How We Cloth Diaper Our Babies

In a thirsties diaper cover.

Today I’m going to (finally) tell you about cloth diapering.  I wrote “we” in the title, because my husband and I have always shared the diaper changing chore.  We have cloth diapered our babies since our first child was 5 months old, which was in summer of 2006.  We began cloth diapering as soon as we had our own washer and dryer in order to save money and to stop polluting the environment.  We also believe that cloth diapering will help our child when he’s potty training.  We have always used the most basic cloth diaper method there is, and that is the prefold plus a diaper cover.  This method works for us because it’s simple, inexpensive, and effective.  I want to share with you my rules about purchasing (or not purchasing) things in general.  

1) Do not buy for the future.  Buy for now.
2) Don’t buy more than you need, you can always get more later, if you really need it.

{About the links in this article: Nobody paid me to link to their shop.  I’m just showing you where I have bought cloth diapers in the past and where I’m finding the best deals now.}


What is a prefold?  It’s basically a rectangular, absorbent, piece of cotton fabric.  The two in the first picture are from 2005.  I have used them for 2 years for my first, 2 years for my second, and 8+ months for my third child.  I plan on using them until they are completely fallen apart.  Then they’ll be cut up and turned into inserts.  Reduce, reuse, recycle. =)

The prefold in this (above) picture is newer.  It was a hand-me down from a sweet neighbor friend and has been used for 2 children.  Look at the shape it’s in?  Not bad. I do believe hard water (Texas) is a great deal rougher on fabrics than soft, so if you live somewhere with soft water, I bet your diapers would last past 3 kids.

Different types of prefold: You can get bleached, unbleached, chinese, indian, etc.  I buy unbleached indian. 

Cost: I have never paid more than $2 for one prefold, and I’ll never pay more than that. 

How many to buy: We have about 2 dozen prefolds, and we wash them about every third day.  In all, we have 2 dozen infant sized prefold sand 2 dozen premium sized prefolds.

Where to buy: When the time comes for me to buy new prefolds, I’ll buy them here. 

Size:  These prefolds are old skool, they are premium indian prefolds.  I’ve only ever used 2 sizes of prefolds: infant & premium.  I use the infants up until the baby is about 15 pounds, then I switch to premiums and use those until the baby is potty trained!  I just have to fold down the top because they are a bit long.  This has never been a problem for us, even though they make perfectly sized prefolds now, but you won’t catch me paying for them.

With every prefold, you need a diaper cover!  The prefold alone is not waterproof.  There are many covers out there.  Here are my favorites.


The cover that I have used the most and for the longest time is the Prorap Classic.  Pictured below is the prorap classic size medium for 13-25 pounds.  This is such a great size because babies seem to be this size for a long time.  The prorap is the cover most diaper services use.  It really lasts forever, as long as you wash it inside out and fasten the velcro during washing.  If you get fuzzies on your velcro, pull them off and it’ll be as good as new.  You’ll never have a leak, as long as your prefolds are tucked inside the cover around the edges and especially in the areas circled below.

Cost: Bummer.  They used to be under $7.  Now they are around $8, which is still cheaper than your basic other fancy print brand, which run from $12-18.

How many to buy: Three.  You don’t need more than 3 covers in each size. 

Where to buy: I’ll go back to cotton babies to buy more, if I ever need to (probably won’t because they last for years).

Size: Size depends on your baby.  Mine are 8+ lbs. at birth.  In my stash, I have:
2 newborn – These are great because they have a dip where the umbilical cord is.  I only can use mine for 2 weeks. As soon as the belly button thingy falls off, my baby has already outgrown this cover.
3 small
3 medium
3 large
I also have some wool covers and a few fancy prints PUL covers I found on sale.  (Translation: PUL stands for  polyurethane laminated fabric.  It is the slightly breathable, plastic fabric you see in the prorap cover above and in the thirstie below. PUL is what most diaper covers these days are made of.)


Sigh.  I love the thirsties diaper cover.  It is similar to a prorap, but it is a bit wider in the side strap.  It’s my first choice for a diaper cover when my babies are 13-25 pounds.  I like it better than the prorap for that age group because I tend to stuff my diapers with an insert or two, for extra absorbency.

UPDATED 5/15/13
: I now primarily use the Thirsties Duo wrap and the Blueberry wrap. I use the blueberries at night because they are bigger so you can fit more stuffers inside. I also will sometimes put a Disana Wool cover over the whole thing to protect against the occasional leak.

Cost: $11.25.  I don’t mind this price at all.  These last forever and are just a bit more leak proof then the prorap.

Where to buy: Cotton babies.

