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How to begin Cloth Diapering Part 1: Things You Need to Know Before You Switch to Cloth Diapers

Recently I showed you how cloth diapers have come a long way since your parents and grandparents have used them, and I showed you the many benefits to cloth diapering. Now we need to get down to the nitty gritty details of what really goes into cloth diapering, tips and tricks and what you may want to know before you make the decision to switch.

First of all, you will want to decide if you are even interested in cloth diapering. What is your reason for wanting to make the switch. Is it to save money? Is it because you want to be more eco friendly? Is it because your child has reactions to normal disposable diapers? What ever the reason you need to keep it in mind, as it will help you decide if the change is really worth making. 

In this article we will focus on:

  • What you need to purchase to begin Cloth diapering.
  • How to control Odor

Topics coming in future articles:

  • How to use Cloth Diapers
  • How to wash the Cloth Diapers
  • Safe Detergents to use with Cloth Diapers
  • Frequently Asked Questions

What you will need to begin cloth diapering.

When you begin cloth diapering, you will have a number of items you will want to gather before you begin. Forgive the extensive list, I don't want to forget anything that I have found helpful. No you don't NEED everything on this list, but I will mention why they are helpful and you can decide for yourself if it is something you would like with your cloth diapering system.

First of all is the diapers! This is obviously a need! Haha! I recommend looking at many different brands and styles of cloth diapers. Settle on a few different brands and styles that you think might work for you and try 2-3 diapers of each style. You don't want to buy a large collection of one style, because if you end up not liking it, then you are out a lot of money. Try a variety of brands, styles and colors until you know exactly what you really like. Then you can buy more of those styles.

You will want to have enough diapers for 6 changes a day. This is normal for younger babies, and even when the baby is older and not needing changes as often, you still want the extra number around for those "special" days when things just keep running. You never want to be left without diapers. You will also want enough diapers to last you 3-4 days. You will be washing every 2-3 days. It is not recommended to go longer than 3 days as the stink starts to permeate and is harder to remove from the diapers. You will want enough diapers for the 2 days without laundry and enough to get you through the 3rd day which is laundry day. Many people forget that crucial part. Yes, it's laundry day and you are washing the diapers, but your child still needs diapers to wear while the others are getting clean and drying. So a good total number of diapers is around 24 or more.

Next you will need a diaper pail! There are many different ways you can go about this. From my personal experience the Diaper champ works well, and does well at keeping the smell at bay. It also comes in blue and pink colors. There are also many other styles and brands specifically made for cloth diapers. But for me, I wanted something that would be easy to open and dump the diapers into. So I just found a nice looking garbage can with the foot pedal that opens and closes the lid. It does the same job as a fancy Diaper pail.


The next item you will need is a diaper pail liner. If you get the right one, you will love it! I personally use Thirsties. It fits perfectly into my "diaper pail" and the inside is a special material designed to not let any wetness leak from the bag. Therefore you won't have any messes in your diaper pail! They line the diaper pail, and you throw your dirty diapers into the liner. Come Laundry time, you take the entire bag out and simply dump the diapers into the washing machine and then you throw the liner in with the diapers. Yes, it can be washed WITH the diapers! This way you never have to touch the stinky diapers! I recommend having 2 diaper pail liners. You will use one, and then when it is in the wash, you will have a second one to use for diapers while the first is being washed and dried.


Another great invention I've seen, but have not had the chance to use is the Fuzzibunz hanging diaper pail! This is similar to the Thirsties diaper pail liner, except, since it hangs from the wall or doorknob, you don't need the actual diaper pail! Also it zips closed on the bottom, so come laundry time all you do is unzip the bottom and the diapers fall right out into the washing machine. I've heard it works great, but I haven't used it so I can't verify that claim. But the idea is rather cool.


You will need to decide if you are going to use Cloth wipes or not. If you decide to use cloth wipes, it is another way to save a LOT of money! You can make your own cloth wipes out of scrap material, purchased flannel, or left over shirts. Or you can purchase pre-made wipes from a large number of places. Just search the internet for cloth diaper wipes and you will be bombarded with lots of different kinds.

