Cloth Diapering Resource Page

I have really enjoyed using cloth diapers with Dylan, and I want to pass that love onto you. This page gives you an overview of information about cloth diapering and points you towards a lot of other great resources so you can dive in and learn as much as you want. Let me know if there’s more information you’re looking for that I can include here!

When you’re ready for ALL the information on cloth diapers, check out Changing Diapers: The Hip Mom’s Guide to Modern Cloth Diapering.


Reasons to Use Cloth Diapers

What kinds of cloth diapers are available today?

  • Flats: These are the seriously old-fashioned kind. It’s a single layer piece of cloth that’s folded and pinned (or Snappi’d).
  • Prefolds:  Still old-fashioned. Cloth that’s already been folded for extra layers in the middle. Mostly all you have to do is pin. Read more about the benefits of using prefolds.
  • Contours: Contour diapers have a little bit of tailoring such as elastic around the legs and wings that fold over. It’s a slight step up from prefolds. No pinning needed.
  • Fitteds: Fitteds are fully tailored diapers – elastic for the legs and waist, snaps or Velcro to close it. These go on your baby like a disposable, although they still need a cover to be waterproof.
  • Covers: Flats, prefolds, contours, and fitteds all need a cover to make them waterproof. The cover has no absorbency itself, it’s just a waterproof barrier. But if you remember the rubber pants of yore, don’t worry. Covers these days are as cute as the diapers and come in many easy-to-use styles.
  • All-In-Ones (AIOs): AIOs have absorbency and waterproof-ness in one piece. You put them on and they fit just like a disposable.
  • Pockets: Pockets are like a cover (and can be used as a cover for other diaper types) in that they are trim and waterproof, but they have a lining that wicks moisture away from baby’s skin and a pocket for stuffing inserts into. The inserts are the absorbent part.
  • All-in-Twos: (AI2s): AI2s are like AIOs except the extra absorbent middle part snaps in and out, making them easier to launder.
  • One-size (OS): Fitteds, AIOs, pockets, and AI2s come in different sizes, or you can find OS diapers that are adjustable to fit your child as ou grows.
  • For more descriptions of these, plus different materials and other related terms, check out this cloth diapering cheat sheet or this page on cloth diapering systems.

Some popular cloth brands:

How to Wash Cloth Diapers:

  • As they occur, put the dirty diapers in a diaper pail or bag. If your baby is eating food, dump solid waste into the toilet first. For babies exclusively breastfeeding, you can wash everything. How long you wait between washings depends on your schedule and how many diapers you have.
  • Dump the contents of the pail or bag into your washing machine. Run a cold water rinse cycle to rinse away waste.
  • Wash diapers on hot using detergent. Run an extra rinse if you like.
  • Don’t use chlorine bleach, fabric softener, or pure soaps.
  • Dry on low or line dry. Don’t use dryer sheets.
  • If you have stains you want to remove, lay the diapers out in the sun. Stains magically disappear!

Other washing resources:

Cloth on a Budget:

For one guide to making your own cloth diapers, try One Size Diaper Pattern: Sew your own Cloth Diapers!

 And MORE…

This resource page on cloth diapering will grow over time, as I find more useful information and links to add.

What other information about cloth diapering would you like to know or what other information would you add to this page?

Issa’s Reviews: Raising Baby Green Part Two

In case you missed it on Monday, click here to read part one of the review of the book Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care. This book gave me so much material to rant about, I broke it up into two parts. If you’re ready for another dose, here’s part two.

What’s next? Oh, yes. Fucking bottled water. I’m still in the 1st chapter of the book here – the one on pregnancy. You’re “Drinking for Two”, so the book recommends that you check the labels on your bottled water or filter your tap water. Wait, bottled water? What? Isn’t this supposed to be a book about being “green”? Why is it recommending bottled water at all? I quickly turned the page, hoping to see a condemnation of bottled water…and I found one. Apparently, you might want to avoid plastic bottles with BPAs. Choose bottles with these recycling codes rather than those recycling codes. No mention anywhere of bottled water as a wasteful disposable product, the corporatization of a local resource (sometimes to really creepy ends), all the other reasons not to drink bottled water, or that it’s just stupid. This is a huge fail that basically says to me that this book isn’t green at all. Period.

Chapter Two was all about giving birth, so I mostly skipped it. I won’t be in a hospital for my birth (probably), so almost none of this chapter would directly apply to me. Besides, this book was already getting tedious.

