If you read last week’s post on types of cloth diapers, you know the basic cloth diaper options available on the market today. This week, I want to talk about the most common cloth diapering accessories you’ll find, many of which you may want to invest in if you plan to cloth diaper. Below, you can find information on everything from wet bags to wool covers. If you have questions, comments, or additions, leave them in the comments!
Table of Contents
Cloth Diaper Pail Liners
Cloth Wipes Solution
Cloth Diaper-Friendly Diaper Rash Cream
Cloth Diaper Liners
Inserts, Soaker Pads, and Doublers
Whether you use cloth or disposables, you need a good diaper pail to store dirty diapers. All you really need for a diaper pail is a trash can. However, for odor control, a trash can with a sealing lid is critical, and a trash can with a foot pedal to open the lid can greatly improve your pail’s ease of use.
If you plan to cloth diaper, you may want to avoid the diaper genie and other specialized diaper pails and go with a more generic trash can. Specialized diaper pails like the diaper genie are designed for disposable diapers, so they are typically smaller with small openings at the top to help seal in odor. Because cloth diapers are bulkier than disposables, they may not fit in the pail as easily and you won’t be able to fit many in the pail. Specialized diaper pails also use custom plastic disposable pail liners, which are not as good for the environment as cloth pail liners (keep reading!) and which aren’t as easy to use when you are going to dump all your diapers into a washing machine rather than just throwing the plastic bag filled with disposables in the garbage.
You may have heard some debate over wet pail vs. dry pail. With a wet pail, you would store your dirties in an unlined, water-tight pail filled partially with water. The benefits are wet pails are good stain busters and the water is sort of like a pre-rinse for your diapers before they go in the wash. The downsides are they can be heavy and messy to transfer to the wash, and they can be drowning hazards for small children who will curiously stick their heads in the pail. A dry pail uses a liner and is not filled with water. You just dump your diapers in. The benefits are that dry pails are easier to use, and it’s easier to transfer dirties into the laundry. The downsides are that you are more likely to have staining on your diapers, and with a dry pail it’s very important you wash your diapers every 2-3 days to prevent bacteria building up on your diapers. My preference is for a dry pail because it’s easier, and honestly, I haven’t had much trouble with staining or bacteria build-up as long as I keep up my laundry regimen.
Pro-tip: plastic trash cans over time will absorb the smell of pee and poop, and no amount of washing or bleaching can get the smell out. As a result, every time you open your diaper pail, it will belch an awful smell into your house. (This is true whether you use cloth or disposable diapers!) Specialized diaper pails have small openings and other mechanisms to contain the odor so it doesn’t leach into plastic, but a regular trash can, which will work better with cloth diapers, does not have this sort of protection. Metal does not absorb the smell, though, so a metal trash can makes a cleaner-smelling, longer-lasting pail for cloth diapers than a plastic pail.
Cloth Diaper Pail Liners
Cloth pail liners are a great substitute for plastic trash bags in your cloth diaper pail. They’re big sacks made of waterproof material with elasticized or draw string tops to keep them in place in your diaper pail. You use them just like a trash bag. You open them up, with the slick waterproof layer on the inside, and put the liner in your diaper pail. Pull the elasticized or draw string top over the top sides of your diaper pail and secure in place.
When it’s time to do laundry, you can take the whole pail liner, dump the contents into the washing machine, and then toss the pail liner in with your diapers. You can either run the pail liner through the dryer or let it hang dry. Air drying will help preserve the waterproof lining. You will want to have 2-3 pail liners, so you have a back-up while others are in the wash.
Wet bags are bags or pouches with a waterproof lining and some method of sealing–drawstrings or zippers usually–where you can store dirty cloth diapers. They often have some mechanism for hanging them, so you can hang them in your bathroom, laundry room, or near your changing table, and when you’re on the go, you can attach them to your diaper bag. There are very large wet bags available, some which will store 2-3 days’ worth of diapers, and can be used to replace diaper pails entirely. There are also smaller sizes available, where you can put anywhere from 1-10 diapers, which are great for travel or for sending to daycare.
If you want to use a large wet bag instead of a diaper pail to store dirty diapers at home, I recommend having at least 2 large wet bags to keep in rotation. For travel, it’s always a good idea to have at least 2 travel bags to rotate out. If your child goes to daycare, I recommend having at least 3 wet bags that will hold 5-6 diapers. This way, you can go a full 3 days without doing laundry and not worry about running out of wet bags.
Wet bags can be tossed in the wash along with your diapers. As with the pail liners, you can put them in the dryer or hang dry. Air drying will preserve the waterproof liner.
