I’ve been cloth diapering on and off for over three years, and I still don’t have it all figured out. Key phrase there was “on and off.” We just now got baby back into cloth after a few months in mostly disposables. But we keep coming back and trying again because we prefer it when it works.
Despite the blogs and videos I previewed before starting cloth diapering and even consulted after problems arose, there were a few things I didn’t realize at the beginning that ended up being major game-changers for our cloth diaper experience. These are the things I wish I had known much earlier:
1. Know your water!
Test your water hardness AND pH. Water hardness affects what detergent you can use effectively and whether you’ll have to supplement with water softener. Water hardness is an important key in getting your diapers clean. BUT pH is also important because of how your clean diapers will affect baby’s skin! I wash diapers with Tide powdered detergent because it has enough softeners in it that I don’t have to supplement for our particular water hardness. My nice cotton prefolds would come out scratchy, though, and worse yet, were giving baby diaper rashes. Turns out, our local water has a rather high pH (over 8.5 if I remember correctly from my testing). The high pH of the water mixed with the high pH of the detergent was irritating baby’s skin. Our solution was adding a vinegar rinse to the prefolds only after the final wash. Lots of comments on the internet warned against this, primarily because of concern about damaging washer parts. We have an older washer, we took the risk, and the result was thankfully no more rashes (from that cause).
2. Prefolds are just easier (to clean)
They wash easier. They’re cotton, so you can bleach them if all else fails. Just do prefolds if at all possible. Once you’re potty training and no longer have to spray poopy diapers, other options are equally easy, but nothing gets clean like a prefold (or flats, but I’ve never used those).
3. Get the diaper sprayer
Yes, there are flooding horror stories. Yes, they can be messy because of spray. Be smart about installation and turn off the sprayer at the water source every time. Make a heavy duty spray shield from a trash can or splurge on the SprayMate. We have and like the Rinseworks Aquaus sprayer because the hose is really flexible and the pressure is adjustable. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, this one looks similar.
4. Don’t procrastinate with diapers!
If you’re having diaper issues, don’t let baby sit in a wet diaper even though the diaper “can” hold more and you’re within the oft-suggested 2 hour mark. Just change it. My go-to diaper cream is Aquaphor, I’ve had trouble with every other one I’ve tried. Use fleece liners if contact rash occurs.
And poop… get rid of it right away and all of it. Not only get it off the baby right away (duh) and flush it right away (duh), but spray all residue off right away, leaving none behind if at all possible. The sooner you spray it off, the cleaner your diapers can be. Some people on the internet claimed their washing machines could handle if “most” of the poop or all of the solid matter was gone, but in my experience getting it all off with the sprayer is necessary.
- Cleaning cloth diapers is easiest when solid-fed-baby poop is not involved. Newborns and potty-training kids who don’t poop in diapers anymore are the easiest to diaper in that respect.
- For us, outings outside the home are easier with disposables UNLESS baby is still prone to blow-outs. In that case, use cloth or just put a diaper cover over the disposable (ta-da!).
- I’ve found Fluff Love University and their Facebook group to be very helpful at times, but only up to a point. They will not deviate from their standard recommendations at all (no vinegar for them!) and I have heard that their detergent recommendations are excessive in quantity. Now I prefer to use Green Mountain Diaper’s Facebook group and recommendations. I highly recommend GMD’s services and products in general.
Are you scared now? Cloth diapering hasn’t been easy for us. I’ve wanted to give up many times, but we honestly aren’t satisfied using disposables. Consider why you want to use cloth and then try it. Don’t be afraid to try it, don’t be afraid to do some hard work if you hit rough spots, and don’t be afraid to give it up if it’s not right for your family.