How to Use Cloth Diapers? (Step-By-Step Guide)

Stack of reusable nappies. Ecological trend for baby care. Washable cloth diapers. Eco friendly diapers vs pampers

Knowing how to use cloth diapers properly will save you a lot of time and money, both of which are valuable to new parents.

Cloth diapering can be a rewarding experience and is beneficial for the environment. This article will be your cloth diaper guide making it a stress-free experience for you and your baby.   

How to Use Cloth Diapers?

There are several types of cloth baby diapers, but they all have the same basic steps. Once your diapers are assembled (assuming you have the type that needs to be assembled), you put a cloth diaper on much the same as a disposable diaper. 

  • Place the baby safely on the changing table.
  • Remove the solid diaper and fasten any tabs before placing it in your diaper pail.
  • Place the cloth diaper under your baby.
  • Fasten, snap, or velcro the diaper onto your baby
  • If you are using diaper covers, place the diaper cover on

You will need to adjust the size of your baby’s diaper as they grow. Using reusable diapers is great, but they come with a few more steps than disposables.

There are straps and snaps you will adjust as needed for size. Cloth diapers should be checked every hour to two hours to prevent diaper rash.

In the paragraphs that follow, we will provide a beginner’s guide to cloth diapers that will cover various types and how to wash and care for them.

Start Small

If you are just getting started with cloth diapers, we recommend starting small to make sure it works for you. However, if you know that reusable diapers are the route to go, go ahead and start with a large stack! 

If you decide to start small, purchase a set of three or four to get a feel for it. Not everyone can deal with the daily poop scraping or the constant washing.

You may also want to consider asking a friend to borrow a few or purchasing some from a consignment shop to test it out.

Using cloth diapers is much more than just tossing a liner in the bin and washing, so if you are on the fence, it’s ok.

They’re not suitable for everybody, but modern cloth diapers are a cost-effective and accessible choice for those interested.

In the following sections, we’ll provide you with all the cloth diapering info you need to start cloth diapering.

How Many Diapers Do You Need?

Let’s cover some cloth diaper basics. If you are starting all-out, the recommended amount for newborns is between 20-36 cloth diapers. A typical newborn will have 8-12 wet or soiled diapers daily. As your baby grows, they will use less. By the time they are a potty-training toddler, it will be about 4-6 a day. 

Since newborns use so many diapers, and cloth diapers need to be changed more frequently than disposables, 20 is the minimum you should have.

If you plan to wash daily, you may skate by with 20. To give yourself breathing room, most people have 24-30. You should have at least double the amount your baby uses in a day.

Cloth diapers are less absorbent than disposables. They should be checked every hour to ninety minutes for a newborn. Checking every hour and a half to two hours should suffice for an older baby.

Once your child is a toddler and can tell you they are wet, checking every three-fours is ok.

How to Use Each Type of Cloth Diaper?

There are different types of cloth diapers. So here are cloth diapers for beginners rundown: All-in-ones or AOIs, All-in-twos or hybrids, pocket diapers, prefolds, and fitted with covers.

Each one has its own quirks, but the basics are the same when it comes to cloth diaper how to. Read up on each to decide which will be best for you.

All-in-ones (AIO)

This style of diaper is a single-unit cloth diaper with an absorbent inside and waterproof outside. They work similarly to disposables except you throw them in the wash bin instead of the trash bin.

AIOs are the thickest of the cloth diaper family, which means they have the longest dry time. They require no assembly, so they are great for people who don’t want that extra step.

To use all-in-one diapers, you will need to have enough to allow for proper dry time; you may need more than other styles.

  • Toss the diaper in the washable diaper bin
  • Fasten diaper to the baby 

If there is poop in the diaper, you will need to scrape the poop into the toilet and or wash it off with a water sprayer once the baby is safely off the changing table. 

All-in-twos (AI2 or Hybrids)

With a hybrid diaper or all-in-two diapers, the inner material is not attached. This makes washing and drying AI2s a little bit faster.

They are two kinds, one where the inner portion is washable and one where it is disposable. Washable insert or not all-in-twos require some assembly time.

If you are not interested in this extra step, these are not the diapers for you. However, disposable liners make cleaning poop much easier.      

