Beginner, How to Cloth Diaper

If I Had To Do It All Again…How I Would Approach Cloth Diapers

If you’re interested at all in cloth diapers, part of the deal is that you have to just jump in and try. You should be open-minded and have some grit. Everyone’s situation is different, and while some people won’t have a single issue with their diapers, others may have several they have to work to overcome.

I was pretty lucky and I had minimal issues while cloth diapering. A minor issue may have popped up here and there, but it wasn’t anything I wasn’t able to fix relatively easily. However, after over five years of using cloth diapers, I can’t help but think about what sorts of things I would do differently if I had another child.

We are at a point right now that if we were to have another baby in the house, many of the diapers that I bought 5 years ago for my oldest are ready to be recycled. After being washed twice a week (or sometimes more!) and worn every other day or so for the last 5 years, they are starting to wear out.

Doesn’t mean they aren’t great, quality diapers. Would your favorite sweater survive being washed and worn 2-3 times a week for 5 years on end? Probably not. 🙂

Diapers do eventually wear out. So it got me thinking, if I were to have another baby, I would probably want to restart my stash somewhat. What are some things I would do differently with cloth diapers if I had to do it all over again?



I credit the bulk of my success to the fact that I chose to use Tide Original Powder detergent. I have experimented with some plant-based detergents with varied success, but I started out with Tide and used it for many years. Here is why I credit my success to Tide:

  1. It is a strong detergent that gets clothes/diapers cleaner than so many other brands.
  2. It has water softeners added to it making it a great choice for those with normal to medium-hard water (most people fall in this range).

I decided to use it from the beginning because so many people said it was the best, and so many people made a big deal out of hard water that I got nervous about it. Because of these things, I chose Tide and my diapers always got clean.

I have tried to use detergents that are more “green”. I used Biokleen for several months and I seemed to have no issue. I also tried Tide Purclean and I LOVED the honey lavender scent. Trying Tide Purclean also coincided with a move to a different house that has an HE washer. After the move, I struggled with getting my diapers totally clean. They would smell wonderful out of the washer, decent out of the dryer, and then terrible once they were wet or soiled. That is usually a sign of needing to be stripped. I decided to switch back to Tide powder after that, though I probably used Biokleen for about 6 months without issues. I’m not sure if it was a gradual build up or issues with the new HE washer combined with the Tide Purclean. Too many variables changed at once for me to definitively say.

So what would I do differently with detergent if I had to do it all again?

Nothing really. Tide is a great choice. However, there are plenty of other acceptable detergents, too, and I personally would take a chill pill and just jump in and try. So many people get so intimidated by cloth diaper wash routines that they are afraid to even start. They overanalyze every detergent option. I was one of those people.

But just try!

To put it simply, if you are 100% open-minded toward detergent and have no preference, I would say go with Tide Original Powder. It works, so why not? BUT I am not saying that’s the only option. You do not HAVE to use Tide.  You can use many other detergents and be just fine.

If you do have some preferences or concerns with your detergent choice, then feel free to try out other detergents and see how they work for you.

See these posts for suggestions of cloth approved detergents: Cloth Diaper Laundry Detergent – Do I Need A Special Kind

Environmentally Friendly Laundry Detergents

Worst case scenario is they don’t get as clean and you may need to do a bleach soak or a strip. Occasionally, people have reported their baby getting rashes from unclean diapers, so that is definitely something to be on the lookout for (however, if the diapers have so much ammonia built up that they will cause a rash, you should be able to smell that long before it gets that bad. If a diaper smells bad, do not put it on your baby!)

While trial and error is a hassle, it’s not the end of the world if you would really like to try using something specific.

The Newborn Days

I have two schools of thought for the newborn days, and it comes down to your primary motivation for using cloth diapers:

If your primary motivation is to save money, then skip newborn cloth all together and just start with one-size diapers once your baby starts fitting into them. Depending on how much your baby weighs at birth, it will probably just be a month or two before your baby is ready for one-size.

If being eco-friendly is your main motivation, then go for prefolds or fitteds with covers. All-in-ones are my second choice, but my experience with newborn all-in-ones is that they are awesome until they’re not…meaning that they work great for a while, but then even while your newborn will still physically fit in them, they outgrow the absorbency before they’re really ready for one-size diapers and then you have this weird limbo period. See my top newborn diaper recommendations here.


What would I do differently if I had to do it all again? While many of us (myself included) cloth diaper for a number of reasons, I really think for your own sanity you need to choose your loyalty during the newborn days. If you primarily want to save money, then just opt out of trying to buy a newborn stash.

If you want to be eco-friendly, don’t try to buy cheap newborn diapers that will drive you crazy (like newborn-sized pockets–they’re cheap, but you can’t get your hand in there to stuff it at all!)

