Cloth Diaper Essentials: A Newbie's Guide to Coming to the Cloth Side

cloth diapering 11 min read
cloth diaper essentials

Hey Awesome sauce! Are you interested in cloth diapering? Do you have a friend who is interested but doesn't know where to start? Well, today is your lucky day! I'm here this week to give you a crash course on how cloth diapering works and the cloth diaper essentials you ACTUALLY NEED to begin your walk on the fluff side.

Where do I Even Start?

Finding out that you are adding a new member to your family, while exciting, can be super overwhelming. Figuring out all the things you need to do and acquire in order to keep a tiny human alive and happy in those early days of new-parenthood is enough to daunt even the most organized mind.

At some point in your fervent list-making frenzy, you may decide that you want to check out cloth diapering. You are a modern, eco-conscious parent and you want to see if it will work for your growing family.

As one does for all life’s quandaries these days, you hit the internet to do some research on cloth diaper essentials. Suddenly your anxiety level jumps from “running into THAT guy from high school at the mall” to “letting your cousin in cosmetology school use you for ‘practice’”.

There is SO MUCH information. And it is CONFUSING!

Some posts appear to be written in code. Or perhaps a language you are not familiar with.

But worry not squirrelfrand! We here at Lil Helper are all about keeping it simple.

So we are going to tell you an insider industry secret... are you ready?

Cloth diapering is NOT complicated and you DO NOT need a bunch of fancy stuff to get started.

In fact, you really only require three cloth diaper essentials to get going on your fluff adventure:

  1. Diapers (duh): Namely a diapering system that is going to work well for you
  2. Dirty Diaper Storage: That keeps diapers contained and works for your space
  3. Wash Routine: A way to wash said funky diapers.

That’s it! There are lots of cloth diapering accessories that are nice to have (which we will discuss later) but these are truly the only things you NEED to come to the cloth side.

However, even sticking to these basics, there are still a lot of options out there. So let’s break this down and shed even more light on some of the things all cloth newbies should know.

Cloth Diaper Essential #1: Diapers

cloth diaper

As far as I‘m concerned, choosing your diapers is the most important part of your research process. And while I’m obviously partial to Lil Helper’s glorious charcoal cloth diapers, I believe the most important thing to decide off the start is which type of diaper is going to work best for you.

Do you think you will have the time and energy to stuff pockets or fold liners? What is a realistic budget to get yourself started? How is the addition of diaper laundry and prep going to fit into your established routine?

Answering these kinds of questions for yourself will help you find your ideal system.

For example, the first thing I contemplated when considering cloth was my already atrocious laundry habits. I knew that I needed diapers that could (like all my other laundry) live in the hamper and quickly be assembled as needed. This helped me eliminate certain diaper types before I even bothered looking into specific brands.

To help you sort out which systems might be best for you, here’s a breakdown of the most common types of cloth diapers. We compare how they work and some of their pros and cons:

Types of cloth diapers
cloth diaper comparison chart

Figuring out which of these diapering systems is going to fit most seamlessly into your life is step one towards cloth diapering success. Finding diapers that work with your time, lifestyle, laundry facilities, and budget will help avoid frustration down the line and make it less likely you will get overwhelmed and throw in the towel.

How Many Diapers?

One of the most common questions people grapple with is how many cloth diapers they need to buy.

The answer to this is going to depend on the type of diapers you choose. But here is a graphic that explains how we decided what to include in our awsome Day Packs:

For a more detailed rundown of how we did the math you can check here.

Essentially we recommend having 30 changes worth of diapers. For systems that require you to change the entire diaper (pockets, AIOs), this means 30 diapers. For others, like Lil Helper, where covers can be reused, you won't need to buy as many.

A Note on Inserts

Inserts are what give cloth diapers their absorbency.

A lot of diaper companies will try to sell you on their diapers based on the material they use in their inserts. But they aren‘t always clear about WHY different materials might make a difference to you or your baby’s precious posterior.

So here’s the low down on what the differences between materials really are from our friends at The Fluffy Penguin Company:

For more info on Lil Helper inserts, you can check out this blog post or this video. You can also check out this awesome post, for info on how our different liners stack up and can be used together.

Cloth Diaper Essential #2: Dirty Diaper Storage

wet bag

If you have ever walked the aisles of a baby store or perused a friend’s registry, chances are you have come across diaper pails. The most famous of these pails shares its name with my favourite Disney character.

When it comes to cloth diaper storage, however, this particular pail is not as magical as its name implies. Pails designed for disposables that have turning lids, don‘t have enough room in their openings for cloth diapers to fit through. This means you will have to come up with another solution for keeping your cloth contained.

Here are a few common options:

Many people have the misconception that dirty diapers need to be stored in a wet pail or in some other special way. Wet pails are not recommended and can be really bad for your diapers. The only thing your storage solution really NEEDS to do is contain any moisture that is already on your diapers and work for your space.

Cloth Diaper Essential #3: Wash Routine

cloth diaper laundry

This is probably the part of cloth diapering that is most intimidating to newbies. Getting your diapers clean is important to your baby's health and the health of your diapers themselves. But it really isn't as scary as it seems... pinky promise.