Cloth wipes are reusable wipes made of some type of fabric–usually terry or flannel–which you use to mop up bodily fluids during a diaper change. Cloth wipes are a great alternative to disposable wipes if you are cloth diapering, because they can go in the wash with your diapers with no additional work, they are relatively inexpensive and you don’t have to keep purchasing them, and if they do end up in the wash with your diapers, they are less likely to break apart and ruin your velcro closures.
There are a variety options for cloth wipes. You can find ready-made cloth wipes from all sorts of sources, from major diaper manufacturers to mom-run businesses on Etsy. You can make your own by buying lengths of flannel or terry, cutting them into squares or rectangles, and surging the edges with a sewing machine. You can also repurpose flannel clothing or flannel receiving blankets to make your cloth wipes. Another cheap option is to use baby wash cloths. Baby wash cloths are the perfect size for a cloth wipe, and the terry fabric is great at picking up messes. These options range from inexpensive to extremely inexpensive, and you will need at least 36 wipes to make it through 2-3 days of cloth diapering.
You can use plain water, a ready-made wipes solution, or a DIY wipes solution to moisten your wipes. You can either soak the wipes and store them in a water-tight container (such as a conventional wipes warmer intended for disposable wipes, a travel disposable wipes case, a wet bag, or even just sealable plastic sandwich baggies), or you can store them dry and spray them with a spray bottle as you go. I prefer the plain water soak method. I fold all my wipes in half when they come out of the wash, run them under the faucet, wring them out, then store them in either a wipes warmer or a travel wipes case. They stay damp usually for several days as long as everything is sealed up.
Cloth Wipes Solution
A cloth wipes solution is a solution of water, oil, soap, and/or essential oils you can either soak or spritz your cloth wipes in to before you use them to wipe baby’s bottom. There are ready-made wipes solutions you can use, as well as a ton of DIY recipes you can find on the internet. I prefer to use plain water, but the benefits of a wipes solution are that they smell good, they made clean better, and depending on the ingredients, may help soothe baby’s skin.
Cloth Diaper-Friendly Diaper Rash Cream
You don’t want to use conventional diaper rash creams with your cloth diapers. The purpose of these barrier creams is to keep moisture off baby’s skin, so they are intended to repel water. While this is great for treating diaper rash, those creams invariably rub off on your diapers, and on cloth diapers, this can create a water-repellent build up on the diaper. Cloth diapers need to absorb, not repel, or they will leak, and it can be a huge pain to get the repellent build-up off your diaper so it will stop leaking and start absorbing again.
Cloth diaper-friendly diaper rash creams are creams that will help treat diaper rash and other booty ailments without causing build-up on your diaper. Just because something says “cloth diaper-friendly” does not mean it is! Always do your homework and make sure other cloth diapering parents have given it the stamp of approval before trying it out on your diapers. Online reviews are great ways to find out how cloth diaper-friendly a diaper rash cream really is. My list of examples below all have solid track records of being cloth diaper friendly.
Wool covers are, fairly obviously, diaper covers made from wool. You can use them over flats, prefolds, fitteds, or even other full diapers. Wool is a natural fabric that is extremely absorbent. This makes wool covers ideal for overnight cloth diapering and heavy wetters. They will prevent leaks that other covers won’t and even overnight disposables cannot contain. Wool is also naturally anti-bacterial, which means wool combats stink-inducing bacteria from dirty diapers all on its own.
For the most part, you can air out wool covers rather than washing them. Wool is also stain resistant and color fast, meaning with proper care, your wool covers will stay pretty longer. Wool does require some extra TLC to keep in good shape. When you do need to wash your wool covers, they will need to be hand washed with special soap meant for washing wool and then be air dried. You will also need to lanolize your diapers–lanolin is what makes wool anti-bacterial–by working small amounts of lanolin into the fabric. While it does take some extra time and effort to clean wool, your covers will need cleaning relatively infrequently.
You can use 5 or more wool covers if you cloth diaper with wool all the time, or you could use as little as 2 or 3 if you only intend to use for overnights. Wool covers can be pricey, so you may choose only to use them for overnight diapering unless you have a particularly heavy wetter. I’ve seen some DIY methods for making wool diaper covers, most of which seem to involve repurposing old wool sweaters, which could probably save you money if you are handy with a sewing machine and have wool sweaters you don’t mind cutting up.
Cloth Diaper Liners
Cloth diaper liners are either reusable or disposable fabric liners you put in your cloth diapers to catch the bulk of poop or pee. Liners can help make poop disposal and clean-up easier, since you can remove the liner and dump it in the toilet. If you have a flushable disposable liner, you can toss the whole thing in the toilet. Liners will also prevent staining on your diapers, since the worst offender for stains–poop–for the most part won’t touch your diaper. Diaper liners can be purchased or made fairly inexpensively, keeping in mind that long-term, using disposable liners for every diaper will add up.
