Cloth Diapering is Easier Than You Think

When it comes to diapers, we’ve done it all: disposables, cloth diaper service, and washing our own diapers—we even lived in an apartment for a year with only shared coin-operated laundry. I’m here to tell you that I found cloth diapering to be the easiest of all of the diapering options. 

Why? Because they take up so little space—you don’t need to store a big box of disposables or a week’s worth of clean-then-dirty cloth diapers from the washing service. Cloth diapers contain messes better so you’re not dealing with explosions and stained clothing. You don’t need to run to the store for diapers yet again, or take out yet another bag of trash. And according to my son, cloth diapers are more comfortable than disposables (which we used on a couple of trips without access to laundry). 

Sure, you need to wash them, but you’re doing laundry anyway—the only thing you’re adding is an extra 30 minute pre-wash cycle before the main load. It’s a great built-in way to stay on top of laundry. Even the coin laundry year worked seamlessly for us, because those industrial-strength machines are so fast and effective.

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When I was pregnant with my eldest, Harlan, I set out to learn about cloth diapering, but was quickly overwhelmed. Use the wrong detergent and end up with diaper rashes that are THIRD DEGREE BURNS! No not that detergent, THIS detergent! Use the wrong wash cycle and end up with diapers that emanate AMMONIA!!! Be sure to strip your diapers, whatever that means! But not too often! THERE ARE FIFTY MILLION DIFFERENT DIAPER OPTIONS, be sure to choose the ones that suit your needs best (what are my needs?! I’ve never changed a diaper!)

So, we signed up with a cloth diaper service, and that’s what we used for the first year or so of Harlan’s life. Unfortunately, he was prone to diaper rash, which we noticed cleared up when we went on a trip without laundry facilities and used disposables. (In retrospect, I think the rash may have been caused the detergent they were using—but don’t be scared, see below.) We also found the diapers bulky and the service not as convenient as you’d think: we needed to store all those diapers, remember to bring them out on our weekly pick-up/drop-off day, coordinate with the diaper service for any trips that extended over our pick-up day, and even purchase and launder our own covers, anyway. 

When I became pregnant with Alister, I knew I wanted to give cloth diapering another shot—and that’s when I found the resource that gave me the information I needed to launder my own cloth diapers without worrying that we’d end up in the hospital: Fluff Love University, hallelujah. 

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The biggest epiphany I took away from this resource is that diapers are just really dirty laundry. It sounds obvious, I know, but it was just the no-nonsense kick in the pants I needed.

Fluff Love University is a one-stop, evidence-based resource for how to clean diapers and why it works. I don’t know about you, but I need to understand how things work and why in order to apply them in my own life, and Fluff Love delivers on this. It has a detergent index, so you can see whether and why your detergent is compatible with cloth diapers (and almost all of them are—except, ironically, some that are specifically advertised as being for cloth diapers). It has sections on troubleshooting issues, and dealing with special circumstances, like cloth diapering when your child is at daycare. And it has a Facebook group where you can ask for personalized help if you need it, given varying factors such as your model of washing machine and the hardness of water where you live.

(I know this kind of sounds like I’m sponsored by Fluff Love University, but I swear, I’m just an enthusiastic fan.)

Here’s what we have:

  • 15 Flip one-size diaper covers (these worked from newborn to 40 lb preschooler)

  • 21 Flip inserts

  • 2 XL Bummi’s diaper covers, which we got for nighttime when the Flip covers were no longer big enough for our giant kid’s bulky overnight inserts

  • 4 pre-folds, for extra absorbency overnight

  • 1 Bummi’s bag, for dirty diapers

  • 1 small bag for outings that could hold a few soiled diapers, no brand on it

I found the cover-plus-insert system super easy to use—no stuffing diapers or messing around with clips. We had fewer covers than inserts because when changing a light pee diaper, we’d wipe or rinse off the cover and re-use.

You probably can’t really go wrong with diapers. I suggest going to your neighbourhood diaper store and seeing what’s available, and what appeals to you. Staff tend to be knowledgeable about features and brands. You can also find diapers second hand online and in consignment stores, if you already have a sense of what you’re looking for. But, truly, they’re all fine, with just minor variations, because we live in a culture that loves to overwhelm with options 🤷

Here’s how we laundered them, every 2 to 3 days or so:

  • When removing a soiled diaper, dunk and swish it in the toilet if needed, then drop in diaper bag

  • Dump the diapers out into our HE washing machine followed by the bag itself 

  • Add a small amount of Fluff Love University-approved detergent (a go-to for us was Seventh Generation) 

  • Run the “rapid wash” cycle on our machine 

  • Top up the machine with additional laundry and add a regular amount of detergent

  • Run the “super wash,” or “normal” cycle with “extra rinse” on our machine (Fluff Love says not to use extra rinse because more water without detergent can lead to more mineral buildup, but we live in Vancouver where the water is extremely soft. More intense cycles = more cleaning power but more degrading to fabrics over time.)

  • Hang to dry or toss in the dryer

This routine worked perfectly for us—we never had funky smells, diaper rash, or any other issues that Internet-Land had warned me about. Just clean, slim, low-maintenance diapers. The wash routine fit into our regular laundry routine and it never felt like a big deal.

Remember: diapers are just really dirty laundry. You can do it.