How many to buy: I bet you already know what I’m going to say.  No more than three.  This is my only thirsties cover though, because I have other covers that work just fine.

Size: This is a medium, for 13-25 lbs.  This is just a great size to have, because you’ll use it forever. If I were to start over, I’d buy 3 of these in medium, instead of 3 proraps.


For night time use, you might want to add an insert.  We always add an insert into our prefold.  It just makes it a bit thicker.  Please don’t actually buy an insert.  Ok, you might have to if you don’t have a sewing machine, but we just use gauze strips (got these handed down), or homemade inserts.  Best fabrics are hemp, cotton, terry cloth (old bath towels), and soft flannel.  The one on the right is a bit long, so I have made ones that are a bit shorter and thicker that I like better.  Currently in the wash, so no pic. =l

Cost: $0 if you sew your own with old t-shirts and towels.  $3+ if you buy.

How many: We have a basket full.  Maybe 2 dozen.  

Where to buy: If you must, it hurts me to think people spend money on this, but if you absolutely

Size: My favorites are 4×10 inches.  They are an old thick prefold piece in the middle, covered with flannel on each side. 


This is how we’ve always done it.  Occasionally I’ll use the twist for when my babies still have that runny nursing poopy.  Just pretend there’s a baby in there.

You can see it again here.


I bet you’re wondering what that little plastic blue t-shape thing is.  It’s a snappi. 

This is an old picture of baby (1 month old) in an infant prefold, and snappy, before I put the cover on him. 

Cost: Ouch.  $3.95 + 60 cents for the toddler size.  Used to be $2.95.  Inflation.  So annoying.

Where to buy: Cotton babies is your one stop diaper shop.

How many to buy: I like having two on hand.  They are supposed to last only 6 months, but mine have always lasted much longer.

Size: I like the bigger ones (toddler size) because I can still use it while they’re little.  Right now, though, I have one of each, but I mainly use the bigger one.

Diaper Pail: You also need some sort of diaper pail.  We use a small trash can with a lid.  Below is my diaper changing set-up.  Next to the changing table, to the right, there’s a dresser, on which I have some cloth wipes, disposable wipes, creme, etc.  I like having bins/baskets for the inserts and covers because it makes putting the clean diapers away really easy.  We just stack the prefolds and toss the covers and inserts into the baskets.  2 minutes = laundry is put away.

These are small, about 4×6 inches.

Baby Wipes: Once you see how much money you save using cloth, you might even start using cloth baby wipes.  I made my own with terry cloth on one side and flannel on the other.  I keep a little tupperware bowl near the changing table and fill it with warm water before I change a diaper.  (Sometimes I get lazy, and just use the disposables).  I still buy the disposable wipes to wipe the diaper cover one time after each use.  That way you can use the same diaper cover for a few days, or until it gets soiled.  The elephant hooks (below) hang on the wall above the diaper pail.  We hang the diaper covers on it between uses to dry out.  The cover in the picture is a wool diaper cover that you can read more about here.


If your baby is breastfeeding and still has those liquid poopies, you can put it right in the diaper pail.  Shake any chunky poopy into the toilet.  If it’s super messy I’ll scrub the diaper in the toilet with my hands.  If it’s super SUPER messy, I’ll use gloves.  I usually don’t care.  I figure my antibacterial soap and hot water will get my hands clean.  If you can’t handle poopy, then get a diaper sprayer.  I have never used one of these, but I’ve heard that people like them.

Run a cold wash + a little detergent.
Run a hot wash with normal amount of detergent, and a cold rinse.


You can use any detergent that you use for your family, depending on how sensitive baby’s skin is.  I’ve been making my own detergent for over a year now.  I had some rash problems with baby’s skin when he was younger and figured out an even milder homemade detergent solution. You can find that cloth diaper washing powder recipe here.

And that, is how we cloth diaper our babies.

If you want to ask other Moms how they cloth diaper, join our Cloth Diaper Questions facebook group.


  1. 1


    Thanks for the post, love it! We are cloth diapering with Hayden, and we use Kawaii baby covers, and birdseye prefolds with inserts. LOVE THE CLOTH DIAPERS! Hayden loves them too ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. 2


    LOVE LOVE LOVE this post!! For washing the diapers I heard that soap can irritate skin and cause build up on the diapers, so I use an equal amount of borax and super washing soda. I use the same for my laundry soap except I add a bar of grated Fels Naptha to 1 cup borax and 1 cup super washing soda.
    Oh and I run a cold rinse cycle first with some white vinegar, then wash on the sanitary setting on my machine.
    Thanks for the links too! I need to get more and that place has much better prices!

