Growing a Green Geek: Cloth Diapering

GeekMom
Diaper laundry is the best laundry.

There are so many choices to make when having a child, beginning before conception (if we’re lucky), and continuing right on through the day we are no longer parents. In today’s commercially-driven society, it is so easy to be sold choices that appear to have more benefits than detriments due to either convenience or a perceived greater value . The cloth vs. disposable debate is all over the web. And while every parent is different — and every child’s needs vary — for me, raising an environmentally-conscious child began the moment I discovered I was pregnant. That was the moment I started researching cloth diapering options.

But wait!  These are not your mom’s cloth diapers (or your grandparents’, since I’m an older new mom).  There are so many colorful and convenient options in cloth diapering, from the traditional birds-eye weave cotton nappies, to all-in-ones, to hybrids like gDiapers, and more.  With a little research, a system might be found to work for any family lifestyle, and there are hundreds of articles on the web about how to get established and many reviews of the diapering systems available on the market today.

I did my research, comparing the price of disposables to the sticker-shock of an up-front investment needed for some cloth diaper brands. Many provide significant savings, especially when you are considering having more than one child. Every family routine is different, and I am not recommending anything without doing your own research. But, the following system has worked for me (at least, it has for 9 weeks–these things subject to change without notice).

Soft, clean cloth diapers!

I decided to go with the Bummies cloth diapering system. Based out of Montreal, the company was formed by moms with earth-friendly sensibilities. Bummies Diapering Kit comes with just about everything one needs to diaper baby. The cloth is 100% organic cotton, and the washable covers come in a variety of colorful prints. Each kit comes with flush-able liners for easy clean-up of solids, and a few re-usable fleece liners which act as “diaper-doublers” for super absorbency overnight. There is also a large capacity diaper bag for storing soiled nappies until laundry time, should you opt for dry storage. You might need to add a bit of baking soda to the bag, depending on the age of your child and the length of time between laundering.

We decided to go with a wet storage method for our soiled diapers. After removing the disposable liner, I spray off any remaining solids at the sink. We are able to go about three days between washings, and there is no foul odor thanks to an enzymatic bacteria-digesting agent called Bac-Out from Biokleen. This is handy for all sorts of smelly situations, from pet stains to refreshing garbage cans, and the product is biodegradable. I also add a scoop of oxygen bleach dissolved in a gallon of warm water to the pail, to help keep the cloth stain free. Should you use an enzymatic agent, or oxygen bleach, you should add a pre-rinse to your diaper laundry routine to ensure the diapers are free of the agents, which can irritate sensitive baby skin.

Environment-friendly diaper cleaners

Most cloth diaper advocates recommend using a residue free detergent  Charlie’s Soap Powder is a perennial favorite, but Seventh Generation or Dr. Bronner’s could also be used. I opt, again, for an additional rinse cycle, just to be sure all soap is removed from the diapers. If the detergent residue builds up, it can effect the diaper’s absorption, and might also irritate sensitive skin.

To this point, we have not had any issues with diaper rash or skin irritation.

It is much easier to detect when a cloth diaper is wet, versus the super-absorbent gels at the core of most disposable diapers. We used disposables for the first week after bringing my son home from hospital, and we literally had to tear open the diapers to check for pee. Frequent diaper changes help prevent moisture on the skin, and the associated, irritating rash. Diaper ointments can be used with cloth diapers, but a liner is recommended to keep the cream from coating the cotton fibers and harming the absorbency of the diapers.

I line dry whenever possible. This saves a ton of energy not using the clothes dryer, and the sun helps further bleach out stubborn stains and makes the diapers smell nice and fresh. If you notice your diapers are a bit rough or stiff coming in off the line, you can add a vinegar rinse to your wash cycle, as you would fabric softener, or pop your diapers in the dryer for a quick fluff on low heat. In any case, you’ll want to make sure you diapers are completely dry before storage to eliminate any chance of them harboring bacteria or growing mildew.

I know we made the right choice for our family, and I have know it will not be the last of my green lifestyle choices concerning my son. Earth stewardship is an important value to me, and I’d love for him to grow up with a shared respect for the earth and our responsibility towards our planet.

Liked it? Take a second to support GeekMom and GeekDad on Patreon!

