A Cloth Diaper Quick Start Guide for Newbies

Supplies needed to get started with cloth diapers

Now that you have decided to use cloth diapers and you’ve selected which brands and styles work best for your family the “oh crap… now what?” moment is upon you.  Time for a quick start guide to get you on the path to cloth diapering happiness!

This post isn’t for the newborn phase but is intended for people beginning with their One Size stash.  For more on newborn cloth diapering please go to the Basics of Newborn Cloth Diapering.

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”20″ size_format=”px”]What You Need:[/typography]

Supplies needed to get started with cloth diapers

  • Enough cloth diapers to go 1.5-3 days between washing (your preference for length of time, budget, and your baby’s age will make this number vary from as little as 16 up to 32 or more)
  • 2 Large Wet bags or reusable pail liners and a diaper pail.
  • 1-2 Travel Size wet bags for outings.
  • Extras: Diaper Sprayer, Flushable liners, Spray Pal, cloth wipes, and a cloth wipes dispenser like the OXO Tot version that works nicely with cloth wipes.



[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”20″ size_format=”px”]Prepping:[/typography]

If you have an assortment of new cloth diapers you will need to “prep” them before using them on your baby.

Covers and Shells do not need prepping because they are not absorbent.  Only the absorbent items such as the inserts, soakers, prefolds, and fitteds will need washing.

Natural Fiber inserts, soakers, All in Ones, prefolds, and fitteds will need to be washed 2-6 times before becoming fully absorbent.  You can wash with a small amount of detergent and dry in between or take a “lazy prepper’s” advice and wash 1-2 times and let future washes of dirty diapers do the rest.  If you use the lazy method you’ll want to only use those new diapers for daytime use until they reach full absorbency.

Synthetic Fibers such as microfiber, microterry, or minky need only 1-3 washes in order to be fully absorbent.  With these diapers I would only wash and dry once and then let nature do the rest.

If you want more in depth prepping information there is a post for that” How to Prep Your Cloth Diapers.


[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”20″ size_format=”px”]Using Your Diapers:[/typography]

It would be impossible to say a quick sentence on how to use your cloth diapers because each diaper is designed differently, however you can usually break it down into “One Piece Systems” and “Two Piece Systems.”  A one piece system acts the most like a disposable and is therefore more convenient and less time consuming to put on the baby.  This includes All in Ones, Pockets, and All in Two’s.  A two piece system requires placing the initial absorbent diaper on first- a fitted, prefold, flat, or contour, then placing your waterproof cover over the top.

All in One diapers require no prior assembly but you will need to stuff your insert into the pocket before putting it on the baby or snap in the soaker pad into the All in Two before placing it on baby then it is all one piece!  Most parents like to ready their one piece systems after laundering by stuffing them all at once or readying the All in Two shells by placing an insert in.  Then they put their diapers in baskets or other containers at the place they change diapers most.

Once the diaper is soiled if it is a Pocket diaper or an All in One the entire diaper will need to be tossed into your wet bag or diaper pail until wash day.  For parents using All in Two’s you will remove the wet insert and snap in a clean one unless poop has touched the cover- in that case you need a new shell and soaker.  For parents using prefolds, fitteds, or flats you will put the dirty absorbent diaper in the pail or wet bag and replace with a clean one and reuse the cover unless it has been soiled with poop.

If you’re still in the research phase and are unfamiliar with the many types of diapers listed there is a post for that: Type of Cloth Diapers.

[box type=”alert”]Pro Tip: The only fabric that shouldn’t be next to your baby’s skin is microfiber/microterry.  Every other fabric can be laid against your baby’s skin.  Microfiber against the skin can cause bright red rashes due to its super absorbent qualities, it will pull your skin’s natural moisture as well.  All microfiber inserts must be in the pocket opening or topped with another material.  [/box][hr]

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”20″ size_format=”px”]Washing Your Dirty Diaper Laundry *wink*[/typography]

A simple and basic washing routine is totally fine!  Keep it totally basic and you will succeed- if trouble arises then you can look into the deeper causes but never start complicated.  When trouble does arise I always say it is best to seek local advice because above anything, your water type will have the biggest impact on your washing success.  As a general rule, those with hard water should use more detergent than those with regular or soft water.  Using a detergent formulated for cloth diapers will have less risk of any buildup.  Look to the graphic for a simple wash routine and tweak as needed.

Simple cloth diaper washing instructions


[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”20″ size_format=”px”]Pro Tips for Success:[/typography]

-Give yourself up to 3 weeks before calling your cloth diapering adventure a failure.  It takes time to get into the routine and takes time to get comfortable putting the diapers on.  You’ll definitely become more at ease with how the diapers go on and many parents apply them too loosely at first for fear of hurting the baby.  You’ll want them tight enough around the legs and tummy to prevent leaks.

-If you do have leaks, troubleshoot them with the guide I have assembled to diagnose, treat, or prevent them from happening in the future.

-Don’t overwhelm yourself with information.  You don’t start out in the  Elementary Partial Differential Equations II your freshman year of College.  You start out in Math 101 and build on that knowledge base over time.  There are a lot of “science” based websites that will give you valuable, but overwhelming and in your face information.  If you do come across this information online and it contradicts what you do, ask yourself- is what I am doing working?  If it is, don’t change a thing!  If it isn’t, that is when you can decide if you should do more research and adjust your routine.

-Be prepared for failures.  If you take your baby out in cloth and you are just beginning you will want to be prepared with extra clothing in case there are leaks of any kind, maybe even a shirt for yourself just in case!  At nights be sure to have a waterproof mattress cover for the crib or a waterproof pad for your own bed under the baby if you co-sleep.

-Poop happens but the right tools can make it more manageable.  Once your baby is eating solids you will need to dump the waste into the toilet.  Flushable liners (though I suggest putting those in the trash can when possible after the poop has been dumped in the toilet), a diaper sprayer, and even a Spray Pal for the poop water overspray can make it easier if you’re squeamish.  If not, scrape that poop off with some TP and wash your hands.  Want to learn more about Poop Avoidance Devices?  There is a video for that!

If you have questions or advice leave them in the comments and I am happy to answer.  

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