9 Common Cloth Diapering Mistakes and What to Do Instead

When I was a new mama, I spent so much time researching cloth diapers, what to do, what not to do, and that still didn’t save me from a lot of trial and error. Two babies and four and a half years of cloth diapering later, I think I can safely say I’ve learned a thing or two. In the interest of saving other mamas some of the same growing pains, here are nine of the most common cloth diapering mistakes and what to do instead.

9 common cloth diapering mistakes

1. Buying an entire cloth diaper stash before your baby is born.

Maybe you fell in love with all the GroVia prints, or your best friend makes super cute fitted diapers. Maybe you found an amazing bulk deal. Stop! Don’t buy all the diapers before your baby even gets here. Yes, pick up a few newborn diapers. (Unless you’re pushing out a 10 pounder, the chances of that one size diaper fitting your newborn are pretty slim.) But do you know why everyone seems to have their own personal recommendation for the best diaper ever? Because every baby is different. Just because your best friend swears by a certain brand, does not mean that you or your baby will like it.

Some diapers work best for skinny babies, others for fat babies. Some babies can be slender in the waist and chubby in the thighs. Some babies have proportionately longer torsos than others. Some babies are heavy wetters and need more absorbency. Some babies have exquisitely sensitive skin and can’t stand feeling wet or being exposed to synthetic fibers. You won’t find these things out until your little peanut makes his or her appearance though. So wait.

Enjoy the hunt and discovery of your best diaper ever. Once you’ve found it, by all means go nuts, but don’t blow all your stash cash on diapers that you may end up cursing two months later and trying to resell.

2. Thinking it’s all or nothing.

Choosing to cloth diaper doesn’t have to mean that you’re choosing to use cloth for every single diaper change until your baby potty trains. Some people use disposables at night, or on vacation, or when they’re sick, or when their baby has yeast or a bad diaper rash. I’ve used disposables in all those situations at one time or another. It’s okay not to be “perfect”.

Even if you only have a few diapers right now, every time you use cloth you avoid a disposable diaper going into the landfill to sit for 250-500 years.

Cloth diapering isn't all or nothing

3. Not using enough detergent on your cloth diapers.

At some point near the beginning of my cloth diapering career, I read on several websites that I should use less detergent on my cloth diapers to minimize the residue left in my diapers. That worked okay when my baby was exclusively breastfed, but as soon as she got older and started eating solids and getting stronger-smelling pee, my diapers started to smell like a barnyard. At one point I was doing three wash cycles and my diapers still didn’t smell clean.

Then I realized that my diapers were dirty. Dirty diapers need detergent to get clean. I started following the recommendations on the detergent box, and all of a sudden my diapers were clean again. Do make sure you rinse out all the detergent though. They’ll get grungy and can irritate some babies’ skin if the detergent isn’t rinsed out.

4. Using dryer sheets.

Dryer sheets make clothes soft and static-free by coating the fibers with synthetic chemicals that cause liquids to repel. That’s the last thing you want on your diapers! Even using dryer sheets with your regular laundry loads will leave residue on the drum which can transfer onto your diapers, so it’s best to avoid them entirely.

5. Putting microfiber against your baby’s skin.

Microfiber is used for diaper inserts because it absorbs liquid so well. Unfortunately, microfiber doesn’t discriminate between pee and the moisture in your baby’s skin. Microfiber should never be placed next to your baby’s bare skin. It goes inside the pocket or under another layer!

Never place microfiber against baby's skin!

6. Not changing the diaper often enough.

On average, diapers should be changed every two to three hours during the day, or as soon as baby poops. Most babies can go longer overnight, but you will need to add more absorbency to compensate.

7. Not prepping your cloth diapers.

Natural fiber (cotton, hemp, bamboo) diapers and inserts still have some of their natural oils in the fibers and need to be “prepped” before first use. This means washing (with detergent) and drying 3-5 times to remove all the oils. If you don’t prep your diapers, they won’t absorb properly and you’ll be disappointed in their performance.
 

8. Having too few diapers.

If your stash is too small, you’ll be stuck washing every day – and that will burn out the best of us eventually! Daily washing will also wear out your diapers faster. 24 diapers is the usual recommended minimum number, but I like a few more with a newborn (they pee and poop A LOT!), and if you’re starting with an older baby, you can probably get by with a few less.

