What is the EASIEST and CHEAPEST way to cloth diaper?
My answer is always this:
"Diaper covers and Prefolds"
In my opinion they are the easiest and most efficient (cost and time) way to cloth diaper because:
1. Diaper covers are inexpensive and can be washed with the clothes cycle
2. Prefolds (premium diaper service quality aka: DSQ) are made from cotton and they are used by all of the diaper services because they are heavy duty and can withstand sanitation cycles.
3. This option is probably the least expensive way to diaper your child from birth to toddler hood and the diaper stash will likely last through multiple children.
What you need to get started (recommended):
6-12 One size diaper covers. Start with 6 and if you like this option add more as you go - 12 is usually sufficient! Custom covers handmade by me are available in my shop as well as several ready to ship covers!
2 dozen cotton prefolds- My favorite were Osocozy Premium 4x8x4 available on Amazon.
Cloth Diaper liners for easy cleanup (optional)
1 pail to store the dirty diapers
Access to a washing machine (you can hang dry, or if you have a dryer you can use that option)
Laundry Detergent (I chose Tide original)
and a cute little baby bum to wear the diapers!
How to use cloth diapers:
1. Choose your cover
2. Fold the prefold into thirds, lay it in the cover
3. Lay baby on the diaper and fasten it on.
If the cover remains clean at changing time, you can reuse it - but it is recommended to let it dry out between uses, so rotate between two covers. If the cover gets dirty, wipe out the mess and hang to dry.
Wet diapers can be thrown into the pail. Poop diapers get rinsed in the toilet, wring out the prefold and store in a pail, or trash can style bin. I kept the covers draped over the sides of the bin separate from the prefolds so they don't get any stains!
Schedule a diaper wash every couple of days.
Covers can be washed with the prefolds or with a regular cycle of clothes. Always hang dry your covers - the dryer heat can cause unnecessary wear and tear on the PUL.
Recommended wash routine for prefolds:
1. Cold rinse cycle.
2. Hot wash cycle with detergent.
3. Hang to dry or throw in the dryer.
Use any laundry detergent that does not have additives like fabric softener or bleach. The general consensus is to use Tide original detergent especially if you have hard water. Prefolds are so versatile that you can use just about any detergent.
Are my diapers getting clean???
You will know when your wash routine is failing - more likely you will SMELL when your routine isn't working.
Look for these clues: Are they stained? (poop stains are somewhat normal, but pee stains should not be seen at all). Do you smell FUNKY odors when your child wets? Do you smell AMMONIA -or notice a rash when they wet?
If you notice those signs ask yourself these questions:
1. How long have my diapers been sitting: 1-2 days MAX between washes is OK, otherwise you should be rinsing all diapers before they go in the pail to get you to 3 days MAX. You WILL start smelling the pail if you are waiting too long between washes!
2. Am I using the recommended amount of detergent? Too much or too little isn't good. Start by following the instructions on the detergent bottle. Check to make sure that there is a light layer of suds on the water during the wash, then check to make sure there are NO suds in the final rinse.
3. Double check to make sure you are using an appropriate DETERGENT - strong enough to clean the diapers. Often times handmade soap and even some diaper soaps won't do the trick because they lack the cleaning power. Do not use detergents that contain additives like fabric softener or bleach. I know that some of you don't want to use harsh detergents- either did I, but run a test and maybe you can switch off between the two depending on your circumstance!
4. Do you have hard water? I washed my diapers in a standard machine with well water - my water couldn't be harder. Hard water makes it difficult for the detergent to break the surface tension and make it through the fibers in your clothes/diapers to clean them. You will need to soften your water to get a good cleaning and your best bet is using Tide because it's "the original hard water detergent" and maybe even a cup of baking soda to go into the first rinse cycle.
5. Soft water?? I don't have experience with soft water but I do know from research that you need less soap - so look in your washer during your routine to make sure there aren't too many suds and use an appropriate amount of detergent.
What to do if my diapers stink:
Well, my friend it's time to STRIP THOSE DIAPERS!
The nice thing about prefolds (no need to strip the diaper covers!) is that it's REALLY hard to destroy them. They can easily recover from most of what we throw at them. If you have a wash routine gone bad, simply throw the prefolds in the bathtub, add a small squirt of Dawn or other dish soap that doesn't have any added ingredients (cheap is good) and give them a good swishing and soaking for about an hour. You want to see just a few suds, don't go overboard! Rinse them and then put them through a regular wash cycle. I often used a few drops of Tea Tree essential oil in the final rinse just for it's antibacterial properties and to get the diapers squeaky clean.
If all else fails, you can explore the use of bleach or acid soaks but I don't recommend that unless you have to.
And finally those annoying Stains. If your diapers are getting clean you shouldn't notice terrible stains, but it's inevitable - no matter how hard you try - poop leaves stains on your diapers. Best bet is to let them dry flat in the sun. This is called Sunning - natures bleach! I've also heard of squeezing lemon juice onto them during sunning for extra tough stains!
There you have it - Cloth diapering with covers and prefolds!
If you still have questions or need guidance, try a Facebook search for your local cloth diaper groups and you can always contact me, I'm happy to help!