Inserts, Soaker Pads, & Doublers
Inserts, soaker pads, and doublers are all terms for things you put in your diaper to boost absorbency. AI2s and pocket diapers require liners or soaker pads to be laid, snapped, or inserted into the waterproof liner to be absorbent. You can also use them to beef up the absorbency of your AIOs, prefolds, flats, and fitteds, and can use extra inserts and soaker pads in your pockets and AI2s to be even more effective. Inserts, soaker pads, and doublers come in a variety of fabrics. The most common are probably cotton, hemp, and bamboo. Hemp and bamboo are known for being extra-absorbent, so if you have a heavy wetter or are looking for a booster for overnight diapering, you may try adding hemp or bamboo inserts or doublers to your diapers.
These items can be washed with the rest of your diapers, for the most part, and put in the dryer without too much concern. How many you need will depend on the kind of diaper you use. Obviously, if you use pockets or AI2s, you will need enough a minimum of 24-36 inserts or soaker pads. For other types of cloth diapers, you may opt not to have inserts at all or only to have a few around for overnights or occasions when you may need to go a little longer between diaper changes. For heavy wetters, you may want to purchase more. I think it’s always a good idea to have a few extras around, just in case. Inserts and doublers are fairly inexpensive and can provide a lot of bang for the buck.
Examples: Alva Baby Cloth Diaper Antibacterial Bamboo Inserts, Thirsties Hemp Inserts, Thirsties 3 Pack Boys Fab Doublers Soft Cotton Velour, Kissaluvs Cotton Fleece Booster Doublers, GroVia Certified Organic Cotton Soaker Pad
Imagine how a disposable diaper works, with two wings at the hips you pull in over the hips to the center of the waist on your baby and then secure at the top center of the diaper with sticky tabs. With flats and prefolds, you typically create those same wings by folding the diaper, but then have nothing to secure the wings in place. Pins, Snappis and Boingos are different mechanisms to secure flats and prefolds.
Diaper pins are old school safety pins typically with a large plastic head both to make it easier to secure the diaper. You typically need at least 2 diaper pins per diaper to secure each of the wings in place. The benefits of diaper pins is that they will hold securely. The drawbacks are they are sharp pins that can stab both you and your baby, and they can take time to secure than other modern mechanisms.
Snappis are stretchy T-shaped items with teeth on the 3 ends. You stretch the Snappi into the position where you need it to hold the flat or prefold together–one for each wing, and then one that goes down toward baby’s crotch. When you release, the teeth will catch on the fabric and hold the diaper in place. You typically only need 1 Snappi per diaper, but as children get bigger, you may have trouble getting 1 Snappi to stretch the width of the diaper. Snappis are fairly easy to use once you get the hang of it, but there is a learning curve and for wiggly babies, it can be a bit of a struggle sometimes.
Boingos are similar to Snappis, but they are not T-shaped. It’s just a stretchy bar with teeth on either end, and you do not need to stretch them as much as the Snappis to get them to secure in place. You can sometimes get away with 1 Boingo per diaper, particularly for newborns and small babies, by securing each wing of the diaper with one side of the Boingo. As children get older, you’ll need 2 Boingos to secure a diaper, one for each wing. Boingos are similar to Snappis in use, and while fairly easy to use, have a bit of a learning curve. All of these options are fairly inexpensive, and you don’t need many (4-5 of each at most) to diaper your baby.
Diaper sprayers are hand-held devices you attach to your toilet, which you can use to spray water on poopie diapers in order to dislodge poop into the toilet. They typically run around $50 a pop and can prevent staining on diapers, make hand-washing easier and less messy, and reduce the number of cycles you need to run your diapers through the washing machine. If your baby is exclusively breastfed, you probably won’t need a diaper sprayer, as breastmilk poops tend to be pretty mild and easy to wash out. If your baby takes formula or if you’ve introduced solids, you may want to consider investing in a diaper sprayer.
I personally do not use a diaper sprayer. My daughter is almost 2 and obviously eating solids. Still, I either dump solid poops in the toilet before putting them in the pail, or I don’t worry about cleaning off the diapers at all before washing them. Either way, I haven’t had any major issues with staining or with washing them with poop on them. I use the washing machine, and after 2-3 cycles, there is no poop or staining left. If I hand washed or if I had persistent staining issues, I would probably purchase a sprayer. I would wait to see how your poops wash out, though, before you sink the money into one.