what routine works for you.

Step 1: Pre-rinse
Water temperature: Cold or Warm

Do one rinse cycle with no detergent. Avoid using hot water here because it could set stains. Try not to do a spin cycle so that the diapers will be heavy for next cycle (see why in Step 2).

Step 2: Main Wash
Water temperature: Hot or Warm

Use the setting that will use the most water in the washer (if you're using the HE - high efficiency - or FL - front loader). In my washer, it's the "stain" setting. If your washer doesn't have this feature, you can either pour more water in yourself through the dispenser or add towels to make the load heavier (which tricks the washer into adding more water).

Steps 3-4: Rinse, Extra Rinse
Water temperature: Cold

You want to do an extra rinse to make sure all the detergent rinses out (no more bubbles / suds left after rinse). This will prevent build-up, which could cause leaks.

Clean diapers don't have any smell. Since your detergent doesn't have any perfume, the diapers should come out having no smell. If the diapers have a smell after this step, even mild stink, it's usually because you did not use enough detergent. You have to go back to Step 2 when this happens.

Step 5: Dry

Here is where there are several ways to do it:

a. Covers, pockets, AIO (all-in-one): Hang dry or dry on low heat. Covers and pockets have no absorbent layer so they dry quickly. There is debate on whether it's safe to put these in the dryer, whether it could damage the waterproof material or the elastic on the diaper. Low heat or air dry setting should be fine. It's up to you if you want to go hotter.

b. Inserts, flats, prefolds, fitteds: Can go in the dryer.

c. Wool: I don't use this, but I heard it should not go in the dryer or it will shrink and also lose it's super powers (read: become unusable).

d. Fleece: Hang dry or put in dryer inside out on low heat (to prevent pilling).

Cloth Diapering Accessories

Detergent - The rule in washing cloth diapers is that you cannot use anything with fabric softeners. That includes detergent and dryer sheets.

Having said that, you can use the "all free and clear" detergents that you find in the store. Another option is to create your own. One common recipe has 3 ingredients: borax, washing soda, oxyclean - all found in the detergent / cleaning supplies section of the store.

Coconut Oil - Coconut oil is the cloth diaper alternative to diaper rash creams. It's use is not limited to diaper cream. You can use it to cook (in fact, you'll find it in the food aisle at your grocery store), as hair treatment, or moisturizer.

Most diaper creams you find in the store are not recommended to use with cloth diapers. They stick to the fabric and are hard to wash off. These creams prevent liquids (pee) from getting absorbed and thus cause leaks.

Wetbag - Wetbags are used to store used diapers when you're out or when baby goes to day care. These can hold about 5 diapers. Some wetbags have a secondary compartment for storing clean diapers and accessories. Outside of cloth diapering, wetbags are used to store your wet clothes, like swimsuits.

There are also bigger sized wetbags that you can use as your "diaper pail" at home. If you're using a wetbag as a diaper pail, you're going to want one with a hanging loop or handle.

Pail LinerOptional. Pail liners are bigger than wetbags and are used to line your diaper pail (which could be just a trash can). Those who use them (I don't) throw them in the wash with the diapers.

My diaper pail is just a regular plastic trash can and I don't put a liner in it. I just rinse it out after starting diaper laundry.

Diaper Sprayer - Optional. This attaches to the toilet pipes, used to spray poop off of the diaper and into the toilet for flushing.

Drying rack or hangers - Optional. If you're hanging the diapers to dry, you will need a drying rack or hanger. What you pick will depend on where you're going to dry them and how much space you have available. I personally have the hanging clips (link: I recently found these and they are cheaper: If you have space, you can use the accordion drying racks, like this: I also found a suggestion somewhere that you can use the shoe racks that you put behind the door to hang dry diapers. Of course, there's also the conventional clothesline and clips.

Snappi / Boingo / Safety Pin - Optional. If you're using a prefold, flat, or snapless fitted, you may want to use a snappi or safety pin to secure the diaper. Sometimes, it's enough to tuck the diaper in a cover, so it's up to you whether you're going to use one of these.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Compare: Cloth vs Disposable Diapers

Let's see if I can make a fair comparison between cloth diapers and disposable diapers. To simplify, I'm just going to be referring to one size cloth diapers when doing the comparison.

