Thursday, March 17, 2011

Adventures in Cloth Diapering, Pt 4 -- What We've Tried (and Ditched)

In order to make the "What We Use" post in this series a bit more concise, I've decided to add a post to the series that reviews some of the various diapering methods and supplies that I've tried in the past.

~ Diapers ~

My initial diapers were homemade flannel fitted diapers, using the very popular (and free!) Rita's Rump Pocket pattern, or "RRP." Using sale-priced flannel, they cost under $2 a piece (much cheaper than the average $10 and up you'll pay for ready-made fitteds). I already had a bit of flannel on hand, so 20 diapers ended up costing about $18. You can get 1 diaper (two sides) out of every 2/3-3/4 yd. of 44" flannel.

These diapers require inserts to absorb moisture (two layers of flannel won't hold much).

I used clear elastic for the legs, but I think cotton swimwear elastic would have been a better choice -- the clear elastic is very stiff and isn't quite as stretchy as I would have liked.

After about 18 months these diapers really started showing wear, with holes developing at the ends of the elastic. That's probably due to the quality of flannel I used.

My biggest beef was that the flannel was so wet against my baby's skin that it caused redness and "waterlogged" skin, which also leads to rashes. I ended up making lined inserts (see below) to solve this problem. I also made several half-flannel/half-alova-suede diapers in this pattern, which allowed the wetness to wick through and stay away from baby's skin.

PROS: Inexpensive, user-friendly
CONS: Need to be stuffed with an insert (or two, or three), wet against baby's skin, require time to make.
COST: about $2 for all-flannel diapers (if you can find it on sale); about $3 for half-flannel/half-alova suede (again, sale prices);

~ Inserts ~

After far too many hours of research, I decided to go with microfiber auto towels from Walmart to use as the absorbent inserts in my cloth diapers. It's $5 for a pack of 8, and they're just the right size to tri-fold and stuff in the RRP diaper. I only needed one insert for an infant (not a heavy wetter), but that went up to two in the for a toddler.

From left to right: an unfolded microfiber towel, a folded towel, and a
suede cloth covered towel (you can see the back-and-forth lines I
stitched to keep the towel folded properly)
Microfiber can't be used right against baby's bum, since it can actually dry out the skin and cause rashes. I initially stuffed the tri-folded microfiber towels into my flannel diapers, but flannel is cold and moist when wet, which can cause diaper rash  (and can't be very comfortable!).

Fleece and suede cloth, on the other hand, are "stay dry" fabrics that wick moisture through without feeling wet to the touch. So I tri-folded some of my microfiber inserts and covered them with suedecloth. I could simply lay the insert in the flannel diaper with no stuffing required (at least, until we started needing two inserts per diaper!).

PROS: Cheap (and easy to find), very absorbent
CONS: Can develop odor and detergent build-up over time; require "stuffing" into a diaper
COST: $5 for a pack of 8 ($0.62 each)

~ Covers ~

1. The Prorap Classic Diaper Cover  Not Recommended

Personally, I'm very surprised this cover has good reviews -- It's stiff, ugly, oddly shaped, the fabric snags easily, and it has a horrible plastic smell. Do you want to know what I really think about it? *wink* It leaked every time I used it because the leg openings have a very strange shape. It might work better with a tri-folded prefold, but I never tried that. I'm so glad I only bought one, and I'll certainly never buy another!

PROS: Nothing that I can think of!
CONS: Odd shape, stiff, and costly overall (comes in 5 different sizes)
COST: $7.99

2. Fishnoodles Snapper Cover   Not Recommended

I only bought a Fishnoodles cover (formerly Hyenacart, now Peachy Green -- why do they keep changing names?) because they had some "seconds" at a reduced price. I purchased a size small -- and boy, is it ever small! It's supposed to fit up to 16 pounds, but I don't see how that's possible. There's no way it would ever fit over the fitted diapers I made. It is certainly trim, and is very well made, but I just can't get it to work. I think even a prefold would be too big! I think I'll keep it for future babies as a newborn cover. The style is the same as this newborn diaper from Peachy Green.

