Developing a cloth diaper routine took a bit of time and effort, but once my husband and I got into the pattern, it became second nature.
Before we began cloth diapering, I did a TON of research on cloth diaper brands, detergent recommendations, average cleaning time, cloth diaper types, whether they could go in the dryer, how much they cost, what their average life expectancy is, etc.
I’m somewhat of a germaphobe, so the idea of cleaning them and washing my clothes in the same washer made me queasy. I even looked at getting a separate, portable washer (and some people actually do). Did we really need a cloth diaper sprayer? How messy did they really get?
If you haven’t already checked out Fluff Love University, I highly recommend it. They have a thorough cloth diaper brand index, instructions for how to work with different water types and washing machines, a troubleshooting section and more. It was a huge help when I was doing research on the topic.
Disclosure: Some links on my blog are affiliate links to help keep the blog up and running. I may make a commission if you purchase something using one of those links, but at NO additional cost to you.
I reasoned that unless the diapers had a lot of solids sticking in them, it wouldn’t be too bad. If they were just wet, it’d be like washing any of my baby’s other clothes that she’d had an accident in.
The problem would be if the diapers had to be washed with poop all over them. The idea of a diaper sprayer or handwashing solids out made me sick.
At some point, I learned about diaper liners. They’re probably the reason that I actually began cloth diapering. I bought Bumkins flushable diaper liners. They worked great! Yes, a little bit sometimes gets off the liner, just like every once in awhile a baby has a blowout whether they’re in a disposable or cloth diaper, but it’s rare and small. The liners actually catch most of the solids, leaving me with just a wet diaper. I could deal with that!
Since we used the liners in our cloth diaper routine right from the beginning, it’s just become habit to toss them out when we change our toddler’s diapers.
When we last ran out of Bumkins liners, I switched to Dandelion Diapers liners since they were cheaper and had good reviews. Our baby doesn’t seem to notice the difference, and they are long and soft. I have to fold them a bit since they’re too wide, but that’s better than being too short. We like both Bumkins and Dandelion Diapers liners.
How we do it
Some people use a diaper sprayer with great success. If you want to try it, this one has high reviews. We elected not to get one and haven’t regretted it. For us, the liners take care of that problem.
Calling it a ‘cloth diaper routine’ is a bit inaccurate, since I’m not on a strict schedule of washing every two days or whatever. We wash them when we need to.
We purchased LBB cloth diapers and Alva inserts. From what I’ve heard, they aren’t as great as other brands, but they’re what we could afford at the time. We want to keep them, but grow our stash to include other brands. I’m eyeing some other brands I’d love to try, including this package of Thirsties.
The LBB and Alva diapers occasionally leak if our daughter drinks a lot and then goes awhile like changing (like at night), but the leaks are rare.
I think you’re going to find that with any brand. Any diaper, disposable or cloth, can only hold so much. We do plan to keep these diapers when we try other brands because they work well and are cute.
Our cloth diaper routine
We generally use a single insert during the day, and stuff them with two inserts if my toddler is going down for a nap or bed.
When they’re soiled, we put the ‘flushable’ liner in the trash since flushing it can be bad for your drains or septic tank. Rarely, if it’s a very dirty one we’ll flush it, but that’s only happened a couple of times.
The wet diaper goes into a Dekor Plus diaper pail. The pail comes with plastic bags and you can purchase refills, but since we’re using the pail for cloth diapers instead of disposables, we bought cloth Planet Wise reusable pail liners. We alternate one in the bin and one in the wash.
We used a typical top-load washing machine, then went to a high-efficiency front-loading machine when we moved. The main difference we found was that the high-efficiency machines need less soap. Ours also says to not load powders and liquids together.
When we used a top-load machine, we started the washer on cold and let them soak with Seventh Generation powdered laundry detergent (or our regular, perfume- and dye-free Arm and Hammer if we were out) and powdered Oxi-clean. On the package, Oxi-clean says it works best in warmer water, so you can activate it in hotter water and then add it to the washer if you want.
When the washer filled, we’d pause it and let the diapers soak awhile, sometimes overnight. Then we finished the cycle, letting them get clean. Then we’d sanitize them with a hot load.
If we needed them in a rush, we’d toss the diapers in the dryer on a medium setting. But since that can wear them out faster, we normally dried them overnight on a laundry rack. We were in an apartment with no laundry line.