I hopped over to Chapter Three, which is simply called “The Nursery”, at which point I burst out laughing. And this “review” is almost done, because that’s about as far as I could manage to read.

There are two problems with a chapter called “The Nursery” in a book about greening your baby. First, having a nursery is inherently consumer-driven and is inherently un-green. In order to have what’s called a nursery, you need an entirely separate room in your house. You need “room things” like a chair, a dresser, lighting. You’ll probably get window treatments. You might hang art on the walls. You’re going to put a baby in there, so you buy a special “baby bed” when you’ve got perfectly functional beds elsewhere in the house that would easily fit a baby. The baby’s going to be alone, so you need music-players and heart-beat-sound-makers and monitors and snuggly toys. It’s a ridiculously expensive, anti-green endeavor.

The second problem is the whole concept of a place you leave your baby alone is alien to the philosophy in which “being green” exists for me. I know that there are people out there who want to be environmentally conscious who are otherwise “normal” (the targets of this book, apparently). I’m just not one of them, and so at this chapter, I put the book away.

There’s one more thing I want to bitch about first, though. I left this for last because it’s not just one sentence or section. Something that permeated all of the advice in this book was it’s ignorance (or avoidance) of the fact that people exist at different economic statuses. This book seemed to assume that money isn’t a factor for anyone. And this, more than anything else, highlights that this book is only for a very narrow set of readers.

When talking about lactation consultants, the book says they are sometimes provided by the center or hospital where you give birth, but if not, “you can hire a private one.” There’s no mention that the price of a lactation consultant can run you $50-$100 an hour. And no suggestion to check with your local WIC office or La Leche League for cheaper (or free) assistance.

The book recommends organic cloth diapers, organic linens and blankets, and organic clothing for baby with no mention of the fact that all of these items can be significantly more expensive than non-organics. No mention of alternate buying options, like thrift stores or used cloth diaper websites.

And the most grievous omission of personal finances comes when talking about organic foods. The book says, “Let’s all pull together,” to buy organic foods. All? I don’t think it means all, when there’s not even a passing mention of the increased cost of organic foods. And unlike a one- or two-time lactation consultant or the clothes and diapers you could find used, organic foods are hard to save on and buying food happens over and over forever.

Anyone who’s looked at conventional and organic foods in a grocery store knows that organics are more expensive. And plenty of articles and books on organics make room to discuss the price and the struggles people have to buy organic. So why doesn’t this book bother? My guess is just that this book isn’t written for those people. This book assumes that “green” means you can buy your way into greener choices. And that’s not very green.

In order for a movement to succeed, it needs to be accessible to as many people as possible. In order for a message to resonate with a population, it needs to focus on the different people in that population. Also, have a little faith that your movement can be accessible to everyone. If you think your philosophy can only be attained by a few, you’re not putting a lot of stock in your own ideas are you?

And at the very least, “green” needs to mean something other than “money”. Ideologically, money means more, faster, higher, farther, better, and all of these things are the antithesis of sustainability and environmental awareness.

I’m really glad I didn’t buy this book, but I am glad to have gotten some green ranting off my chest. I hesitate to give this book just one star, because some people out there are in a position to put in new expensive, organic flooring just because they’re having a baby. If you’re one of those people, great, buy this book.

But, in short, I think this book sucked. I don’t think it has anything to do with benefiting ourselves and our environment. I think it is just about trendy stuff to buy.

TWO STARSRaising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care by Alan Green, M.D. with Jeanette Pavini & Theresa Foy DiGeronimo

Issa’s Reviews: Raising Baby Green Part One

Within the last year, I’ve fallen in love with my library. I think I have ten books checked out right now, and I’m reading a few of them at once. The library enables me to read as much as I like without worrying about the cost or the waste. Lately, of course, I’ve been perusing the pregnancy section of the library. I came across Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care by Alan Greene, M.D. I’m not really looking for any guidance on “green” topics, but it is a topic I care about, and I figured I could at least review it for LoveLiveGrow. Plus, in the meantime, I might learn a thing or two.

Instead of any education or pleasure, though, all I got out of this book were frustration, anger, and incredulous sputters.

The first clue that this book wasn’t going to sit well with me came two pages into the introduction. Greene wants to give a small example of a way to make a positive difference. Here’s the sentence that gave me my first sputter:

“…If every household in the United States replaced just one box of conventional facial tissues (175 count) with 100% recycled ones, together we could save 163,000 trees for our children’s world.”

