Beginner, How to Cloth Diaper

Cloth Diapering 101 – How to Cloth Diaper

Chances are you are here because you are considering cloth diapering your baby, but you do not know where to start. You’re in the right place! This post is the first in a five post series on how to cloth diaper. I hope you feel much more comfortable and excited about this journey when you have finished reading!

Posts in this series:

How to Get Started

Getting started with cloth diapering can begin before the baby comes. Many people like to get a head start on diaper purchases, “prep” them (which I will explain in more detail below), and have them ready to go before baby comes home. If your baby is already here, that is perfectly fine! You can get started with cloth diapers at any time.

How Many Diapers Do I Need?


How many diapers you will need depends on a couple of factors:

Some people do not mind doing a small load of diapers every single day and do not need to purchase as many diapers. Others only want to wash diapers once a week!

If that is you, you will need a lot more than just a day or two’s worth. Most people fall somewhere in the middle, doing a load of laundry every 2-3 days.

If you are just starting out with cloth diapers, I recommend getting enough for every other day (or every 2 days) washing. Most people find every other day washing very manageable. If this sounds good to you, 16 to 24 diapers should suit you well once your child is out of the newborn phase.

I wouldn’t purchase less than 12 for everyday washing because you need to factor in drying time. Another thing to consider is that everyday washing will wear the diapers out a little faster, so in the end you may be better off getting enough so that you only need to wash every 2-3 days.

Newborn Diapers

The next thing to consider is if you plan to cloth diaper your newborn.

If you have looked at diapers at all, you may have noticed OS (one size) is the most common. The saying “one size fits most” is appropriate here.

One size typically does very well once your newborn baby is about 10-12 pounds. Since most babies are born smaller than that, one size diapers may not fit perfectly right away. There are newborn size cloth diapers you can look into purchasing.


When deciding whether you want to purchase a newborn stash of diapers, you need to look at your reasons for cloth diapering.

If your reasons are environmental or health-related, it may be worth it for you to do that.

If your reasons are budget-related, you may want to skip buying a newborn stash and use disposables for the first few weeks or months. While disposables add up in cost quickly, newborns go through so many diapers. If you only plan on buying new, even economical options like flats or prefolds with covers will add up to a few hundred bucks in the end.

However, both flats and prefolds become awesome rags to use around the house after the diapering stage, so it’s not like you won’t get plenty of use out of them! If you’re planning on multiple children, that gives you more bang for your buck, too.

You can also look at purchasing a used newborn diaper stash, or plan to sell the ones you bought when you are done with them.

If you do purchase newborn diapers, I would aim for at least 18-24 for this reason: if you do the diaper math, you will realize that this will have you doing a load probably every day and a half with how often newborns need to be changed.

However, you should factor in that the average baby is only in newborn-sized diapers for a few weeks. I wouldn’t buy 50 newborn diaper changes unless you aren’t worried about costs.

Can One Size Diapers Fit A Newborn?

There are certain OS diapers (which I will discuss later in the series) that fit little babies better than others. Both of my own babies were about 6 lbs when born and I had them in cloth after not too long.

Another consideration is skipping diapers labeled “newborn” and trying out “size one” diapers instead. Size one diapers usually have greater absorbency and can be used for a longer period of time than newborn size.

Do I Need Anything Else?

Along with your diaper stash, it would be good to get the following:

  • A diaper pail
  • Pail liners
  • Wet bags
  • A cloth diaper safe rash cream
  • Wipes (decide if you want to use cloth wipes or disposable wipes)
  • Some sort of storage system for your diapers (optional)



A diaper pail is simply where you will store the dirty diapers after you change your baby. You will keep them there until you get enough for a load of laundry.

There are special cloth diaper pails you can buy. However, many people just use a garbage can for this.

This photo displays my very non-fancy diaper pail! Others use a laundry basket. You can really use anything.

Don’t worry about if your container doesn’t have a lid–it may seem gross, but without a lid, the air is allowed to circulate and it can actually reduce odors even if that seems counter-intuitive.

If you prefer a lid on your pail, that is fine, too (I do). Your pail liners will line your pail as a garbage bag would keeping it clean. Then you can just toss the pail liner in the wash with your diapers.

Wet Bags


Wet bags are for holding soiled diapers when you are on-the-go. You probably want at least two on hand.

These are very handy outside of cloth diapering–I bring them to the pool with us to hold wet suits after swimming. They can be great little laundry bags!

You can also buy large wet bags and use them in lieu of diaper pails.


As for wipes, you may have decided that cloth diapering is enough for you and you’d rather use disposable wipes.

Some of you might figure that since you’re using cloth, you might as well go all the way with cloth wipes, too! You will have to decide what is right for your family. Check out this post on cloth wipes!


As far as a storage system for your diapers, you can use anything you’d like.

Maybe you have an empty dresser drawer in the nursery that would be perfect for the diapers. Maybe you want a big decorative basket to keep near your changing station. There are all sorts of storage ideas!

If you can’t decide how you’d like to store them and would rather wait until you get into a routine, that’s perfectly fine! There’s no reason to think you need to have an organizational system right away.

How Do I Prep Them?

Prepping diapers is just washing them and letting them dry prior to use. It’s good to prep them to rinse off any factory materials.

Depending on what the diaper is made of, it may need to be washed in order to be absorbent. Natural fibers will need to be washed several times to rinse away plant oils to increase absorbency.

If your diapers are polyester, you can follow the steps below:

  1. Put in washer.
  2. Add detergent– normal amount; these are clean diapers so do not over-analyze how much detergent is needed.
  3. Wash on warm or hot.
  4. Hang to let air dry, or tumble dry on LOW heat. Most diaper manufacturers recommend hanging to air dry.

That’s it!

If your diapers contain natural fibers like cotton, hemp or bamboo, follow the steps below:

  1. Put in the washer.
  2. Add detergent* (see note on #2 above).
  3. Wash on warm or hot.
  4. Tumble dry on low heat. The dryer is actually helpful for natural fiber diapers to quilt them and make them softer. This makes them more absorbent. It is recommended to use the dryer after washing until they have reached their full absorbency, usually after 10 washes.
  5. Repeat this 4-6 times. Remember that they won’t be fully absorbent until they have been washed and dried about 10 times. However, you don’t have to do ALL 10 WASHES before you start using them. Aim for about 6 or so, and just remember that they will continue to get more absorbent over time.

You’re on Your Way!

Congrats–you just finished your brief intro to cloth diapering! By now, you know more than most people on this subject. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments at In the next post in this series, we will look at different types of diapers so you can decide what would work best for your family goals.


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 if you have any questions or concerns. I'd love to help!

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  1. This is awesome! I love a eco-friendly lifestyle and am on a journey to reduce my waste to a minimum. Your article really helps people reduce waste in a massive way. Every parent-to-be should read this and consider choosing cloth diapers. I hope you convince many young parents to go green this way.

    1. Thank you so much! I hope so too! It really is not nearly as hard as people think. I hope I can convince them to at least think about it!

  2. With the rising cost of disposable diapers, this a really great idea, and they so stylish as well not like they use to be in the old days. really great post for anyone not sure how to get started. very informative and so easy to make the change.

    1. Thanks! They definitely are cute and stylish! I think their cuteness is half the reason I went this route. 😉

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