Cloth Diapering 101

by Ashley Weeks Cart

I think cloth diapering is thebombdotcom.

Okay, before you click away screaming, bear with me a moment.

I’ve been on the cloth diapering bandwagon since Sunny was an infant, and over the course of my time blogging have been asked a number of times to talk more specifically not just about why I do so, but how. And so, I’ve finally gotten my baby shit together to properly tackle a post on this subject, complete with a giveaway to jump start, or enhance, your cloth diapering, or even just diapering, experience.


Let’s start at the very beginning, shall we?

Why? Why did I decide to cloth diaper?

I wish I could say it was because I was so intent on saving Mama Earth, by treading lightly on her dwindling O-zone, rather than stomping on her yard with years worth of baby shit and diapers.*

(*Frightening fact: Traditional disposable diapers take around 300 years to biodegrade. This means that no traditional disposable diaper has actually biodegraded yet… ewwwww. That makes my skin crawl!)

But while that is a lovely side effect of this choice, it was by no means the motivator.  Honestly, it was because cloth diapering is far cheaper than disposable diapering. And when I was 25 years old, pregnant, and a graduate student, I was open to any experience that might make this whole baby-having-thing a more economical experience. And cloth diapering is one of ’em. Along with making my own baby food and breastfeeding. All lovely choices for many other reasons, but also lovely on the bank account. (I dig this chart for breaking down the cost differential of cloth vs. disposable. Of course those numbers will vary family by family, but it gives you a sense of the potential savings).

Also, after cleaning up the aftermath of a Hanna-shredded disposable diaper, complete with those creepy, bright blue absorbent sticky balls that live inside of the diaper and squarely on a baby’s crotch, I liked the idea of having my child’s tush covered in an all-natural fiber rather than chemical-filled sponge.

Don’t get me wrong, we still use disposable diapers. Particularly for bedtime as, due to all those crazy chemicals, the diaper works so effectively that the baby doesn’t wake when she wets herself in the middle of the night. The potential health risk is outweighed by the health benefit of a solid night’s sleep. Much like I said in this post, I stand by the mantra, “Everything in moderation.” The more hardcore cloth diapering mamas of the world would call me a fraud, but sometimes convenience wins. And I’ll be the first to admit that.

ANYWAY! Back to the whys….

Cloth diapered bums are sickeningly adorable. Period. Fluffy and adorable and badonkadonk.

The cover choices are a delight, and add joy to a demand that is otherwise not.

So, yes, for economy and cuteness and health and the love of Mama Earth, on the cloth diapering train I climbed.

How? How do I approach cloth diapering?

I could give you the long drawn out story about how I arrived at my current cloth diapering habits, but it’s truly unnecessary. After some trial and error and easing into the process with a diaper service in L.A., I’ve now landed on a cloth diapering method that works wonderfully for me and my family. And it goes like this…

First of all, since we no longer use a diaper service, we invested in a solid, energy-efficient washer and dryer. I love them. Note: For more efficient drying, I highly recommend the use of felted wool dryer balls. You can purchase them via the wonders of a Google search or follow my DIY tutorial here.

The rest of our gear is as follows:

1. Heavy Duty Diaper Pail, $50
2. Two XXL (14 gal) Diaper Pail Liners and a Small Wet Sack for the diaper bag, XL $20, S $7
3. 18 Indian Prefolds in Infant Size, 18 Indian Prefolds in Regular size, Infant $1.50 per diaper, Regular $1.75 per diaper
4. 6 Grovia Shell Covers (I prefer the snap closure, as the velcro is a pain in the wash. And snaps stand up to a toddler well), $17 per cover
5. Rockin’ Green Soap, $16
6. 15-20 Reusable Wipes, $1.25 per wipe
7. Mother Herb Baby Wipe Concentrate, $10
8. Carbon Filters, $4
9. Mother Herb Baby Powder, $8.50

That’s about $300 worth of gear to get started. Of course, you can hold off purchasing the regular-sized Indian prefolds until baby has outgrown the infant size. We transitioned Courtland around 2 months, but we have monstrously large children, so I’d imagine that 3-4 months is average. Fortunately, we’ll be able to use the regular-sized prefolds until Courtland is potty trained. Woo!

The great thing about the Grovia shells is that they are a one-size fits all, so you don’t have to continuously invest in diaper covers. And given that diaper covers are one of the pricier items, this makes a huge impact on savings. I am seriously in love with the Grovia covers. You use the snaps across the front of the diaper to expand the shell as your child grows. It is brilliant. If Sunny were still in diapers, this cover would accommodate her nearly 3-year old bum. And we’ve been successfully using these covers on the smallest snap closure since Courtland was a newborn.

A note about the Indian prefolds: You’ll want to purchase these in advance of baby’s arrival and “prep” the prefolds in the washer and dryer. Essentially, you need to hot wash and dry the cloth 5-8 times in order to shrink the cotton and get maximum absorbancy from the diapers. Just a head’s up!


It’s sickeningly easy. Promise. And you’ll wow your friends (which I always find amusing as it is seriously so simple!)