9. Not washing often enough.

While you don’t need to wash your diapers every day, if you leave them more than two or three days, the urine breaks down into ammonia (this is what makes your eyes water!) and it will also be much more difficult to get the smell out of your diapers.
 
 
What other cloth diapering advice do you have for parents just starting out?

Visit these resources below to learn more about cloth diapering!

6 Ways to Fold a Prefold Diaper | This West Coast Mommy - In this #clothdiaper #tutorial, I show you 6 different ways to fold a prefold diaper, with pictures.

All About Using Cloth Baby Wipes

Which Cloth Diaper Inserts, Doublers, or Liners Should I Choose?

50 thoughts on “9 Common Cloth Diapering Mistakes and What to Do Instead

  • Laurie P said on

    i”m so glad I got to try so many different styles/brands. Certain diapers just didn’t work well for my baby, and others were so awesome!!

  • Delacey said on

    Great post! I agree so much with number 1, for a couple of other reasons that aren’t listed. First, a whole stash of one diaper may not need the variety of needs for baby (eg buy all AIO’s but need more absorbency for naps and night time). Second, having leaks due to poor fit to a new to CD mom can lead to them giving up CD’ing thinking that all CD’s will leak. Third, not all brands are made of equal quality, so new mom goes and buys all of a brand and then finds out shortly afterwards they are duds, or they won’t last to cloth baby #2. Fourth, often new moms don’t know where to sell a brand that doesn’t work or how to price it or how to protect themselves if they are selling. If you only have one or two diapers in a variety of brands/styles that don’t work well they can either wear it strategically (eg i know it will probably leak so i will only wear it at home and check it frequently) or only have a couple of diapers to try to resell.

  • Megan W said on

    The two tips I really appreciate are buyin a while stash before baby comes and it being all or nothing. We did start a stash but tried to get a little bit of every type so that we can try it out and see what works best for us. Plus waiting to build the stash also means I can wait for sales and clearance prices to take advantage of. As for all or nothing, every family and situation is different so being flexible will help to take some stress out of the process. Thanks for posting these tips!!

  • Mylène Bélanger said on

    Keep it simple, it’s just cloth! If your routine takes hours and a lot of crazy steps, it’s probably wrong. Aside from a prewash, it’s all the same as your regular laundry.

  • Anel said on

    Thank for this!! I’m trying not to buy all the diapers right now before my baby is born, but it’s so hard because I want to be prepared!

  • petra s. said on

    Oops! I’ve already got a stash and we’re four weeks from my due date. I do have some diversity of brands, though. I knew to avoid buying all of one style, but I have been buying diapers since 20 weeks.

  • Nicolette said on

    I would add don’t be afraid buy used (especially initially). That way you are saving money and if something doesn’t work for your baby you can most likely sell it for what you paid.

  • Melissa E said on

    It will be so interesting getting the routine down. I’m so glad places like this on the internet exist to help me troubleshoot!

  • Danie said on

    I bought all my diapers several months before my baby was born and I couldn’t have been happier with them! I bought 40 ultrasoft diapers from giggle life got a huge sale couldn’t resist. Now my daughter is just turning two and I am using the same diapers (middle of potty training) I am pregnant with my second and intend to use my diapers for my second baby as well. As far as detergent goes I make my own and every few washes I add a squirt of blue dawn dish soap to keep residues away, when I had an ammonia problem only thing that has worked for me is bleaching So I try to bleach about once a month and now I have no problems what so ever with my diapers! Diapers are washed every other day. I also make my own diaper rash cream and have never had issues with that either. When able baby went diaperless to help with rashes later cream was applied next day rash gone :). And for using disposables I used them with my first until the umbilical cord healed also my diapers were a little on the big side at the time, I think we used them for maybe the first 3-4 weeks after that been cloth diapers all the way aside from travel. But I am very happy I decided to purchase my diapers in advance.:) Although I did happen to purchase a few bamboo diapers later because they were just super cute but I must say my initial purchase are still my favorite diapers.

  • Tarah said on

    This is SO helpful! After a stillbirth 13 years ago, we are expecting our rainbow baby girl in November. We decided years ago to use cloth diapers when we were blessed with children. Her diapers are prepped and ready for her arrival. I am pinning this and I am sure I will look back at it. Thanks for sharing your experience! God bless!

