Which Witch is Which? (aka What's What in Cloth!)
Can you tell a Prefold from a Snappi? How about a PUL cloth diaper cover from a wool diaper covers? Don't worry if you're completely confused about what's what in cloth diapers today. Here we will help you wade through the myriad of cloth diapering terms to help you gain a better understanding of the types of cloth diapers and cloth diaper covers. We will also include the pros and cons of each of the cloth diapers and diaper covers, and we will touch on the fabrics used for both.
Types of Cloth Diapers
Types of Cloth Diaper Covers
Helpful Cloth Diapering Accessories
Types of Cloth Diapers
Cloth diapers today come in many different types of styles and fabrics. Fabric choices in cloth diapers are a bit less complicated than shape and style. Generally, the most popular absorbent fabrics used in the making of cloth diapers are cotton, sherpa and hemp. All make very suitable, absorbent diapers, with hemp being slightly more absorbent and therefore trimmer than a cotton version of the same style diaper. Fabrics to avoid when choosing cloth diapers would be birdseye cotton and polyester. A small percentage of polyester is fine, as this is likely used in the bindings or elastic of higher quality cloth diapers, but polyester in flat or prefolded cloth diapers would not be a suitable option. This is generally found in department store brand cloth diapers.
Flat cloth diapers are the cloth diapers that your grandmother and possibly mother used. They are simple…just a square or rectangular piece of fabric that is folded, origami-style, around your baby. Flats can be pinned on, fastened with a Snappi cloth diaper fastener, or held in place with a snug fitting wrap-style diaper cover. Flat cloth diapers are the most labor-intensive cloth diaper you can use, but they are economical, wash and dry quickly, allow for a completely customizable fit, and work especially well on tiny babies. They also have the added advantage of having multiple uses; we use ours as cloth diapers, cloth diaper inserts, doublers, burp clothes, change pads, dust rags, dish towels…the list goes on!
While cotton flannel flat cloth diapers might SEEM like the most economical choice at first glance (available at most department stores), do keep in mind that this style of cloth diaper is not very absorbent, which means you will need to change the diapers very frequently. This means you will generally need twice as many flats as prefolds, unless you are using flats of a highly absorbent nature, such as hemp/cotton blends. Flat cloth diapers, however, are a top pick among parents that choose to use Elimination Communication (EC) as it is very easy to tell the moment your baby is wet and needs a diaper change.
Our Organic Hemp/Cotton flat cloth diapers are a modern variation of flat cloth diapers, in that they don’t require quite as much folding, they are 2-layers rather than the traditional single layer, and they are more absorbent than the typical thin pieces of cotton cloth found in department stores (usually made of cotton flannel or birdseye cotton). A cloth diaper cover is required when using flat cloth diapers. Pins and/or a fastener are optional when using a wrap-style cloth diaper cover such as the Bummis Super Whisper Wrap.
Modern Flat Cloth Diapers
View Organic Hemp/Cotton Flat Cloth Diapers. Cost: $7.98 and up.
Prefolds are a rectangular piece of fabric made up of several layers, sewn into three panels. The middle panel typically has more layers than the outside two panels. A high-quality, absorbent prefold will state the layers of fabric used, such as 4x8x4. This means the two outside panels have 4 layers of fabric, and the middle panel has 8 layers. Prefolds are the type of cloth diapers used by cloth diaper services across Canada for their durability, customizable nature and ease of washing.
Prefold cloth diapers require you to “fold” them around your baby for a snug fit, and must be used with a cloth diaper cover. They can be fastened with pins, a Snappi fastener, or simply laid in a wrap-style diaper cover. Prefolds, Diaper Service Quality Prefolds (DSQ), Chinese prefolds, and Indian prefolds are all the same style of diaper. What differs and affects the quality of the cloth diaper is the material used and where they are made. We carry only the highest-quality, most absorbent prefolds you can find in an unbleached variety. The bleaching process effects the fibers of any fabric, thus shortening their life span. Our prefolds will literally last generations! A cloth diaper cover is required when using prefold cloth diapers.
View Unbleached Indian Prefolds. Cost: $3.33 and up.
