the truth about cloth diapering.

May 28, 2012, Michaela Evanow, 17 Comments

I started Florence in cloth diapers at the 6 week mark. I was feeling more confident in my diapering/feeding/mothering abilities (which happens around that time, thank God) and Flo was no longer pooping 100 times a day.

The first day I strapped a lovely cloth diaper on her, I felt so wonderful. Like I was doing something nice for her, smothering her little tush in soft, white clouds, covered in pretty patterns. She felt comfortable enough to poop right away. I was terrified to open that diaper and tackle the contents. I wouldn’t be tossing the diaper into the bin this time. But I unsnapped and did what I could to remove the mess, tossed it in the bin…and realized it was pretty much the same as throwing out a disposable.

After two days, I decided to throw the load of dirty diapers into the washing machine. I am not going to lie—this post is called the truth about cloth diapering, after all—the smell was terrible. Revolting, rather. And at the moment, I asked myself if I could I do this every few days. Could I empty the bin of it’s eye watering, nasty contents? Could I die a little bit inside for 10-20 seconds (the amount of time it takes to transfer the load into the machine and slam it shut). Looking down at my little Florence cooing away on the change table, I decided I could. I love her so much—I even love her smells. I mean, I’m a little worried to leave her cloth diapered bum with a sitter, which these days, happens to be a good friend (thanks Suzi!) I will admit I don’t want anyone else but Jay and I near that stainless steel step can, because when it opens, it’s a bit like Armageddon for your nostrils. So I use disposables on occasion, to make life easier for everyone. One day I’ll take the time to explain the system to our friends and family, I’m sure. When I visit my parents, she’s in disposables, because they live a ferry ride away, and I’m not convinced Jay wouldn’t toss the wet bag of cloth diapers overboard after they’ve sat baking in the car for a few days.

I really do love cloth diapers. The smell is just as bad as disposable diapers in a bin. They all reek, it doesn’t matter how you do it. Whoever invented the Diaper Genie, knows a thing or two about stinky diapers.

I actually enjoy washing cloth diapers, because it’s oddly satisfying. I love to dry them in the sun, letting the natural light bleach them clean. I love how they come out white and fresh, an impossible thought when they first go in the wash. I love the snaps and velcro, the soft micro fleece, the colorful patterns, the way they sit in a neat stacked pile, smiling at me. I’m the person who actually digs through the pile, finding the pattern I like best. When you’re staring at a diapered bum so often throughout the day, it’s refreshing to see it covered in flowers or camouflage or zebra stripes.

Here’s another truth about cloth diapers: I put Florence disposables for overnight. I have some nice big hemp liners, which can be very useful for overnight, however, they just make her bum 10 times larger, and I have trouble finding a sleeper that fits. She also can’t move her legs an inch in either direction. I imagine as she gets bigger, the diaper will get smaller and things will even out nicely. But for now, I enjoy using disposables at night, because they do hold a bit more liquid. Cloth diapers need to be changed more often than disposables. For Florence, this amounts to a minimum of 5 microfiber liners a day. But remember, that could potentially equal 5+ disposable diapers a day, not including any poops, which is a lot. Because I use pocket diapers, I simply remove the insert when it’s full, or when I think it’s full, and slip in a fresh one. I change the actual diaper cover if it’s really wet, but since the diapers are lined with microfiber, the pee is wicked away from her skin so it feels dry.

microfiber and bamboo inserts.

the diaper liner and insert.

It took me a long time to wrap my head around all the liner, cover, insert, bamboo, microfiber terminology. But once I figured out what was what, how it all worked, and decided to stick with it (i.e didn’t buy any disposables when we ran out), I realized I loved it.

seafoam diaper! it’s adjustable (hence the snaps on the bottom) to fit her from now until she’s potty training.

Why do mums cloth diaper? They are frugal. Their baby has sensitive skin and reacts to the chemicals in disposable diapers. They love the environment. They know that cloth diapers no longer come with giant pins. They don’t like throwing giant bags of waste in the landfill. They like saving money because they’re frugal. Did I mention that already?

Yes, there is water usage and laundry soap to consider, but it’s really nothing. I wash every 2-3 days and hang to dry. I use a very economical laundry soap that’s made locally, which works out to be 25 cents a load for my top loader (15 cents if you have a HE machine). The start up cost of cloth diapers can be a bit overwhelming perhaps, but I  jumped right in a purchased $180 worth of diapers, which is all I need. I have 20 pocket diapers that will fit Flo from 8-35 lbs. I have enough liners, about 40. And I know in the cloth diaper world that $180 is very cheap for a full set. I haven’t experimented with other brands of diapers, or other versions. I’ve only used the very affordable Kawaii pocket diapers. I’m open to trying others though.

Finally, although my husband was not initially on board with the whole idea, he has now warmed up to it. But he never does the diaper laundry which is fine by me! I’m not convinced many dads like cloth diapers, but you know what, I don’t think they like diapers in general.


  • Reply Emma Walter October 18, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    hello there michaela. cheryl showed me your blog last year when we were pregnant together during the school year, (i am a little mama) and i have been following ever since. i think you and your family are just beautiful, and you are always in my thoughts. i’ve been looking into cloth diapering, and i remembered reading a post of yours on it, so here i am. i figure i am pooped on at least once a day (and peed on whenever i change the stinker’s diaper–seems to be a boy thing) and i seem to handle that better than i thought i would, so i think i can do this. i was just wondering what your experience has been with kawaii? i’m trying to figure out which diapers i should start using on my son.

