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Pre-Fold Diapers: Everything You Need to Know About These Amazing Diapers

When you are trying to decide on what the best style of diapers are for your cloth diaper stash, its easy to get overwhelmed with all the different options.

If you are completely new to cloth diapers, you should consider giving every style a try to find which you like best. When I first started, I had a friend who swore by pockets, and a friend who swore by hybrids. So I only tried those two types at first. But the longer I diapered, the more willing I was to try different styles.

Eventually I tried pre-fold diapers, and I wondered why I hadn’t tried them before. They quickly became one of my favorites to reach for in my diapers stash. There were so many things to love about them, from their ease of use to their price. And we’ll talk about all that here.

So, here is everything you need to know about this versatile and economical cloth diaper option.

pre-fold diapers with snappi closure

What are Pre-Fold Diapers?

Pre-fold diapers are rectangular pieces of fabric, sewn into 3 sections, with the thickest, most absorbent portion being in the center. The name comes from the early days of cloth diapering when the only options were flats. Flats are thin layers of fabric cut into a square that require lots of folding in order to use them.

When pre-folds diapers were introduced they were marketed as a “pre-folded” version of the flat diaper, designed to cut out all the folding.

Do I Need a Diaper Cover?

Yes, you need to use a cover or shell with pre-fold diapers. While they are very absorbent, they are not waterproof.

How do Pre-Fold Diapers Work?

There are two different ways you can use pre-fold diaper.

  1. You can fold them up around baby, in the shape of a diaper and fasten them with a Snappi or pin.
  2. fold the three parts into one thin rectangular strip, like a diaper insert, and lay it inside a cover/shell.

If you use option 1 for your diaper folds, you will be happy to know this means you don’t have to have a new cover for every diaper change. If your baby has wet his diaper and needs to be changed, you can simply remove the cover and wipe it down with a wipe. Then remove the wet pre-fold and put a clean one on and use the same cover again.

diaper covers

How Much do Pre-Fold Diapers Cost?

One of the best things about pre-fold diapers is that they are possibly the cheapest cloth diapers out there. Any you can use them with just about any diaper cover out there. And you really don’t have to have as many covers as you do pre-folds.

You can also use pre-folds with pocket-style diapers or for extra absorbency in hybrids and AIOs. You just can’t get multiple uses out of those styles and you can a basic cover/shell.

You can find pre-folds online from 6 – 12 in a pack, and can range in price from $12 to $30 a pack, depending on the quantity.

Do They Come in Different Sizes?

Yes! Pre-folds typically come in a variety of sizes, from preemies up to 40lbs. One thing to be aware of when buying pre-folds is that they can shrink after the initial wash, so if your baby is close to maxing out one size, it may be better to size up to account for this.

What do All These Numbers Mean?

If you’ve looked at pre-fold diapers, chances are you’ve seen numbers like 2x6x2 or 4x8x4 on the packaging. If you’re asking yourself what that mean, the answer is really simple. These numbers simply refer to how thick a diaper is. Each pre-fold has 3 panels – 2 outside panels & 1 center panel. 

If a pre-fold says it’s a 4x6x4, that means the center panel has 6 layers of fabric and the outer panels have 4 layers of fabric.  Typically 4x6x4 is great for daily use but may need an extra doubler or insert for nighttime use.  Diapers that are 4x8x4 in thickness are generally thick enough for most infants to use at bedtime.

What are They Made From?

If you’ve seen the numbers, you have probably also seen that pre-folds come in a few different options, from bleached to unbleached cotton, bamboo, and then organic options. And there are pros and cons to each type.

a mom, using pre-fold diapers, to change her baby's diaper

Bleached Pre-Fold Diapers

Bleached pre-folds are cotton pre-folds that have been bleached white, to give that crisp, clean look. Bleached pre-folds are the easiest to prep, usually only requiring one wash in order to be ready to use. However, the bleaching process strips cotton of its natural oils, so bleached pre-folds won’t be quite as soft as their unbleached counterparts.

Unbleached Pre-Fold Diapers

Unbleached pre-folds have become the most popular pre-folds in recent years. These pre-folds have a natural color that is more cream or light tan in color than their bleached counterparts. Unbleached pre-folds also tend to be quite a bit softer than bleached.

Because of the natural oils in the cotton, unbleached pre-fold diapers require multiple washes in order to be prepped for use. This is because most of those natural oils need to be removed from the diapers so you can achieve maximum absorbency. Even though you are washing the oils out when you prep them, they are still softer than bleached pre-folds.

Organic Pre-Folds Diapers

These are pre-fold diapers made from organic cotton that are typically softer than even the unbleached pre-folds. Like the unbleached version, these take 3-5 washes in order to be fully prepped. With these, you get the assurance that you’re using the most natural diapers on your baby as possible.

Bamboo Pre-Fold Diapers

Bamboo pre-folds are ultra soft and very absorbent. These are typically made of a blend of bamboo made rayon and organic cotton. They require 3-5 washes in order to be fully prepped for use. Due to their ultra-soft feel, you want to avoid extreme tempts when washing and drying. Use warm or cold water, and low heat for these buttery soft pre-folds.

Indian vs. Chinese Pre-Fold Diapers

Often, you will see pre-folds coming from one of two different places. Indian pre-folds refer to pre-folds made in India, while Chinese pre-folds refer to ones manufactured in China.

Indian pre-folds tend to be softer and more textured. The twill weave tends to be fluffier when washed

Chinese pre-folds are more lightweight. Because they have a tighter weave, they tend to stay smoother and flatter after washing. These are the pre-folds you may see typically used for burp cloths.

baby wearing a pre-fold diaper before the cover is put on.


When you are looking at building your diaper stash, you want to include some pre-folds in the mix. They are affordable, easy to use, and come in a variety of options. With just a few diaper covers, you can easily cloth diaper successfully with pre-folds. So, if you are looking for a way to cloth diaper without breaking the bank, pre-fold diapers are the way to go.

Do you love pre-folds and love them? If so, we’d love to hear what your favorite pre-folds are in the comments below. And if you have any questions about pre-folds, don’t hesitate to ask. We’re always happy to answer your questions.