  3. 3


    Great post!!! B’s 5th grade teacher from last year uses cloth so I sent her a link to this post. Her little boy is 7 months and a cutie pie just like your Jacob.

  4. 4


    I have no babies, but I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Elisa. I never cloth diapered, but if I had a baby today I would most definitely. My thinking has changed so much in the last nine years. Even in the years just before my hysterectomy I was using cloth pads. Whenever I see a mama in the grocery store buying diapers I want to tell her how uncomfortable paper diapers must be! (And I want to do the same with mamas buying formula — how awful I am! Not that formula is uncomfortable, but you know what I mean.) I want all mamas to do better for their babies and I think cloth is the best. I didn’t use cloth diapers because we had no diaper service and I was so afraid I would invest all that money in diapers and covers and absolutely hate it. I should have known! You are a good mama and that baby’s face shows it! :-)

  5. 5


    wow! thank you for this elisa. very informative and i’m less daunted now by the task. have your babies ever had diaper rashes? just wondering, because ezra always used conventional diapers and never had a rash in his life.

  6. 6


    Can I cry?…Not really, but I feel like such a bad momma. Don’t get me wrong, *please*, don’t. get. me. wrong. I LOVE this post! Though I have never cloth diapered, I have always wanted to. Really. But, I’m humiliated to admit it, I’m scared of it. My feelings are similar to Barbara’s. I’m afraid of getting all the stuff for it and then wondering what on earth I got myself and my husband into. We both equally change diapers in our home, too. With 8 kiddos, I worry about adding one. more. thing. to our (my) already very full routine of laundry and cleaning.

    …With all this being said, I think this post is just what I needed to read to make me feel like it may just be possible for me (chicken little) to actually give it a go. With the links, advice and tips you make me feel brave. :)

    Thank you, Elisa! God bless you.

    P.S. If I freak out or have have questions I can email you, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • 7

      Anonymous says

      Kelly – know it’s almost a year after you posted this – but just had to chime in.

      I started out just doing part-time cloth diapering with some diapers I found on Craigslist – I had the exact same fears as you! I spent $35 up front on 6 covers with micro fiber prefolds and used extra gerber prefolds I had around the house to insert. All this mommy stuff doesn’t have to be all or nothing — I also do a little part-time Elimination Communication too on the side – and mainly I do it in the mornings just so I don’t have to clean up that first poo of the day – I’m a low-energy gal and I just don’t have the energy to EC all day. When I EC — I always use a cloth/disposable diaper backup too.

      Good luck!!

  7. 8


    Awww, I didn’t mean to make anyone not cloth diapering feel like a bad momma! I guess I should have added to my post, that if cloth diapering is something you want to do, you should try it. If it feels like it’s just another thing that is going to stress you out, then don’t do it! Paying for disposables if it keeps momma happy & sane, is well worth your money, and the environment will be better off too because happy momma = happy children = happy earth. =) But of course, if you do give it a go, and have questions, you can alawys email me. =)

  8. 9


    Oh, Elisa! You’re so sweet! You don’t need to apologize.
    It’s not you, it’s me. I know this. I really do feel this would be the best for the baby and environment and this is where my guilt comes from. I just have to deal with it. :)

    I’m going to talk to my husband tonight about cloth diapering again and maybe even show him your post. We’ll go from there. Though, my baby at the moment is turning 2 at the end of the year, so we’ll be potting training soon anyway. We don’t use pull-ups when potty training; just go right to the padded undies. Maybe cloth diapers would just be a jump start to the training? We’ll see.

  9. 11


    Haha, Kelly, I didn’t even notice your typo until you pointed it out. I do think going straight to padded undies is great. Potty training is a whole other blog post. My second (3 yrs) is just almost night time trained, and my first was completely day & night trained by 2 years and 3 months! Every child is so different, so we try to see what the child needs…and even we do disposables at times – when we are moving, if I just had a baby and feel I need a 2 week no-launddry breather…you know. I always feel one has to be flexible and not legalistic – with just about everything. =)

  10. 12


    Hey Elisa, informative post :-) I’m beyond diapering and never used cloth – too many bad experiences with my baby brother, not to mention laundry is a nightmare at my house. Anyway, we did a bit of I.C. and all my kids were diaper free between 13 and 21 months, so disposable doesn’t mean no potty training. Also, we never had any diaper rashes.

  11. 13


    Beate – I did infant potty training with Isaiah and it was great! We’ll see how well I do with Jacob. I’m doing it quite as early with him as I did with Isaiah, but the main concepts I still do. My favorite book is “Diaper Free Baby”. It has a lot of great tips.