  • Kristin said on

    Thank you, thank you! I love that it’s ok not to be perfect! Also it is SO TRUE that everyone has their favorites and it is different for every baby. After hours and hours of research and reading reviews, I finally realized that no matter what, someone will love a certain diaper and someone else will hate it. Thank God for consignment shops so we can try them all out! :)

  • Kim Moore said on

    Thank you for this! We are new to cloth diapering and just finished prepping all our prefolds, something I would have never considered doing and am so glad I found out before trying them out! I am a bit concerned about laundering since we have to use a laundry mat and the dryers are certain to have residue from dryer sheets. I guess we will have to see how it goes and maybe wash at home in the tub if we start having problems!

    • Olivia said on

      I wonder how often laundromats clean the inside of their dryers? It might not be an issue at all. Alternatively, some people wash at the laundromat but hang to dry at home.

  • Amy Moore said on

    Im expecting our first in July and can’t wait to cloth diaper. Thank you for these tips, Im trying to read up on all the ins and out of cloth diapering.

  • Elva Roberts said on

    I used cloth diapers on my babies. That was many years ago and I am still happy that I used them . I also used pampers on my last baby during a very wet fall when my husband was harvesting potatoes and I had a large crew to feed and make lunches for morning and afternoon. The pampers were very helpful, but I would not wear them except for that kind of emergency.
    The cloth diapers now are so colorful and cheery. I am happy to see more and more Moms using them on their little ones.

  • Amber Ludwig said on

    Thanks for the AWESOME tips!! I didn’t know that about microfiber!! It feels so soft so I would’ve never known otherwise!! And its so hard to not buy all the diapers because gee are they so freaking cute!!

  • Mandy said on

    I wish I had found this article earlier! I made the mistake of being a bit lazy and not washing the diapers for a week… boy did the smell stick around! I had to do so many washes afterwards and putting it in the sun for so long to get the smells out. And they still don’t seem like they used to.

  • desiree said on

    when i had the twin i won a deal for year of diaper and i took it why it hard to buy diaper when you two little one and be for the little on became 1 had another one and then the comonpy felt sorry for me now here i had 3 of them in diaper so they extented the year for all 3 that allmost 200 diaper a week if i had to do them i would of done them every day but the kid never had rashes or any thing now i got more coming and they are going to beusing them

  • Jacki VM said on

    I’m expecting my first baby this year and trying to learn all I can about CD, it’s so overwhelming! I’m trying to keep my cool and not buy ALL OF THE DIAPERS before he even gets here – thanks for the advice!

  • kate m said on

    Whoops….my baby isn’t here yet and I bought all his diapers already. Thanks for the advice. Oh well :) It will work out…might have to get some more.

    • Olivia said on

      The wonderful thing about cloth diapers is even if those diapers don’t work just right for you, you can always sell them and recoup your money to try a different brand (or three). Either way it will work out. Wishing you an easy delivery when the time comes!

  • Michell said on

    Finally, after over 5 years of ttc we had our baby last May and I able to cloth diaper him. For me, smells good diaper means it’s clean. We don’t have problem in our cloth diaper. Then, I tried diff.brand of cloth diapers and cheapy from China is what we love and wahm made. To my surprise I love our alva baby than fuzzibunz. I believe now that every baby is different.

  • Betsy Williams said on

    Several really good tips here! We tried using cloth on one vacation before discovering disposable liners and that was a mistake, so unless we are staying with family we buy a pack of disposables for traveling now. I also agree that trying different diapers is important, even if your best friend/neighbor/sister-in-law/the lady at the local cloth diaper shop etc swears by a certain brand. It bothers me when someone asks what diapers I use and when I tell them they react like it is a bad choice because it didn’t work for them.

  • Christine C said on

    Thanks for the advice. First LO is due anyday and I am realistic, I keep disposables given to me just in case. I know I will end up using them too ! It is my first so it may be overwhelming and I don’t want so much pressure on myself and SO that we are not enjoying those first moments!!! Love the blog.

  • DBai said on

    Great advice! I would just add that it’s super useful to have some enzymatic spray on-hand (I keep a small bottle in the diaper bag and larger bottles on each floor of the house)! Then, before you drop that diaper in the pail (after spraying off poop if necessary), give it a quick spray which makes stains and STINK come out much easier in the wash!!! I love Biokleen brand’s Bac-out! :-)

    • Olivia said on

      I put all my microfiber, cotton, hemp, and bamboo inserts in the dryer, but I air dry my pocket diapers and PUL covers to keep them in good shape for longer.

