Diaper Accessories, How to Cloth Diaper, Minimalism

Minimalist Cloth Diapering – Sticking To The Essentials

There are many motivations for cloth diapering, and none of them are better or worse than any other motivation. One reason some of us choose to cloth diaper (including myself) is that we generally try to live in a way that is less wasteful. It doesn’t mean we are perfect or zero waste; it just means we are doing what we feel capable of at that moment. Cloth diapering felt like a doable thing for our family, so I was willing to give it a try to make a difference in this area.

When I say that being less wasteful is a motivation of mine, I mean more than just garbage. I also mean that it is a goal of mine to live less frivolously. Because of that, minimalist cloth diapering is a priority to me.

Am I always good at living less frivolously? No. I’m sure there are many things people could point fingers at in my life that they would call frivolous. But in general, I am working toward having an expectation in my life that I don’t need EVERYTHING all the time. I’m learning how to make do with simpler life systems. (I still have a long way to go when it comes to groceries, but I’ll get there!)

Why Bother With Minimalist Principles?

minimalist-cloth-diaperingWhy is this important to me? I just feel it is a more responsible and content way to live. It saves money and it keeps me from having a defeated attitude when some latest and greatest gadget fails to live up to the hype.

I know some people really enjoy finding gadgets and things that might make things easier. I have a few of these in my life. But we really can go crazy with this, can’t we? Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to have a few “extras” here and there that really bring value to your life. That’s a great thing, especially if it makes you happy.

But sometimes, I do think it’s worth saying “no” to the search for gadgets to make trivial things appear easier (because often they’re not actually any easier, just different!) Cloth diapering is no exception to this. If I wanted to save money with cloth diapering, why would I go crazy buying extras?

All this said, what does a minimalist cloth diapering system look like? Here are my must-haves and my suggestions for what to skip if you want to stick to the essentials.

Minimalist Cloth Diapering Must-Haves

If you want to save money or save space in your house (or just not overwhelm yourself!), you will want to cloth diaper as simply as possible. Or maybe you’re not totally sure you want to be a cloth diapering minimalist, but you are getting your feet wet with cloth diapering and don’t want to invest a lot yet. Here are the items (and amounts of them) I suggest for your essentials:

1. Diapers

minimalist-cloth-diaperingObviously, you will need diapers. How many do you really need to successfully cloth diaper?

It depends on how minimalist you want to be. If you are a die-hard minimalist, aim for 12 diapers.

However, if you really don’t want to do a load of laundry every single day, and/or if you want to hang-dry your diapers instead of using the dryer…or if you don’t just want to regret your life decisions….aim for 24 diapers (or 24 changes if using a diaper system like all-in-twos or prefolds & covers).

I really do believe you need at least 24 diapers. You can get by with less if you want, but fewer diapers will mean you’re washing more often and using more water and more detergent, so keep that in mind. Yes, it takes up more space. Yes, it costs double the amount of 12. But you WILL have days you can’t do a load of laundry and get behind.

Aim for at least 24 diapers, and up to 30. Any more than 30 is not necessary at all. You will have diapers that don’t get used often, or if you do use them often, your loads of laundry will either be too big, or dirty diapers will sit around too long, potentially causing staining or mold.

I mean, you could have a lot of diapers and still wash every 2-3 days and just rotate through your stash I guess…but you’re here because you’re interested in just knowing the essentials. So really, 24-30 diapers are enough.

I highly recommend taking a look at this article for some low-maintenance diaper choices if you want to take a minimalist route.

2. Wipes
minimalist-cloth-diaperingWipes are also essential. You need something to clean the baby up with after a poopy diaper, after all!

You can decide if you just want to do disposable wipes, or if you want to look into cloth wipes and/or making your own wipes (you can make cloth or disposable wipes! Disposable wipes are usually made with cheap paper towels, and cloth wipes can be made from a few different materials. Here is a tutorial for making cloth wipes, and here is a recipe for my favorite homemade wipes solution).

3. A Place For Dirty Diapers

dirty-diaper-storageYou will want a place to store dirty diapers so you don’t have a dirty diaper pile just sitting on your floor somewhere. A few decades ago, it used to be the norm to store dirty diapers in a bucket with water and maybe some baking soda or bleach. I do not recommend that. Wet buckets are unsanitary, and even if you add bleach, it is very hard on your diapers to have them soaking for long period. That will wear out the elastics among other potential issues.

What you DO want to do is store them in a dry place, like a diaper pail or a wet bag. You can decide what you feel makes the most sense for your family. To learn more about wet bags or pail liners, view this post.

If you wanted to be as minimalist as possible, you could just pick up at least two large wet bags and one to two medium or small wet bags and use them both for storing dirty diapers at home and going out and about.

However, I do believe a diaper pail is more convenient for home use because they hold more than wet bags.

My suggested set up is the following:

  • 1 Diaper Pail (I just use a cheap garbage can)
  • 2 Pail Liners (you need at least 2 because you need one to use while the other is in the wash)
  • 1 Wet Bag for out and about use, or at least 2 if you send them to daycare

minimalist-cloth-diaper4. A Good Laundry Detergent

Purchasing a good laundry detergent is essential. If you aren’t using a detergent suitable for dealing with human waste, you will have a terrible time cloth diapering.

