How to Do Old-Fashioned Cloth Diapering

Disposable diapers mean you can wrap up the mess and forget it, but you also wrap up a lot of money and waste in that stinky little package. Cloth diapers offer a "green" alternative for covering your little one's rear. Reusable diapers may seem old-fashioned and complicated, but these rectangles of fabric are simple to master with a little practice. Planning ahead and organizing your cloth diapering supplies makes this eco-friendly diapering option easier, even with a busy lifestyle.

Stock your nursery with at least two days' worth of cloth diapers to allow for washing every other day. A newborn typically goes through 12 or more diapers a day, so at least 24 cloth diapers is a reasonable estimate for your beginning stockpile. Traditional cloth diapers, which are rectangles of material, are the cheapest option. You'll also need at least two plastic covers and two sets of pins or cloth diaper fasteners. You can also get pocket or all-in-one diapers that are more similar to disposables.

Set up a separate diaper pail to hold the soiled cloth diapers. Keep the diapers separate from other laundry due to the special washing requirements. A waterproof, washable liner bag for the diaper pail allows you to easily grab the soiled diapers and carry them to the washing machine.

Pack a small waterproof bag with a zipper or drawstring in your diaper bag. When you're out, the bag keeps the moisture of the dirty diaper contained until you get home.

Prewash the diapers to remove any residue, shrink the cotton and improve absorbency. Use hot water and a small amount of detergent without fragrances, colors, brighteners, fabric softeners and other additives that leave behind residue. Test the absorbancy after washing and drying the diapers by pouring a little water on them. If the water beads, repeat the prewashing.

Fold the cloth diaper to make it the correct size and thickness, if you're using flat diapers. Start by folding the diaper in half width-wise to make a smaller rectangle. Fold each edge toward the middle with a slight overlap of the edges for a six-layer middle section.

Place your baby on the diaper as you would with a disposable diaper. Fold up the bottom edge toward your baby's belly. Wrap the corners from the back side to the front. Hold the diaper in place with pins or a diaper fastener. Put the plastic cover over the cloth diaper.

Dump the contents of a dirty diaper into the toilet. Special sprayers are available to attach to the toilet for cleaning off the diapers, but these really aren't necessary. Place the used diapers in the diaper pail.

Wash the cloth diapers every two or three days 2. Run a short prewash cycle in cold water without detergent. Run a hot water cycle with a small amount of detergent. An extra rinse cycle helps remove any remaining urine and detergent that can cause the diapers to smell.

Hang the diapers to dry, or put them on low to medium heat in a dryer without dryer sheets. Dryer sheets and fabric softeners cause the diapers to repel liquid, making them less absorbent.

Place stained cloth diapers in the sunlight. The sun naturally removes the stains so that your diapers look new again.


Before buying an entire stockpile of cloth diapers, test out a few different styles and brands to see what works best for you.

Many areas have cloth diaper services that eliminate the task of washing. The service drops off clean diapers and takes away the dirty ones.