Contoured Cloth Diapers
Contour cloth diapers are cloth diapers made of layers of an absorbent fabric, cut in an hour-glass shape. They can made from cotton, sherpa, hemp, velour, or whatever fabric your heart desires! Contoured cloth diapers may or may not have elastic around the waist and thighs, and they generally have no built-in closures, so you may need to use pins or our preferred method, a Snappi diaper fastener, to fasten them. You can also simply lay them in a wrap-style cloth diaper cover.
The advantages to contours are the fact that they have no snaps to break off, or velcro to catch on clothing in the laundry. They are also highly customizable in terms of fit, which helps to prevent leaks on both small are larger babies. This means you generally require only one or two sizes of cloth diapers for the entire time your child is in diapers, making them an economical choice. Our Organic Hemp Cloth Diapers would be considered by most to be a contour diaper, with the addition of the waist and thigh elastic, which help to contain messes better than traditional contoured cloth diapers. Contoured cloth diapers require the use of a diaper cover.
View Organic Hemp Contours. Cost: $18.99 for our organic version (a contoured/fitted combination).
Fitted Cloth Diapers
Fitted cloth diapers are similar to contour diapers in shape and construction with the added benefit of built in fasteners made of either snaps or velcro for faster, easier diaper changes. They will also have an elastic waist and elastic around the thighs to help contain messes well, so you don't have to be as careful or persise with a folding technique.
Most parents find fitted cloth diapers to be easier to use than prefolds (no folding involved!) but they do require a separate, waterproof diaper cover. You generally need to buy a variety of sizes of fitted cloth diapers during the time your child is in diapers unless you choose a "one-size" option. Do be aware, however, that one-size diapers may not fit an infant and/or older baby as well as various sized cloth diapers will.
Overall, fitted cloth diapers offer a GREAT fit, and are generally the number one pick among parents new to cloth diapering a newborn. With less worry about getting the "folding" right, and the fact that a secondary back-up is available to contain leaks (your diaper cover!), a system of fitted cloth diapers is perfect for parents that are a bit more reluctant to try cloth, but can't quite afford the convenience of pocket cloth diapers or all-in-ones.
Pocket Cloth Diapers (Pocket All-In-Ones)
Pocket cloth diapers have revolutionized modern cloth diapers. When stuffed and ready for use, most parents will agree these cloth diapers are JUST as easy to use as disposables. They are easy to use, easy to wash, actually work to keep baby feeling dry and are available in irresistible prints and colours!
Although sometimes referred to as an all-in-one diaper, pocket cloth diapers are actually a two-part diapering system. They consists of the cloth diaper cover and a separate absorbent layer called an "insert" or "stuffing". The cloth diaper cover is more than just a diaper cover. The cover of a pocket cloth diaper is comprised of two layers; an outer waterproof layer and an inner layer of soft, cozy microfleece or suedecloth. These two layers are sewn together across the front and two sides, leaving the back open to create a “pocket” in which you stuff with the absorbent material of your choice, such as cotton, hemp, terrycloth or microfiber. When your baby urinates, the moisture is wicked through the microfleece or suedecloth and absorbed into the insert. This keeps baby feeling dry while still in a wet diaper!
Exterior of Pocket Cloth Diapers -
Waterproof Layer of Polyester
Interior of Pocket Cloth Diapers -
Buttery Soft, Microfleece
When baby is wet or soiled, the insert must be removed from the pocket of this cloth diaper and put into one diaper pail, and the pocket diaper should go into it’s own pail. Pocket diapers are increasingly popular as they are highly sanitary, dry quickly, customizable to your own child’s needs, and they have stay-dry capabilities due to the inner fabric used. On the downside, however, fleece is prone to build-up which can add a few steps to a typical wash routine once or twice a month.
While a cover is not required with pocket cloth diapers, they do require the purchase of the absorbent fabric to “stuff” the pockets with before use. Many pocket cloth diapers now include this stuffing, and you may have options to choose from highly absorbent and incredibliy thin microfiber or an all-natural fabric such as hemp. This makes pocket cloth diapers a pricier option than using fitteds, but still much more economical than using disposables. For their ease of use parents LOVE pocket cloth diapers!
