all-in-one-cloth-diapers
Types of Diapers

Are All-in-One Cloth Diapers As Great As They Seem?

All-in-one cloth diapers are often touted as they easiest diaper, and their price tag indicates that they may be one of the best styles out there.

But are all-in-ones all they’re cracked up to be?

I purchase very few all-in-ones anymore. Don’t get me wrong– I love easy, no-prep diapers as much as the next person. But being several years into cloth diapers, I find that I prefer styles that consist of separate pieces more than all-in-ones.

That doesn’t mean all-in-ones are bad. I still have some that I love (like the Thirsties Natural All-in-One). But as I work on sorting through my diaper stash to prepare for my baby girl due this summer, I have a number of diapers that are ready to be recycled after many years of use. That means I have room for some fun new purchases.

And while I might pick up a couple all-in-ones just to try some new ones for reviews, they will be no where near the bulk of my stash. Here I’m going to share my reasons why they aren’t my favorite style of diaper anymore.

Reason 1: Limited Absorbency

While I rarely have leaks at home, my son is prone to leaks when he is with other caregivers (like grandparents or daycare), and I’ve noticed it’s always his Smart Bottoms or Grovia AiO that he leaks from. Both of these are great diapers for so many reasons, but the fact of the matter is that they just really don’t hold as much liquid as some other diapers.

When he is with grandparents, he is way more likely to get things like juice, and he will chug it. This means he will pee more, leading to leaks in some of his lower-capacity diapers.

Some all-in-ones have a pocket where you can add extra absorbency, or if it’s a skin-safe insert you’re adding (anthing except microfiber should be skin-safe), then you could just put it onto of the inner layer of the diaper.

That’s great, but kind of defeats the purpose of it being an all-in-one for me. 🙂

Reason 2: I Hate Flaps

all-in-one-flapsMany styles of all-in-ones have flaps for a couple reasons, the biggest one being they aid in dry time. However, I really hate diapers with flaps.

Don’t get me wrong–I appreciate the purposes of flaps. I like that they help them dry faster, and I like that they seem to wash and rinse cleaner.

But scraping or spraying poop off flaps can be super messy. Using diaper liners can make this an easier process, but even with a liner, poop can escape the sides and get stuck in the elastics, which means you still have to deal with the flaps when you’re cleaning the elastics out.

Finally, flaps can be confusing to other caregivers. I don’t know how many times I’ve picked my son up from daycare & changed his diaper at home only to see that the flaps were all bunched up.

Reason 3: More Prone to Build-Up or Stink Issues

front-loader-washing-all-in-onesWhen I had a non-HE top loader with agitator, I never really had wash issues. Ever. So it never crossed my mind that all-in-ones may not wash as well as other styles of diapers.

But for the last 9 months, I have been washing with HE machines. When we moved, our new house had a really old Kenmore HE front loader. It took a couple months to get a solid routine down in that machine, and even after working through the issues the best I could, certain diapers held on to some stink, usually thick diapers, like my all-in-ones.

Thankfully, that machine died. I got a new machine (a GE GTW720- top loader HE with agitator) and I will do a review of this machine another time after I’ve gotten a couple more months of use out of it. But for now, it is performing much better than my old front loader did, and I think it has to do with the fact that I can get the machine to use appropriate amounts of water whereas I had zero control over than in the front loader.

My all-in-ones don’t hold much stink anymore, but the experience of my old junky machine taught me that certain diapers can be harder to wash in certain situations.

Reason 4: The Absorbent Parts Can’t Be Separated From the PUL/TPU

This is kind of an extension of reason #3, but I am really starting to appreciate diapers that separate the elastic & waterproof layer from the absorbent layers.

Why? Because you get more options when it comes to troubleshooting. Let me explain.

Many recommendations given for proper care of cloth diapers (avoid long soaks, don’t use the sanitize cycle, don’t dry on high heat, don’t do this, don’t do that) are said in order to properly protect the PUL/TPU and elastics. Not all of the “don’ts” in the cloth diaper world are for the PUL and elastics (for example, “don’t use fabric softener” is for the absorbent parts), but many are.

separate-pieces-cloth-diapersWhen these parts are separate, it gives you a little more freedom. If someone has been dealing with some stink issues and wants to do a wash on the sanitize cycle on their machine to help, they can do that with just their inserts/flats/prefolds/etc. While they definitely need to get their wash routine sorted out, it at least gives you more options for dealing with an issue.

It’s unlikely that the sanitize cycle is going to hurt microfiber, cotton, bamboo, etc, especially if only used on an as needed basis. While a one-time high heat cycle could damage PUL, the absorbent parts should be just fine being washed on sanitize now and then.

I have seen some claims that sanitize cycles can wear down microfiber faster, but honestly, microfiber is CHEAP and pretty durable. I have microfiber inserts that are 6 years old and still work well enough. I’m not too worried about that. If you are, then don’t use the sanitize cycle on your microfiber. You will have to assess your own situation and your own diaper materials and make your own decision. 🙂

Remember that I am talking about soaking, sanitize cycles, etc. on an as needed basis. Yes, soaking clothing or washing on high heat frequently may cause faster wear. But wear and tear will happen regardless. When soaking or washing in high temperatures only as needed, your prefolds/flats/inserts/etc should fare just fine.

Just like washing on HOT can cause some color fading or shrinkage, the same could happen on sanitize. But if these are just the absorbent parts, they probably don’t have many colors for you to worry about, and they have probably been washed on hot several times already, making additional shrinkage unlikely.

But at the end of the day, you make your own decision about that. I’ve always been of the opinion that my diapers have a job to do, and I want to do what makes the most sense to help them do that job. I don’t “baby” my diapers. I take care of them within reason of course (which is why I wouldn’t throw my PUL in a load that is going through the sanitize cycle), but I don’t baby them. Who has time for that?

Separate Pieces for the Win!

I really love using all-in-twos, pockets, prefolds, flats and “DIY” all-in-two systems (pad folding prefolds and flour sack towels to use as an insert in a cover). Are they an extra step? Yes. But they are so much less hassle in many other ways that it is worth it to me.

What is your favorite style of diaper? Let me know in the comments!

Holly Lee

I'm Holly and I'm the mom of two awesome young boys with a girl due summer 2020. We have been cloth diapering for 6 years. My family and I live in Minnesota with our dog, Ruby, and cat, Gherkin. Outside of Rocking the Cloth, I am also a middle school teacher. Thank you for visiting Rocking the Cloth--feel free to email me at holly@rockingthecloth.com if you have any questions or concerns. I'd love to help!

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