how to start using cloth diapers

source: Superbottoms Family

In the last part of this three parts guest post, Sumana simplifies how to build the cloth diapers stash and how to care for the diapers. In short, how one can become a cloth diapering parent.

Click here to read more about different types of cloth diapers. If you are still not sure if you should use cloth diapers for your baby, click here to know why cloth diapers are an excellent diapering choice!

Also, a special thanks to cloth diapering mom Dimple Clarke from Superbottoms, for her inputs, in the making of this post!

How do I start with cloth diapers

Putting together a stash to begin cloth diapering can be befuddling. So many brands and so many types to choose from! One tends to get carried away and can waste money buying diapers that might not suit one’s purpose. The key things to consider while purchasing diapers are:

  • Budget
  • Available resources and bandwidth for wash routine
  • Day-time vs night-time diapering

The budget can be seriously transgressed if not kept strictly under check; those cute CD prints are devils in disguise.

If you have the bandwidth for a regular wash routine, then invest in all-in-ones as they are convenient to use. But if you do not have much help at hand and might wash the diapers once in two days, then pockets or covers work better. These diapers are also more budget-friendly.

For night-time diapering, AIOs (with optional boosters) are the most convenient. For day-time diapering, there are various options. Click here for day-time diaper options that suit your needs.

Tips to create first cloth diaper stash:

If you are starting out with cloth diapers, here are a few tips to help make choices:

  • Purchase a couple of pocket diapers; for a smaller baby get ones with narrower crotches
  • Invest in a combination of inserts – man-made fabrics & natural fabrics
  • Buy one of each type: cover, flats (terry or muslin & a set of fasteners), sleeve, AIO
  • Two reusable liners or a roll of biodegradable disposable ones

Wash routine for cloth diapers

cloth diapers can be washed by hand or in washing machine and line dry in sunlightOkay, so you got those lovely cloth diapers. You may need to prep them (look for manufacturer instructions for prepping if required). Now one needs to follow a proper wash routine for the diapers to ensure good absorbency and longevity of the diapers.

Wash routines for diapers can be as one wishes them to be – daily, twice a week, weekly. It’s best not to stretch it beyond a week, though. If the washing frequency is less than daily, use diaper bags to store the diapers.

However, it is advisable to store soiled diapers after a pre-wash rinse. Ideally one should opt for pre-wash routine whether you wash the diapers by hand or in a washing machine.

Pre-wash routine for soiled cloth diapers:

It is best to pre-wash the used diapers in the following way:

  1. If the diaper has been pooped in – knock the poop into the bidet or commode, spritz off the remaining with a toilet hose; rinse diaper; squeeze off excess moisture
  2. If the diaper has been peed in – it can be stored as it is till wash or rinse in cold water, squeeze out excess moisture
  3. Storing the used diapers till washing – keep pre-washed/used diapers in a lightly covered bucket or hang on the rim of a bucket or keep in a Wetbag

Note: For hygiene reasons, knock off the poop and pre-wash from the poop diapers immediately. One can keep the pee diapers as is until washing or pre-wash them.

1. Hand wash routine for cloth diapers

Both poop and pee diapers can be washed together. It is best, though, to follow post-use pre-wash routines for soiled diapers and to store them appropriately till washing.

Follow this wash routine for cleaning cloth diapers with hands:

  1. If pee diapers are not pre-washed, rinse diapers with plain water to remove the pee
  2. Add detergent* to tepid warm/regular water & ‎soak diapers for 30 minutes max
  3. ‎Wash using regular (colour and fragrance-free) a detergent such as Surf or Tide
  4. Agitate properly** by hand (soaking alone is not sufficient); do not use a cloth brush
  5. Rinse thoroughly till soap suds are gone, preferably under cold tap water
  6. ‎Line dry in sunlight

Notes about hand wash routine:

2. Machine wash routine for cloth diapers

Follow post-use pre-wash routines for soiled diapers and store them appropriately till washing. Again, both poop and pee diapers can be washed together.

