Cloth Diapering 102: Use And Care

This is part 2 of my four part series on cloth diapering.  In part 1 I discussed the different kinds of diapers there are today.  If you haven’t read that yet, then you might want to do so now.  It will help you to understand a little about what I am talking about when I say pocket diaper or AIO.

Everyone wants to know how do I use cloth diapers?  How do I wash them?  Everyone has a different routine and what works best for them.  There are a few no nos though.  Like if you’re going to use flats or pre-folds with a snappi, then you have to use a cover over it.  The snappi is not safe for a baby or a small child so aside from of course using the cover to help contain leaks you need it to keep baby safe from the snappi.

When washing diapers under no circumstances should putting them in a dishwasher ever be an option.  I don’t know of anyone who actually does that, but apparently it’s a problem.  So let me make that very clear; DO NOT PUT YOUR CLOTH DIAPERS IN THE DISHWASHER TO WASH THEM!  Now that that is over with let me go through with you what I do with my diapers and what the general rule of thinking is for caring for them.


My daughter at age 9 did the origami fold

First I am going to start out with how to use flats.  This can be scary and overwhelming because of having to fold.  I promise you it is not at all hard to use flats.  As a matter of fact when I started last year my middle daughter who was 9 at the time was very interested in cloth diapering.  She wanted to learn how to do it, so I showed her.  It’s so easy a 9 year old can do it.  Does that make it a little less scary for you now?  Okay, good.

There are several different folds you can use with flats and there are a ton of how tos and videos for each one all over the internet.  You can google search how to fold flats.  I use what’s known as the origami fold.  This fold gives you a large bunch in the middle to help absorb the pee and poop.  I have never used any other fold, but there is the pre-fold fold (where you fold it in quarters like a pre-fold), newspaper fold, angel fold, and much more.  But when I was trying to learn how to fold flats I found a video of a 5 year old doing it.  I figured if a 5 year old could do it, then it would be a piece of cake and it was.  Here’s the video that helped me…

Still afraid of it?  That’s okay there are plenty of other how tos on the internet to help you learn how to fold flats and pre-folds.  A great resource is Green Mountain Diapers.

Flats and pre-folds of course have the most anxiety associated with them.  Pockets, AIOs, AI2s, Hybrids, and Fitteds are all relatively self explanatory.  They all go on like a disposable.  The pockets need to be stuffed with an insert.  AI2s and Hybrids require an insert to be snapped in.  AIOs and Fitteds just go on like a disposable.  You just would need a cover for the Fitteds.

Snaps and Rise

Another source of concern for some is how to use the rise snaps or just snap on the diaper.  Rise snaps are on all diapers that are not specifically sized.  It is used to make it so diapers will last from birth to potty training.  Most pocket diapers are like this, but all of my covers have this feature too.  The rise helps keep everything snug around the legs.  Some diapers have 4 rows of snaps aside from the waist snaps and some have three.  To make them as small as possible you would use the bottom row of snaps on a diaper.  Just pull them up and snap in place.  As your baby grows you might find that it’s getting too snug around the legs and you’ll want to go down a level of rise.  Eventually you will not be using the rise at all.

Now to secure the diaper on you can either have snaps or hook and loop or aplix.  Hook and loop and aplix are basically velcro.  Of course everyone has a preference with snap or hook and loop.  I am a little middle of the road.  I like the snaps because it feels more secure and it lasts longer.  I have found the hook and loop to get a little funky from the wash and it doesn’t last as long.  As a matter of fact I had a hook and loop on my daughter the other night for bed and when I got her out the next morning the cover was on the floor next to her crib.  I don’t know what or how exactly that happened.  She probably took it off.  It couldn’t have been too long because her sheet wasn’t wet at all so I’m thinking she woke up and started to strip.  That is what seems to be the biggest issue people have with the hook and loop is older children have an easier time undoing them.

I like the fit I get with my hook and loop covers.  I think they are the best to have for a newborn.  Obviously a newborn won’t be pulling his diaper off just yet (at least I hope not).  But I definitely find that I can get a nicer fit with the hook and loop.  Especially since my baby girl is such a peanut.

Snaps are harder for children to undo and get out of.  They also last longer and look cleaner.  There are usually two snaps on each side of the diaper.  This helps to hold the flap into place so make sure you snap both snaps on both sides.  Get it as snug as you can without hurting the baby of course.  But you want to make sure that it helps to contain everything.


Now that we know how to use the diapers it’s time to learn about caring for them.  Again, everyone has their own wash routine.  Some wash everyday, some go every other day or more, and some keep enough diapers to actually go a week.  Wash routines are really a matter of trial and error for people to figure out what works best for them.  Of course you should follow manufacturers recommendations for washing diapers, but sometimes it comes down to your washing machine and your detergent.

