Ridiculously Easy Cloth Diapers

Easy Cloth Diapers - Credit: Matt Herndon
Easy Cloth Diapers – Credit: Matt Herndon

I started thinking about diapers over a year ago when my wife was pregnant with our first child. The idea of sending a ton of disposable diapers to landfills had always disturbed me, but I was also afraid of the difficulty of cloth diapers. I was going to be the parent staying home so I’d be doing the majority of diaper changes. Did I really want to sign up for something as hard as cloth diapering? My wife did a ton of research and convinced me that cloth diapers wouldn’t be too hard. I’m glad she did because I honestly think I’ve had an easier time using reusables than I would have had with disposables. I’ve been blown away by how easy cloth diapers are to use.

Can They Really Be That Easy?

In a word: yes. Modern reusable pocket diapers are soooo easy, it is ridiculous. You put them on a baby the exact same way as a disposable, except they close with sturdier Velcro or with snapping buttons. If you prefer a slight bit of a challenge, you could buy prefold diapers. These require a smidge more work than pocket diapers, but apparently even brain-dead zombie moms can use them. In either case, when the diapers get dirty you just throw them in a diaper pail the same way you would throw a used disposable into the trash (or if you want to be extra wasteful, into a diaper “genie”). In the beginning I used a diaper sprayer to rinse poopie diapers before I put them in the diaper pail, but after a while I realized that our washer could handle them without rinsing and mostly stopped using the sprayer. Now that the boy is older I do go and drop his solid turds off into the toilet, and I guess that is one more tiny step, but it’s honestly not hard.

But The Poo Might Touch Me!

Okay, I hear some people shouting that dropping their kid’s poo into the toilet is icky. To these people I have a warning. As a parent you will find yourself, your clothes, and even your house occasionally splattered with the excretions of your progeny. Even with a disposable diaper, the poo will still have to be wiped off your kid’s behind and in the process it will sometimes get everywhere. If this is too much for you to bear, I have heard that there are many other adults who are happy to deal with such challenges and are actively looking to adopt. Also, it’s not like you have to physically grab each nugget; simply hold the the diaper upside down over the toilet and shake it off. (Note: I unconditionally condone Kidz Songz rewriting their version of Shake it Off to focus on this chore.)

Isn’t Washing Them a Hassle?

Yes, when the diaper pail is full, you must lug the bag to the washer and run a load. If you don’t have a washing machine in the house, I can see how this could be a hardship, otherwise it can be easier than disposables. “How?” you might ask. Well, in my case, my son was born at the end of December in upstate New York. On a good day the temperature outside would get above freezing. I much preferred putting the diapers in the washer I had inside my nice warm house over venturing out into the bitter cold to throw them into the trash can. Reusable diapers win in the summer too, unless you’re a fan of taking a diaper filled trash can that’s been cooking in the sun for days out to the street. If you pair cloth diapers with a low waste lifestyle, you might find that you only have to take trash out once a month or so, saving you time to do things you actually enjoy. For the ultimate in convenience you could pay a bunch more for a reusable diaper service that comes to your house each week to provide fresh cloth diapers and haul away the dirty ones.

Never Tread Down the Diaper Aisle

With disposables, you’re constantly going to the store and buying new ones. Guess where the store is located? That’s right, outside in the bitter, bitter cold (or the hot hot heat, depending on season/location). Sure, you probably think that you’ll just get them on your normal shopping trips, but what happens when you forget? Do you really want to head over to the store at midnight while your partner stays home with a half naked baby, stewing over how you forgot to buy a refill pack? Oh, and once you get to the store you have to figure out the right size diaper to get, pick from a million different brands, and lug a giant diaper pack back home. Who needs that sort of hassle in their life? Memorizing diaper sizes and throwing out diapers that your baby has outgrown are for suckers. Reusable pocket diapers have buttons on the front that let you adjust their sizing as your baby grows, so once you’ve bought them you can just keep resizing them till your kid is using the toilet. Okay, you need infant sized ones too, so you must make two purchases. I’ll take that over searching through the diaper aisle at the store every few weeks.

What Do You Need?

Okay, so you’re on board with the idea that reusable diapers will be easier than disposables. What do you need to enter the easy cloth diaper promised land? Well, there are lots of different brands out there, and different set-ups. As with everything, different things work for different people, but I’ll detail what I use as an example to help you get started.