First, I usually dislike examples that talk about what would happen if “everyone” did it. There are usually benefits to the individual regardless of what the masses do, and hanging your movement on the masses is a losing proposition. It’s a small gripe, as is my feeling that trees are a strange place to start when talking about conservation. Trees are a renewable resource. I don’t mind getting around to trees, but leading with them seems odd.

The great big fail, though, is recommending that you replace one disposable product with another. Disposable items are inherently bad for the environment, bad for your money, and bad for your state of mind. Especially when you’re talking about tissues, for crying out loud. I’ve written about reusable kitchen cloths, bathroom cloth, and menstrual products, but it doesn’t even strike me as interesting to talk about not using reusable tissues for your snot. Who does that?

Chapter One has a section called “Why Go Green During Pregnancy” where it talks about a tiny study of umbilical cord blood where each baby was found to have about 200 different industrial chemicals in the cord, including mercury, fire retardants, and pesticides. Greene quotes the report as stating that most of these are known to cause cancer, be toxic, and/or cause birth defects. Then he says something I whole-heartedly agree with:

“We are the environment; there is no separation. If a chemical is “out there” it may also be “in here”…”

I completely agree! It is impossible to live surrounded by toxic chemicals and not be affected by that.

However, the rest of this chapter goes on to talk about things that the mother can personally do (or not do): eating the right foods, drinking good water, not dying her hair, not breathing gasoline fumes, etc. These specific actions may be good on their own, but they don’t address the 200 chemicals thing. It doesn’t matter how many small adjustments I make to my choices – I have to breathe this air; I can only buy clothes at the places that are available to me, I can only live in the houses that are legally allowed, etc. I’m simply not in control of the amount and variety of industrial chemicals in my environment, and it’s mean to lay that on the individual. It reminds me of the Checklist of Fear – the irrational belief that if you put enough things on the list, eventually you’ll be safe. You won’t be. And you won’t make a huge dent in those chemicals by not dying your hair, either.

Next up is Greene’s poetic love of organic foods. One section asks “What Exactly is ‘Organic’?” and he goes on to provide some answers:

The word organic extends a promise of a food that is natural, pure, and brimming with healthy nutrients.

Organic farming is a method that honors our health and the health of the planet.

Organic fruits and vegetables are grown in fertile soil teeming with life. Organic farmers follow earth-friendly cultivation practices…

Organically raised animals are treated in a way that protects their natural development and behavior…the animals are raised in a healthier and more humane manner.

I know that’s what we’re supposed to infer from the happy little cartoon cows pictured on the sides of the packages and all, but I’m not buying it. I do frequently buy organic food, since I want that word to mean something, and sometimes it does, and I don’t know what else to do. But, in the meantime, I don’t get all doe-eyed over the myth. I’m not going to go into a full-scale anti-organics bitch here. Instead, I’ll ask a couple of rude questions and give you a couple of links. You can go digging for more if you like.

  • The little organics label with your best interests at heart? Who owns that company? Kraft? ConAgra? Coca-Cola? Nestle? Do you think they have your best interests at heart?
  • Are organic crops grown with care, or are they just grown “organically” until something goes wrong, at which point they’re sprayed down anyway and then sold as conventional crops? Is that what you want from the word organic?

Okay, this has turned into a LONG rant, so I’m going to leave the rest for part two. You can tune into part two on Thursday to hear the rest of the rant and find out what I rated this book.

In the meantime, tell me what you think about disposable products, organic foods, or any other green topics that come to mind.

Plastic Grocery Bags – Do You Mean It?

I have wanted to reduce my usage of plastic grocery bags for a long time. For years I’ve been reusing them as trash bags and not getting one at all if I was just getting a handful of purchases. In the last couple of years, I’ve started taking my own cloth bags to the grocery store – when I remembered. But, there have been lots and lots of times that I’ve forgotten to take cloth bags.

This past year at The Wallow, I’ve been much, much better about taking cloth bags. When I bring groceries in and empty the bags, I hang the bags on the doorknob, so it’s easy to remember to take them back out to the car. Still, sometimes I would forget them in the house, or be taking the truck instead and forget to get them out of the car.

I realized recently that forgetting to bring the bags reveals my true values. I mean, I never forget my keys. I never forget the money. These are essential to the grocery store trip, and I apparently didn’t consider cloth bags essential. I never forget my cigarettes. I never forget my sunglasses. I usually remember half-way to the grocery store that I’ve forgotten the bags. I considered driving back home to get them. That would be annoying, so maybe it would help me remember. But, I didn’t think it was very responsible to spend more gasoline just to avoid the plastic bags. That didn’t seem like much of a trade-off. It felt like a dilemma.