All-In-One (AIO) Diapers
All-In-One cloth diapers are just that…everything you need to diaper your baby, in one cloth diaper. Similar to pocket cloth diapers, these are the most like a disposable diaper. If it’s convenience you’re after, as well keeping your baby out of disposables, this is the way to go. No pinning, no stuffing, no folding, no wrapping…just put it on as you would a disposable diaper. A waterproof cover is already built in! Generally AIOs are the most expensive type of cloth diaper there is, but they are still cheaper than using disposables.
Our BerryPlush AIO cloth diaper + soaker is one of the newest and most innovative designs in an AIO today. It's design solves many of the problems that are typically found with department store AIOs such as the increased drying time needed due to their thick layers, a heavy, unbreathable outer layer and a short life span due to the poor quality materials that are used.
All-In-One Cloth Diapers
Having at least 2-3 high-quality AIOs or pocket cloth diapers are always recommended for grandparents and babysitters.
All-in-Two Cloth Diapers
All-in-Two cloth diapers have a waterproof cloth diaper shell (diaper cover) and an absorbent insert or pad. Unlike a pocket cloth diaper, the diaper insert goes directly against the baby's skin. When the cloth diaper becomes wet, you simply change out the insert instead of washing the entire cloth diaper. All In Two cloth diaper systems (AI2) are one of our most popular cloth diapering systems as they are incredibly versatile, easy to use and very cost effective. In most cases you are able to purchase the inserts separately, and cut the cost of an all-in-one system in half, as you won't be purchasing as many diaper covers, yet you still have all of the advantages of an all-in-one system.
As well, All-in-Two cloth diapers potentially function as BOTH a diaper cover and an all-in-one diaper, when the insert is in place. The outer part can be used as a cover over any prefold or fitted diaper, but it can also be used with an insert that is usually attached and easily replaced, allowing the cover to be used more than once.
Our best-selling All-in-Two cloth diaper system is the Canadian-made AMP cloth diaper system. Other cloth diapers that fall into the AI2 category include the Flip cloth diapering system (best for babies 6 months and older) and Grovia Cloth Diapers.
Types of Cloth Diaper Covers
Unless you are using pocket cloth diapers or an all-in-one style cloth diaper, your diaper will require the use of a cloth diaper cover. Diaper covers can be used several times before needing to be washed, unless they smell and/or are soiled. Simply hang them to air dry between uses by rotating with another cover. By the next change the original diaper cover should be good to use again.
Cloth diaper covers can be a wrap-style which you wrap around the cloth diaper of your choice, and secure with velcro or snaps (such as a Stacinator Wool Cloth Diaper Covers or Bummis Super Whisper Wrap), or a pull-on diaper cover which is pulled on over a cloth diaper (such as an Aristocrats or Bummis Whisper pant). A wrap-style diaper cover is usually a bit easier to manage than a pull-up cover. A very popular type of pull-up cover, however, would be a wool soaker. The decision of which cloth diaper cover to use typically depends on the fabric. So, let’s talk about the types of fabrics cloth diaper covers are available in, as that is the next choice you need to make when setting up your cloth diapering system.
We only carry high quality diaper covers, in materials that will last. The only fabric we do NOT recommend for a cloth diaper cover would be the old-fashion, out-dated vinyl diaper covers of your grandmothers days. These covers are not breathable and will harden, yellow and crack over time. PVC has also been know to leach harmful off-gases and is slowly being eliminated from children’s toys as a result. We can not confidently recommend these covers. Vinyl will not hold up to the rough abuse and many washes that diaper covers will endure over time. For almost the same price, you can get a high quality polyester laminated (PUL) cover, an innovative new material, that will outlast any vinyl cover on the market. Vinyl diaper covers are typical of what you might find in a department store and are mass produced. All of the products you will find at Parenting By Nature are vinyl and PVC-FREE.
Polyurethane Laminate (PUL) Cloth Diaper Covers
PUL is a laminate applied over cotton or polyester to make a cloth diaper cover waterproof, leak proof and resist mildew. It is the lightweight, soft, pliable and breathable alternative to vinyl cloth diaper covers. PUL covers can be machine washed and dried, and will NOT harden, yellow or crack over time. For only a few dollars more than a typical department store-brand vinyl diaper cover, you can get an excellent work-horse of a PUL cover such as the Bummis Super Whisper Wrap. This cloth diaper cover will last for multiple children, when washed and cared for properly, as it is specifically designed for the diaper service industry.