I started with cloth diapers to save money, so I should have just skipped newborn cloth. While we did eventually find some combos that worked well enough, we still had to use some disposables, too, and we were in one-size before we knew it. I don’t think I saved any money with what we had for the newborn days.

But now my motivation is pretty evenly divided. If I were to have another newborn, I believe I would go prefolds and covers this time, knowing that I’m probably only saving a little bit of money that way, but being okay with that.


Back when I first started with cloth, pockets were THE thing. I don’t regret using pockets. There are a lot of pros to pocket diapers and they have always served me well.

However, knowing what I know now, I would make a few tweaks to my stash, and it would depend primarily on my working status.

As some of you know, I have been anywhere from a full-time working mom to stay-at-home mom to part-time working mom. I have used cloth diapers with full-time daycare, and I have used them where I am the main one not only doing the changes but doing the laundry.

If I had to do it all again as a full-time working mom… pocket-diapers

I would opt for all-in-ones for daycare. I would also want to make sure the all-in-ones had a pocket so I could add more absorbency if needed (but hopefully it wouldn’t be needed!) I would not choose all-in-ones that need long flaps tucked inside them.

There is nothing wrong with sending pockets to daycare, or with using all-in-ones with flaps that aren’t 100% attached (they have pros and cons), but when I’m running late out of the house, it’s nice to just be able to grab and go without having to try to stuff diapers quickly or align absorbency flaps.

The Fluffy Penguin sells some bamboo all-in-ones that are relatively cheap and meet these requirements–I would have picked up a lot more of those for a daycare stash.

At home, I would probably continue to use pockets because I would be able to customize them to exactly what we need.

If I had to do it all again as a stay-at-home mom…

hybrid-diapersI would choose an all-in-two/hybrid system like the Grovia hybrids. This system would significantly reduce my laundry, but still offer a lot of flexibility and absorbency options. Some other great all-in-two systems are BG Flips or Best Bottoms.

I would go with this system because I would possibly be able to stretch diaper laundry out to once a week, making this a convenient and eco-friendly option for those wanting to watch the amount of water or energy used on diaper maintenance. Also, the inserts are cheaper than buying whole diapers, so there is some significant potential to save a lot of money.

I only wouldn’t choose this system as a working mom because most daycares are not going to want to (and may not be allowed to) re-use covers at diaper changes. Might as well go with an all-in-one or pocket for daycare.


Cloth wipes!

The biggest thing I would do when it came to CD accessories is to use cloth wipes from the beginning! My goodness, cloth wipes are SO superior to disposable wipes, it’s crazy. They work significantly better, and they aren’t nearly as gross to clean as I thought they would be. Most of the time, you don’t need to do anything to clean them before putting them in the diaper pail, and if you do, a quick rinse or swish in the toilet suffices.

Would I use a diaper sprayer?

I didn’t use a diaper sprayer for long as I found it easier for myself to just dip & switch in the toilet. However, we have since moved houses and the bathroom I clean most diapers in also has a detachable shower head. With the toilet right next to the shower, it’s pretty easy to grab the shower head if I ever feel it’s needed to quick spray off a diaper. I like this setup and find it more practical long-term than purchasing a diaper sprayer.

However, not everyone has a set up where they can do this, and some people really don’t feel they can live without their diaper sprayer. It’s up to you! They aren’t that expensive in the grand scheme of things, so pick one up if you think it would be useful. But I decided I’m still fine without one.



I got a pretty solid routine down with my diapers after some trial and error.

When I was working, we would pick up the dirty diapers each evening and then try to clean them off (if poopy) and put them in the diaper pail each evening. Sometimes we would get a little lazy and they would pile up and not get cleaned off until wash day. We were lucky that we had no issue with that, but generally speaking, I do recommend you take care of dirty diapers right away to prevent things like staining or flies.

We would do a load of laundry every couple of days. I would bring the diapers down, put them in the washer, and start a pre-wash with a little detergent.

Then I would go about my business or my day. Whenever I got the chance, I would go and add more detergent and start the main wash. Before bed, I would try to move them to the dryer and dry on low heat.

I found that I had the best flow keeping the diaper pail in my own bedroom of all places. I usually cleaned the diapers off in the master bathroom and I didn’t have a spot for a pail in there, so I put it just outside the door to the bathroom in my bedroom.

After we moved, I had a hard time finding that flow again. I’m still working on it, to be honest!

If you would like a sample cloth diaper wash routine, sign up for the Rocking the Cloth mailing list and receive one for free!

Would It Make A Difference?

I’m not sure if we will have another baby in this house or not. We will see. 🙂 My youngest is getting closer to being ready for potty training, and I think I’m going to miss this cloth diaper life. I mean, I won’t miss having less laundry I guess, but it was one of those things that once you got used to it, it was fine. It was just part of our daily lives.

For any cloth diaper vets out there, what would you do differently if you had to do it again? Let me know in the comments!


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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