  • Remove disposable insert if used and toss it in the trash.
  • If using a washable insert, toss it into the diaper bin.
  • If the cover is not soiled, attach a new insert.
  • Fasten assembled diaper to the baby 

A cover can usually be used 3-4 times before washing. You may wish to keep a clean, assembled diaper ready to go when you need to replace the cover and insert. 


Pocket diapers are a multi-piece system. They have a removable padded insert placed into a pocket.

The pocket diaper inside is slightly absorbent, but the padded insert takes in most of the liquid. To use pocket diapers, you need to wash both parts after each use.

These need to be pre-assembled, so keep that in mind when deciding on the correct diaper for you.

  • Remove diaper and toss it in the diaper bin.
  • Fasten pre-assembled diaper onto baby’s bottom

Once these diapers are assembled, they function similarly to an all-in-one. You will need to separate the insert from the diaper pocket during the washing process after the initial cold rinse.

I used these diapers and found that as my baby got bigger, I needed two inserts to keep him dry.

Flat/Prefolds with Covers 

Prefold cloth diapers are similar to old-fashioned cloth diapers. They are rectangular pieces of fabric with an absorbent section in the middle.

These can be folded in different ways, and you will likely need to purchase separate fasteners. These also require waterproof covers that can be worn typically three or four times before changing.

  • Remove waterproof cover
  • Unfasten prefold and toss in the diaper bin
  • Attach new prefold
  • Replace the waterproof cover.

If the diaper has been pooped in, you will need to scrape the poop into the toilet or wash it with a sprayer attachment. Do this step after the baby is safely off the changing table. 

You can also purchase wool covers for prefolds. They are more absorbent and don’t need to be washed as often. They are also breathable and soft on your baby’s bottom.

Fitted with Covers

Fitted cloth diapers with covers are similar to prefolds. The difference is the absorbent part of the diaper is pre-fitted into a diaper shape with fasteners attached.

Fitted diapers are incredibly absorbent, and you can resume a cover several times before washing.

Fitted diapers are different because you will need to purchase bigger sizes as your baby grows, while most of the other styles are suitable for the life of your child’s diaper-wearing years.

  • Newborn 6-12 lbs
  • Small 8-20
  • Large 20-25lbs
  • Toddler 25-25 lbs

If your baby is not a preemie and is born over 8lbs, you may be able to use the small size for quite some time. To use fitted diapers, the steps are similar to the other styles.

  • Remove waterproof cover
  • Remove the fitted diaper and toss it in a diaper bin.
  • Put on a new fitted diaper.
  • Replace the waterproof cover.

Like the other washable diapers, you need to scrape the poop out or spray the diaper down with a hose attachment.

How to Get a Good Fit?

Your baby will be wearing diapers for a few years, so it is vital to make sure they fit comfortably. Start by measuring your baby.

  • Thigh: Measure around the meatiest part of your baby’s thigh/leg
  • Rise: Measure from the middle of your baby’s back up to above their belly button.
  • Waist: Measure around the baby’s waist right about belly button height. 
  • Crotch: Measure between the front of their legs.

To put on cloth diapers, you will also need to check where the snaps or fasteners lie. Many diapers are adjustable.

They may have elastic bands in the things that parents can adjust, or there may be several sets of snaps to may the waist snugger or loser. 

You don’t want the diaper to be too tight, so make sure there is no muffin top on your baby! You also don’t want the legs loose, or the diaper will leak. The leg band should be snug but not tight.

Additional Products Your Will Want

If you decide to use cloth diapers, some additional products can make things easier. Items such as a diaper sprayer, a waterproof wet bag, cloth wipes, and washable pail liners are all something to consider. 

Diaper Sprayer

As part of your cloth diaper setup, you may want to get a diaper sprayer. A diaper sprayer is a bidet-style attachment you add to your toilet. These high-powered water sprayers help rinse off poopy diapers. These are great for people who dislike the idea of scraping poop out of the diaper.

Cloth Wipes

Cloth wipes are great for people whose baby has a sensitive bottom or who want to decrease their carbon footprint even more. They are washable and reusable, just like the diapers themselves.

