If you’re new to cloth diapers, or have been using secondhand diapers for a while and are just now buying your very first brand new cloth diaper, you might have heard that you need to “prep your new diapers in the wash before you use them.” But what does that mean?
“Prepping” sounds a bit like some new dumb social media meme, and it’s kind of tempting to just run up to random strangers and ask them “What do you think prepping is?!” and hopefully get some hilarious answers, but here’s the real one: it’s necessary because new cloth diapers are… new. I know, I know, this has been an extremely informative blog post so far. You must be stunned at the extent of my knowledge concerning such things. But factory-fresh cloth diapers, both cloth and synthetic, should be washed at least once before using them. They might have random residue from the factory or bits of packaging stuck on, and really, I’ve just always thought it a good idea to at least give things a good rinse before putting them on for the first time.
If you have synthetic-inner diapers, like microsuede-lined pocket diapers, one wash is all you need. Your diapers are ready to go! But if you have brand new natural fiber diapers or inserts, such as cotton or hemp, and especially ones made with organic unbleached cotton, you will need to “prep” them before they can be used.
A deliciously quilty pile of freshly washed prefolds.
A long time ago people used pins and flat diapers to diaper their babies. One of the biggest concerns with diapers then was accidentally poking the baby with the pins used to keep the diaper in place. Nowadays, with larger, safer pins and other alternative diaper closures, jabbing baby with a sharp object is far less of a diapering concern. Instead, one of the biggest worries I see parents ask is, “I took off the cloth diaper and there are red marks on my baby’s skin! What gives?”
There are many, many reasons for red marks caused by cloth diapers, and most of them are harmless. If you’re using fabric that can bunch up, like flats or prefolds, and the red marks are on the part of the body where your baby has just been sleeping on, there is little cause for concern. You know how sometimes you wake up and you smile lovingly at your partner, pleased at the luxury of waking up together, and he or she looks back at you and bursts out laughing because you have sheet marks all over your face, and then the loving moment is totally gone? Sometimes red marks from diapers are just something like sheet marks, where the fabric folds press against baby’s soft skin while he or she sleeps. They will fade shortly.
Elastic comes in multiple shapes and sizes on modern cloth diapers. It’s pretty good at the whole poop-containing thing.
Diaper sprayers initially seem like one of those cloth diapering accessories that one absolutely NEEDS. For the uninitiated, a diaper sprayer is a hose that attaches to the water line on your toilet. At the end of the hose is a nozzle that’s basically a mini garden hose, so you can hold those dirty diapers over the toilet and spray them off before tossing them in the diaper bag. Genius, right?
This lovely image of a Bumkins diaper sprayer from bumkins.com is not the diaper sprayer I bought. I regret this fact immensely, as you will see as you read on.
For the first few months I cloth diapered my daughter, there was no need for a diaper sprayer. Newborn poop doesn’t really need to be sprayed off, and I didn’t think I really needed to spend $45 on something that I might not use. However, once she started eating solid foods, and each diaper change brought forward new and horrifying substances, I began to rethink certain life choices. Before investing in a diaper sprayer, I decided to try disposable liners. They are thin little paper liners placed inside the diaper to catch solids. Then in theory, you just dump the liner into the toilet, flush it all away, and place your diaper in the laundry, smug at having cleaned out a poopy diaper while barely touching it at all.
However, theories basically exist to be disproven. While using a disposable liner was much easier than doing the dunk-and-swish method of rinsing out a diaper, I quickly found that they often bunched a bit in my now-mobile baby, and thus ended up not covering the entire diaper. I usually found myself dumping the liner in the toilet but having to rinse out the diaper anyway. It saved a little bit of work, but not much time, and I started to feel like maybe I was throwing money at something I *wanted* to work, but wasn’t *actually* working. Finally, I sighed and bought the cheapest diaper sprayer–to the tune of a whopping $9–that I could.
All-in-one diapers are very popular, for good reason. Every part of the diaper comes sewn together in one neat piece, rather than having multiple pieces, such as inserts or covers, that must be assembled to make a complete diaper. The convenience comes at a price—they are more expensive than other diaper types—but they are especially well-liked by daycares and other temporary caregivers that may only be familiar with disposables. However, because all-in-ones are all one piece, they require a little different care and look different than other diapers. To make things even more confusing, some diapers that are actually pockets, especially foreign-made ones on eBay, are often labeled as “all in one diapers” even though they are what we call “pocket diapers.” Let’s look at the parts of a true all-in-one diaper below.
One of the biggest concerns with cloth diapers is how good they are to travel with. With disposables, you have your diaper bag with diapers and wipes (and possibly additional things like trash bags and creams). After a change, you throw it all away whenever you find a trash can, which we’ve found is sometimes harder than others. At someone’s house, you may have to be creative since they don’t want stinky diapers in their trash can.
It’s not that much different with cloth, and I actually think it’s better. You still have your diaper bag with diapers and wipes. You will change the diaper, just like you would disposable, but instead of throwing it into your closest trash can (complicated or not), you pull out your travel wet bag and dump the diaper in that. It is water proof (same PUL material as some cloth diapers), locks in odors, and zips or ties shut. And they stay in there until you are ready to do a load of laundry.