  12. 14


    Wow, great article! Thank you for all the fantastic tips and links. I want to cloth diaper our baby when he is born in December or January and this definitely gave practical advice on how to do this! I will be sharing this with my husband. Thank you!

  13. 16


    Hi Elisa,
    I wish I’d had this posting when I was thinking about cloth diapering. I never did it mainly because I didn’t know what to get and where to start and didn’t want to invest the time. It’s so generous of you to share this information. I actually want to put cloth diapers on Nina now that she’s 2 1/2 and I know it’s a bit late but I think you are right about getting potty trained sooner.

  14. 18


    we used the Proraps when our kids were little
    and i loved them

    we used to be able to get
    factory seconds
    to save a few dollars on them

    and the snappi-
    and simplest invention evah!


  15. 19


    Do you have recommendations for cloth/reusable swim diapers? I’m looking at a few and wondering which ones are best. Right now, I do some cloth diapering (mainly Bum Genius and, I think, Thirsties – hard to tell, I got them as hand me downs and the tags are worn off). They look like the white on this post.

    Thanks~I really want a reusable option for the pool and beach this summer with my toddler and baby.

  16. 21

    Mary says

    Great and informative article! I’m in the process of switching to cloth diapers with our youngest even though she is almost 2. She is our 5th child with another due at the end of May so I’m wondering for my sanity if this is a good time to add more laundry to my already heavy load. :-) I have purchased mostly used Grovia and FLIP covers but am having trouble getting the poop smell to go away after my daughter poops and the cover gets soiled. Any ideas? I’ve tried different detergents and sunning them and the elastic area still stinks (might be because I have an older washing machine?). I’m ready to go back to disposables as I hate putting stinky diaper covers on my daughter. Thanks for the tips and article with excellent pictures too!

    • 22


      I use the disposable wipes to wipe down the cover before I hang it to dry in between uses. This usually takes care of the smell. I also put in a soaker, which keeps the poopy a bit farther away from the cover, so that may be why they don’t smell as bad. I am using about 5 covers right now, so if one does get poopy or really really smelly, I wash it. I’m washing about every third day now. Hope that helps! =)

  17. 23


    I know this is an old post but a friend of mine just email this over to me. I am 39 weeks pregnant with our second baby and did not cloth diaper with our first. I got prefolds of two brands (econobum & the Indian ones) from Cotton Babies, along with a few diaper covers. This tutorial has clarified so many things for me! I did not know about Snappis and will now be purchasing a pack of two to use with the prefolds. This is an awesome tutorial and I will definitely be passing this on to any friends who mention an interest or curiosity in cloth diapering. THANK YOU!

  18. 24


    OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooohh- Elisa- don’t you know you can call Proservices directly and get Proraps Classics seconds for 5.50 each? :) :) Between that and meeting Ivy, I don’t expect you’ll be able to hold out on a new baby much longer….

    • 25


      What?!? Darn! I didn’t know that. I know it now! I will go there for my future Proraps…although I’m pretty set, I think. =)

  19. 28


    Loved this post! If I’d found it sooner, I would have had the nerve to go cloth sooner!

    I have questions about the soiled diaper/waiting for washday process. Do you put the poopie diapers in the diaper pail after you’ve rinsed them in the toilie? Do they mildew? Is that were you keep everything until you do the laundry, or did I miss a step?

    Thanks!! Your post was super helpful, and I love the frugal, too!

    • 29


      Dear Kathy, I always rinse the poopy out in the toilet. I basically make sure there are no chunks bigger than the little holes in my washing machine. I then put the yucky, wet, stinky diaper in the pail. I leave it there for 2 or 3 days. I then wash on the 3rd or 4th day. I have never ever had them mildew, even though my bucket has a lid – I know the air can still escape a little through other parts of the can (diaper bin, but it’s really a trash can). When I have a breastfed baby, I don’t even rinse the diaper, because there are no chunks. I just take the cover off (because usually I can use it again) and put the soiled diaper in the pail. Easy peasy. It really is so simple once you get the hang of how you do things.

      When I am visiting my parent’s house, I use an old 5 gallong paint bucket as a diaper pail. I just leave the lid cracked 1/2 inch so a little bit of air can escape.

      Some people use wet bags – waterproof bags. I used to use one in the house, but then I really didn’t see the point of it and started using the trash can. Wet bags They are great for on the go, but after the zipper broke on mine, I’ve kept it simple and just use an old grocery bag to put the soiled diaper in.

      Let me know if you have any other questions. =)

  20. 30


    We are returning to cloth with our newest baby (due in April), and I’d like to use them on my toddler as well. But…he’s….a behemoth…not obese, he’s just HUGE (40 lbs)…Any specific advice for cloth-diapering a BIG toddler?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *