How to Use Cloth Diapers

Let’s start off by saying that to read this, as opposed to seeing it are two very different things.  There will be lots of words below, and it might seem like a complicated mess to read, but it’s totally simple, once you’re actually doing it.

Also, we love to do one-on-one consultations, it’s kind of our thing.  So give us a call and we can chat all about it in person!


First of all, when you get a new cloth diaper, you need to prep it.  This will wash off any residue from the manufacturing process as well as prepare the fibers for their intended absorbency.  If diapers are pre-loved (aka cloth diaper cutesy talk for used) they should be stripped first.  You can read more about this is How to Wash Cloth Diapers.


How to prepare (prep) diapers for first use:

  1. Separate outer pieces (covers, pockets) from inner pieces (inserts, prefolds, flats).  Separate natural fibers (cotton, hemp) from synthetic fibers (microfiber, microterry, bamboo, charcoal bamboo).  Check manufacturer’s specific instructions (especially for AIOs) and defer to their recommendations, if different from these below.
  2. Find the settings you should use for your specific washer.  ( has a directory of manufacturers and models).  Settings will be different if you have a top loader or front loader.
  3. Take inner pieces with natural fibers, and wash (in hot water cycle with cloth-diaper-friendly soap) and dry (NEVER with fabric softener or dryer sheets.  Can use wool dryer balls, if wanted) 4-6 times. This will strip natural oils that prevent full absorbency. You want these oils out of your diapers, so you need to keep the synthetic materials out for now to prevent them from getting these natural oils on them, since these will repel liquids.  Organic, unbleached cotton may need a few more washes and dries to be fully ready. Cotton prefolds will shrink, quilt, and soften the more you wash them.
  4. Wash synthetic fibers and outer pieces in warm or hot cycle (soap is optional, but recommended).  One cycle is enough. This step is to remove any dirties from manufacturing process. Take out outer pieces and line dry.  Dry inner pieces in dryer.


How to put together a diaper to be ready to use:

  1. Snap the rise snaps (the bottom rows) to fit your baby.  Tuck up, not down to get a good fit on the legs.
  2. Choose the inner pieces you want to use, depending on your absorbency needs, and stuff the diaper (or have a prefold/flat/FST/fitted ready to use)
  3. Add a liner, if you are using one (can be disposable or washable)


When it’s time for a diaper change (every 2-3 hours):

  1. Before starting, have a clean diaper put together and snapped to size
  2. Take off the dirty diaper and set it aside.  
  3. Open the clean diaper under the baby.  Cloth diapers hug baby’s hips (instead of fitting high on the back, like a disposable) so they will lay low across baby’s hips.  
  4. Bring the top part to the front, making sure the leg gussets are tucked securely into the crease at baby’s legs.  The front starts out high on baby’s tummy (but will be below baby’s belly button when you’re done.)  Hug the front flat against baby’s tummy.
  5. Take the side tabs from the back and pull up and around to circle and hug around baby’s hips.  Snap into place starting with hip snaps and then remaining snaps, or velcro.
  6. Tuck in any insert/prefold if it’s sticking out.  Make sure there are no gaps in the legs but that it’s not too tight (should easily pull off when you pull with your finger).  It’s ok if there’s a little belly gap. Baby is free to go!
  7. Now the dirty diaper.  If there’s poop, take it off (by flushing the insert, spraying it off, or however you choose.  You can skip this if baby is exclusively breast fed.) Separate the inner piece from the cover/pocket and put both in the dirty diaper pail.  Your pail should have some ventilation to prevent odors.
  8. If it was pee, take out the liner (if using one.  Trash it if disposable.) If AIO, it goes in the wash.  If pocket, separate inner piece and they both go in the wash.  If cover, put the inner piece in the wash, and put the cover aside to use again next time.

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