Intro to Cloth Diapers- What is a Prefold?

In this installment of the neverending “Introduction to Cloth Diapers” series I’m talking ’bout Prefolds. You know, the diaper your rich grandma or young grandma may have used.

There was a time when the Prefold was the “luxe” diaper.  Flat cloth diapers, the very large squares of fabric, required lots of folding to use.  Prefolds, which have more layers in the middle strip  called the “wet zone,” only required minimal folding around the baby.  They can come in white (bleached) or brownish/tan (unbleached.  Unbleached prefolds have natural oils and take longer to prep (multiple washings to reach max absorbency).

Prefolds are rectangular diapers with more layers of cotton (or chosen fabric sewn into the center, and less on each side.  Most prefolds are 4x8x4 layers.  The most common prefolds are Chinese or Indian.  Many brands have colored stitching to help visually tell their sizes.

Today many people see a prefold and think “Geeze, that looks hard” but it doesn’t have to be.

There are lots of reasons to love prefolds, they:

  • Are affordable.  A dozen will run between 15 and 40 dollars but you can find them even cheaper used.  Used prefolds should cost more because the work of “prepping” is already done.
  • Can take a beating.   Prefolds are very durable and should last through more than 2 kids, but probably even longer.  When it finally starts showing wear, they make excellent dusting rags.
  • Are easy to wash.  DSQ (diaper service quality) Prefolds are cotton, and no matter if you have Indian or Chinese, they wash the same.  It would take a lot of abuse to cause a prefold to have detergent buildup.

There are a few downsides to prefolds, they:

  • Are sized (usually) and it can be hard to decipher the dimensions and thread colors to choose what will fit your baby.  You will never need every size available.  Many babies skip the preemie and possibly even the newborn size.  Others never get large enough for the large or toddler, or potty train early.
  • Have a higher learning curve.  (lucky for you I have videos for that)
  • Intimidating at first.
  • Take longer to dry than some diapers.
  • Are bulkier than many pockets or AIO’s.
  • Need to be prepped more than most pockets or AIO’s.

The prefolds in the video are Cloth-Eeze brand from

One you have a prefold picked out you will need a good cover.  Prefolds are useless (unless you are giving baby some breathing time) unless your cover is doing a good job.  Intro to Covers coming soon…