44 thoughts on “Growing a Green Geek: Cloth Diapering

  1. yeah!

    We started CD’ing because we did the math first and figured out that it would pay off in about 6months of use. Since we’ve got an almost 7mo now, I think we’re just about set.

    Part of what got us going (and helped narrow the field of possibilities) was the review on your sister-site (http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2009/07/cloth-diapering-goes-high-tech/). The big thing that was missing from that review was the “well, what do you do with it /after/?” I remember being home visiting my parents for Christmas with my (Geek)Dad-to-be and telling my father we were thinking of going with cloth…but didn’t know what to do post-baby-butt. He just laughed at us, and told us the ways.

    Thank you for covering what they missed.

    1. @Rae- I felt pretty alienated for a while as many of my friends with babies use disposables for various reasons. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten that “you’re crazy” look. Continued success to you!

  2. yeah!

    We started CD’ing because we did the math first and figured out that it would pay off in about 6months of use. Since we’ve got an almost 7mo now, I think we’re just about set.

    Part of what got us going (and helped narrow the field of possibilities) was the review on your sister-site (http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2009/07/cloth-diapering-goes-high-tech/). The big thing that was missing from that review was the “well, what do you do with it /after/?” I remember being home visiting my parents for Christmas with my (Geek)Dad-to-be and telling my father we were thinking of going with cloth…but didn’t know what to do post-baby-butt. He just laughed at us, and told us the ways.

    Thank you for covering what they missed.

    1. @Rae- I felt pretty alienated for a while as many of my friends with babies use disposables for various reasons. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten that “you’re crazy” look. Continued success to you!

  3. I am with you all the way! I am using cloth wipes too – just makes sense as they go right in the wash with the diapers.

    I have a 6 week old, and we started using bum genius diapers a week ago (they were a bit big for her in the first few weeks).

    People think I am crazy, but them I point out how easy it is and how much cheaper it is, they get it (at least a little!).

    Do you use liners? I have been using them to help with poop cleanup. They work well for that, but they hold more wetness next to baby’s skin than the ‘naked’ diaper does.

    1. @JudeB- We hope to get to cloth wipes too, but now, with breast milk pooh, it’s a mess. Once things firm up, we might try it. We started using the Bummies liners, but again, with newborn pooh I find they make more of a mess. We will use them again with firmer stools or if we ever have diaper rash issues and need to use an ointment.

  4. I am with you all the way! I am using cloth wipes too – just makes sense as they go right in the wash with the diapers.

    I have a 6 week old, and we started using bum genius diapers a week ago (they were a bit big for her in the first few weeks).

    People think I am crazy, but them I point out how easy it is and how much cheaper it is, they get it (at least a little!).

    Do you use liners? I have been using them to help with poop cleanup. They work well for that, but they hold more wetness next to baby’s skin than the ‘naked’ diaper does.

    1. @JudeB- We hope to get to cloth wipes too, but now, with breast milk pooh, it’s a mess. Once things firm up, we might try it. We started using the Bummies liners, but again, with newborn pooh I find they make more of a mess. We will use them again with firmer stools or if we ever have diaper rash issues and need to use an ointment.

  5. So glad there are better cloth diapering options like Bummies. I used old-style rectangle diapers for my four kids, and I’m talking old. My mother saved the really thick ones from my own infancy.

    I totally agree on raising kids with Earth respecting ways. But I’ve got to quibble with you on one point. You opened by mentioning “the day we are no longer parents.” I’ve learned by raising my kids and watching my parents go through terminal illnesses that we’re parents forever. It changes constantly as kids get out of diapers and into the wider world but we remain their parents in so many ways. And when we’re gone someday, as I’m learning, what our parenting meant to our children will linger on in powerful ways.

    1. @Laura- You can still buy the old style rectangles, and they are by far the most inexpensive option. A few good covers and you’re set! My mother used those awful clear “rubber pants” on me when I was little, and I’m glad there are options for kids to wear a little personality! What I meant by “the day we are no longer parents” was really when we cease to be, but thought that might be a bit morbid. I’m in agreement with you that we never stop being parents, or mothering.

  6. So glad there are better cloth diapering options like Bummies. I used old-style rectangle diapers for my four kids, and I’m talking old. My mother saved the really thick ones from my own infancy.

