Cloth Confusion: Let’s Simplify!
By Angela Shaw-Halperin, Cloth Philadelphia

Cloth is the new breed of family-owned natural parenting store with a focus on cloth diapers, babywearing, breastfeeding, organic bath care, responsibly made toys & gifts and more!


As the owner of Cloth, I get a lot of questions from new and expectant parents who are cloth-curious and often cloth-confused. Here’s a list of the most common concerns and some answers to simplify the process of choosing and using cloth diapers!

There are just so many diapers out there- how do I choose?

Just about anything in life can be over-complicated. However, cloth diapering is really as simple as having a layer that absorbs, and a layer that is waterproof to keep baby’s clothing dry. If it fits your baby and it’s absorbent enough, it will work! Back in the day, there were very limited options. For my mom, it was cotton prefolds, diaper pins, and plastic pants. She made it work (for 5 babies!) because it was the only thing available (aside from disposables, which our family couldn’t afford) and it did the job. Nowadays, there are so many types of cloth diaper systems to consider, dozens of brands to choose from and lots of different price points. No wonder it’s not as simple to wrap our heads around as it was for women of generations past!

I recommend going to your local cloth diaper store and speaking with an associate who can help you navigate the options so that you receive sound advice. Stores that sell cloth diapers usually host cloth diaper workshops that can really help to demystify the process. Seeing diapers in person is amazingly helpful in choosing a system that makes sense for your family. Still having trouble making a decision? Choose diapers based on 3 criteria: Your lifestyle, your budget, and what you’re attracted to in the store. You’ll be more likely to use your cloth (and stick with it) if you purchase something you really like and are excited to put on your baby! If you’re torn between two or more systems or brands, invest in a few of each. Most cloth diapering parents report that they actually like having a few different types in their diaper stash. Once you start using your cloth, don’t get discouraged if there’s a leak – adjust the diaper and try again. Remember, leaks happen in disposables too – it doesn’t mean the diaper is defective or that you’re no good at it! Soon you’ll be an old pro!

How do you deal with all of the poop?

Whether you use disposable or cloth diapers, you will (at one point or another) be faced with messy leaks and poop blow-outs requiring you to get your hands dirty in order to get your baby clean. Most parents who have used both cloth and disposables report fewer leaks in cloth diapers. What about having to get poo off of each cloth diaper before tossing it in the laundry? There are a couple of things to consider: The poop of breastfed babies is water -soluble and therefore does not need to be cleaned off the diaper- your washing machine can take care of that for you (yes, it’s true!) Once your baby starts eating solids you will need to empty poo into the toilet first. Solids generally roll right off the diaper but a diaper sprayer helps you to deal easily with the really messy stuff.

Most people don’t realize, but if you use disposables you still need to flush away solids before tossing your diapers into the trash. Human waste in landfills can seep into the earth and contaminate ground water. The responsible thing to do, no matter what kind of diaper you use, is to flush away solids.

I want to use cloth diapers but it creates so much extra work. Maybe I should just use disposables until I get the hang of being a new parent.

Modern cloth diapers are as easy to use as disposables – no folding or pinning required (unless you choose to use the more “old-fashioned” systems). So no extra work there unless you choose it for yourself! As mentioned above, you will have to flush solids once your baby is eating solid food, but you’re supposed to do that when you use disposables too. In the case of cloth diapers, the extra work really boils down to an extra load of laundry every 2-3 days. So unless you’re using a washboard and a bucket, then I’d say setting your washing machine eats up about as much time as taking out a stinky trash bag full of disposable diapers.

Cloth diapers are expensive, and then there are all of the accessories you have to buy…

I agree that purchasing 24 or so cloth diapers all at once can feel like a big up-front expense, but it’s an investment that will literally save you thousands of dollars – $2,000 or more over the course of your baby’s diapering years. Creating a gift registry at a local cloth diaper store when you set up a baby shower gift registry can greatly help with the initial expense. As for the accessories, you’ll find that there are just as many accessories for disposable diapering parents to buy, as there are cloth-diapering parents.

Additive-free laundry detergent: Less expensive, more effective, and better for sensitive skin than “regular” detergents. Switch to additive-free detergent for all of your laundry. You’ll save money and won’t have to worry about stocking 2 different kinds of detergent in your household. For each load of diaper laundry, you’ll use half the amount of detergent you would use on a non-diaper load of laundry. Since everyone needs laundry detergent (no matter what kinds of diapers you use) this is not really considered an “extra” thing that cloth-diapering parents have to spend money on, though you will use approximately 2 additional scoops or capfuls of laundry detergent weekly if you wash cloth diapers.