1. Line your diaper pail with one of the large wet sacks, and load the carbon filter into the round hole on the pail’s top to help control odor (although I honestly find that there is minimal smell. The pail really seals it in). You’ll have the second large wet sack on hand for when you dump this load into the washing machine. (Obviously your baby keeps needing her diaper changed even when there’s a load of diapers in the laundry.) I also keep a small wet sack in our diaper bag for when we’re cloth diapering “out in the wild.” You can always just use a plastic bag, although the wet sack is more sustainable and can be tossed in the wash with the rest of the cloth diaper loads.

2. To prep your cloth wipes, mix up a solution of the diaper wipes according to the directions. Put the solution in a sealed plastic container (like an old disposable diaper wipe holder) and fill with a number of cloth wipes. It’s useful to have these already soaked and on hand for when baby is changed.

3. To diaper baby, lie the prefold down against the Grovia shell, with the thick center panel of the cloth of the prefold lying against the center of the cover. See diagram for how to fold.

IMPORTANT: Be sure to tuck all the cloth inside the cover, especially the pieces that tend to stick out the leg holes. If you don’t, baby will get damp because the cloth will soak the clothes. If it’s safely tucked inside the cover, unless baby pee’s a lake, she’ll be dry.

Note: We purchased snappis to hold the prefold in place, but we’ve found that the Grovia shells do a bang up job of holding the prefold in place so there is really no need.

4. When baby is wet or soiled, you’ll know much sooner than with a disposable. Baby will feel it right away and let you know. Or you can always do what James calls the “dip stick test,” and use your finger to see if the diaper is wet. Hey! You’re a parent! Bodily fluids don’t scare you!

5. When you change baby, just drop the wet or dirty prefold directly into the diaper pail. If the cover has not been dirtied, just lie it out to air and use a dry cover. If the cover is soiled, drop it directly in the pail as well. Once baby starts solid food, you’ll need to drop the poop into the toilet before throwing it in the hamper for laundering. Prior to solid food, no need! Seriously! And even once the poop is a little more, um, real, just get the larger pieces into the toilet. No need to scrub the diaper. Just plop, then drop. Not too scary. Promise. I mean, shit is shit. You’re going to be dealing with it regardless.

6. When you have only 5-6 clean prefolds left in your arsenal, it’s time to fire up the washing machine. Remove the wet sack from the pail and dump all of its contents, including the bag, into the washer. Fill the pail with the second large wet sack so you can continue to cloth diaper during the wash.

7. The first cycle should just be a cold wash, NO SOAP. I opt to do a prewash or second rinse to really get all the gunk rinsed out of the diapers.

8. For the second cycle, run a HOT wash, with a scoop of Rockin’ Green Soap. It’s the stuff of magical elves. AMAZING! I also run a second rinse here to be sure that the diapers are fully cleaned.

9. I then toss everything, but the covers, into the dryer. To keep up the elasticity of the covers, I choose to air dry them, but they can certainly be tossed in the dryer if you need a clean cover, STAT.

10. If there are stains on the cover or prefolds, you can purchase a soap like Imse Vimse Diaper Stain Bar to help remove the spots. Stains don’t bother me, as the diapers are going to be repeatedly soiled, so it’s not really worth the scrubbing effort to keep ’em stain free. Although, I occasionally do use Mother Earth’s bleach, the sun. On a bright day I’ll lie the covers and stained cloth out in the sunshine and I’m always amazed by how quickly those spots disappear.

And that’s it. For realz. Not too crazy or labor intensive or poop covered, eh? And best of all, I rarely, if ever, experience blow outs when my kids are in cloth diapers. When they’re wearing disposables? Forget it! I’m guaranteed to wipe their shoulders clean of feces. So kudos to cloth diapers for actually minimizing my run ins with bodily fluids.

Questions? Leave ’em in the comments and I’ll try to help out! Remember, there’s a number of ways to approach cloth diapering, this is just what works for the Cart household. As always, do your homework and learn what might work best for you! I recommend Cotton Babies to jump start your research.

So you’d like to win a pack of goodies (valued at $80!) to jump start your cloth diapering habits? Well, today’s your day. You can win:

1. A bag of Rockin’ Green laundry detergent
2. Mother Herb Make Your Own Baby Wipes, Replenishing Salve, and samples of Baby Powder and Infection Rejection Powder.
3. An Owl Grovia Shell
4. Imse Vimse Diaper Stain Bar
5. Thirsties Duo Wrap ‘hoot’ shell (3-5 are thanks to Shima Boutique, a beautiful, local shop that is filled with all-natural, organic baby toys and gear. It is my go to boutique for all things mama and baby, and lucky for all of you, they have an online store!)

Here’s how to enter:

• leave a comment below telling me why you want to win this amazing pack of goodies!

for an extra chance to win…
follow me and Rockin’ Green on Twitter, then tweet the following phrase (then, come back here and share a link to your Tweet in the comments): Did you catch @tweetalacart’s mega cloth diaper giveaway with @rockingreensoap. I just entered!:

another chance to win…
‘like’ me and Shima Boutique on Facebook, then come back here and tell us you like us, you really like us! in the comments.

yet another chance to win…
snap a pic of the babe that will benefit from all these goodies and post to my FB page or post to Instagram and tag me in the post @igalacart.

and one final chance to win…
subscribe to my blog, then come back here and let me know that you’re reading along in the comments.

Make sure you enter a valid email address in the email section of the comment box so I can contact you if you win!
The winner will be chosen next Thursday, February 16th at 12pm EST. Open worldwide. Total Value: $80