There are some nuances to figuring out your own wash routine but here are the basics:

Cloth diaper essentials wash
Type caption (optional)
Cloth diaper essentials wash
Cloth diaper essentials wash
Cloth diaper essentials wash

Seriously, that's it. If your baby just pees, you put their diaper in your wetbag or pail and move on with your day. If there is poop, get rid of it (probably in the toilet), put your diaper in your wetbag or pail, and move on with your day. No sweat!

But just in case your still worried, here are a few more resources to really nail your wash routine:

  • Detergent Index: will tell you if your current detergent is cloth approved and how much to use.
  • Machine Index: will tell you the exact cycles and settings you should use for your washing machine.
  • Hard Water: knowing your water hardness is important. Hard water is hard on diapers. This explains why, how to find out if you have hard water, and what to do about it.
  • How NOT to Wash Your Diapers: gives an even more in-depth rundown of our washing recommendations.
  • When Good Diapers Go Stinky: some more wash tips for if you run into trouble and your fluff gets funky.

If, after all that, you are still feeling faint at the thought of diaper laundry or you want help nailing your routine down, get in touch with our Delight Divas:

cloth diaper help

Not only are these ladies beautiful and friendly, they know their way around dirty diapers and will get you off to a great start.

The Frills

reusable liners

There are a lot of accessories that you can consider when cloth diapering.

Just like lots of other baby gadgets out there, cloth accessories are usually designed to make certain aspects of the cloth diaper process easier. They are nice to have but aren't strictly necessary.

When you are first getting started, I recommend sticking to the basic cloth diaper essentials. But once you get going, you may find you want to add some more tools to your fluff arsenal.


cloth diaper boosters

You will hear the word "boosters" thrown around a lot in cloth diaper groups and posts. Boosters are used to add extra absorbency to any diapers. Like inserts, they come in a variety of sizes, styles, and materials.

Lil Helper Boosters, for example, have a stay-dry material on one side, a thirsty bamboo terry on the other, and layers of absorbent microfibre in between. They can be used in any diaper for added time between changes.

Boosters tend to be smaller and trimmer than inserts. This is so that they don't add too much bulk to your baby's bum.

Diaper Liners

If you are still feeling a little unsure about the idea of having to remove poop from your diapers, liners may be a good investment for you.

Disposable Liners

Often called "flushable liners" these disposable little wonders make poop cleanup a breeze. They sit on top of your liners and protect them from poop.

They can also be used to protect from diaper cream if your bambino gets a rash.

When babe needs a change you simply scoop the liner out and toss it away, along with any of the horrors that may have exited your little poop-machine's bum.

Reusable Liners

stay dry liners

These are the same idea as disposable liners, with the added bonus of being able to wash and reuse them. They will need to be cleaned of poop before they go in the wash but are much easier to rinse than regular inserts.

Lil Helper's Bamboo Stay Dry Liners also have the added feature of being able to wick away moisture. They help distribute liquid evenly across your inserts, avoiding leaks and keeping baby feeling dry.

Diaper Sprayers

diaper sprayer
There are lots of options for diaper sprayers out there but I have (and love) this Bumkins one.

Continuing with the topic of poop removal (yay!), you may be wondering how you should go about getting your diapers "solid free" before washing.

There are many ways to go about this. Some people scrape or use a spatula. Others dunk and swish diapers. Both of these are low budget, low clutter options that many swear by.

While they are not strictly one of the cloth diaper essentials, I would argue strongly for a diaper sprayer. These lovely little wonders hook into the water supply for your toilet and can be used to spray poop directly into the toilet.

There are a variety of diaper specific sprayers available but you can also use hand-held bidets if you happen to come across one for a good price.

Cloth Wipes

cloth wipes

Most people consider cloth diapers because they are environmentally friendly and help save them money. Using cloth wipes can take your "Frugal and Green" game to the next level.

Cloth wipes are super easy to use. They are used just like a disposable wipe. If there is poop, they should get a quick rinse but otherwise they can go right in with your diapers. Since you are going to be doing diaper laundry anyway, cloth wipes don't add any extra work and can be great for bulking your diaper loads.

Lil Helper makes both bamboo and t-shirt style wipes but you can also use baby washcloths or make your own.

The best thing to use with your cloth wipes is water. Many people use the peri bottle they are given at the hospital to wet their wipes right before they use them. Plain water is the best solution, as adding other ingredients can cause repelling on your wipes and diaper inserts.

The Final Cloth Diaper Essential: Our Newbie App

Okay, I know I said that there were only three cloth diaper essentials.

But having all the information you need about cloth diapers in one place will make things simple for you. And that's how we roll.

Hence, the Lil Helper Newbie App! It answers all sorts of questions for both beginners and veterans. Check out this video of our fearless leader explaining how the app works:

And then check out the app here!

You Got This!

A lot of people seem to think that parents who choose cloth are tree-hugging masochists.

I think this sense of intimidation stems from a lot of misconceptions about cloth diapering being complicated or labour intensive.

But when you boil things down to the true cloth diaper essentials, you can see that cloth diapering is really not as scary as it might appear.

In fact, once you see how many adorable prints they come in, how much money they save you, and how much you are saving the environment, you may just find yourself jumping for joy over your decision to come to the cloth side.

What do you think? Are you still nervous about cloth diapering? Do you still have questions? Did we miss anything?

Let me know in the comments below!

cloth diaper essentials

Images Used

cloth diapers lil helper