Let me start out with poop.  If you are exclusively breastfeeding then there is no need to rinse the poo diapers.  Just toss them in your pail or your wet beg and wash with the rest of your diapers.  I promise you no matter what kind of diapers you use it will wash right out.  If you are supplementing with formula or once you start adding other foods the poop will become a little harder than breastfeeding poo.  For this point in time you can either use a diaper sprayer or you can dunk and swish right in the toilet.  Some poop can easily be pushed off right into the toilet, but a lot of times now I have to swish it in the toilet.  It’s not pretty, but it’s preparing you for potty training because you deal with the same thing when your toddler is potty training and poops in his underwear.

I do not have a diaper sprayer.  I have been asking my husband to put one in.  However, we have old plumbing and we rent and my husband is afraid to mess with the pipes.  I can’t say that I blame him.  I have considered getting a shower head that is removable, but I would then need to rinse the diapers out into a bucket and pour it into the toilet.  So I have been using the swish and flush method in the toilet.  Diaper sprayers usually can cost you anywhere from $20-$40, but there are plenty of DIY instructions online to make your own cheaper.  With a sink hose and some clamps I think you can install your own right to your toilet.  So if that’s an option for you, then go for it.

If not, then using the toilet is fine.  For some really bad ones I’ll plop it right into the toilet and leave it for a few.  My husband hates this because if he goes to go to the bathroom and there’s a diaper in the toilet he has to wait for me to get it out.  So I try not to do that very often.  Sometimes I just need to dunk it in the toilet a few times and the poop comes right out.  Sometimes it needs to be flushed a few times (while holding the diaper of course).  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Just the bulk of the solid waste needs to be off the diaper.  The washing machine will do the rest of the work.

Wash Routine

Speaking of the wash routine this will all depend on your washing machine and the kind of diapers that you have.  Generally speaking it’s rinse/soak in cold, hot wash, and warm or cold rinse depending on your machine’s capability of course.  So I do a cold soak with Bac Out which helps get rid of the poo and ammonia smell.  I am actually all out of Bac Out so I’ve been using vinegar instead.  Vinegar is also supposed to help soften hard water and help kill germs. We recently had a long lasting issue with a strep/staph infection so the vinegar has helped.  I think we finally got it clear and I want to keep it that way so I’ve been adding the vinegar to the soak.  Wash in hot with some detergent.  I use Tide Free and Clear.  There are numerous different detergents designed specifically for cloth diapers and some won’t use anything else.

For drying I put my flats and any inserts I have in the dryer.  The covers I always hang to dry.  Covers really will last longer if they don’t go through the dryer.  Some WAHM’s might recommend that you run the diaper through the dryer to seal all of the stitching, but after that you’ll probably want to hang the shells to dry.  And if you have a good sized clothes line and a nice sunny day then drying your flats or inserts on the line helps bleach out any stains.  Make sure you get the stained areas in optimal sun though.

Tips: Don’t use too much detergent.  Less is more.  This is especially true if you have an HE washer.  I do not have an HE washer.  As a matter of fact I specifically looked for a non HE washer when I was in the market for a new washing machine this year.  This is not to say HE washers are terrible for diapers, but I have heard of a lot of issues with stink.  So you will need to play around with your wash routine and make sure you are not using too much detergent.  Remember, an HE washer uses less water.  So a little detergent goes a long way.  And never ever use fabric softener or dryer sheets.  Also, knowing if you have hard water or not will be helpful too.  If you have hard water you might want to use a detergent like Planet that is good for hard water.


You do have to prepare the diapers when you first get them.  If you buy new and especially with synthetic materials you will want to do 5-6 hot washes.  You can also boil them which is only once, but you would need a huge pot to do that in.  If you buy used then just a good wash with some bleach should be good enough to make sure any possible germs are killed.  You need to get the natural oils out to help with the absorbency though.

I have natural cotton flats.  I did not do all of these hot washes.  Just washed them once and there was no problem with absorption.  If you have any sort of synthetic material like fleece or suede inserts that are used in most pocket diapers, then you definitely want to get in as many hot washes as you can.

Stripping is used when there are stink issues or if you are getting rashes.  Basically several hot washes should do the trick.    Do not use detergent when stripping.  The reason you are stripping is because you smell ammonia which is a sign of detergent build up.  So a heavy duty hot wash and when it begins to agitate check the wash.  If you see suds then you are going to want to repeat this until you no longer see suds.

With synthetic materials, which most pocket diapers are, you will first want to soak the diapers in hot water with some Dawn dish soap for about 30 minutes.  Then use a soft scrub brush and give them a good scrubbing.  Once you have done this you can then do the hot wash until you no longer see suds.

For any yeast rashes or infections make sure you wash the diapers with bleach until the rash clears up.  That is the only sure fire way to not reinfect over and over again.

There are steps you can take to make stripping less necessary.  Using the right amount of detergent is important.  If you must use a diaper rash cream, then make sure it’s either safe to use with cloth diapers or you line the diapers.  Viva paper towels make a nice liner.  You don’t usually have to worry about this much with natural materials that are usually found in flats and pre-folds.  It is a much bigger concern with synthetic materials.  The moment you notice any issues though be sure to address it.  The longer you let it go the longer it will take to strip.

Tomorrow be sure to come back to hear about the different laundry detergents you can use.