    • Reply Michaela. October 19, 2012 at 5:14 PM

      Hi Emma, I do like Kawaii because they are affordable and great cloth diapers! There are lots out there but these ones are pocket diapers. I like them best. All in One diapers are pricy and are identical to disposable diapers because you only use them once then change the whole diaper. I would order a few diapers from Kawaii and see what you think. The snap and Velcro are great.

  • Reply seventhacreheaven June 22, 2012 at 11:38 AM

    Hi Michaela. Thanks for visiting my blog. We on are our 3rd year and 2nd baby with cloth diapering. You get used to the smell. 🙂 We prefer cloth for day and night because we find it absorbs more and we have fewer leaks and blow-outs…but then we use cotton prefolds so the whole thing is absorbent. We also use Charlie’s Soap for all our laundry including dipes…we learned it was important to use the same detergent for our regular wash or the dipes became less absorbent very quickly. We buy it in huge buckets about once a year. We also use sodium percarbonate (the active ingredient in all those oxobrite, oxyclean type laundry boosters) that we buy in 50 pound quantities. The two together are still much cheaper than buying detergent…though having a local option as you do sounds really cool. As far as Mrs. Loquacious’ concern about trouble rolling over…babies actually roll over later nowadays than they did 50 years ago when all babies were cloth diapered in much less streamlined diapers.

    We make our own cloth wipes (only just made a new set after 3 years with the old ones). Its much easier having cloth wipes when you cloth diaper; they all go in the same pail together. And saves more money and landfill space as well!

  • Reply Cheryl Hagel June 6, 2012 at 9:17 PM

    Just wait until she starts solids! lol. I’m on my second cloth diapered baby, I love pocket diapers. We use bum genius and AMP. I use disposables at night though and like the compostable broody chick which are local or 7th gen overnights for Aiden. You should try a deoderizer for you diaper pail. Bum genius makes one in a shaker and I have a natural air freshener on the inside lid of mine to make it nicer. You can also add baking soda then use vinegar in the rinse cycle. The best thing I got myself this time was a wipes warmer for cloth wipes! You should check them out if you don’t have one. (Prince lionhart) It keeps them warm and moist at the change table. And I love the large Motherease wipes from the Mothering Touch ($2 each). And my Jason does not do the laundry either!

    • Reply Michaela. June 7, 2012 at 5:45 PM

      WOW, Cheryl, you are one crunchy mama! I had no idea!! That’s so neat to hear about the Lionhearts Warmer…I was wondering what that was for…but now I get it. It keeps them moist. What a great tip. I also have an air freshener and sprinkle baking soda in the can. It masks some of the smell, but not all. What kind of liner do you use in your pail?

      • Reply Cheryl June 25, 2012 at 8:19 PM

        I don’t use one, I just wash the pail in the shower every time I empty it.

        • Reply Michaela. June 26, 2012 at 7:58 PM

          I see. That’s great to know, thanks!

  • Reply Going Coverless May 29, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    I actually enjoy the laying-out-to-dry, folding and stacking of diapers, too. And Fae LOVES playing with them. She’ll sit down and sort them into a pile on each side of her as I fold them. We used disposables most nights until Fae turned 6 months. After that the diapers didn’t seem as huge on her.
    Flo is adorable in her little diaper!

    • Reply Michaela. May 29, 2012 at 9:31 AM

      That’s good to know! I think we’ll make that switch too for overnight. I like the laundry too. It’s really not a big deal, and I enjoy doing laundry anyway. What kind of soap do you use for your diapers GC?

      • Reply Going Coverless May 29, 2012 at 2:50 PM

        I use Charlie’s–my midwife’s recommendation. I love it. I use if for our clothes too. What do you use?

        • Reply Michaela. May 29, 2012 at 10:32 PM

          Haven’t heard of Charlie’s! I use the Soap Exchange Enviro Wash. It’s a local soap!

  • Reply The Laundry Lady May 29, 2012 at 5:09 AM

    Actually it is a little bit of a fallacy that cloth diapers need to be changed more often then disposables. Medical personnel recommend that diapers be changed every 2-3 hours, regardless of what kind are used. Sure, disposables may technically hold more, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy to do so. That being said, I allow my son to go four or five hours in a pocket diaper at night and he does fine.

    • Reply Michaela. May 29, 2012 at 9:29 AM

      Yes, I think that’s true. I can’t remember how often I changed her wet disposables before we started cloth. Sure didn’t feel less. I think what I was referring to was that if a wet cloth diaper is very full, it is more likely going to leak or be a bit damp, unlike a wet disposable (poop aside). But perhaps it’s just the ones I’m using?

  • Reply Suzi May 28, 2012 at 9:31 PM

    I believe in cloth diapers, and I believe in saving the planet! I am up to the challenge!
    Expecting a full lesson tomorrow night ;).


    • Reply Michaela. May 29, 2012 at 9:28 AM

      Yeah Suzi! Love it. I will fill you in 🙂

  • Reply Mrs Loquacious May 28, 2012 at 9:28 PM

    We are not so fond of the idea of cloth diapering. I have heard that the diaper can sometimes be so big that it hampers baby’s ability to turn over (but our babies are a good size so maybe that’s not an issue for us) . I also do laundry nearly every day as is; adding to the load just doesn’t appeal! Still, glad you are enjoying the experience 🙂

    • Reply Michaela. May 29, 2012 at 9:28 AM

      The diaper doesn’t get too big, unless you’re using a huge soaker pad. The ones I have are quite big, but I also haven’t looked into other diaper brands. And I also don’t use them, it’s just an option. I know they are out there. As for day time use, they are pretty awesome!

    Leave a Reply