  • Nalini Devarakonda said on

    Very Useful for a new mom like me..I have done couple of mistakes mentioned in this article and im on the road of correcting them for better CD.

  • Jenny B. said on

    I had diaper service with traditional diapers when my girls were babies. Then after they had their own and my hubby and I started babysitting our gems, I couldn’t help but think about all of the diapers going into the landfills every time I changed them. We have 8 grands) So when our 7th grand came along, I had decided that since we provide all of the needs while watching them, I would cloth diaper! I was sooo excited to use them and help the earth! ( my little contribution) I looked into the adjustables and bought several “Alva Baby” brand. I LOVED them! My daughter decided to use them as well. Max NEVER had a diaper rash! EVER! I always did a double rinse on them and my hubby made me a dialer sprayer with DIY instructions on Google. I usually hung them to dry in our giest bathroom by the corners, with slacks hangers from the store and two per hanger. They dry overnite and they smell so good! I like Babyganics detergent from Toys R Us. It has enzymes to break down the urine and poo odors. Smells like baby powder and goes a long way. I never had stains in the diapers either, although I have heard of some moms sunning dialers to remove stains. For me, Alva Baby, all the way!!! We saved hundreds of dollars too!

  • Peggy Williams said on

    wow i didnt know some of these and ive been using cloth for almost a year.. im so glad i read this.. such an eye opener

  • Angela said on

    My little Charisma was born 3 weeks ago. I’ve had honest diapers and pampers swaddles from multiple showers and plan on using those till she is at least 10lbs, then going cloth. I have purchased a few different types(think 6 CD) so far, but my hubby and I will be attending a cloth diaper class in a few weeks. I’m so on board but if he isn’t I won’t have the will to do it all myself. Very excited to do/consider this, and this article he informed my decisions since the first time I read it a few months ago.

  • Alicia Owen said on

    We found out the hard way about not putting microfiber right next to the skin. :/ Also, I’m wondering if that’s part of our stink problem is not washing them often enough. I usually do it about every 3 days because I have so many prefolds and flats we don’t need to do it sooner. lol

  • Katie Hall said on

    Love this post. I am about to be a first time mom and a first time cloth diaper mom and I am so excited. But I am also worried that I am going to make many mistakes. This will save me a lot of time and from making a lot of mistakes =]]

  • Courtney P. said on

    Great blog. I have a question about storage between washes. Lately even my clean diapers smell. I rinse out dirty diapers and allow them to dry right after I change the diaper, and I wash about every 2 days, but because of smell I am starting to wash every day even if its a small load. Do you have any tips or suggestions ?

    • Olivia said on

      If they smell out of the washing machine, I’d suggest increasing the amount of detergent and/or water you use. It sounds like they’re just not getting completely clean. That can easily happen with older babies when they start holding their pee longer.

  • Coral said on

    All of these are so true! I’ve sent this information on to a couple of my friends who were thinking about CD. I experienced the stink issue where I wasn’t using enough soap. Definitely helped when I start to use more.
    I have also been surpassed by how many people don’t know about not putting microfiber against their baby’s skin. Thankfully it only happened once with my LO when someone else changed the diaper :)
    I had a friend that quit cloth diapering because they got overwhelmed. I found out after that they only had 5 diapers and were washing them everyday, I can’t imagine! (of course I have way too many, have to quit making cute designs)

  • Tricia Hope said on

    Thanks for your insight!My daughter has been struggling with this in her last term.Knowing it doesn’t have to be all or nothing is a great tip!

  • Katharine Self said on

    #1, oh yes! I went a little crazy at first and stocked up on what worked at the time. Then I had to sell off some to go with something better for us. Babies’ needs change. I wish I had thought of that at first!

  • janie vezina said on

    i’ve cloth diapered for a while, but this is a great all in one place of what not to do’s. now i can print it off, and have an expert resource in the baby’s room, laundry room…lol

  • Elizabeth Matthiesen said on

    This was an interesting post with lots of good pointers. There was no microfiber around when mine were little but it is logical when you think about it that it shouldn’t go next to baby’s skin but unless it’s pointed out many wouldn’t think of it.

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