Also if you use cloth wipes, realize you will need a container to store them in. When Jade was younger I loved those wipe warmers, as it fit the cloth wipes perfectly, and kept them warm so it didn't freeze her little behind! Also, I was able to pour the homemade wipe solution into it to keep the wipes wet and ready for use.

When you use the cloth wipe, you can throw it into the diaper pail with the diapers and they wash right alongside the  diapers, so you don't have any extra loads of laundry.


Another fun gadget you can get if you so choose is a diaper sprayer. I don't have one, but would love to try one out! These look like mini shower heads, that you attach to your toilet's water line. Then when you have a soiled diaper, you merely turn on the tiny shower head and spray the soil off the diaper and into the toilet! It makes cleaning up the diaper really easy, or so I hear!


Another feature that I just recently discovered is diaper liners! These are fantastic! It's a small thin biodegradable liner that is safe for septic tanks. They come in large rolls and you merely tear a section off and lay it down on top of the diaper, between the baby's behind and the diaper. This way when the baby spoils the diaper, it is contained on the liner, which can easily be dumped into the toilet! This prevents the "poop" from smearing into the diaper, causing stains and making it a lot easier to clean up messy diapers. Like I said I just learned about these this about 3 weeks ago! I got my first experience with how wonderful they are a few short days after we started using them! Oh my, Oh MY! I wish I had known about these for the last 2 years! Not to be gross or anything, but Jade had just had a really nasty diaper (one that would have been a nightmare to clean up afterwards) and I just turned the diaper upside down into the toilet and the entire mess just fell right off with nothing left behind! I didn't have to dunk, or spray or scrape or anything to get the mess off the diaper. LOVE these! Yes, it is an unnecessary expense, but for me the $8 it costs for a large roll, which lasts through 100 diapers, is worth it to not have to deal with the mess any longer! Even the husband got on board after the first messy diaper he had to change while using one of these. He loved how simple it was to clean up the messy diaper, that now even he uses the liners all the time. 


Another optional feature you may consider are little diaper bags. I don't mean the nice bag you carry around all the baby's gear in. These are special little bags that are great for both disposable diapers and cloth diapers alike! When you have a stinky diaper, you can wrap it up in the bag, which prevents the smell from leaking out! This is a little accessory I carry with me every time I go out! If I have to change a diaper while away from home, I merely put the wet/soiled diaper into a bag and then dump it right into my diaper pail as soon as I get home. These are amazing at containing stink, smells and keeping the "wet" diaper from touching and spoiling anything else you may be carrying around in your regular bag! I highly recommend these whether you use cloth diapers or disposables!

How to control ODOR!

I know one of the biggest questions asked is, "Doesn't it stink all the time?"  If you  have a good diaper pail and liner you shouldn't have a big problem with this, but lets face it, even with the best system sometimes the odor still leaks. I have found three different products that have worked rather well at keeping the odor at bay. I recommend adding at least one of these to your  list of items to get to begin cloth diapering. Although all 3 work rather well, the last 2 are my personal favorite.


1. Rockin' Green Shake it Up pail freshener. This is a crystal/powder that you sprinkle on top of your diapers in the pail when the odor gets strong. It helps to eat the odor and it goes well into the laundry. You don't have to worry about it mixing with the diapers and it rinses clean away in the wash. It comes in a variety of scents.


2. Sol-U-Mel. Sol-u-mel is a natural/green cleaner from Melaleuca. Melaleuca is a green company that has been in business for over 25 years. Sol-u-mel is one of my favorite cleaners! It is made from natural ingredients, safe on cloth diapers, safe around children and pets, and is a natural deodorizer. It not only eliminates the odor, but kills the bacteria as well! When the odor gets bad, I merely spray  a little Sol-u-mel on the lid of the diaper pail and into the pail as well. If the smell is really bad (like when Jade tries to put something into her diaper pail and it leaves the lid open) then I just spritz a little into the room itself and it eliminates the room odor. It now comes in original scent as well as Lemon. I also love Sol-u-mel because it's not an "extra" cleaner to have around the house. I use this for many normal every day cleaning chores, for stains on laundry and so much more! It is also amazing at getting INK stains out of clothing and couches if you use it quickly after the accident happens. I always keep Sol-u-mel on hand.