Diaper Pail or Laundry-Sized Wet bag: It’s probably a rare family that simply throws dirty disposable diapers into their kitchen trash. Usually there’s a special diaper pail (for example, a Diaper Genie) somewhere in the house solely for the purpose of storing dirty disposable diapers. Often with special disposable diaper pails, there’s the added expense of trash bags or even special refill bags that must be purchased. In contrast, cloth diaper pails don’t need any special or pricey refills. Simply purchase a reusable pail liner and toss it in the wash right along with your diapers. Laundry-sized wet bags save floor space by hanging from door handles or changing tables, and are also machine- washable. You will very likely save money using a cloth diaper storage system versus a disposable diaper storage system.

Cloth Diaper-Safe Rash Creams: Not any more of an expense than regular rash creams that contain petroleum-based products like mineral oil. Added benefits of cloth-safe creams include natural, gentle, non-toxic, baby-safe ingredients (look for food oils, plant-based ingredients and essential oils). Parents often report that babies get rash less often in cloth diapers and many make the switch to cloth solely to heal and prevent diaper rash caused by disposable diaper use. If your baby gets a rash while using cloth diapers, a variety of cloth diaper-safe creams are available at your local cloth diaper store. If you don’t live near a store that sells cloth diapers, your natural foods market will likely have something, or you can easily purchase from an online cloth diaper store.

Wet bag for “on-the-go” diaper changes: As the owner of a cloth diaper store, I can tell you from experience that folks buy wet bags whether or not they use cloth diapers. They are awesome for dirty, stinky baby clothes (you know, for when your kid has a massive poop blow-out or stinky spit-up episode in the middle of a trip to the grocery store), wet bathing suits, dirty gym clothes, etc. They keep odors and wetness contained and they’re machine washable. While a wet bag is an essential for cloth-diapering parents, anyone with kids would be wise to keep one close at hand.

Diaper Sprayer: This is a handheld tool that easily hooks up to the plumbing on your toilet so that you can spray messes off your diaper and directly into the loo. As with hundreds of other baby products on the market, this is not a necessity, but it sure is nice to have when you’ve got a really messy diaper on your hands. You can also always put on the rubber gloves and do the dunk and swish method. Buy a sprayer if you want to/can afford to. Don’t buy one if you don’t want to/can’t afford to. As with most baby items out there, it’s that simple.

Isn’t it kind of unsanitary to put dirty diapers in your washing machine?

I truly understand this sentiment. I didn’t want dirty diapers in my washing machine either. So we used a diaper service at first because I really wanted to use cloth but didn’t want to deal with the wash, and I certainly didn’t want poop germs contaminating my washing machine and everything I put in there! As a soon-to-be first time mom, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that poop-stained baby clothes were going to be going into the washing machine anyway (new mom oversight # 144).

The service was super great but I would have saved a bundle if I’d possessed the basic knowledge to wash my own diapers. As I grew more confident (and less squeamish) I did a little research and gave it a try. It was easy and it worked. We quit the service and splurged on some fancy new diapers and I’ve been washing my own ever since! With all that being said, a diaper service is a great way to go if you want the added convenience and don’t mind spending the money. Having your diapers washed by a service is also a bit more eco-friendly because a service uses less water, but also means you may be limited to using one kind of diaper -usually cotton prefolds and covers.

Washing your own diapers is a simple process. Here’s what’s always worked for us without fail: Store dirty diapers in a dry pail (as opposed to soaking in a pail filled with water); Every 2-3 days, empty pail into washing machine and do a quick cold water cycle without detergent (rinses away pee and poo residue and reduces staining); After the cold cycle, wash on hot with half the amount of detergent you would normally use; Set the washing machine for an extra cold or warm rinse at the end to be sure all of the detergent rinses away. Put stuff in the dryer or hang dry. Hang diapers in the sun to fade stains if need be. It is recommended that laminate items such as wet bags and diaper covers are hung to dry most of the time (which extends the life of these products). Thankfully, these items dry very quickly indoors or out.

At the end of this process, you’ll have 2-3 days worth of clean, fresh cloth diapers to put on your baby. You’ll feel good reusing diapers instead of constantly throwing them away. You’ll feel great not having to spend money on disposables all the time or getting huge cases of one-use diapers delivered to your house. You’ll like the way cloth looks on your baby and you’ll fall in love with having soft fabrics on your baby’s tush instead of throw- away paper and plastic. In fact, using cloth diapers for a while will make using disposable diapers feel sort of odd – and isn’t that the way it should be?


Stop by Cloth to meet Angela and get some one on one guidance about which cloth diapers are right for your family! You can also find Cloth on Twitter: @shopatcloth, Instagram:, Facebook, or on the Cloth website: