By peoplestaff225
October 13, 2008 10:00 AM

With all the concern about what disposable diapers are doing to our environment, many modern parents are choosing to cloth diaper their babies. Cloth diapering has come a long way since our grandmas slaved away over a washing machine or resorted to a service. New materials and innovative diaper designs have made it much simpler than you may think. But all the lingo and all the styles can be confusing. Most parents also worry about washing cloth diapers.

Click More for our Cloth Diapering 101 as Ciaran breaks it down for you.

Cleaning Cloth Diapers

Washingis probably the #1 fear of cloth diapering newbies, followed bystorage/odor control. You may be surprised to learn that cloth diaperpails smell less than "traditional" diaper genies, and that clothdiapers are quite easy to clean, without resorting to the use ofharsh/toxic chemicals.

Most modern cloth diaper-ers store their soiled diapers in awaterproof polyurethane-laminate (PUL) "wet bag" inside an inexpensivetrash can. When you change a cloth diaper, you shake any solids offinto the toilet (skip this step with a newborn), and toss the diaperinto the washbag. At the end of the day, or every other day, the entirewashbag and its contents are turned inside out into the wash. There isno need to presoak or pretreat before washing. You don’t even need tomake physical contact with soiled diapers. It actually takes me lesstime to do diaper laundry than it took to empty and re-thread a diapergenie.

The diapers are washed in a long cycle using very hot water with amild soap. With a modern washing machine you can be confident that bothyour washer and the diapers will end up sparkling clean and cootie-free. That’s all there is to it! For more specific diaper washing info,and advice about using gentle and organic detergents, see this handy chart.

(Check out my review of Wet Happens wet bags.)

Flatfolds and Prefolds

Stylesof diapers can be very confusing. Try to keep in mind that all diapers/diapering systems involve two chief goals, absorbancy and waterproofing. The most basic system uses the flat or pre-folded diaper.The difference between the two are that prefolds are made with alayered section in the center. Both of these need to be folded to fityour child and both of these need to be worn beneath a waterproofdiaper cover.

Fitted Diapers

Intimidated by cloth origami? Then you might consider trying a fittedcloth diaper in place of the prefold/flatfold. These diaper garments go on with snaps or velcro, fitting much like adisposable. We like the anti-microbial properties, silky softness and super absorbancy of theBamboo Bambinex line from Bumkins. Bambinex diapers also need to be used with a cover.

(Check out Teba’s review of Kissaluvs.)

Waterproof Diaper Covers

Themost popular covers today are made from a polyurethane-laminate fabricreferred to as PUL. PUL diaper covers are nothing like the old schoolcrackly plastic pants you may be thinking of. PUL is a soft, safe, andflexible coating that comes from the medical industry. It allowsmoisture to wick away as a vapor, but blocks liquids from leaking. PULcan be used as an inner lining on a cover, or may be coated ontoanother fabric. Fashionista moms will thrill to the hunt when it comesto custom diaper covers. Choose from hundreds of cotton prints, customembroidered versions and soft fuzzy diaper covers made from materialslike plush minky. Many of the most fabulous covers are made by work-at-home moms and sold on sites like Etsy or Hyena Cart.

Longies and Shorties

Inaddition to PUL, Wool and Microfleece have remarkable wickingproperties. Many cloth diapering moms prefer to use a waterproofmicrofleece, or a knit, felted or lanolized (wool made extra waterrepellant with lanolin) cover over their cloth diapers. Knit covers areoften referred to as "Longies" or "Shorties." Our hands-down favoritelongies are the toothy monster ones available from CrankyPants.

All in One (AIO) Diapers

Ascute as all those covers are, sometimes you want simplicity. Thusparents new to cloth diapering and/or looking to streamline theirroutine often turn to All-In-One (AIO) diapers. The absorbent materialand cover are made all in one piece, so the diaper is a single garment.These are the most similar to a disposable in use – the exception isthat you do not throw them away. All-in-ones can reduce bulk and canbe less confusing to caregivers at daycare or grandma’s house. Ourfavorite AIO’s come from Blueberry Diapers. These wash up beautifully, dry very quickly, and look like new evenafter constant use. They have the added bonus of having an open pocketwhich you can stuff with a pad or pre-folded diaper for extraabsorbency.

(Check out my review of Blueberry Diapers.)

Pocket Diapers

Perhaps the most popular style of cloth diapers today, is the pocket diaper. First introduced by Fuzzi Bunz,this is essentially a diaper cover with a convenient pocket on theinside inside. Rather than use a flat or fitted diaper underneath thecover, on your child, you "stuff" the pocket by inserting a foldeddiaper or a microfiber absorbant pad. This greatly speeds changing timeby giving you one garment to change, and simplifies your wash load aswell. Parents can customize their diapers to the child and situation -choosing from interchangable inserts made of bamboo, hemp, microfiberor cotton, and adding more than one insert on occasion if needed.

Both Fuzzi Bunz and bumGenius offercleverly made pocket diapers that are one size fits all. By adjustingthe snaps on the diaper, you can configure these diapers to fit yourchild from infancy on through toddlerhood. This makes these pocketdiapers a great value.

(Check out Louise’s review of Happy Heinys and Teba’s review of bumGenius.)

Choosing a System
Ultimately choosing to cloth diaper is a personal choice, and so ischoosing your system. Finding the right cloth diapering system for youmay involve some amount of trial and error. It’s probably best toexperiment with a few styles and brands before you invest heavily inany style/systems. Remember that cloth diapers are garments, and won’tfit everyone the same – you may need to try a couple different onesbefore you find the style that works best for your chubby thighed, orslim waisted baby. Check the fit before you buy into a line! Purchasingeverything you need for cloth diapering can be expensive initially. Butyou will recoupthat expense in savings, week after week when you don’t need toconstantly purchasedisposable diapers.

Aside from the obvious benefits of being better for the environment andyour long term budget, cloth diapering has one other excellent benefit.Thanks to more breathable materials and more attentive/frequentchanges, your baby will have less diaper rash! And that is somethingevery parent and child can be thankful for.

— Ciaran

Want more info on cloth diapering? Check out our Cloth Diapering 102: Five Cloth Diapering Accessories All Parents Need.