I recently wrote an article here about my woes with my cloth diapers in a hard water location, namely the entire state of Utah. Since I had recently moved, I had not yet found the way to clean my cloth diapers and hoped that someone would be able to give me the answer since my research had not found anything that worked. After talking with my sister-in-law, who works at a cloth diaper store, and consulting with many other cloth diapering mothers, I have found what worked for us – Tide original powder and Calgon.
Calgon is a liquid water softener found in the laundry aisle in Walmart. I haven’t found it anywhere else besides online. Calgon contains the active ingredients zeolite and polycarboxylate, which interact with the hard water ions in water to prevent them from forming limescale or interfering with soap lathering. The bottle says that it can also be used as a laundry enhancer, making whites more white and all that jazz. I’m not as fussed about those benefits, but I thought it would be nice if it helped my laundry be better overall.
I started off with a strip where I did a cold rinse to remove all the icky stuff and then added one tablespoon of Blue Dawn Original dish soap and did a series of hot washes until all the bubbles were gone, which took all day. I used a capful of Calgon with every wash. When I was done with the strip, I did one more wash using the Tide Original powder, then threw them all in the dryer for a low heat spin. And VIOLA! It worked.
So you’ve been suckered into the cloth diapering world. Congratulations, and say good bye to your money. But wait! Before you have a small heart attack at the cost of a single all-in-one name brand diaper, you might want to ask the question: Will I be buying my cloth diapers new, or used?
While you may assume you’ll be buying your cloth diapers new—after all, especially if this is your first child, you’re probably buying or being gifted mostly new baby items—there is actually a very large secondhand cloth diaper market (hint – the For Sale or Trade Forum here on DiaperSwappers is the best place to start!), if you know where to look. Used diapers can sound kind of icky at first, but let’s look at the pros and cons of each.
I’m a huge advocate of cloth diapers. Really, I think they’re one of the Most Amazing Things Ever, Plus Our Ancestors Used Them, and yadda yadda. They’re cute and seem comfy and it’s kind of nice seeing them all lined up on a shelf.
Sure, I would say things like, “Of course everyone must use the diaper system that fits into their lifestyle,” but I won’t lie, when a family member discovered he had run out of disposable diapers for his son and refused my offer of a loaned cloth diaper with a, “Well, thanks, but we’re not into cloth, that’s kind of icky,” I felt VASTLY superior for a while. I mean, *I* got over the ick factor! There you are, polluting landfills with your son’s waste for the next several hundred years while I am responsibly using eco-friendly cloth…and accidentally clogging the toilets with disposable wipes, but never mind that!
Cloth vs disposable: One catches poop. So does the other.
While I was pregnant with my second child, we went camping with family. I dragged along a tote of cloth diapers because I simply refused to buy disposables for a three day trip. To be fair, my daughter often broke out in rashes when she was in synthetic diapers, so I liked putting her in 100% cotton. She was comfortable and rash-free that way—that was what worked for us.
Then, my son was born. You know how they say every kid is different. Well, I knew that. But I didn’t know that until I had my second child. While my daughter would happily sit in an overflowing diaper without making a peep, my son seemed highly distressed if he felt even a drop of liquid in his diaper. We quickly learned that when he cried, it usually wasn’t because he was hungry (like my daughter), it was because he wanted his diaper changed. The moment we changed him he went from loudly shrieking monster to sweet, cooing, baby-commercial baby.
Prefolded diapers were totally revolutionary at one point. Instead of having a large flat diaper to fold over and over again, prefolds were sewn so you only had to make a couple of folds to get the diaper on your baby! This ease, combined with prefolds’ durability and relative cheapness compared to the cost of other types of cloth diapers make them a well-loved staple of many cloth diaper stashes even today. Over the years, people have come up with a million different ways to fold prefolds! Some may work for you and some may not, depending on the size of your baby (and their temperament—some babies will happily let you spend five minutes trying to get a diaper to perfectly fit on them, others are lucky to give you five seconds). Here are five common ways to fold a prefold diaper, as illustrated by the good-natured and hard working Mr. Koala:
Also called the “trifold.” This fold requires no fasteners such as pins or Snappis, and thus must be used with a wrap-around style diaper cover to hold it in place (no pull-ons here!). You simply fold the prefold in thirds, like a business letter, and place it in the center of the cover. Super quick and easy! With my firstborn, we used this fold the most. This fold is also neat because you can easily pre-stuff a few covers with the prefold before changing your baby!
This is probably the most common fold when using a fastener. The bottom two corners are folded into the center, leaving two longer “wings” at the top that wrap around baby’s hips and are fastened. This is also a very quick and easy fold.
You have your last child potty training now and it’s time to get rid of those cloth diapers. Don’t just throw them out! That would defeat the purpose of those eco friendly diapers. Besides they can have so many other uses.
Pass Them On
If you know you are done having children and now all your children are potty trained perhaps it’s time to pass those diapers on to someone who will need them. Perhaps you know an expecting mother or someone who is being eaten alive trying to keep up with the cost of disposable diapers. Or perhaps you have noticed your little one has a friend with sensitive skin and could use cloth diapers. Whoever you choose to pass those clothies on to it will help save them a great deal of money.
That’s what our For Sale or Trade Forum is for! Sell your cloth diapers and other child rearing supplies. You’ll make some money and the buyer gets a great deal buying used. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!