    I totally agree on raising kids with Earth respecting ways. But I’ve got to quibble with you on one point. You opened by mentioning “the day we are no longer parents.” I’ve learned by raising my kids and watching my parents go through terminal illnesses that we’re parents forever. It changes constantly as kids get out of diapers and into the wider world but we remain their parents in so many ways. And when we’re gone someday, as I’m learning, what our parenting meant to our children will linger on in powerful ways.

    1. @Laura- You can still buy the old style rectangles, and they are by far the most inexpensive option. A few good covers and you’re set! My mother used those awful clear “rubber pants” on me when I was little, and I’m glad there are options for kids to wear a little personality! What I meant by “the day we are no longer parents” was really when we cease to be, but thought that might be a bit morbid. I’m in agreement with you that we never stop being parents, or mothering.

  7. I was really devoted to using cloth diapers, and didn’t even mind washing them. We had to switch to disposables because my son kept getting a rash. We tried lining with fleece, which made it a bit better. Does anyone have any advice for this, we still have another year of diapers for our son and don’t want to contribute to a landfill.

    1. @Kathleen- I love diaper laundry! The level of commitment has to be huge in order for anyone to love cloth diapers. It can be a lot of work over disposables depending on what system you choose. The benefits, to me, outweigh the additional time spent in the laundry room. As for advice for your rash woes, you might try a more absorbent cloth diaper, like those from MotherEase. It might be that the diaper you’re using gets saturated and stays damp against your son’s skin. Doubling up on the fleece liners might help too. Good luck!

    2. You might want to switch to something with a natural fiber. My son (now 2 1/2) has been in cloth diapers since he was 8 weeks old. When we first started using them, he got a horrible diaper rash. We switched from the microfiber inserts that came with our pocket diapers to a hemp insert, started using a spritz of Baby Bits with every diaper change to remove any urine that might still be on his skin, and we haven’t had any diaper rash since.

      And an extra rinse on your diaper wash cycle never hurts. You might have a little bit of soap build-up.

  8. I was really devoted to using cloth diapers, and didn’t even mind washing them. We had to switch to disposables because my son kept getting a rash. We tried lining with fleece, which made it a bit better. Does anyone have any advice for this, we still have another year of diapers for our son and don’t want to contribute to a landfill.

    1. @Kathleen- I love diaper laundry! The level of commitment has to be huge in order for anyone to love cloth diapers. It can be a lot of work over disposables depending on what system you choose. The benefits, to me, outweigh the additional time spent in the laundry room. As for advice for your rash woes, you might try a more absorbent cloth diaper, like those from MotherEase. It might be that the diaper you’re using gets saturated and stays damp against your son’s skin. Doubling up on the fleece liners might help too. Good luck!

    2. You might want to switch to something with a natural fiber. My son (now 2 1/2) has been in cloth diapers since he was 8 weeks old. When we first started using them, he got a horrible diaper rash. We switched from the microfiber inserts that came with our pocket diapers to a hemp insert, started using a spritz of Baby Bits with every diaper change to remove any urine that might still be on his skin, and we haven’t had any diaper rash since.

      And an extra rinse on your diaper wash cycle never hurts. You might have a little bit of soap build-up.

  9. Yay for fluff! We cloth diaper too and love it! We use a dry pail and I highly recommend Rockin’ Green detergent. I started out using prefolds and covers and have expanded the repertoire to include fitteds, pockets, and all-in-ones. It is so much fun to try out different kinds of diapers. Great post!

  10. Yay for fluff! We cloth diaper too and love it! We use a dry pail and I highly recommend Rockin’ Green detergent. I started out using prefolds and covers and have expanded the repertoire to include fitteds, pockets, and all-in-ones. It is so much fun to try out different kinds of diapers. Great post!

  11. We used cloth diapers with our first and had a diaper service. With our second, we have been using disposables as there isn’t a diaper service in our area any more. I may have to revisit our decision based on your article. Thanks for the links to bummies and other products.

    1. @Jennifer- Glad to provide the information. Diaper services are great because it means less work for you, and you know your diapers are clean and sanitary. It’s a great option for busy moms, if one can afford the service.

