What You Need to Start Using Cloth Diapers

So you’ve decided to start using cloth diapers. Or you are thinking about it. Welcome! You will find a wonderful community of cloth diapering families. There are many different kinds of cloth diapers it can seem a little overwhelming at first. Don’t worry, I am here to help! There are four main types of cloth diapers, all in ones, prefolds and a cover, pocket diapers and hybrids. One is not better than the other, they all work well. It is a matter of personal choice.

An all in one diaper is made up of an outer waterproof layer and multiple inner absorbent layers that are sewn together. There is nothing to remove and replace within this diaper. The AIO diaper is similar to a disposable diaper in that you change the entire diaper each time.

The prefolds and a cover are typically what our grandparents used. They consist of an absorbent prefold or insert and a waterproof cover.  When using these you need to change the prefold or insert at every diaper change and either wipe down or change the waterproof cover.

A pocket diaper is similar to an all in one diaper, except it has a removable insert. The removable insert goes inside a pocket, hence the name. You do need to change the entire diaper every time, but the pocket diaper allows you to remove or add layers of absorbency as needed.

I use, and love, hybrid diapers, specifically gDiapers. A hybrid diaper is made up of an outer waterproof shell and an inner, removable absorbent layer. The dirty insert can be taken out and a new, clean insert put in its place. You do not need to change the outer layer. Hybrids also have the option of using a disposable insert instead of a cloth insert.

Once you have decided which diaper style is right for you, now the fun work begins! How many diapers do you need? This depends on the kind of diaper you have chosen and how often you want to do laundry. Because you need to change the entire diaper when using an AIO or a pocket diaper, you need more of these than any other diaper. I like to have 12 diapers per day. This allows me to change my baby’s diaper every 2 hours all day and night. In the newborn stage, this will happen. I like to have enough diapers to do laundry every 3 days. This means if I were to use AIOs or pocket diapers I would need 36 diapers. 36 AIOs or 36 pocket diapers with 36 inserts for the pocket diapers. If you want to do laundry more or less, add or subtract a days worth of diapers from this number.

For the hybrid diaper and the prefolds, you need more inserts than you do outer waterproof shells. Most hybrid diapers allow you to use one outer waterproof shell per day. Sometimes this shell will get wet or dirty. I recommend having 6 waterproof shells and 36 inserts to be able to do laundry every 3 days.

Now you have your 36 cloth diapers. What else do you need? The necessities are a diaper pail to hold your dirty diapers, a washable reusable diaper pail liner to make laundry day easier and less smelly, and a few wet bags for the times you are not at home. All diaper pail liners are basically the same, a waterproof bag with a top that closes. I toss my dirty diapers into my diaper pail and on washing day I grab the entire bag of dirty diapers, dump them in the washing machine and am ready to wash. All wet bags are similar, made from a waterproof material with a zipper at the top. These are washable as well. When out and about I put my dirty diapers, sans the wipes, inside my wet bags and when I am home I unzip the top and either toss them in the laundry or toss them in my diaper pail. I like to have 2 diaper pail liners so I always have a clean one. I have around 10 wet bags. How many you need depends on your routine and schedule. The bare minimum, in my opinion, is 4 wet bags. This allows you to use one each day for 3 days and have 1 clean one while you are washing your diapers. I have heard of some people purchasing a large wet bag and using that instead of a diaper pail and diaper pail liner. It is all up to you.

You do also need detergent to wash your cloth diapers. There are specially formulated detergents, like Molly’s Suds (read a full review here), specifically made to be used with cloth diapers. I prefer to use these detergents. You can use regular detergent as long as it does not have brighteners, dyes, fabric softener, stain guard, artificial fragrances and natural oils. You want to avoid these things because they will build up in your cloth making your cloth less absorbent, creating leaks and possibly diaper rash. You also do not want to use bleach with your diapers as it will break down the fibers.

Things you need to start cloth diapering-

  • enough cloth diapers to last you 2-3 days before washing
  • a wet bag and/or diaper pail with liner
  • detergent to wash your cloth diapers

That’s it! There are other optional accessories, like cloth wipes and a diaper sprayer (attaches to your toilet to spray off the stuck poo). Until your baby starts eating solid food, as long as they are exclusively breast fed, their poo is water soluble. Once they are eating food you do need to put their poo in the toilet as it is not water soluble and your washing machine can not clean this in large amounts.

Some diapers come in sizes, newborn, small, medium and large, and some come in one size that fits a large weight range, typically 10-30 pounds. I prefer the sized diapers because I do not like the look of multiple buttons all over my diapers. Again, this is a personal choice and does not effect the quality or use of the diaper.

Note: the purple diaper is a newborn size and the green is a large size. I do not have any AIOs in a bigger size to compare it to.


My cloth diaper stash is very large. I have about 100 outer shells and around 50 inserts. You do not NEED this many outer shells. But be warned, cloth diapering, for some, is an addiction! 🙂 A diaper to match every outfit is the downfall for most of us. However, if you are doing cloth on a budget, you do not need to go overboard.

You can buy your diapers new or used. Getting a decent stash will cost you anywhere form $300-500 depending on what type of diaper you purchase. Buying used most definitely saves you money. When you are done with your cloth diapers, you can sell them as well!

If you would like to learn more about gDiapers, how to use them and what you need for this brand specifically, read my review here.

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