3. Trashy! Trashy is another natural cleaning product from Natural House Cleaners. Trashy helps to dissolve odors, grease and food scraps. It is designed for trash cans, but I've found it works AMAZING with the diaper pail odors! It's natural so I don't worry about it with the cloth diapers and it really kills the odor and FAST! I use it the same way that I use the Sol-u-mel; just a spritz on the inside lid of the diaper pail, a spritz inside the pail and one more in the room if the smell is really bad. It clears up the odor very quickly, and leaves a very light MINT smell. I love Trashy!

What's NEXT? 

Now you are one step closer to making that change to Cloth Diapering! With your new found knowledge of what you may need to begin cloth diapering you can make a more certain choice if Cloth diapering is for you! If you are ready to make the switch to cloth diapers, now you know what you can start looking for to get your cloth diapering journey started! 

For more ideas, you can visit our Cloth Diaper Category to see cloth diapers we've reviewed, and learn more about cloth diapering. 

And don't worry, we're not done writing about cloth diapers! Coming soon you will learn How to use Cloth Diapers, How to wash the Cloth Diapers, Safe Detergents to use with Cloth Diapers, answers to Frequently Asked Questions, and more! 

Plus we are continually reviewing different cloth diapers, so keep your eyes open, maybe you will find your next diaper! 


Do you have any questions about cloth diapering?

The in's and Outs?

We are looking for questions to answer in How to begin Cloth Diapering Part 2!

Ask away in the comments below! 

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Debbie F

Tuesday 18th of December 2012

Thanks for such an informative how to. I have never heard of the diaper sprayer. That would have save so much mess along the way. Maybe next time!!!


Friday 11th of May 2012

Great tutorial!!!


Thursday 3rd of May 2012

I new to cloth diapering and am using the charlie banana one size on my 8 month old little girl. i was wondering if you or anyone else has ever heard of babies getting a diaper rash from using cloth diapers?


Friday 4th of May 2012

Diaper rash will probably show up no matter what you use. There are so many reasons for it, such as how often you change your baby's diaper, what types of detergent you use, if the child has any allergies. With Cloth diapers, you want to be sure to change the diaper on a regular basis, to ensure the moisture is not residing on the baby's skin for hours on end. It might also be the style of diapers. I know my daughter doesn't do well with prefolds, but does amazing with pockets. Just that added layer of cloth to help wisk away moisture really helps. Also, the detergent you use on the diapers, if it's not gentle enough or if it's not rinsed away enough could be the cause. Are you stripping your diapers every few months? Cloth diapers can build up left over detergent or even bacteria if they aren't stripped every few months. I learned this the hard way, my daughter couldn't use cloth without getting HORRIBLE rashes, and I discovered my water wasn't Hot enough to strip. I turned up the water heater, washed according to the stripping instructions, and rinsed, rinsed, rinsed and then repeated all those rinses again. And now the same diapers are great again with no rashes. I'll be giving more details about washing and striping diapers in future cloth diaper articles. :)

Anne @ GreenEggs&Moms

Tuesday 1st of May 2012

I used disposable diapers when my kiddo was young. The information you gave is comprehensive, a good guide for anyone who is considering making the switch!

See that you're on wordpress now. How are you liking it?


Tuesday 1st of May 2012

I am absolutely LOVING wordpress! I'm still getting used to how different it is, and learning how to do things in Wordpress that were second nature to me in blogger, but overall, I really am much happier on WP. Thank yoU!


Tuesday 1st of May 2012

My friend is a huge advocate of cloth diapering, and I never quite 'got' it. After reading this, it looks like something I could have handled with my daughter rather than using disposable (which I incidentally felt guilty using anyway). Maybe when I have grandkids I'll push for these! ;-)

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