  12. We used cloth diapers with our first and had a diaper service. With our second, we have been using disposables as there isn’t a diaper service in our area any more. I may have to revisit our decision based on your article. Thanks for the links to bummies and other products.

    1. @Jennifer- Glad to provide the information. Diaper services are great because it means less work for you, and you know your diapers are clean and sanitary. It’s a great option for busy moms, if one can afford the service.

  13. I used cloth diapers for a while with my first kid. I can’t recommend enough having a nice new HE washing machine for cloth diapers. Mine has a sanitary cycle that heats up enough to kill 99% of bacteria and makes stains a non-issue. It also has a sensitive skin rinse that made it possible for me to use just about any detergent I had on hand without affecting my kid’s sensitive hiney.

    I tried several styles of diaper, but found the tried-and-true prefolds fastened with a Snappi and covered with a Bummis cover were by far the easiest to clean and dry and had the added advantage of being the cheapest option. Plus, you have killer rags that last forever when they grow out of them.

    1. @Angie- I concur about the HE washer. It’s amazing the time and amount of water they save. Well worth the investment. I also should have mentioned the Snappi’s–amazing!–since I have a few. I tend not to use them because the Bummies enclosures are made with such strong Velcro, but I might revisit that once my son’s able to figure out how to take them off!

  14. I used cloth diapers for a while with my first kid. I can’t recommend enough having a nice new HE washing machine for cloth diapers. Mine has a sanitary cycle that heats up enough to kill 99% of bacteria and makes stains a non-issue. It also has a sensitive skin rinse that made it possible for me to use just about any detergent I had on hand without affecting my kid’s sensitive hiney.

    I tried several styles of diaper, but found the tried-and-true prefolds fastened with a Snappi and covered with a Bummis cover were by far the easiest to clean and dry and had the added advantage of being the cheapest option. Plus, you have killer rags that last forever when they grow out of them.

    1. @Angie- I concur about the HE washer. It’s amazing the time and amount of water they save. Well worth the investment. I also should have mentioned the Snappi’s–amazing!–since I have a few. I tend not to use them because the Bummies enclosures are made with such strong Velcro, but I might revisit that once my son’s able to figure out how to take them off!

  15. Yay cloth! I spent $200 on both children’s entire years of diapers by using cloth. It was simple, soft, and fast potty training. And when I was done I offered all my diapers and wipes free to anyone on mothering.com. A woman was so excited to get them, she sent me a ton of cookies when I mailed them off to her.

    1. @Rebecca- I’ve heard that cloth diapers make potty training a bit easier as well. Another reason to try them! Good on you for furthering your green-ness by passing your diapers along!

  16. Yay cloth! I spent $200 on both children’s entire years of diapers by using cloth. It was simple, soft, and fast potty training. And when I was done I offered all my diapers and wipes free to anyone on mothering.com. A woman was so excited to get them, she sent me a ton of cookies when I mailed them off to her.

    1. @Rebecca- I’ve heard that cloth diapers make potty training a bit easier as well. Another reason to try them! Good on you for furthering your green-ness by passing your diapers along!

  17. Thanks for sharing in such a clear post! I started cloth diapering for the cost savings, but I stayed because I learned I was keeping 1 ton of trash out of the landfill every year, and plus it was actually fun! But there are so many options that I started a blog to help new parents figure out their options without doing all the research I had to do (and you probably had to do as well). It seems like you’ve got a pretty good system down, but if you ever have questions about cloth, check out 29Diapers.com.

    Blessings!
    Laura K. Cowan
    founder of 29Diapers.com, author of Ecofrugal Baby: How To Save 70% Off Baby’s First Year

  18. Thanks for sharing in such a clear post! I started cloth diapering for the cost savings, but I stayed because I learned I was keeping 1 ton of trash out of the landfill every year, and plus it was actually fun! But there are so many options that I started a blog to help new parents figure out their options without doing all the research I had to do (and you probably had to do as well). It seems like you’ve got a pretty good system down, but if you ever have questions about cloth, check out 29Diapers.com.

    Blessings!
    Laura K. Cowan
    founder of 29Diapers.com, author of Ecofrugal Baby: How To Save 70% Off Baby’s First Year

Comments are closed.