10 Mistakes To Avoid When Using Cloth Diapers (#5 Is The WORST!)

Planning to use cloth on your little one? Avoid these 10 common mistakes to make your cloth diapering experience a lot easier.

Cloth Diapering Mistakes

Cloth diapers are a great way to keep your baby clean and dry, while minimizing your environmental impact and saving money to boot!

But cloth diapers have come a long way since your grandmas’ day, and most people these days aren’t taught how to use cloth diapers – some don’t even know they still exist!

So if you’re interested in using cloth on your little one, here are 10 mistakes you need to watch out for and avoid.

1. Don’t Use Cloth Diapers From Target Or Walmart!


Cloth diapers have come a LONG way from flimsy, thin prefolds, pins, and plastic pants, but if you were to walk through most big box stores, you’d never know it.

I started out using the cheapo triple P method (Gerber prefolds, pins, and plastic pants) when I first started cloth diapering my first baby 13 years ago, because I had no idea that there were better options on the market.

The prefolds available at the stores tend to be very thin, and often they put “sponge” filling in the middle – just a layer of polyester batting that does nothing to help absorb the flow.

The quality of the fabric itself has gone downhill in the last 20 years, too, so even if your grandma remembers Gerber diapers fondly, the ones she used were better quality than the ones available today.

The worst part about the triple P method is what would happen with a fourth P – poop!

When baby would poop, I could never get those plastic pants off of her without dragging the poop down her legs. Yuck!

Cloth diapers come in so many styles and varieties now that the variety can be dizzying, and most of them fasten around the waist with either snaps or hook-and-loop closures – no pins needed unless you really like them.

2. Don’t Buy All One Style Without Trying Other Kinds

I go on craigslist, freecycle and eBay frequently to browse the used diapers (more on that later), and occasionally I’ll find a really good deal – a dozen all-in-one diapers with hook-and-loop closure, barely used, for about half the cost of new.

In the description, the seller will say something like “great diapers, but we decided we didn’t like hook-and-loop closures and all-in-ones were taking too long in the dryer”.

It’s so easy to look around online before your baby comes (or before you’ve tried cloth) and decide that you wouldn’t like the thick prefolds and snap covers, because they look like too much work, and settle on easy looking diapers like hook-and-loop, all-in-ones.

And those ARE easy, but the hook-and-loop will wear out much faster than snaps.

And all-in-one diapers (where the absorbent fabric is sewn together with a waterproof outer layer) save a few steps, but they require careful washing and long dry times.

If you’re just starting, it’s better to get a few styles of diaper (even the “hard” looking diapers) to see what you like.

Not to mention, your baby might have skinny legs or chunky thighs, and different brands and styles will fit your baby differently.

You don’t want to buy a $400 stash, only to get discouraged when they don’t fit your baby!

3. Choose Wisely

Life Tough Choices

There are at least five main styles of cloth diaper – all-in-ones, all-in-twos or hybrids, pocket diapers, fitted diapers with covers, and prefolds or flats with covers – and there are loads of different manufacturers of each style of diaper.

For example, you can find pocket diapers for $17.95 each from BumGenius, or as cheap as $5 from Alva Baby or Kawaii diapers.

The more expensive ones tend to hold up more reliably than the cheapo diapers – I’ve had cheap diapers last as long as upscale ones, but I’ve also had some fall apart after a few hot washes.

Shop around and find diapers that will last – they’re an investment!

If money is an issue, consider using quality cotton prefolds with covers – you only need to change the cover if it gets soiled or smelly, so you only need about 6 covers along with 2 to 3 dozen diapers.

4. Not Buying Enough Or Too Many Diapers

Obviously, not having enough diapers can be a problem. The more you have to wash them, the faster they’ll wear out.

But having too many can be a problem too – because you WON’T be washing them as much.

Huh? Yes, you see, when urine sits too long on a diaper, it turns into ammonia and can start eating away at the fibers of the fabric.