Then I read these words on Fake Plastic Fish, and it was like a punch in the face:

Stop using single-use plastics yourself. Just stop.  No excuses.  Forgetting bags at home is not an excuse.  You don’t develop a habit by letting yourself off the hook time after time.  More than once, I have carried out my purchases in my hands.  If I had too much to carry, I put stuff back.  Because I don’t have a car.  But if you DO have a car, bring your cart out to the car, unload your stuff, carry it home and maybe put it in bags to bring it into the house.  You won’t forget again.

I was using “I forgot” as an excuse, and using that to get me off the hook for coming up with an alternative. But, if I really made a commitment, the solution would be obvious: Just Stop.

On the day I read those words, my cloth bags were out of commission since my cat had peed on the pile of them and I hadn’t washed them yet. I probably did six or so grocery trips without cloth bags – when I checked out, the groceries went right back in my cart, then I put them one by one into the car, then I put them in the garden cart at home and wheeled the whole thing into the house to put them away. It’s just that simple.

The cloth bags are back in the car now, but even if (when) I forget them again, the decision is final.

I no longer use plastic grocery bags. Period.

Switching to Bathroom Cloth

I recently switched over to using cloth in my bathroom, instead of toilet paper. The guest bathroom and Joshua’s bathroom still have toilet paper, but I’ve been enjoying cloth in my own. Like the switch from paper towels to washcloths in the kitchen and the switch to reusable menstrual products, switching to bathroom cloth has been equally satisfying. Here’s a little 101 on the whole idea.

The Basics

The basic idea is that instead of using toilet paper, you use small pieces of fabric instead, toss them into a container after use, launder them, and reuse them. That’s it – a pretty simple idea, although the details can vary based on personal preference.

If you want to go Googling around for more information after reading this post, it’s usually called “family cloth” instead of bathroom cloth. My guess about the reason is that a lot of the online “crunchy” blogging comes from mothers. There’s cloth diapers for the baby. Then there’s cloth menstrual pads for mom, which are often called “mama cloth”. Then the cloth in the bathroom gets called “family cloth”. I don’t like using “mama cloth” – not every menstruating woman is a mother, by a long shot! And for the same reason, I don’t like saying “family cloth”. You don’t have to be in a family to use it, and the whole family doesn’t have to be on board. “Toilet cloth” and “bathroom wipes” are other terms used, but I think “toilet” and “wipes” are weird words, so I go with bathroom cloth.

Why do it?

I’ve replaced a lot of disposable paper items in my home  with reusable, washable cloth, so using cloth in the bathroom makes a lot of sense for me, personally. If you’ve not switched over to cloth in other areas, bathroom cloth might not be the ideal starter move! Replacing paper towels in the kitchen is a comfortable place to start.

All of my decisions to switch to cloth begin with environmental concern. Here are some stats from this article, via Crunchy Chicken:  Americans average out to using 57 sheets of toilet paper a day, 6 times the worldwide average. We like the fluffy kind, too. One and a half million tons of office paper and newspaper are thrown away yearly, even though it could be recycled into toilet paper. No one likes recycled toilet paper, though. We can’t even stand one-ply.  It’s gotta be fluffy. Using cloth reduces the resources used to make the toilet paper, though it can’t do anything about office paper and newspapers (that’s another post!)

Environmental stats can never be the end of my thought process, though, because “helping the environment” is a huge topic with lots of interwoven aspects, and I’m not usually up to the math. In my Washcloths in the Kitchen post, I said, “The truth is that I don’t know for certain how this single choice stacks up environmentally. For example, am I wiping out all potential environmental benefits of reusing by washing them in hot water? I don’t know.”

I do know a few things, though. I know that I want to spend less money, which reusable products help me do. I know that I value simplicity, and having the things I need right on hand instead of having to continually shop for them brings simplicity to my life. And while for any individual action it may be hard to count the environmental costs, I strongly believe that over the course of all our small decisions, reusable is infinity better for the health of the planet than disposable.

Isn’t It Gross?

That depends entirely on you. I don’t find it gross at all, but I’m a dirty hippie, so your mileage may vary!

