15 Common Cloth Diapering Mistakes to Avoid (2024)

Reusable cloth baby diapers drying on a clothes line. Eco friendly cloth nappies on a pink background. Sustainable lifestyle. Zero waste concept.

Nothing ruins a cloth diaper faster than improper care and use. Cloth diapering mistakes will lead to build-up, cause leaks, wear and tear, discomfort for your baby, and shorten the lifespan of your diaper.

These mistakes can also lead to frustration. The good news is that many of these mistakes are 100% avoidable, even for beginners. Read on to discover the most common cloth diapering mistakes as well as ways to avoid and solve them!

1. Thinking It Is All or Nothing

Cloth diapering does not have to be an all-or-nothing situation. It is ok to use the occasional disposable diaper when traveling or at night if that is easier.

If you’re like me, you can use cloth diapers at home and non-toxic disposables at child care. 

You also don’t have to stick to one kind of cloth diaper. For example, if you prefer flats or prefolds during the day, it is ok to use something more absorbent like all-in-one or hybrid overnight.  

The key is to figure out what is best first for your budget, lifestyle, and what will keep you on track with cloth diapering. 

2. Not Changing Often Enough

A wet cloth diaper is not as absorbent as a wet disposable; this, unfortunately, means a lot more diaper changes.

When wetting a cloth diaper, your baby will feel that wetness a lot faster, which means they will likely let you know when it is time to change.

Even so, it is best to check a cloth diaper for a newborn every hour and a half to two hours at most. 

Using microfiber inserts with your diapers makes your cloth diaper more absorbent, but that only works if you use pocket diapers or another safe skin later on top of the microfiber. 

In general, the rule is if you notice your baby is wet or has pooped, it is time to change, even if it’s only been five or ten minutes!

3. Using Too Little or Too Much Detergent

The amount and type of detergent you use will affect the effectiveness of your cloth diapers. Too much detergent will create build-up and residue, and not enough will prevent them from getting thoroughly cleaned.

The first tip when washing cloth diapers is to ensure you use a detergent specifically recommended for cloth diaper use. Rockin Green Dirty Diaper, GroVia Mighty Bubbles, and Bambino Miofresh are all brands widely used.

Follow the washing instructions on the packaging as well as those recommended by your diaper’s manufacturer. It is also crucial to note whether you have hard or soft water and if your machine is high efficiency or not. 

4. Putting Microfiber Against Your Baby’s Skin

Microfiber does such a good job at absorbing moisture it will not only absorb the moisture of pee, but if placed against your baby’s skin, it will absorb their natural moisture causing diaper rash.

Microfiber inserts need to be used with another insert on top or in a pocket diaper where there is already a layer of baby-safe fabric. 

Microfiber is a popular insert choice because it is ultra-absorbent and cost-effective; just make sure you use them properly by always adding a second layer such as bamboo or hemp.

Using microfiber inserts with a natural fiber insert is a popular solution to up nighttime absorbency. 

5. Not Prepping New Cloth Diapers

Prepping cloth diapers is a crucial first step that cloth diaper companies often gloss over. However, not prepping new cloth diapers is an important step many beginners make. Prepping your diapers allows them to reach maximum absorbency cutting down on leaks. 

How you prep will depend on the fabric of your diapers but in general, to prep new cloth diapers, you simply wash them. Natural fibers like bamboo, cotton, or hemp may take up to eight or ten pre-washes, while synthetic fibers may only need one or two washings. 

It is recommended to dry your diapers between washing and make sure you have rinsed all the soap out before drying.

6. Having Too Small a Diaper Stash

One of the biggest beginner cloth diaper mistakes is not having enough diapers. Unlike disposables, which you can run out and grab almost anywhere, cloth diapers require prep work and planning. 

A newborn baby goes through roughly ten to fifteen diapers a day! So even if you plan to wash diapers every day, you will need a minimum of eighteen diapers to be on the safe side. I like to buy cloth diapers in bundles to save some money ahead.

Realistically most people wash their diapers every other day, plus you have to factor in drying cloth diapers which takes longer because most cannot or should not be dried in an electronic dryer. Additionally, overwashing diapers causes them to wear out quicker.

7. Not Washing Often Enough

On the flip side, if you do not wash your diapers enough, you risk stuck on stains, smells, and potentially even mold.

Therefore, you should wash cloth diapers every two to three days at most, and you should follow the wash instructions provided by the manufacturer. 

When left too long, urine breaks down into ammonia, giving the diapers a nasty, pungent smell that can be hard to get rid of.

If you have stubborn stains or smells, hang your diapers out in the sun—the sun works as a natural stain and bacteria fighter. 

8. Using the Wrong Laundry Products

A big cloth diaper mistake is using the wrong products with your diapers. Instead, stick with specific products and detergents recommended by the diaper manufacturer or designed to be used with cloth diapers. 

For example, avoid fabric softeners as they leave oil deposits and residue that make your diapers less absorbent. 

For detergent, stick to brands like Rockin Green Dirty Diaper, GroVia Mighty Bubbles, and Bambino Miofresh, which are cloth diaper safe.