PUL Cloth Diaper Covers
View a Bummis Super Whisper Wrap PUL cover. Cost: $12.99 and up.
Nylon Cloth Diaper Covers
Similar in function to PUL, nylon is soft, pliable, very trim and breathable. This fabric is used in our Bummis Original cloth diaper covers and Bummis Whisper Pant, and should be hung to dry. Again, this is a better choice than vinyl, for its ability to breathe and softer feel. Our Bummis Original diaper covers are available in plain nylon as well as nylon covered cotton prints. Nylon covers with cotton prints do require more frequent changes as if they are allowed to become saturated with liquid, they will eventually leak through. This is due to their highly breathable characteristics. Nylon is an excellent choice for a newborn or a baby that is prone to diaper rashes. They are also a favorite among parents that prefer to minimize bulk.
View the Bummis Original Cloth Diaper Cover. Cost: $11.00 and up.
Wool Cloth Diaper Covers
At Parenting By Nature we LOVE wool. A wool cloth diaper cover is all-natural, soft, breathable, can hold as much as 30% of it’s weight in liquid and has anti-bacterial properties and self-cleaning characteristics that make it a wonderful choice, eco-friendly choice. A high-quality, 100% wool cover is our personal favorite cover to use over any and all types of cloth diapers. While they are generally a bit more expensive than polyester cloth diaper covers, wool diaper covers go long way, when rotated between changings. Most parents can get by with only 4-6 wool diaper covers (depending on the age of the baby) while you may need 6-10 polyester diaper covers.
Commercial wool is itchy, however, natural, untreated wool is soft and comfortable. Although most wool cloth diaper covers cannot be machine washed, they really are much easier to care for than most parent's realize. Washing wool is easy – simply soak in the sink with wool wash or a mild olive oil soap, and lay flat to dry. It's that easy!
Once every 2 weeks or so the natural lanolin will need to be restored in a wool cloth diaper cover. Just add this to your soak and you are set to go. A classic, hard-working wool cover is an Aristocrats Wool Cloth Diaper Covers; great for overnight and heavy wetters. A lighter option, and also in an easy-to-use wrap style diaper cover, would be a Stacinator Wool Diaper Covers. These are both high-quality wool diaper covers that will provide the protection a baby needs. Wool's ability to absorb without wicking overnight makes it indispensable for nighttime use!
Fleece Cloth Diaper Covers
A fleece cloth diaper cover would be your vegan alternative to wool. It is a man-made fiber, constructed of 100% polyester, much of which comes from recycled plastic. Soft, lightweight and breathable, a fleece diaper cover works by wicking moisture to the absorbent layers underneath. Fleece can also be machine washed and dried, and thus its care is slightly less than what you would find with a wool diaper cover.
A down side to fleece would be the fact that it is prone to build-up, which can mean a few extra steps to a washing routine a couple times a month. Fleece can also be quite bulky and it may not be the most suitable choice under cute, trim baby outfits. We carry fleece cloth diaper covers that are made with the same type of fleece fabric used in high-quality outerwear. They are suitable for day and nighttime use.
Fleece Cloth Diaper Covers
Accessories Available for Cloth Diapers
Liners, Doublers & Inserts
Oh my! While sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, liners, doublers and inserts each serve a very specific function.
A liner is usually only one layer of fabric that is set inside of any type of cloth diaper, against the baby's skin, to either keep baby feeling dry (fleece), aid in the clean up of solids (disposible liners) or used to keep diaper creams or medication off of the cloth diapers themselves. Microfleece diaper liners are stain resistant and are popular for use as liners due to its ability to keep baby feeling dry and rash-free by wicking moisture away form the skin. You can also purchase flushable, disposable cloth diaper liners that allow you to flush solid waste down the toilet. Cost: $6.99 and up.
A doubler is anything you use in conjunction with a cloth diaper in order to increase absorbency, generally used during naps, nighttime, or for older, heavier wetting babies. You can use anything from a specifically contoured hemp doubler (highly absorbent!), to a tri-folded prefold or even an old towel. Cost: $9.98 and up.