As far as touching body parts goes, using cloth doesn’t get your hands any closer to anything than they were before, unless you’re one of those giant wad of toilet paper people. 57 sheets a day! When Joshua used the cloths I made, he thought they were awkwardly small, but they seem just right to me. Picking the right size might matter for your comfort level.

The other concern some people have is that now there’s a container of soiled cloth sitting in your bathroom. Some people choose to use a non-airtight container, like one of those little trashcans with the flipping lid or a hanging bag (which you can hang from the now empty toilet paper holder!) Using a non-airtight container means that the cloth isn’t in there collecting an increasing smell in the container. Since many people use cloth only after urination, I’m not sure if those using it for defecation as well are using this method. Cloths used after urination have very little liquid left on them, and it seems reasonable to me to just toss them in a non-airtight container.

The other option is using a container that’s sealed. I prefer this method, since I use cloth for both urination and defecation, and I don’t personally like the idea of that sitting out. I use a container that’s easy to sanitize – a large re-purposed pickle jar. It has a wide mouth and is easy to screw the lid off, put the cloth in, and put the lid back on in the space of a single breath. If I had to hold my breath because of collecting smells, either at the time of use or when dumping the cloth into the washer, I would consider that an acceptable trade-off to having the used cloth sitting out. However! I have noticed that the jar doesn’t actually smell. It seems like it would, but mine doesn’t. When I’m washing the cloths, I rinse the jar and then spritz it down with a light bleach-water mix to sanitize it.


Like other cloth products, I’ve found using cloth in the bathroom to be a much nicer experience for my body. I’ve always used economy, one-ply toilet paper, just because the rolls last longer and I didn’t have to buy as often, so comfort has never been my priority in this area. However, even compared to the extra-fluffy variety of toilet paper, cloth is a better experience for me. It’s very, very soft. After defecation, the cloth cleans more efficiently than paper. Plus, there’s no chance of paper bits being left behind.

For use after defecation, some people have a spritz bottle on hand to spray the cloth with before use. Some use water. Some use home-concocted mixes with things like lavender and Dr. Bronner’s stuff in the mix. I put a little spray bottle near my toilet in the beginning, but I found that it was an unnecessary step for me. The cloth cleans fine on its own.

A Little or  a Lot

I’ve read several other people online who want to switch to cloth or they have switched, but they have other family members who aren’t behind the idea. I hear, “I want to switch, but my family never would,” or, “I made everyone switch, but they’re all mad at me about it.” Everyone in your household doesn’t have to be on board in order for you to switch yourself. If you have multiple bathrooms, you can switch just one bathroom in your house, like I did, and leave the others with toilet paper. You can have both available in the bathroom  – cloth for you and paper for others. With both of these options, you still have toilet paper on the shopping list, but you are still getting the other benefits, like comfort and reducing some paper usage.

Also, please don’t worry about whether or not you’re doing enough. Do what works for you. It might work for you to only use cloth for after urinating. You might try it for awhile, not like it, and give it up. You might use cloth sometimes and paper other times. The idea may not appeal to you at all! I always try to talk about these things from the perspective of what seems useful and fun to me, but nothing more.

Getting Started

My preference for making the cloths is to use discarded material that I already have on hand and re-purposing it. Others use material from thrift store items. There are some options available for buying pre-made cloth just for this purpose, but for me, that’s the least attractive option.

I use cotton knit shirts that have been eliminated from my closet due to a hole or stain. I simply cut them into rectangles, set them near the toilet, and that’s it. You could use old blankets or any number of other discarded material choices. Thicker materials that have a tight weave are better, but you probably don’t want fabric that’s stiff. Choose something soft. Also, I prefer something with a little bit of texture, like flannel or cotton knit, as opposed to something like cotton sheets or dress shirts that are very smooth.

As far as size, I’d recommending just cutting up a handful, seeing how you like it, and then readjusting as needed. You could try starting somewhere in the neighborhood of a quarter the size of a washcloth.

Don’t forget you need to find a container for the used cloths. I delayed my switch a few days as I searched for something we already owned that I could use, before finally settling on the pickle jar. Also, some people recommend having a pair of tongs nearby when you first start out. Given the lifetime of previous habits, you might very well drop some in the toilet the first few times!

When it’s time to wash them, you need to use a wash method that sanitizes. Hot water or bleach are the two that I prefer, and I alternate between them. There may be other good sanitizing methods that I don’t know about.

How About You?

Have you tried using bathroom cloth? How did it go? Do you have any other questions? Let me know in the comments.