Zippered Wet Bag

A zippered wet bag was one of the best purchases I made! It provides you with a reusable, washable place to store dirty cloth diapers when you have to change your baby on the go. It keeps the wet, stinky diaper away from the clean items and decreases the smell of carrying a dirty diaper around.

Pail Liner

A washable pail liner is also a great cloth diaper accessory! I had two, so I could wash one while the other was being used in my diaper pail. You use a diaper liner when you use the dry pail method to store dirty diapers.

Washing Cloth Diapers

If the book cloth diapers for dummies existed, it would tell you to wash your cloth diapers every one to two days. Most people opt for every two days to give themselves some breathing room.

To start, remove any soiled waste from the diaper. If you are using a disposable cloth diaper insert or liner, this step is simple. If you are using washable inserts or liners, you will need to use a sprayer, scrape the poop out, or dunk it in the toilet.

I used disposable, biodegradable liners and found saving myself that extra step very helpful. I just tossed the dirty diaper into the pail until time to wash.

  1. The first step in washing is a rinse on cold, with no detergent. If you are using pocket diapers or diapers with removable cloth diaper inserts, separate the two pieces.
  2. Next, wash on hot with cloth diaper detergent. After the wash cycle, run another rinse on hot. Do a sniff test; if the diaper still smells of urine or poop, rinse again. 
  3. To dry cloth diapers, hang them to air dry; outside in the sunshine is the best option if possible. If not, you can hang them on an inside line or drying rack. Some cloth diapers can be dried in the drier, but check with the manufacturer first.

Cloth Diapering Services

A cloth diaper service is a company that picks up, washes your diapers, and delivers you a clean set. You use the company’s diapers, and they provide you with clean, sanitized diapers regularly.

This type of service can be a considerable cloth diaper help if you do not have your washing machine or don’t have the time to do laundry every day. 

Most cloth diapering services use fitted or prefold diapers. Cloth diaper services typically require you to buy or rent from them waterproof covers.

The price of using a cloth diapering service will cost roughly the same as using disposables. Three years of disposables cost about $3,200. It will cost approximately $2,500 to $3,700 or $18-$24 a week from birth to age three for a diapering service.

Cloth diapering services become more economical if you have more than one child in diapers as you will only be charged one delivery fee. It is important to check what is included in their weekly fees. 


Do you really save money using cloth diapers?

You can. Disposable diapers and wipes for three years are approximately $3,200. Cloth diapers you purchase can cost as little as $800-$900 for the same period of time.

How do cloth diapers work with poop?

You will need to use a disposable liner to toss poop away or scrape or rinse poop off washable liners into the toilet before washing them.

How to clean cloth diapers?

Cloth diaper basics are rinse on cold, wash on hot with cloth diaper detergent, and additional rinse on hot. If needed perform an additional rinse then air dry.

How to use cloth diapers for newborns?

Make sure you have a small enough size to prevent leaks. Check every one hour to ninety minutes to prevent diaper rash. Expect to go through 8-12 diapers a day the first 6 weeks.

How to use cloth diaper covers?

Cloth diaper covers are washable and can be used 3-4 times for every prefold or fitted diaper used with it. They are waterproof and slide on like a pair of underwear.

How to put on cloth diapers?

Most cloth diapers are put on like disposables. They snap or fasten around the baby’s waist. Prefolds will need to be fastened with additional fasteners. 

Is it OK to use used cloth diapers?

Yes, check the seller’s credentials or feedback first. Thoroughly wash diapers when you receive them. You can strip them if needed. Some companies sell certified used diapers.

How do you sanitize cloth diapers?

The best way to sanitize cloth diapers is to air dry them in the sunshine. Sunlight is a natural disinfectant. You can soak them in 4 cups of hydrogen peroxide + 1 cup of borax and a ½ bathtub of cold water. Wash with 4 cups of hydrogen peroxide + 1 cup of borax + detergent. 

How do cloth diapers work?

Cloth diapers are made from absorbent materials. Either the diaper itself is absorbent or the washable insert or liner is. They have a waterproof outside to protect clothes from wetness and leaks.

How often should you change cloth diapers?

Because cloth diapers are less absorbent than disposables, they should be changed every one hour to ninety minutes. As your child gets older and goes less, you can check every ninety minutes to two hours.

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