Inserts are the absorbent materials that go inside of a pocket cloth diaper. You can use a wide variety of items as inserts. Some fabric choices include hemp, hemp/cotton, cotton sherpa or even cotton prefolds. Microfiber inserts are becoming increasingly popular as a pocket diaper insert, because of how trim and absorbent this fabric is. Any absorbent material can be used as a cloth diaper insert, providing it fits inside your pocket diapers right to the edge. Like a doubler, you can even use an old towel!
If you are using cloth diapers, it takes no more extra time or effort on your part to use cloth wipes as well. Just keep a small spray bottle of a wipe solution on your change table with a basket of wipes and you are set to go. Toss dirty wipes into your diaper pail! Wipes can be purchased, or you cut up an old bed sheet, receiving blanket or even a t-shirt! Cost: $1.00 and up.
This can be as simple as plain water in a spray bottle. Just spray on baby to help aid in cleaning up messes. If your change area is close to a sink, this may not be necessary at all. You can also use an oil-based mixture with essential oils if you prefer.
We like Kissaluvs Diaper Lotion Potion. Cost: $9.98 each.
Snappi Diaper Fastener
The Snappi was created by a dad in South Africa that was tired of trying to pin his baby’s diapers. They are a T-shaped flexible plastic with claw ends that grip into the diaper fabric holding it together. While they are not suitable for all fabrics, they work exceptionally well with all of our prefolds and hemp diapers.
See the Snappi Diaper Fastener. Cost: $4.98 each.
We recommend using a dry diaper pail. Soaking your diapers in water will weaken their fabric and elastic, as well as being a hazard to have with small children around. You can use anything as a diaper pail! Just a simple waste basket with a flip-top lid, or a Rubbermaid air tight container can be used. You will probably find that letting air circulate and get to your wet diapers will help to keep odors down. It is for this reason that we would recommend not sealing your diapers tightly in a pail. However, if your home is not well ventilated, this may not work for you. Experiment until you are happy! You will need at least one, and in many cases two diaper pails, depending on your system. Soiled and wet diapers need to be in a separate pail from pocket diapers and covers.
You can do a number of things to keep your pail smelling fresh, including sprinkling with baking soda, adding a cloth wipe with a few drops of tea tree oil or using commercially or home made deodorant cakes.
We like Bamboo Charcoal Diaper Pail Deodorizer. Cost $4.98
When your baby begins solids we would highly recommend the purchase of a Mini Shower. While this is not a necessity, it generally means the difference between enjoying your cloth diapering experience, or giving up entirely. We believe this to be one of the best new cleaning methods available! This apparatus easily attaches to your toilet and is virtually unnoticeable. It has adjustable spray levels so that you can spray soiled diapers right into the toilet. No dunking or swishing inside of the toilet necessary!
See the Mini Shower Diaper Sprayer. Cost: $54.98 each.
Waterproof Tote Bags
Made of the same high-quality PUL fabric as diaper covers, tote bags come in a variety of sizes and can be used for multiple tasks. A larger tote can be used to line a diaper pail. When it is time to do laundry, just lift out the bag and take to the washer. Empty the contents into the washer, and toss the bag in as well. A smaller bag is handy for outings and overnight trips. You can always use a regular trash bag, but in the long run, a liner will prove to be more cost-efficient and Earth friendly.
View our Bummis Tote Bags. Cost: $8.99 and up.
Suitable Laundry Detergent
It is important to use a detergent that will not cause soap to build up on your diapers, which will make them less absorbent. Pure soaps such as Ivory or Dreft should NOT be used.
Tea Tree Oil
A few drops of tea tree oil on a cloth wipe put in the diaper pail will do wonders at keeping odors at bay. It is also handy to have on hand as it can be added to a wash cycle every so often as it has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and disinfectant qualities.
Want to learn more about using cloth diapers?
Continue on with our Cloth Diapering Tutorial using the following links:
- Beginner's Most Frequently Asked Questions
- Why Parents are Choosing Cloth Diapers
- Which Witch is Which? (aka What’s What in Cloth)
- How to Choose a Cloth Diapering System
- Washing & Caring for Cloth Diapers (trust us, it's easy!)
- Getting Started with Cloth Diapers ~ What do I need?
- Cloth Diapering Tips & Tricks