Follow this wash routine for cleaning cloth diapers in a washing machine:

  1. No soaking needed; you can put all used diapers*  in the machine directly
  2. ‎ You can (optionally) rinse the diapers well before putting them in the machine
  3. Diapers can be washed with regular laundry load
  4. Run a pre-wash cycle (a rinse+spin) and then the regular main wash**
  5. Use regular detergent (colour & fragrance-free), e.g. Surf excel or Tide plus
  6. Wash on regular cycle NOT gentle cycle***
  7. ‎Run an extra rinse****
  8. Spin dry (for faster drying)
  9. Line dry in sunlight

Notes about machine wash routine:

  • Ensure the poop diapers are pre-washed & poop is completely knocked off before tossing the diaper in the machine to avoid soiling other clothes or poop remnant in the machine
  • ** Add manufacturer recommended regular detergent quantity for pre-wash & main cycle. You can pre-wash only diapers/inserts without the entire load. If pre-wash cycle not possible, add a small quantity of detergent to the water and soak the diapers for 10-15 minutes; gently rinse with hands under running water
  • ***Even in a machine, cloth diapers require good agitation, so avoid a gentle cycle
  • ****Useful to avoid detergent buildup

Tips for washing/cleaning cloth diapers

Whether you wash cloth diapers with hands or toss them in the machine, follow these tips to ensure your cloth diapers retain their absorbency over a long time and are free from mineral/detergent build-up, stench or stains:

  • Avoid cloth brushes /Dettol / fabric conditioners, as they can bruise/damage the absorbent material of diapers & reduce their longevity and efficacy
  • Detergents with fabric softeners or conditioners are a strict no-no
  • Sun-drying helps to prevent stains/stenches from accumulating
  • Ideally wash the diapers at least once every 2 days; don’t prolong washing beyond a week

Cloth diapers require special care

Yes, that is true. Though cloth diapers have immense benefits, they do need some special care. The cloth diapers/inserts, made of multiple layers of absorbent fabric, entails recommended special care for two primary reasons:

  • Ensure good absorbency and fabric life for a long time
  • Remove buildup, stains, if any

Reduced absorbency can require frequent diaper changes or leakages. Build up may again cause leaks or rash. Hence it is essential to follow the right wash routine. But worry not the special care is easy to follow and takes a minimal additional time or effort. 

What not to do when using cloth diapers

1. Use special detergent

Once in a way, the diapers need an extra bit of love when they get into the wash. What not to use are baby liquid detergents and fabric softeners which break down cloth diaper fabrics and considerably reduce their life.

2. Use diaper rash creams/talcum powder

This is a big NO. Diaper rash creams almost immediately diminish the absorbency of cloth diapers by clogging the pores.

What you should do when using cloth diapers

1. Use natural oils for the diaper area

Use natural oils like cold pressed coconut oil keep the baby’s skin moisturised. One can use it in case of rashes also. Diaper-free time is the best solution.

2. Use water softener for hard water

If you have hard water, use water softener (not fabric softener). It will help reduce/prevent mineral build up in the absorbent diapers/inserts.

3. Warm water wash once a month

Warm water wash helps to remove buildup if any. It also helps to reduce stains/stench if any. Once a month give diapers warm water wash. You can either give already the cleaned diapers a warm water wash without detergent. Or opt for cleaning the diapers in warm water and then additional rinse cycle with warm water.

For machine wash, a regular cycle (not gentle) with a temperature of 40 degrees Celcius is good. Similarly for hand wash, use warm water (temperature of 40 degrees Celcius) to soak, wash and rinse the diapers.

4. Stripping cloth diapers

Stripping cloth diapers is a laundering method that removes detergent and other residues from cloth diapers. Detergents, fabric softeners or other things like untreated hard water when used in a wash can build up in cloth diapers over time, reducing their absorbency.

For such times, Grovia’s mighty Bubbles is recommended. It is excellent for removing stains and stench. Baking soda could also be used for the same purpose.

Stripping is usually the last step in the CD care and may not be required if one correctly follows the regular wash routine. Stripping is not a gentle process but highly effective one to get rid of mineral/detergent/stench/stain build up. It is especially useful if one has used diapers for a long time, wash routine has not been optimal, or one cannot avoid hard water issues.


Build your stash of cloth diapers as per your needs and budget constraints. Follow a wash routine which suits you. Diapers require a little love/care, but it is easy to follow. Happy cloth diapering!