Tide is one of my personal favorites because it WORKS. The powder version of Tide Original has some water softeners added, which make it perfect for those that have hard water. It gets my diapers clean every time with no hassle.

Tide isn’t the most “natural” detergent in existence, and that bothers many people. If you don’t want to use Tide, here is a list of other top recommended detergents.

If you are set on using a “green” or plant-based detergent, you can learn more about those here.

5. A Way To Wash Your Diapers

You will need a washing machine, a portable washing machine, or a commitment to hand wash (and some people do hand wash!) You could also sign up with a diaper service that washes your diapers for you if needed.

That’s it! You really don’t need anything more than this to cloth diaper. There might be some other items you would like, but as far as essentials, this is it.

Items to Avoid If You Want To Be A Minimalist Cloth Diaper Mama

If you want to be simple about your cloth diapering, here are some things to avoid:

1. Excess Diapers

minimalist-cloth-diaperingIf you spend any time in cloth diapering groups on social media, you will quickly learn that some people are OBSESSED with cute diapers. They have monthly subscriptions to diaper websites, constantly checking buy/sell/trade groups, buy every new print a certain brand releases, or plan on one new diaper purchase every paycheck.

If it makes them happy, great. Everyone needs a hobby, right? But to me, it’s excessive. I’m more of a practical diaper-er. I just need enough to keep my kid’s butt covered, and then I’m good. 😉

I’m not saying I’ve never purchased a print I absolutely adored even though I could have gotten by without a new diaper (I have done this 3 or 4 times over the last 5 years, but that’s it). But the obsession with prints is not really worth getting into if minimalism is important to you.

2. Diaper Pods

I only just recently learned that diaper pods existed. Diaper pods are apparently bags used for holding clean cloth diapers (not to be confused with a diaper bag). Many people will get a diaper pod to put a handful of clean diapers in, then put that diaper pod in their diaper bag, along with a wet bag to hold the dirty diapers.

I don’t really see the point of having a diaper pod if you have a diaper bag. I’m even a little beyond the point of using my diaper bags, to be honest. I ended up giving them to Goodwill. I just use a reusable shopping bag when we leave the house to hold a few diapers and a change of clothes. Sometimes I just bring a diaper alone and throw it in the car as a “just in case” if we aren’t going to be out longer than 1-2 hours (but my “baby” is actually a toddler now. I probably wouldn’t be this minimalist with a newborn! The odds are too high they will need an outfit change after spitting up everywhere or something).

minimalist-cloth-diapering

3. Swim Diapers

The joy of cloth diapering is that you can use any diaper cover or shell as a swim diaper! You don’t need to buy one that says “swim diaper” on the label. The point of a swim diaper is to keep poop from getting all over the pool. You don’t need to stuff it with inserts–those will just absorb pool water, anyway.

As for pee, there’s no way for any swim diaper, disposable or not, to distinguish between pool water and pee and absorb only pee, so pee was never the point of a swim diaper. It just needs to keep poop out of the pool. A cover or shell is perfect for this.

4. Diaper Storage & Organizational Systems

You might be thinking I’m crazy for this one. You do need a place to put your diapers, but you don’t need to buy special shelving or organizers for your stash.

You have 24ish diapers and some wipes that need to be stored. Maybe your clean wet bags, too. Find a simple and convenient way to store them. This could be a drawer in your baby’s dresser if the dresser is close to your changing station. It could also be a basket or two.

While some people opt for wall storage systems because they think it will save space, I really do not think you need to worry about saving space if you stick to a reasonable amount of diapers. The other problem with these types of storage systems is that they are hard to keep up with. They involve you stuffing or folding all your diapers before you put them away. That’s an extra step I just don’t think is worth it unless you really love to look at your diaper collection.

Diapers don’t wrinkle, and they’re easy enough to stuff or put together on the spot when you’re about to change your baby. I wouldn’t waste time stuffing or folding your diapers so they look nice on your wall, but that’s just me. I can barely get clothes folded, so I’m not going to make folding diapers something I need to worry about, too!

I just store my clean diapers, shells, and inserts in a laundry basket in my son’s room. Is it beautiful? No. But it’s not terribly ugly either (it’s just a laundry basket and we have a couple in each room anyway), it gets the job done, makes them easily accessible, and is easy to use and keep up with.

Items That Aren’t Essential, But Could Be Valuable To You

1. Diaper Sprayer

Personally, I do not use a diaper sprayer, though I have dabbled with one before. I ended up not using it anymore after a while. However, I know enough people that said they would have not made it far with cloth diapers without one. Many people love them, and they’re worthwhile if you are having a hard time removing poop from the diapers with other methods.

I do not believe this is something you should buy right off the bat, though. Give it a try without one first to see if you really need one or not.