Or, if you want to keep things really simple, you can use a combination of washing soda and borax to clean your diapers. 

9. Using the Wrong Diaper Cream

Another product that you should avoid is diaper cream.

Diaper creams are designed to prevent wetness from touching your baby’s body; when the product gets on the diaper, it prevents the diaper from adequately absorbing, leading to leaky diapers. 

If you must use diaper cream because rashes do happen, avoid ones that use petroleum or zinc oxide, and be sure to wash them thoroughly afterward.

Even natural diaper cream solutions that include coconut oil or lanolin will leave a reside that works against a cloth diaper’s natural absorbency. 

If your baby develops a severe rash from an allergy or food sensitivity, consider allowing them to go bare bottom as much as possible. Exposure to the air can help dry and heal the rash.

Only go for cloth diaper-safe diaper creams.

10. Not Following Washing & Drying Instructions

Common cloth diaper mistakes include not following the manufacturer’s recommendations for washing and drying.

Cloth diapers are made from a wide range of fabrics which include natural fibers and synthetics. Each type of fabric has its own unique set of washing instructions.

Refer to the directions that came with your diapers or are listed on the manufacturer’s website for best results. In general, cloth diapers should not go in the dryer and need to be line dried.

This is a big one people miss, which results in their diapers wearing down much quicker. Other guidelines may include the water temperature and even how many diapers to wash at a time. 

11. Not Rinsing Off the Poop

It may seem like common sense to rinse off the poop, but to some, it seems like an extra step; why bother if I am going to wash them anyway? The problem is a washing machine is usually not efficient enough to clean off all the poop; not to mention your washing machine is not a septic tank; it is not designed to clean up all the bacteria. 

Yes, cleaning poopy cloth diapers is an extra step, but a necessary one. You can use a few methods when you change a cloth diaper to clean up the poop. 

First, you could use a disposable liner. Liners were my go-to method. The liner can either be tossed away or, in many cases, flushed. It is possible; even with a liner, some poop will get on the diaper, but it will drastically cut down the amount.

You could also use a spatula or other tool to scrape the poop into the toilet. The final method is to dunk them in the toilet or spray them with a hose attachment. 

12. Not Understanding the Difference Between Natural and Synthetic FIbers

Cloth diapers come in a variety of natural and synthetic fibers and blends, and they all have different functions, absorbency levels, and uses. One of the more significant cloth mistakes is not understanding the difference between them all and their functions. 

Natural fibers like bamboo, hemp, cotton, or wool have a lower environmental impact and, in general, are better for your baby’s skin. But that is where the similarities end. Each type of fabric absorbs differently, wears and tears at different rates, and may need to be washed a specific way. 

Synthetics are great for waterproofing and absorbency, but some cannot go directly against your baby’s skin, and others must be lined dry to prevent the waterproof layers from breaking down. 

It is important to do your research before using, washing, and drying the different fabrics. 

13. Thinking That One Size Fits All

Yes, there are one-size cloth diapers, but that doesn’t mean one size fits all. Just like disposable diapers, cloth diapers are based on your baby’s weight. Typically a one-size diaper will fit babies from 10lbs to 30lbs, but it is not a guarantee. 

If your baby’s diaper is too loose or too tight, it will not only cause leaks, but it will be uncomfortable for your baby.

The best way to ensure a proper fit is to try a few different types or sizes. Ask friends or family if you can borrow or buy some second-hand, so you are not spending a lot of money if you need to change cloth diapers to another brand. 

You may also wish to start with disposables until your baby has arrived and you have discovered what brand and size will work best. However, keep in mind children change and grow rapidly, so your little one may switch sizes and fittings frequently. 

14. Using Essential Oils on Cloth Diapers

People love essential oils, and they have many great uses; however, using them in your diaper pail or the laundry with cloth diapers should not be one of them.

While some essential oils have antibacterial and medicinal effects, it is not always safe to use oils with infants or children, and they could damage your diapers.

According to Healthline.com, adults should never use eucalyptus, fennel, peppermint, rosemary, verbena, or wintergreen around young children or infants. Other oils can be dangerous to an infant when a mother is nursing or pregnant. 

Always discuss essential oil use with your pediatrician before using them near or with your children. 

15. Not Trying Different Types of Cloth Diapers

Just because one brand or style of cloth diaper doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean another won’t. So don’t give up simply because you found one brand or style frustrating or too expensive to keep up with.

Also, remember rule number one; it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. 

Try out different diapers, practice with them on a life-size doll or a friend’s baby and get to know your options before deciding what is best for you.

Ultimately you may decide cloth diapering isn’t the right fit, or you may immediately fall in love with one style and never look back; just don’t give up if the first try isn’t a success.


Laurel Davidson

Laurel brings her passion for parenting and years of problem-solving experiences to ParentingMode. She is the editor of ParentingMode, ensuring that the content is relevant and valuable to the readers. Laurel received her master’s degree in public administration with a certificate in economic development. She is a stay-at-home mom, raising two adorable kiddos, Aurora and Thomas. Laurel enjoys sharing her experience as a parent, traveling, and good food.

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