How to Use Cloth Diapers like Your Life Doesn't Depend on It

Sorry, that's a really long title there, but there are several things I want to cover in this post, and that kind of encompasses all of them. Let's begin!

I've cloth diapered since Esmond was a baby. And I struggled with Esmond's diapers. If you've tried cloth diapering and following the web's protocol, you may know what I'm talking about. "Use the least amount of detergent possible." You know what happens? You get stinky diapers. Horrible, stinky diapers. It's embarrassing to bring your lovely, stinky child out.

Well, I had that very problem. Esmond's diapers were terrible. I read that it was the detergent that caused the smell. So I used less. You know what happened? The diapers got worse. I dried them in the sun. Nothing touched the smell.

Until I washed them in a proper amount of detergent. Hello, Jennifer! They weren't being cleaned! The stink is gone, and I'll tell you how I do it. But this post is also to help you use them in your daily life, so we'll get to that as well.

How to Clean Diapers

1.   Wash your diapers in hot water with a full amount of your detergent and a full amount of a whitening addend. (I use Nellie's with 3 scoops and All's Whitening half a scoop, which is the recommended amount.)

2.   Repeat the above in the second wash. I usually add my kitchen towels at this point since I dislike washing those with my whites.

3.   Wash in hot water again with 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar.

Then it's time to dry. You can dry in your dryer or on a clothesline. The sun will bleach out the stains, but the stink will be gone either way.

I don't have any troubles. I do not have to strip the diapers. I don't have a stink! And I can use them without the baby (who is now Noemi) breaking out in a huge rash.

This may very well void your warranty, so check that out before you follow this protocol. But if you aren't going to send them back anyway...

My Kind

I use the bumGenius All-in-Ones Elementals. These are easy to use, don't require extra stuffing or anything, and are close to disposables in use. Plus they are all cotton, which was important to me. I wanted cotton, and I wanted one size so that I wouldn't have to buy several different sizes of diapers. The point for me to buy cloth diapers was to save money on disposables. Cloth diapers aren't exactly cheap, so I needed some I would use for a long time.

Since they are expensive, and babies don't really need all the toys and things, I've always asked for cloth diapers as gifts. It's a wonderful Christmas or birthday gift, or one diaper is about the amount one would spend on gifts of toys or clothes for smaller occasions (like Easter baskets). My family has always been gracious with my crazy gift requests. But the babies never cared anyway.

And you probably won't need 32. Esmond had 20, and Noemi has 14. In the beginning, I used a couple of Esmond's for Noemi's needs, but now 14 is just enough. So maybe 16 would be a good amount to have.

These do take a while to dry, either a long time outside or two rounds in the dryer. To combat that, I throw the next washed load of laundry on top of them for the second round in the dryer.

The Morality

Now, I have read the Bible through. Jesus sums up the law to "Love God, love your neighbor." According to the creation account, we were created to keep, take care of, and otherwise enjoy the earth that God so graciously made us. But, how to care for the world is not explicitly stated.

My point is that Jesus did not tell us to cloth diaper, so if we don't cloth diaper, we are NOT committing a sin.

I'm going to let that sink in for a minute. We might need to tweet that one.

Some will claim that to cloth diaper is taking care of the earth. And it is a very nice way, but it is not the only way. So if you don't want to cloth diaper, can't cloth diaper due to whatever circumstance, or are in the least bit stressed about cloth diapering, you should not cloth diaper. And I absolve you of any guilt in choosing not to cloth diaper. (And just to be clear, I have no authority to absolve you of any guilt but you aren't, in fact, guilty so this is just imaginary guilt anyway. I can absolve that kind.)

How to Live with Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapers are not the same as disposables. Ahh, you are surprised, I know. But they cannot be treated the same. Disposables have a magnificent amount of absorbency. They can last for hours, cloth diapers cannot. You'll need to change cloth diapers every 2-3 hours. It's best to get on a schedule with diaper changes; change in the morning, before the morning nap, after the morning nap, before the afternoon nap, after the afternoon nap, after dinner, and before bed. You may find you can skip one or maybe even two of those depending on your little pee-er.

I do not use cloth at night. I also quit trying to use cloth when I'm going anywhere that keeps me away from home longer than 3 hours. I'd rather not carry around a dirty diaper, and I'd rather not wake in the middle of the night to change the baby. Also, it's easier. Other than that I use cloth diapers all the time. Unless the house is overwhelmingly messy. Or I'm on vacation or traveling of any kind.

If you are having trouble with leaking, there are a few things to check for. If your diapers are saturated when you've had some leakage, you need to change them more often. If your diaper is partly dry, you need to work on the fit. Or you need to check that the baby's clothes aren't wicking the wetness. If the baby's pants touch any part of the inner lining of the diaper, the pants will wick the wetness. The waistbands of pants can be particularly frustrating, and that is why cloth diapered babies will wear leg warmers instead of pants. Fitting can be tricky for some people too, you do have to tighten the diaper down pretty well. Noemi's diapers have fit in the same position on the waist since I started her on cloth, but the length has moved for the smallest to the middle position. The more snaps you have the more range of positions. Sometimes it takes playing with it.

I wash every two days, give or take. This wet bag is very easy to throw in the washer with the diapers and keeps the smell contained. Cloth wipes are easy since you can just put them in the bag with the diaper. You can make a wipe solution if you want, or just wet them and rub on a little goat milk soap when it's time to change a poop. Now about the ugly side of cloth diapers....

The Poop

I used to have one of those toilet sprayers but that thing sprayed so hard that the backsplash would typically hit me in the face. No good, no good. (If it's not hitting you in the face, think about where else it might be splashing.) (Let me help you: toothbrushes.)

With breast milk poop, I'll only dunk and slosh in the toilet if it's a large load. Otherwise, I'll just put it in the wet bag. With regular poops, it's best to catch them before the precious darlings sit on it. The poop will just roll right on out. Easy.

When they've sat on it, or it's diarrhea (Bless), you may have to dunk and slosh for a while or I'll take them outside to the hose if it's really bad. And if it's diarrhea, I slap a disposable back on that baby's rear. I'm not playing that game.


Cloth diapers are great, but they are just a tool. They do save money, even when they are expensive, and they are a great way to keep your trash pile smaller. I really love using them now, but for the first year or so, it was miserable. For me, for Esmond, for anyone who got within a whiff's blow. If it's miserable for you, take a break, try these tips, but don't let it bother you or stress you out. We don't need more stress in our lives, diapers are tools to take the stress out of our lives. Use them as such.


  1. We also use disposables for diarrhea, and also church trips. Have you tried asking for disposable liners for a gift? Totally worth it. My friend uses select-a-size paper towels as a liner, but she says her son is on a timer for that so she only uses one a day. LOL. Whatever works :-)

  2. I enjoyed your post. I have cloth diapered 2 of my four children, and I agree...use disposables at night and when leaving the house for long periods of time. I have had to carry around in the car too many stinky cloth diapers. In a bag.

  3. This is SO important for their health! I have learned so much about feminine pads and it applies here too. If a woman's period can shorten to 3 days (which I and many of my friend have experienced) simply from switching to home and healthy products, then how is it effecting our babies as well! I applaud your efforts! :-)


I have affiliate links on this blog! This means if you click on one and make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This does not affect the price of your purchase, but it is a wonderful way to support my family and me through this blog and to keep this blog up and running. So we thank you!