The Cloth Diapers FAQ: Everything About Poop You Were Too Afraid to Ask

When I tell people that we are cloth diapering, I get one of two reactions. Guess which one is the most popular:

— “OMG! That’s amazing! My sister/best friend/aunt/random acquaintance does it and she says it’s the best!”


— “Eww! Don’t you get poop everywhere? How does that even work? Do you ever poke your baby with those pins? And how about washing? Doesn’t it get <gasp> poop in your clothing?!?!”

Allow me to Tiny Fey this up:

I’ve only been at this for three months, and I already feel like doing that every time I hear a question about poop.

I get it. I really do. Before I even considered having a kid, I think I’d freak if someone told me that they were planning on cloth diapering. As a babysitter/nanny, I wouldn’t know what to do.

But then we started talking about families and I started doing research. One of the most shocking things I learned is that disposable diapers are the 3rd largest consumer item in our landfills making up 4% of all waste. Even more so, one diaper can sit in the landfill for decades without exposure to the air and water it needs to break down.

I’m not a hippy. I’m not a tree hugger. But the idea of cloth diapering to lessen my impact on our already stretched thin landfills got to me. Plus, I watched Wall-E one too many times. I’d rather not have our robot garbage men falling in love in a pile of hundred year old diapers.

So, in order to lessen other’s environmental impact and to reduce the frequency of my own eye rolls. I thought I’d break it down for you. These are all the real questions I looked up before I decided to cloth diaper. Save yourself your own sanity by just reading it yourself.

cloth diapers faq
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10 Cloth Diapers FAQ:

1. How much money do you actually save?
I’m going to avoid giving you some official breakdown from some outside source. Here’s my real savings. FnP Baby (who is 3 months old) goes through approximately 7-10 diapers per day with a formula fed diet. Being that we live a block away from Target (SCORE!), we would pay their price per their generics at .20/diaper, $2/day, $60-62/month, $730/year, or $2,190/3 years of diapering.

With cloth diapering, you put the upfront cost first. To start a decent “stash,” you need about 20 diapers. Most people I know buy what is called OS, or one size, meaning that it will last you from 10lbs-40lbs. That’s a lot of baby wear.

Even if you were to buy all new diapers from a medium ranged priced company at $20 per diaper, your initial cost would be $400. Sure, you may want to buy more or replace your diapers down the road so add another $100 for that. And if you buy sized diapers (unlike disposables, they typically come in four sizes: NB, S, M, L) and you buy 10 NB and 60 small-large, you are still saving over a grand in diapers!

We also save on things such as wipes as the poop tends to stay on the fabric and not on the butt (no two wipe situations), and no diaper cream as cloth typically doesn’t cause rashes. (And diaper creams are typically bad for absorbency of the cloth material.)

2. But what about laundry costs? Don’t you factor utility costs in as well?
This one is a bit harder for me to break down because we’ve never paid for laundry before. However, I did call my electric company up to compare costs. The last tenant (who had herself and two young children in her home) spent $34 on electricity in July. Our bill was around $42. There are so many factors there that I am not sure how you want to use it. But as a base, let’s say our electricity does jump about $8-10 more a month because of our washing routine and then add detergent costs… that’s still saving us money.

The whole laundry cost is a bit of a mess to figure out, no matter who you may ask. For one, it all depends on how much you change your baby + how many diapers you have. There are also cloth diapers you can actually reuse the shell of them saving even more time there.

Next, there are a million right and wrong ways to wash your diapers. I’ll break down our routine next. Some moms are germaphobes and want to wash them on 3-4 cycles and then thoroughly dry them. Others are just a rinse, wash, and go kind of washer which will have significant impact on energy costs. Oh, and then there are brave souls who hand wash everything… Brave, brave, souls.

3. So, how do you wash them?
Every time I talk about how I wash our diapers, I get a lot of stink eye. So here’s a basic breakdown:

We wash ours every 2 days.
Rinse cold, wash hot with regular Tide, line dry all but most. Tumble dry the few that need it.
Put on baby.

Poop and pee stains come out of most diapers if you wash them well enough. Some parents make it their life mission to never, ever get poop stains on their diapers, so they do what’s called “sunning” where they let their cloth diapers sit in the sun all day. We haven’t done this yet because our wash routine has gotten out the majority of the stains.

Other moms do use bleach or a specific detergent for cloth diapers. I figure that if Tide works, I’m not shelling out an extra $10 for special laundry supplies. I just buy my Tide on sale and we only use it for her diapers. We have only gone through one, 64 wash of Tide in the past 3 months.

4. But don’t you get poop in your washer?
Where’s my Tina Fey eye roll? Cue her up!

Baby poop, until they eat solids at around 6-12 months, is just basically liquid. It’s not like adult poop. It washes away like the crap you eat in the dishwasher. For solids, they make these hoses that wash away poop in the toilet. Or, if you’re super creeped out by the idea of poop, they have these flushable paper liners that catch the poop and pee so you just peel off and flush like a real human.

5. Okay, but doesn’t your kid just sit in poop and pee all day?

Isn’t that what they do in regular diapers as well? Isn’t that the point of diapers? You do know that I change my kid’s diapers, right? Do you not change your kid’s diapers?   

6. What about the smell? I mean, that has to be bad.
As bad as any diaper pail. Poop stinks. Mom or dad up. Your kid doesn’t poop and pee out the Yankee Candle line of fragrances.

7. How do you travel with them? Do you just put the dirty diaper in your diaper bag?
Yes. That’s what I do. I have a little wet bag that keeps all the moisture and smell out. The diapers go in there and the wet bag goes in my diaper bag. If I don’t have the wet bag, I kid you not, I use dog poop bags to store my diapers until I get home.

