Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Back to the Basics-

What you actually need to start cloth diapering your child.

One of the first things I noticed when I began considering cloth was the sheer number of products available through online diaper stores. There are bags, sprays, lotions, wipes, pins, a multitude of diaper options- enough to make a person wonder if cloth diapering is actually cost effective after all of the extras are added on to the tab! So to ease your mind and keep your savings account safe, I’m going to detail the items I believe you actually MUST have to get started, and where you can save your money... unless you want to splurge, of course!

Obviously, you have to get a sufficient number of diapers. I will be discussing the different varieties of diaper available in an separate post, but for the purpose of this basic needs list I’ll say the following- try different kinds of diapers. This is one of the pieces of advice most given by experienced cloth diapering mamas. There is a diaper for every situation you can imagine- daily wear, travel, overnight, heavy wetter, you name it and someone makes something that will work. If you get stuck on one brand or type of diaper before you give a few a try, you might end up feeling frustrated or defeated. Perhaps you just chose the wrong kind, and how were you to know for sure? You’ve never done this before! So cut yourself some slack and get a range of options.

What else do you have to buy? A wet bag and pail liner are next on our list. Of course you’ll need to get a diaper pail, but you would need that anyway for disposables. The difference with cloth is that you can get a waterproof liner that will be washed along with your diapers on laundry day. You can use virtually any type of can or pail for this purpose. Personally, I use a Rubbermaid trash can with a flip lid. My pail liner secures with an elastic toggle around the top, and I have easy access. The lid prevents smells from escaping. Nearly all diapers should be stored in a dry pail- meaning that you should not put any water in with the dirty diapers. When you wash, your rinsing cycles should be enough to remove the waste. (This will be covered in a future post.) I highly recommend getting two pail liners because you’ll need one to be available for the diapers that are soiled while you are doing the laundry; however I’m sure you could get by with one liner if need be. Some moms simply use trash bags, and that will work- though personally I like being able to wash and reuse the specially-designed liners.

A wet bag is a mini diaper pail liner, suitable for use when you are away from home. There are many sizes available, and some are zipper, some drawstring. They are all waterproof and should lock in odors. While you’re out with your child and need to change a diaper, just put the soiled items into the wet bag and store it in your diaper bag. It is that easy! The wet bag, like the pail liner, will go straight into the washer. Wet bags are also great for items covered in baby spit-up. Again, a basic Ziploc bag could be used for this purpose.

Naturally you will need laundry detergent. When you cloth diaper, you need to make sure you use a detergent that is suitable for the diapers. Detergents can cause build-up, which leads to liquid repelling. I’ll do a more in-depth focus on detergents later, but for now you need to know that you can buy a fancier detergent specifically designed for cloth diapers, or just use plain old Tide powder. You will need to use only 1/4 of the recommended amount of a regular detergent. And don’t forget, never use fabric softener on diapers. If you do this accidentally it can be fixed, but that’s an extra step you don’t want to have to take.

Sometimes rashes happen despite your best efforts, so you will want to invest in a diaper cream that is safe for the diapers. Prescription ointments and creams such as Desitin or Boudreaux’s Butt Paste will cause repelling in your diapers. There are several options available for CD-safe rash creams, including GroVia’s Magic Stick, California Baby products, Grandma El’s, and Burt’s Bees. If you must use a non-safe cream, you can always add a liner (discussed later) to protect the diaper.

Two items you may require, depending upon your diaper choices, are some kind of prefold pin, or lanolin for wool diaper covers. If you want to use prefolds wrapped and secured around your baby, and guarded by some kind of diaper cover, you may need either pins or a Snappi. The Snappi is a great invention that protects you from accidentally sticking baby. If you want to use wool covers for their breathable and antimicrobial properties, you will need lanolin to clean them.

In my opinion, everything else is an extra that can make things easier, but isn’t absolutely necessary. I will address these accessories in an upcoming entry. They include a diaper sprayer, biodegradable inserts, liners, doublers, extra wet bags, cloth wipes, pail fresheners, and various sprays and liquid solutions.

I hope that this post has given you a firm grasp on the essential components of cloth diapering. As with anything, there are tons of details that can and will be discussed. This is your most basic list, to make the startup easy and approachable. As you can see, the only recurring costs required are the use of your washer and dryer, the detergent, and diaper cream. Everything else pays for itself over time. Cloth diapering can be incredibly rewarding and even become a kind of hobby. As always, comments and questions are most welcome!


  1. It would be awesome if you talked to a bunch of companies to make a "sampler" of many different reusable brands! You could promote it with your blog and receive free samples for doing reviews. People who purchases the sampler pack could aslo give you their experience for your blog! :)

    Thanks for sharing all this info! I don't have kids yet but I can't wait to go down this path. I also cant wait to read more!

  2. Thank you for such an awesome posting. I am expecting in May, and was directed here by a discussion board I am on. It makes it sound very approachable and doable. I am looking forward to additional blog posts so that I can continue to learn! Keep up the wonderful work.

  3. Thanks to both Audi and Amy! I'm so glad you're following along. If I miss something that you're wondering about, please let me know! And Amy, congrats on your pregnancy!