Be sure to read Cloth Diapering 101: The Diapers.

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  1. “If you have any sort of synthetic material like hemp…” Please clarify where you found that hemp is synthetic…all my research shows that it is natural. Thanks!

    • You are so right JT. Hemp comes from the plant Cannibus sativa and is a natural material. Thank you for pointing that out. I have changed it to synthetics like fleece and suede. I also realized I forgot to talk about drying so I added a little something about that too. Ahhh, so much information so little time ;).

      • I use pocket deaiprs (like or at home. When I go out, I use all-in-one diaper or if I’m out of it, I still use pocket diaper with 1-2 inserts. I don’t think it’s a good idea to change the inserts only. The reason why I use pocket diaper at night is that when baby pees, the inserts soak baby’s pee the microfleece part of the diaper still feels dry so it acts like disposable diaper. So you don’t need to change diaper in the middle of night. Hope it answers your question.

  2. K @ Storytime Fun says:

    Wow! So much wonderful information here! I don’t know how we made it without the Internet when my boys were little. :o) I love that a new Mom can go online and find posts like yours. You are so helpful!

    • LOL, I often wonder how my parents managed without the internet. I think it was just simpler then. You did what everyone in your circle was doing or what your parents did. So if you knew no one who cloth diapered you probably didn’t cloth diaper. I would never have started this without the internet. My go to person for info lives 3000 miles away. It was through email that she introduced me to cloth. I had no idea that there was a whole world out there of info. And sometimes that makes it a little more confusing too I think. Because there’s so much info and so many differing opinions you don’t know if you’re getting stuff from a legitimate source. Heck, I messed up in here saying that hemp was synthetic. Don’t ask me why I said that. Brain fart or whatever. My inexperience with the stuff could have something to do with it too. But hopefully some do find this useful who are on the fence and don’t get too overwhelmed with everything that’s out there.

      • That sounds intntesrieg. I think it would be great to have a complete book with all the cloth diaper infor for new moms. Especially adding in all the different kinds of diapers and how they are all used. plus a laundry section. I would support you mama!

      • are just like a disposable once they are setffud. So, you will change the whole diaper each time. Just slide the inserts out a few inches and then toss the whole thing in the diaper pail. The inserts will work their way out in the wash. Then, just stuff the insert or inserts back in and reuse. They are one of the most convenient options for cloth diapering. Prefolds, contour diapers and two-part systems such as the new have reusable covers. So you change the insert when wet but you can reuse the cover a few times before needing to change it unless it is dirty or wet.

  3. Great guide! I’ll be sure to pass this along to my newbie friends : )

  4. Thanks for posting! I’m going to have to forward this to my CDing momma friends :)

  5. I’m going to try and get more adventurous with my next one and use flats!! Thank you for dispelling the myth that it’s difficult to do. Change is always scary but I have some flats that were given to me eons ago and I need to use them!! Great article with fantastic advice all around. Thanks!

    • I would love to hear how it goes Ashley. If money had been no object when I started, then I don’t know that I would have given flats a go because it is scary. Well, it’s the unknown that’s scary. It’s good to get over that fear of change though. I hope it works out for you.

  6. Cloth diapering is definitely the way to go! It’s better for babies skin for sure and less $ on the parents budget! Thanks for sharing! Stoppin by from the Green Moms Network

    • Great video thank you! We’ve just been using the trifold on our newbron but he is outgrowing the newbron size CDs so it is great to see the different folds we can use on the regular size CDs. They are prepping in the wash right now!

    • Good quality wool deaipr covers are a wonderful gift for any new mom who plans to cloth deaipr. To make it extra special, add in some scented lanolin spray or other fun wool care products.There are dozens of good on the market. If you are committed to organics, I have heard great things about the Little Beetle brand, but have not tried them. If they don’t have to be organic, the sky is the limit for cute colors, fun designs and even handmade covers or long pants (called longies).

  7. Kelley Johnsen says:

    Wow a lot of information and so detailed. I am passing this along to my Cloth Diaper friends and sister who just had a baby boy yesterday!

  8. I love your tips/walk through. It was very helpful!

  9. Teresa Peschke says:

    Great post, I just had to strip my diapers because of stink and everything I found said to use detergent. Its been a week and the stink is back. I think I’ll try it your way next. Thanks!

    • Huh, strange that anyone would tell you to use detergent since the reason you are stripping is to get rid of detergent build up. Why would you want to add more detergent? I hope it works for you. Please, if you remember come back and let me know.

  10. great tips I will be a cloth diapering mom soon, just waiting for my orders…

  11. Great video. However, I’ve read in several plcaes that you should NOT tuck the prefold diaper into the flap in the front of the waterproof cover. The flap is there to help keep the cover waterproof where the velco stitching holes are. See the 2nd question on the Sales and Support question on Thirsties FAQ page.


  1. [...] Check back tomorrow to learn about use and care of your diapers. [...]

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  3. [...] today with my cloth diaper series.  So far I have talking about the different kinds of diapers and use and care of diapers.  Now it’s time to tackle the next big decision that needs to be made when you are going to [...]

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