Compare Cloth Diaper Disposable Diaper
Up-front cost More - You will be buying more diapers in the beginning. Less - You will be buying a few diapers at a time.
Overall cost Less - The one-size diapers usually fit up to potty training. You can also get some of your money back by selling the used cloth diapers. There is additional cost to washing diapers, but total cost would still be significantly lower. More - You will be buying boxes of disposable diapers for 1-4 years.
Absorbency Less - This can be argued but, in general, cloth diapers are less absorbent than disposable. However, you can put more absorbency on a cloth diaper by using different materials or types.More - In general, you don't need to change diapers as often as cloth.
Ease Of Use Less - There's a learning curve to using cloth diapers. Different types have different levels of ease of use. The type that is most like a disposable diaper is called an AIO (all-in-one). More - There's only one way of putting on a disposable diaper and it's quick.
Time More - Cloth diapers need more of your time. Less - Disposable diapers take less time to use. No maintenance needed. Just buy, use, toss.
Environment Good Bad
BulkMore - I haven't seen a cloth diaper that's as trim as a disposable. Less


Depending on the type of cloth diaper you're using, each could cost between $6 to $20, more if you're going to get one those "limited edition" WAHM (work-at-home-mom) diapers. The number of diapers depend on how often you change baby and how often you do diaper laundry. Let's say you change 7 times during the day and use 1 overnight. That's 8 diapers. When I had just 1 in diaper, we used to do laundry every 4 days. That means you need 32 diapers, plus 8 more to use during laundry day. That's 40 diapers x $12 (for example). That's $480. That's actually above average. There are those who do laundry every 2-3 days, so they need less diapers. There are also those who use prefolds or flats with covers - those are even cheaper, about $100 for that many changes. You can use those same diapers for 4 years, even hand them down to the next baby. Note that one-size diapers usually don't fit until 12 lbs, so the first few weeks' use of diapers are not included here. I'm going to include cost of additional laundry here, let's say $10 a month. That's $480 for diapers and $360 for utility bills for 3 years = $840.

For disposable diapers, assuming the same number of diaper changes in a day, you'll need 240 diapers in a month. Let's say each diaper averages $0.30 per piece (I'm no expert here since I only used disposable diapers on my first child until he was 4 months old, but in that short time, I knew the price goes up as you go up in size). That's $72 a month. If baby doesn't potty train until 3 years old, that's $2,592 for one child.


Disposable diapers can hold a lot of fluids.

Absorbency of cloth diapers varies depending on type of diaper and whether you add absorbent layers. For materials, there's cotton, microfiber, bamboo, and hemp, in order of absorbency. For types of diaper, fitted diapers are more absorbent than AIO or pockets (I will be creating a post about different types of cloth diapers soon).

Ease of Use

Disposable diaper - To put it on, grab one from the pack, put it on, and tape it up. When done, take it off and throw it in the trash.

Cloth diaper - Before you put it on, you might need to put it together (if you're not using an AIO). Put the absorbent piece over the waterproof piece, then put it on baby as you would a disposable. When done, you may need to rinse it if it has poop (I also rinse if it's just pee), then throw it in the diaper pail.


Disposable diaper - You only need to take the time to buy it from time to time, maybe once a month on average.

Cloth diaper - You don't throw it in the trash when you're done. If you like rinsing everything (like I do), you have to do it after every change, or rinse a batch once or twice a day, before putting in the pail. If you only rinse poopy diapers, then you have to rinse that off when you have one. Then there's the time needed to wash and fold every few days.


Disposable diapers - If you take the numbers above when we calculated cost, 240 diapers a month x 36 months = 8,640 diapers in the trash and landfill.

Cloth diapers - 40 diapers that will eventually make it in a landfill.


Disposable diapers can hold a lot of liquid without sacrificing trimness.

Cloth diapers can be trim, but not as trim as a sposie. They also can get more bulky the more absorbency you add.

Others (Can't help it, this section is pro-cloth!)

Smell - Disposable diapers have a distinct smell, even when still unused. To cloth diapering mamas, we call that the smell of chemicals. Then there's the smell of dirty diapers lingering in the trash and the bedroom until trash day. Cloth diapers have no smell when clean. Poop gets flushed in the toilet, so you only have to deal with pee smell until laundry day (if you don't rinse it out after change).

Feel - When you've been using cloth for a while and you see a sposie, you might cringe at the thought of putting plastic on your baby. It even crinkles!

Cuteness - Disposable = white. Meh. Cloth diapers come in all colors and prints. You'll even see some with capes or ruffles. This is why CDing moms love showing off our babies' diapers. ;)

So that's my initial take on Cloth vs Disposable Diapers. Do you have more to add? Just put it in the comments section!