  • 20 Thirsties newborn diapers with Kissaluv cotton fleece fitted diaper inserts
    • Sadly it seems that a factory fire has put Kissaluv out of business but you can still probably find some used.
  • 25 bumGenius pocket diapers with inserts
  • 2 Planet Wise 13 gallon reusable diaper pail liners
    • Having two liners is key so you can have a fresh one in the pail while the other is being washed.
  • 1 regular old wastebasket with pedal for lid
    • The boy has now figured out how to open the lid and I’m starting to wish I’d gotten one with a locking feature or a weighted lid.
  • 1 large Planet Wise wet dry diaper bag
  • 1 Planet Wise waterproof changing pad
  • 2 12-packs of Grovia reusable wipes
  • 1 Prince Lionheart wipes warmer
    • Probably a bit of luxury overkill, but it was a great gift that helped in the cold of upstate New York.
  • 1 30-wipe package of Earth’s Best disposable baby wipes
    • The reusable wipes are so good that we still had nearly half of this pack left after a year
  • 1 2-oz. jar of Angel Baby bottom balm
    • If you get reusable diapers you must make sure your diaper balm won’t decrease their absorbency
  • 3 2.64-lb. Charlie’s soap for washing the diapers (the 3rd container was still very full 12 months in)
    • Similarly, reusable diapers require soap that won’t decrease their absorbency, this one is also good for sensitive skin

Of all this stuff, my favorite thing, by far, is the Planet Wise wet diaper bag. It can hold three or four diapers, along with diaper balm and wipes. You simply put clean diapers and accessories in the dry pocket and dirty ones in the wet pocket. This thing is so small it’s easy to put under the stroller or in a small backpack and it should last your kid for hours. This makes it great for all our short trips, and with the changing pad we can literally do a diaper change anywhere. Stuck in your car in a furniture store parking lot? No problem. Hiking in the middle of the desert? Easy peasy! You don’t need to search out a trash can because you have the wet pocket on this bag, and the changing pad turns anything, even a big flat rock in the desert, into a changing table. I have no clue why people lug huge duffel bag sized diaper bags around when something this size is so easy.

So You Don’t Use Any Disposable Diapers?

We keep thinking that we’re going to have to buy disposable diapers for longer trips, but so far we haven’t needed to buy any. We spent nearly a whole month taking the boy to visit relatives up and down the East Coast while selling our house, and didn’t need a single disposable. Instead, we just threw both of the diaper pail liners in our trunk and filled one of them with clean diapers and the other with the dirty ones. At times I felt like a gross Santa walking into a hotel with a sack of dirty diapers over my shoulder. But if you spin them up tight, the water proof liner bags really seal in the stink, so I was the only one who knew the full truth of my terrible cargo. There’s another silver lining to this, too. Nobody likes it when parents put poopie diapers in public trashcans, and with this setup you don’t have to. Your kids made the mess and you handle it like a responsible adult instead of leaving it around for other people to smell. We might get some disposables for an upcoming trip where we won’t have easy access to washing machines, but outside of that it’s reusable all the way.

Wrapping Up Our Easy Cloth Diapers

So that’s about all there is to it. Reusable diapers do require a bit of upfront thinking to buy them once, but they save you from the recurring chore of going to the store to buy more. You have to run a few more loads of laundry, but you get to take out fewer loads of trash. If you don’t have your own washing machine, they could be harder than disposables, but otherwise the inconvenience is an illusion. It’s incredible how easy cloth diapers are. The main hindrance is that you have to put together a few hundred bucks up front to buy them, while with disposables you just lay out a smaller amount of money each week. Still, reusable diapers end up cheaper than disposables in the long run.

If you’re expecting a new arrival soon and thinking about diaper options, I hope that this post has helped dispel some of the fears you may have about reusable diapers. I almost let my fears push me into using disposables, but now that I’ve been using reusable diapers for a year I can’t imagine doing it any other way.

Matt Herndon
Environmental Blogger at Rampant Discourse
Earnest pragmatist. Non-theist ascetic. Data aficionado. Amicable skeptic. Matt is a new father who's spent too much time debating whether the plastic box his spinach came in is the perfect first birthday present for his baby, or just a good one.

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