2. Disposable Diaper Liners

Diaper liners are a piece of material you put between your baby and the diaper to catch the poop, making it easier to remove. You can get biodegradable disposable liners, or use reusable liners (usually made from fleece). Disposable liners is another item I don’t find necessary, but because I have heard many people say that disposable liners saved their sanity with cloth diapers, I will include it here. It depends on how you feel about handling poop. I mean, no one likes handling poop, but most people do get used to it. But if you just can never get used to it, you may want to try using disposable liners.

Is Minimalist Cloth Diapering Worth It?

I definitely think that cloth diapering as simply as you can is worth it. It saves the most money and keeps your routines simple. It is also less stuff you have to deal with once your kids potty train and no longer need diapers.

What is your plan for all your diapers when you’re out of the baby stage? You can try to sell them and that works for many people, but it is a hassle. You can search for places that take donated cloth diapers, give to a friend…but the reality is that many people will just end up throwing them away. This is why I think it’s important not to go overboard in your diaper purchases.

What do you think about these minimalist cloth diaper suggestions? Do you agree? If not, what would you add or take away? 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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14 Comments

  1. Lok Which says:

    This is beautiful and thanks for sharing these great ideas about making minimalist diapers, I’ll definitely invite Stephanie to view this, we must make some for our little John. Especially the swim diapers cos of sometimes we would have to go swimming. It would be a great option to wear for him

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Hi Lok! Cloth diapers make great swim diapers. 🙂

  2. Chris says:

    We never really thought about minimalist diapering really because we were so shocked at the time as new parents (most of us are, aren’t we?). 

    Looking back, when I think about the amount of money we spent on diapers, and what goes along with them, we really should of considered it (it’s a very expensive necessity!). 

    Did you use cloth diapers all the way through your child’s infancy or did you switch when he/she was old enough to waddle/walk?

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Hi Chris! I have used cloth diapers since my oldest child was about 2-3 weeks old, so I have been doing it for about 5 years now. We love it! 🙂 I had a few things to figure out along the way, but now it’s just second nature to us.

  3. Alisha says:

    I do not have much experience because I do not have children but i have seen all the dirty diapers thrown away from my nieces and nephew and I absolutely agree with trying to use less and create less waste, I’ll have to introduce this idea to them. I know there are many of people who do not necessarily think about it further and just go to the norm because of convenience and society.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      That is so true, Alisha! So many families do not even consider it because they simply don’t realize it’s even an option anymore, and they haven’t given any thought to the waste/cost, etc. I hope I can help more families learn about cloth diapering as an option. I have found that it’s really rewarding!

  4. Richard says:

    The drive to reduce our plastic and waste footprint on our plant has never been this strong before and diapers is a massive contribute to this. When I grey up in the 80s, cloth diapers were the standard and they seem to be making a comeback as people have become more conscious of the waste.

    When machine washing, does one need to disinfect the machine between washes and heavy soiling or is that not a necessary step?

    Rich

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Hi Richard! Great question. It is not necessary most of the time. The only time I worry about it is if I know the baby has a very contagious and nasty stomach virus or something…but even then, we usually all catch it before I can disinfect the machine, anyway. 😉 

      I do clean my washer every few months–it’s a simple process and it improves the cleaning efficiency of the washer. You can my instructions for that here: How to Clean a Top Loader Washing Machine

  5. Dany says:

    Yes, yes and again yes. I remember the cloth diapers were the only available option in my grandparents time. It was the only possible solution, but nowadays it is a minimalist and economic thing.

    I like how you organize all the must-have things, have you thought to a downloadable checklist? I’m pretty sure it’ll be helpful.

    Thank you for an educational article. I’ll pass it to all my friends with babies.

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Great idea, Dany! I’ll look into that. Glad you found the article helpful!

  6. David says:

    Wow! Cloth diapers have come a long way since my babies were in diapers (1980’s). It’s good to see that many of the things which made it a challenge to use cloth back then have been addressed. Especially the really simple ones like elastic being used in the cloth diapers, etc. 

    But what I really want to address is your efforts to cut down on waste. I applaud you for even trying. I think all too often we are made to feel that we are somehow not helping unless we achieve 100% efficiency in reducing waste, which is  simply ridiculous. ANY reduction in waste is good. Congratulations to you and everyone who tries and cuts down even a little bit. 

    Great article. 

    1. Holly Lee says:

      Thank you David! I totally agree. Every little bit helps.

      I’m so glad modern cloth diapers have improved upon so many of the issues there used to be. There are also so many more resources now when issues do arise. A quick internet search can help so many people troubleshoot!

  7. Rida says:

    That was a great article. I have read many but your article and quiz were more helpful than any other.
    I need a little more practical information. I am planning to buy pocket diapers. What I am not able to wrap my head around is that once the baby urinates, do I need to change the whole diaper or just the insert. I am concerned about both hygiene and the feeling of wetness.
    Please advise

    1. Hi Rida! Thank you so much for your kind words. 🙂 With pocket diapers, you will need to change the whole diaper (shell and all) at changes. If you want to reuse shells, I recommend an all-in-two system. The difference between them is that pockets have a layer of material covering the inserts and the all-in-twos do not. Since the baby would be wetting through that layer of material, you won’t want to reuse it. With the all-in-two, you could reuse it because you can just wipe the cover dry between changes. Hope that helps!

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