With the high-efficiency machine, we had to play with our cloth diaper routine a bit. Ours has a soaking function, but it only lasts about a half hour. We’ve found that that’s generally enough. If not, we do two cold loads before a hot load. Then the diapers go on our clothes line. In the winter, we put them on the drying rack or if necessary, in our dryer on air dry.
It saves us money washing them since we have high-efficiency machines and very rarely put them in the dryer.
With this machine, we also have to use less laundry detergent. Otherwise, it suds too much. It can also keep your clothes from getting clean enough, waste water if the rinse cycle is extended, and cause washer malfunctions.
Once the diapers are dry, I neatly fold the diapers and inserts in half and put them in a basket in my daughter’s room. I keep a couple in the bathroom since she’s potty-training so I can grab a diaper if all of her panties are wet, we’re heading out or she’s going to sleep.
We try to wash our diapers every couple of days. If it’s hot, you may need to wash them more often than during the winter. Try to not let them sit too long before they’re cleaned– they can stain and develop bacteria and mold.
Remember that this is our routine, and that depending on how often you wash the diapers, the detergents you use, whether you have hard or soft water, etc., your routine may be different. I highly encourage you to continue researching to develop the cloth diaper routine that works best for you.
Our cloth diaper routine works well when traveling, but not every host wants you washing cloth diapers in their washer.
We often use disposables when we’re out because they fit better under my daughter’s tighter pants, whereas she can run around in just a diaper at home. It also takes a lot less space to pack a disposable than it does liners, inserts and cloth diapers.
But some people also don’t want you to wash cloth diapers in their washing machine. If you’re staying with someone for more than a couple of days, your diapers could get pretty nasty depending on how soiled they are, what they’re in and how hot it is.
If that’s the case, I’d just pack disposables. It’s easier and more polite to the host. If the host doesn’t mind and you have space for the cloth diapers, it works well. Just remember to add your diaper liners, too! You may want to bring plastic shopping bags to put the ‘flushable’ liners in before disposing of them in your host’s trash can.
If we’re home and my daughter isn’t wearing leggings, tights or tighter pants, I keep her in a cloth diaper. She often wears a skirt, baggy pants or a dress, anyway, so the diaper fits well with it. You can also use baby leg warmers to keep their legs warm if you have them in just a diaper, or are going out and have the baby in a dress and need an extra layer.
We toss the dirty diapers in a Skip Hop wet/dry bag (mine) or a Wonder Woman wet/dry bag (my husband’s), depending on whose diaper bag we have. When we get home, the diapers go into the Dekor Plus or immediately into the washer.
Products we use
I linked to these above, but here they are together if it makes it easier.
- LBB cloth diapers
- Alvababy washable diaper inserts
- Bumkins or Dandelion Diapers ‘flushable’ inserts
- Baby/toddler leg warmers for extra warmth when pants don’t fit over the cloth diapers
- Dekor Plus diaper pail
- Planet Wise washable diaper pail liners
- Skip Hop gray chevron wet/dry bag
- Bumkins Wonder Woman wet/dry bag
- Oxiclean powder
- Oxiclean spray or Shout spray for stain-removing
- Seventh Generation powder laundry detergent OR
- Arm and Hammer perfume- and dye-free liquid laundry detergent
- Clothes line
- Drying rack (you could use this one)
We enjoy the savings we’ve experienced with cloth diapers, and knowing it’s better for the environment than always using disposables. We haven’t fully shunned disposables, and use them more often than we’d like, but we prefer the cloth diapers. Our daughter does, too. Part of our cloth diaper routine is watching her pick out and react to a diaper! She loves to woof at the dog print, hoot at the owls and growl at the lions.
We like our routine, but we’re willing to make changes to improve. While we do like the LBB diapers, we do want to try some other brands. Right now I have Buttons diapers, Just Simply Baby diapers (THEY HAVE A HEDGEHOG AND A LLAMA PRINT!) and the natural Thirsties All-in-Ones package all on my wishlist.
I’m not sure if I’ll get them for my toddler or not since she’s starting to potty-train and is transitioning to homemade baby/toddler underwear, but I’m seriously tempted to try one before she finishes training. If not, I’ll definitely try them if we have another baby.
Organizing cloth diapers can seem daunting, but you can check out my post on organizing cloth diapers if you need some ideas.
What’s your cloth diaper routine? What cloth diapers are on your wishlist?