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Cloth Diaper Savings, Savings, sustainability

DIY Cloth Diaper Inserts – Easy Absorbency On A Dime

One of my main missions at Rocking the Cloth is to show families that cloth diapering doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive, or for crazy people that love laundry. In fact, cloth diapering can be so simple to do with items around the house with a bit of know-how. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to cloth diaper well. Here are some ideas for DIY cloth diaper inserts to help you manage your diapering budget the best that you can.

I still recommend you invest in some good cloth diaper covers. You can definitely create DIY covers if you want to, but that is a post for another day and may require more skills than inserts (which are super easy!)

Covers range in price quite a bit, but generally are not too expensive. You can get great covers for $10. If you make your own inserts and buy yourself 8-10 covers, you’re looking at cloth diapering for $100 (give or take depending on if you purchase anything to make your inserts).

You could save over $1000 compared to the price of disposables, and $500 or so over the cost of non-DIY cloth diapers. Definitely a win!

With some good covers purchased, you can easily create your own all-in-two system with DIY inserts. You can also use these inserts inside a pocket shell if you wish.

Flour Sack Towels

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Flour sack towels are one of my favorite easy/DIY options for cloth diapering. They are SO cheap. At Walmart, they average $0.80-$1.00 a piece. Buy yourself a bunch of these and you’re good to go!

They are pretty absorbent on their own and can be fine for many babies for daytime use.

You can use the flour sack towels a number of ways–some people use them like a flat and fold it around the baby and secure with a pin or Snappi. Others just fold it up into a rectangular pad shape that will fit inside the diaper cover. It’s up to you!

Personally, I feel like you get the best absorbency when you pad fold them and lay it inside the cover as pictured here. Wrapped around like a flat isn’t utilizing enough absorbency where it is needed most. For my two-year-old, I use a flour sack towel combined with a second insert inside a cover and it works well.

Underneath the flour sack towel in the picture is a newborn microfiber insert; I frequently use those as boosters (added absorbency without a ton of bulk).

Flour sack towels are also extremely practical outside of cloth diapering. I use mine as kitchen towels because they absorb faster than regular towels. They can be used for cleaning and as a cheesecloth replacement. I use them for so much!

Kitchen or Bath Towels

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Old bath towels can also easily be turned into diaper inserts. Cut them into rectangles that can fit the width and length of your diaper covers. Layer however many of them you want to use on top of each other, and sew around the edges.

Sewing the edges will keep them from fraying, and make for a low-maintenance insert to just lay inside your diaper cover.

As for kitchen towels, some of them may be small enough you can just fold and use them as they are. If they are too bulky that way, go ahead and cut and sew as needed.

The kitchen towel in the picture was fine on its own. I folded it so it would fit inside the cover. This is a little bulkier than some other options, but it’s also packed with absorbency. This is a great choice for heavy wetters.

Receiving Blanketsdiy-cloth-diaper-inserts-receiving-blanket

Receiving blankets also make a great cloth diaper.

You’re likely going to receive SO many of these as hand-me-downs or gifts. More than you could ever really use. If you don’t, you can get some at a thrift store pretty cheap.

I’ve never purchased a receiving blanket. People just kept giving them to me, and I’ve never used a receiving blanket as an actual blanket, either. Heh!

You can use these receiving blankets as a diaper a number of ways. You can use them as a flat diaper or pad folded (if not too bulky). If it is too bulky, you could cut them up and sew the edges as I described in the towel section above.

Pictured here you can see what seems like a large receiving blanket pad-folded inside the cover. It fits just fine! It may be a bit bulky on a younger baby, and if that is the case you can try cutting it in half.

Old T-Shirts

Here is a no-sew option that ANYONE can do!

100% cotton t-shirts can actually work really well as cloth diapers. It might take a bit of practice to get efficient at the folding, but they are very absorbent and you likely have a dozen or more of these in your dresser you can part with. If not, you can get cheap t-shirts at thrift stores to use.

Here is a video showing you how you can fold a t-shirt to use it as a cloth diaper.

Just give it a try and see how you like it. Considering 99.9% of us have some t-shirts buried in a drawer we never wear, you have nothing to lose.

Old/Outgrown Prefolds

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While not exactly DIY, Prefolds are a pretty cheap cloth diapering option. The only downside is they aren’t one size, so theoretically you will need to buy more sizes along the way.

But did you know that even after your baby has outgrown a prefold size you can still use it as an insert? You can repurpose your small size prefolds, so this is where it gets a bit more DIY.

I can still use size one prefolds (for 7-15 lbs) pad folded as diaper insert for my two-year-old. I usually pair it with a newborn microfiber insert (wrapped up inside the prefold so it doesn’t touch the skin) for extra absorbency. That is what is pictured here.

Moral of the story is that newborn inserts or prefold sizes don’t have to become worthless after your baby gets bigger. You just have to use them differently and pair them with other inserts to boost the absorbency. It is very doable, though, and repurposing some of these materials can drastically reduce your cloth diapering price.

You Have More Options Than You Think!

Many people think they’re stuck with the microfiber inserts that come with their diapers, or that if they want different ones, they have to drop big bucks. Not true!

You can create practical, cheap inserts that WORK with materials you have around the house or materials you thought your baby may have outgrown.

Of course, there is always a perk to just purchasing the cloth diapers or insert brands you want. It’s easy and cuts down on some hassle. But you do spend more that way, and if you are on an extremely tight budget (or are just very frugal), DIY cloth diaper inserts are a perfectly viable choice.

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Do you use any DIY cloth diaper items? Let me know in the comments!

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Holly Lee

I'm Holly and I'm the mom of two awesome young boys. We have been cloth diapering for 5 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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4 Comments

  1. scubashawn says:

    I think cloth diapers are a good way to conserve money instead of buying regular diapers. I wanted to use cloth diapers with my son but my wife was against it. Very interesting article you have there and very easy to read. 

    I had a friend that used cloth diapers and it was pretty inspiring. I am glad you made it into a great article that is appealing to the eye as well. I’m glad there are some cheap DIY options that people can try to see if they can keep up with the laundry before making a big purchase.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      I agree, thank you!

  2. Dave Sweney says:

    This post has a ton of great tips on DIY cloth diaper inserts that you can use in lieu of the much more expensive done for you versions. I have two daughters who have had babies recently and they have been looking for ways to save money on all things related to babies.

    One of their highest expense is for diapers, and they do not like the fact that the disposable ones that are on the market create a huge problem in landfills, etc. They want to do things smart, so this is right along the lines of what they are looking for.

    I will be forwarding this post to them so they can get started making their own diaper solution that works, saves money, and still provided comfort to their babies, plus is not bad for the environment. Your solutions (any of them you mention) will do that. Thanks a bunch and Mother Earth and my newest grandson and granddaughter thank you as well! 

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thanks Dave! What I love about these DIY diaper options is that anyone can give them a try to see how they like cloth diapering before they invest a lot of money in non-DIY diapers. They work really well, they’re just not fancy. But a great way to trial it all before making a big purchase. Plus if they end up deciding they don’t like them, the covers can still be handy to use as swim diapers or put on over a disposable diaper at night to help prevent leaks.

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