As a general rule, you want to have 24 – 36 diapers per baby, and wash them at least every 2 – 3 days.

Going longer every once in a while is OK, but don’t make a habit of it. Trust me, your nose will thank you if you wash more frequently!

5. Don’t Use Fabric Softener Or Dryer Sheets!!!


Oh my gosh, PLEASE don’t use fabric softener on your diapers! It leaves a waterproof coating on fabrics (even your towels, FYI) and your diapers won’t absorb anything!

Stick to clean rinsing, fragrance-free detergents.

If you want your diapers to feel softer, use a cup of white vinegar in the rinse cycle.

6. …Or Standard Diaper Rash Cream

Shaking Head

If you use Desitin, Balmex, or even Bordreaux’s Butt Paste, the waxy, oily ointment will coat the inside of your babys’ diaper and leave it non-absorbent.

If you must use a diaper rash cream, find a cloth diaper friendly ointment or use disposable liners in the diapers.

If you DO slip up and your diapers get creamed, you can often salvage them by using Dawn dish soap directly on the diaper and scrubbing hard – the same ingredients that break up grease on dishes will break apart the waxy oils in the rash cream.

7. Don’t Think That Brand New Is The Only Option

There’s a thriving trade in used cloth diapers – some people get a little grossed out by the idea, but hear me out.

Once your baby wears a cloth diaper, what is it? USED.

And after it’s used, what will you do with it? Wash it!

So, if you buy used diapers (which should be clean anyway) and wash them prior to use, you’re getting broken-in diapers with a proven performance record at a bargain price.

8. Not Following Washing/Drying Instructions

Made A Huge Mistake

Some diapers are simple cotton, paired with waterproof covers, others are high tech moisture wicking synthetic fibers.

You simply can’t wash them the same way and expect them to come out clean and odor free.

Pockets, some covers, and all-in-ones may lose their waterproofing if washed at super high temperatures, while the inserts may begin to smell if washed without the right amount of detergent and rinsed well enough.

If you consistently dry your diapers on high heat in the dryer, you may find that you have to replace your stash within a few months, but some diapers take a very long time to dry on the line or at lower temperatures.

Treat your diapers well and they’ll last your baby through potty training – you just need to know how to treat each of them.

9. Not Rinsing Enough

Diaper laundry can be enough to drive you crazy if you let it, but remembering this will help – too little detergent and you won’t get the mess out of the diaper.

Too much and it begins to act like glue, causing odors and stains to stick. The most important thing is to get all the residue out of the diaper load, and the best way to do that is to rinse, rinse, rinse!

10. Assuming Old Fashioned = Bad

Don't Assume

I know, I started this list saying pins and plastic pants are outmoded and no good, but you’ll never hear me say that about high quality prefolds and flats.

They’re made with simple, natural fibers (usually cotton, but hemp is a high quality addition to the market) and can be washed easily without fuss or fancy detergents.

They can be folded and laid into a snap or hook-and-loop cover, or you can use a Snappi – a clever stretchy gadget that hooks into the fabric of the diaper to hold it snug to the baby.

My current favorite diaper is the most basic and thrifty – a flour sack towel, 30 inches square.

It’s a single layer of gauzy cotton, which I fold into a padded rectangle and lay in a cover. They’re super absorbent, breathable, and easy.

They can even be washed by hand with bar soap, and they dry quickly when hung to dry, making them super for situations where you might not have a washer or dryer available.

I got mine when my dryer broke down for a few months, and I couldn’t have been happier about how quickly they dried – even in the dryer, they only take about 40 minutes instead of the usual 70.

So, there you have it – 10 things to avoid while cloth diapering. Hopefully this will make things a little easier when you diaper your baby!

Oh, and remember one last thing – this isn’t an all-or-nothing world!

If something isn’t working, you’re always allowed to change it. Do what helps you love your baby best!

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