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Posted on August 16, 2010 by Christine Crosby in baby, Diapers, Infants

Not Your Mama’s Cloth Diapers

We all want to give our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews the best. That is why we work so hard to protect them, teach them, help them, and make sure they feel unconditionally loved. Sometimes life journey comes easily–and other times, well, it can be tough. With life’s journey, certain choices need to be made, choices that are healthier, more informed and better for our children – helping that journey run a little more smoothly. And that often starts with choosing cloth diapers. Today, millions of parents are joining the cloth diapering movement because they’re healthy for baby, better for our planet, and they are saving parents money.

Here are some fast facts:

  • Traditional disposable diapers take 1 cup of crude oil to make and will sit in our landfills for 500+ years.
  • Families using disposable diapers will spend $2500-3000 diapering one child, compared to $500-600 using modern cloth diapers.
  • Modern cloth diapers are dioxin free, often organic, are free of harsh chemicals and perfumes – unlike their big brand disposable counterparts.

Making the switch to cloth is now an easier choice than ever before…

Gone are the days of pins, rectangular cotton diapers, and plastic pull on pants. Enter today’s cloth diaper: easy-to-use, accessible, functional, cute, and made wtih fabric that is soft and gentle on baby’s skin. Cloth diapers today are not only simple, but are fun and fashionable.

Ready to get on board the cloth diaper movement? There are a few key terms you need to get acquainted with first.

Prefolds…fitteds…AIO…AI2 What does all of this mean? Let me break it down:

PREFOLDS: Prefolds are rectangles of absorbent fabric, usually serged on all four sides, with extra layers of material in the center section. Prefolds need to be folded, then fastened with diaper pins or a Snappi. Prefolds need to be covered with a separate cover. Prefolds Diagram

FITTEDS: Fitted diapers have an hourglass shape and elastic in the legs and waist to keep messes inside. Fitted diapers close with snaps or a hook and loop. Fitted diapers are not waterproof and usually require a separate diaper cover, unless your child is going coverless. Fitteds Diagram

AIO (All-in-One): All-in-one cloth diapers have an hourglass shape and elastic in the legs and waist to keep messes inside. AIO cloth diapers consist of a waterproof outer and an absorbent inner – but they are one component, thus the name All-in-One. AIOs do not require a diaper cover, they are convenient to use and close with snaps or hook and loop. GroVia makes an award winning AIO and are thrilled to share it with you: GroVia AIO

AI2 (All-in-Two, often called a Hybrid System): All-in-two cloth diapers are similar to AIOs, except the absorbent soaker in an AI2 separates from the diaper body. There are 2 parts, the soaker pad and the cloth shell – thus the name, All-in-Two. Usually an AI2 soaker is snapped to the outer diaper shell. AI2s do not need a cover because the diaper body has a waterproof outer layer. One advantage to the AI2 is that the body and soaker separate to make cleaning and drying easier. Depending on the mess, the cloth shell can be reused after a change and just the soaker pad needs replacing and washing. Another advantage is that the soaker can be replaced if it wears out before the diaper body, saving parents money. GroVia makes a famous AI2/Hybrid diaper, find it here: GroVia Hybrid

Now you’re familiar with cloth diaper systems – great! But, there are still more details you must know before buying…


More and more families are choosing one size diapers. These unique cloth diapers are designed to fit babies from 8-35lbs. One size diapers take the guesswork out of trying to figure out what size your baby is, and if you have more than one child in diapers, choosing one size is perfect for streamlining your diaper stash. They also save parents money because they actually grow with baby! One size diapers allow parents to use the same diapers throughout baby’s diapering years, instead of having to constantly buy larger diapers as baby grows. A disadvantage parents sometimes face with one size systems is that the size range is an estimate. If you have a baby with large thighs or who is very tall, the diapers may only fit until 25lbs. You will also find that these diapers can be a bit bulky during the newborn stage, but generally still function quite well. Basically, one size systems are not fool proof, sometimes parents find that they still need to buy different size diapers – but I find, it never hurts to try!

How many cloth diapers do I need?

Whether you go with sized or one sized diapers, plan on purchasing enough diapers so that you can wash every couple of days (instead of everyday), and also enough diapers so that you are spreading the wear and tear over multiple pieces. Too small of a diaper stash means you will be washing more frequently and just like your favorite pair of jeans, they will wear out more quickly. I like to recommend 24 of each size if you are going with a sized system, and for GroVia customers I always suggest 36-40 diapers with one size system. Remember, this is for each child!

Laundering Your Diapers:

So you’ve got your diaper stash, now what? Washing diapers is as easy as doing any of your other laundry – but the idea is a little intimidating. For some, the washing is the reason they steer away from cloth diapering, but most cloth converts find – once you go through the process once, you’ll never give it a second thought again. Below are some different methods for washing, as well as some helpful tips I’ve compiled throughout my years as a cloth-mama!