8. Okay. You’re selling me. How do they work?
Let’s just say there are a million and one sites devoted to explaining all the different diapers and their purposes. I’ll just go through the basics in layman/non-diaper community terms.

There are basically four main styles of cloth diapers. Each are OS (one size, again) or sized. They are held together by either snaps, velcro (hook and loop), or these things called fasteners that stick to the diaper fabric and holds it all together.

Prefold and Fitted: If you’ve never seen a modern cloth diaper, prefolds is what you’re thinking of. It’s basically just a towel wrapped around a baby. Fitted are basically a towel already in the shape of a diaper with some kind of snaps or velcro. Today, you put covers on them to make sure they stay in place and don’t leak everywhere.

Pocket: You have a cover with a lining that looks just like underwear or a regular diaper. Inside the diaper is a pouch where you insert a fabric pad (that looks just like a feminine pad made out of cloth) or a piece of cloth. When the baby does its business, you take out the pad and toss both it and the cover in the laundry pail. Simple.

All in One (AIO): It’s like a combination diaper. You get your absorbent cover/shell like the other two, but there is also a built in pad or prefold already in there. You just wash the whole thing. No need to take out the pad or stuff one in there before using.

Hybrid or All in Two: Again, you get the shell/cover, but instead of a built in or stuff-able absorbent pad, you get a disposable or flushable one. This is for the ultimate lazy cloth diaper who really doesn’t want to do laundry.

We do a combo of pockets + AIOs. We find AIOs are best for overnights because they absorb more, but pockets are best in the day and are less bulky on the baby. It’s really just based on preference and lifestyle.

They all have their advantages and disadvantages depending on brand. For example, the AIOs take so much longer to dry. Pockets have more actual things to wash. Prefolds take forever to get right. AI2s have an environmental impact with the waste.

9. Wait. You use pockets. So that means you have to touch the poop or pee?

We do a shake out method in which we shake out the liner without ever touching it. With poop, we just run it under the faucet in our tub. Again, infant poop washes away. No biggie. You get over it.

10. This seems like so much work. Why don’t you just do a disposable and be done with it?
No. It really doesn’t take much time or energy. My routine is to wash her diapers every two days, usually as she naps or right before she wakes up. It’s a set and forget kind of wash. I’m not on my hands and knees scrubbing at poop stains. When they are ready to be hung, I just throw them on a wire hanger in her bedroom and they are ready by the next morning. Stuffing our pockets takes the most time, but it really is an extra five minute process.

It’s not hard. It’s not gross. It saves you money. I see the advantages of disposables, but when I can do this and be frugal, I am glad to.

What other cloth diapers FAQ do you have for me? Don’t be afraid to ask your poopiest questions!

12 comments for “The Cloth Diapers FAQ: Everything About Poop You Were Too Afraid to Ask

  1. Sara
    August 5, 2015 at 6:02 am

    Good on you! My only child is 18 now, so it has been awhile. When she was a baby, the Return of Cloth Diapering was just starting, so the options were a bit more limited. I did the dinosaur version = flatdiaper-pins-rubberpants. My thing was that I wasn’t so sure about the idea of all of the chemicals on disposables touching her lady parts 24×7 for a couple of years or so. Even then – without fancy toilet sprayers – it was not a big deal. It takes about one diaper blowout for most parent to gets over their poopaphobia. You have to or you would loose your mind 🙂

  2. August 5, 2015 at 8:31 am

    We did a hybrid of cloth, disposable, and elimination communication. If we ever have another child (we probably won’t), we will start EC even earlier. It is way cooler than any kind of diapering.

  3. August 5, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    Wow, do people actually ask about the “sitting in poop” thing? Like you said, that’s called “a diaper.”

    Much as I’d want to go the more eco-friendly route, I think we’ll end up with regular diapers if we manage to have a kid. Tim’s skin is always open, so he avoids stuff like that — even if it is just liquid — and I’m not going to be the only one to deal with soiled diapers. Even if I had the energy, which I wouldn’t.

    Assuming you don’t sell the diapers to another mom, I gotta say there’s another benefit: Those things are durable as hell. My mom used cloth diapers because it was all she could afford. She used them for cleaning/dust cloths in later years. The last one gave out when I was 29.

  4. August 6, 2015 at 7:53 am

    I’m considering cloth diapers for kid two. For our son, we’ve used disposables, but with potty training on the horizon, I’m regretting it. They say that cloth feels much more like clothes, so kids are more anxious to potty train because pee and poop are actually uncomfortable- I don’t know. Just what I’ve heard.

    The detergent thing is my one hold out. I hate making detergent, and the stuff is otherwise pretty expensive.

  5. August 7, 2015 at 5:50 am

    Now this is very interesting and useful. We are using disposables right now, but I like seeing that there are so many options.

  6. August 7, 2015 at 11:54 am

    This line is gold: “Your kid doesn’t poop and pee out the Yankee Candle line of fragrances.” Ha! Such an informative post!

  7. August 7, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    I love that you are using cloth diapers! I plan on doing the same if I ever have children.

  8. August 7, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Finally, a cloth diaper post that is more than just the money aspect of it all. Saving for possible future reference!

  9. August 8, 2015 at 12:09 am

    The first time I washed a cloth diaper. It was like the most unforgettable experience in life. I never thought that I would do such a thing in my entire life. Now, I have gotten use to it and it seems we have saved much money for doing this.

  10. August 9, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    I just started babysitting for a family that uses cloth diapers. I have yet to actually change one, but the mom went over it all with me, and it seems pretty straight forward. Guess I’ll find out for myself, won’t I?

  11. August 10, 2015 at 8:36 am

    This is SO helpful. I have a friend who uses cloth diapers and I never really thought much about it and didn’t ask haha. This provides a much needed explanation.

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