The detergent you pick will make the biggest difference. Detergents now come in a wide variety of eco-friendly brands made from renewable resources, rather than harsh petro-chemicals. While they do still contain some synthetics there are still some containing natural fragrances and no dyes. We recommend Tiny Bubbles.

The Basics

  • Remove as much solid matter as possible.
    Place soiled diapers in a dry diaper pail- no soaking is necessary.
  • Wash every 2 or 3 days.
  • Start with a cold rinse.
  • Wash in warm water with the amount of detergent recommended.
  • Do an extra final rinse.
  • Tumble dry or hang outside for extra freshness and to remove stains (I find that the sun helps fade stains).
  • Do NOT use bleach or fabric softeners, including softener sheets. This concept is as simple as just not wanting to put harsh chemicals on baby’s soft skin.

Almost done! Now, I’d like to make sure you are set to succeed! These are the top 5 mistakes made when cloth diapering today:


1) Underestimating Stash Size
I cannot stress enough how important stash size is. Whether using sized or one size diapers you MUST have enough diapers to not only last between washings, but also rotate your stash. We recommend enough diapers for 28-36 changes. Even an AI2 system like GroVia requires 12 Shells and 24 Soaker pads for full time diapering. Any less than this means excessive wear and tear on your diapers that are being used on a daily basis. There is no other piece of clothing that gets used and washed as much as a cloth diaper, yet we expect them to last through many months or even years of use. Remember, the less often you have to wash your diapers and covers, the longer they will last. If you choose to diaper with a smaller stash plan on replacing your diapers every 6-9 months. Don’t expect one-size diapers (or sized diapers!) to last 2 years if you only have 6-12 in rotation!

2) Extreme Wash Routines
You’ve just invested a large amount of money in your grandbaby’s cloth diaper stash. Protect your investment by caring for them properly. I cannot count the number of customers who have destroyed their stash by “sanitizing” their diapers, washing them in bleach (or other whiteners), or simply not following the care labels on their diapers.

First step is to read the care labels on your diapers, just as you would any of your own clothing. If it says to wash on warm…wash on warm! A recommended hot wash by the manufacturer does NOT mean the “sanitize” cycle on your machine. Do not put additives in your wash cycles (even the natural ones like vinegar and baking soda). They are unnecessary and can be harmful to both your diapers and your baby’s skin. Lastly, and probably most important USE ENOUGH DETERGENT. The detergent and agitation of your wash cycle are what cleans your diapers. 1 Teaspoon – 2 tablespoons is simply not enough detergent to get your diapers clean. If your diapers smell, use more detergent! Very rarely is “buildup” the reason for smelly diapers.

3) Not Changing Often Enough
Cloth diapers are wonderful for many reasons. They are eco-friendly, healthy, and cost effective when compared to their disposable counterparts. Cloth diapers do not contain SAP (super absorbent polymer) gel, which is the component of disposable diapers that make them trim, yet so absorbent. The average disposable diaper can hold 10 pees before being changed. Whether you use disposables or cloth, your baby should be changed every 2 hours during the day. This keeps baby’s skin healthy and keeps those rare leaks at bay! When customers ask “How many hours can I leave my baby in your diaper before changing?” the answer is, “As soon as you notice they’re wet!!”.

4) Washing Once a Week (or less)
The quickest way to ruin a diaper is to leave it soiled in a closed, dark, warm pail for several days before washing it. This environment is prime breeding grounds for fungi, bacteria, and critters (yes, I’ve even heard maggot stories). Treat your diapers as you would your own lingerie. Soiled diapers should be washed every 2 days according to manufacturer’s instructions. If you have stains, hang them in the sun. Mother Nature knows what she’s doing. The sun naturally bleaches out stains, and kills bacteria and yeast. Best of all it doesn’t cost a dime and is chemical free!

5) One Size Does Not Mean…. Lasts Forever, Fits Everyone.
In the past 3-4 years we’ve seen a boom of one size diapers come onto the market. One size diapers have many advantages as they fit a broad size range and can often eliminate the need to buy multiple sizes of diapers. With this have come many unrealistic expectations. One size diapers are often made of the same materials as their sized counterparts. One size diapers are not able to withstand any more wear and laundering than sized diapers. If you diaper full time with a one size system and want them to last until potty learning, buy enough diapers (24-38 minimum). Babies come in different shapes and sizes and not every diaper, one size or not, is guaranteed to fit. Try one or two diapers before investing in an entire stash!

As we have over 6 million children in our country being raised by grandparents and grandparents are caring daily for tens of millions more children, we thought we’d revisit the use of cloth diapers. I used them for my first child along with the good old diaper service that came twice a week to pick up the soiled diapers and brought a supply of new ones. Then along came disposable diapers and we moms and grandmoms, thought we’d died and gone to diapering heaven, but now we know how serious a problem plastic diapers are to the environment as they fill our landfills and just won’t go away. So what’s a parent and grandparent to do? If you have a solution or a comment, please email me at editor@grandmagazine.com. Thank you!


Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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