PROS: Well-made, trim
CONS: Super small (and sized incorrectly, in my opinion)
COST: $8.40 (for a second quality)

3. Dappi Diaper Covers  Not Recommended Overall

I bought four of the size small covers, and I think they'd work better for pudgy apple-shaped babies, since the velcro closures practically overlapped on my long and lean little guy -- even though at 12 lbs. he was right in the "up to 14 lb" range for the size small. You'd certainly need a separate newborn cover if you wanted to cloth diaper a small baby. Overall they're decent covers, but I definitely didn't reach for them first and may only use them as back-up covers with future babies.

Also, I think the knit elastic used on the edges of the diaper (which was wonderfully soft) would wick moisture onto clothing, since I seemed to have frequent little "leaks" when using these covers. Maybe I just needed to change more frequently, but I didn't have this problem with other covers.

As a note, these covers have a mesh layer inside the diaper which you won't see in my picture because I trimmed it out. I didn't like that it would get wet during use, and unlike vinyl or PUL, you can't just wipe it clean. So removing the mesh may have made them less effective (though I tried them both ways, and didn't notice a difference).

PROS: Super cheap, easy to put on, soft jersey outer fabric, gentle elastic
CONS: Wicks moisture onto clothing; made of vinyl instead of breathable PUL (polyurethane laminate); velcro could be stronger; four different sizes brings the total diapering cost up; run quite large (which makes it hard to get the fit right).
COST: $2.99

4. Econobum One-Size Cloth Diaper Cover ($5, normally $8.95 individually or $9.95 with the prefold)   Recommended with reservations

I was skeptical about the Econobum cover, mostly because it doesn't have leg gussets. As it turns out, I liked this cover enough to buy more, and used them exclusively for several months!

I have 5 of these covers, since I took advantage of a BOGO sale to boost my stock. The cover may be one-size, but the Indian prefolds I received as part of the sale are certainly not (I have yet to see a "one-size prefold" for sale!). They're way too big for an infant, regardless of how you fold them, but are too small for a toddler unless you tri-fold them and lay them in the cover. They are quite absorbent, though!

The Indian prefolds you see under the cover hadn't been washed yet; they
become quite fluffy after several washes!
HOWEVER, my biggest problem with these diaper covers is that they certainly are "econo," and that includes the quality. The laminate on the fabric is very thin compared to other diaper covers. About six months after I purchased them, they started to leak a little bit around the waist area because the PUL had developed little "slits" that allowed moisture to wick through. I still use them as backups when I'm out of my preferred covers. I contacted Cotton Babies, and they claimed that I had voided my warranty by using homemade laundry detergent, because you should not use pure soap. So please DO NOT use homemade laundry detergent on these diaper covers! I'm a bit peeved with Cotton Babies, because the laundering instructions that came with the diapers are very vague, and the only page on their website that mentions that you shouldn't use pure soap is difficult to find. Their customer service was not very helpful, and rather brusque.

PROS: Super trim (despite being one-size); very adjustable; great snap system; hold in the moisture really well; simple to use; dry very quickly; decent price
CONS: No leg gussets (though that hasn't been a big problem); lower quality; bad customer service
COST: $8.95 (although I purchased mine for $5 each)

~ Pocket Diapers ~

Kawaii One-Size Pocket Diaper   Not Recommended Overall 

Just one insert in the diaper in this picture, and it's already
pretty bulky!
I received this diaper as a free promotion when purchasing some other cloth diapers ( frequently offers coupon codes for free diapers with a certain purchase amount). This was my first experience with a pocket diaper, since I'm not much of a fan of pockets and AIOs.

Overall, the diaper is fine. The fleece inside is soft, the laminate outer seems sturdy, and the snap design is fine. But the diaper really needs both of the microfiber inserts it came with for sufficient toddler absorbency, and that makes it huge! The inserts are almost laughably huge. Also, this diaper has no leg gussets (my personal preference), and the fleece stains pretty easily. Since laminate doesn't do well in the wash, I hang this diaper to dry, but the fleece lining increases the dry time.

PROS: "Stuff and go;" good quality; good snap design; decent price for a pocket diaper
CONS: Very bulky(!); not the best at holding in mess; more difficult to launder
COST: Free to me, but usually $10.95

~ Accesories ~

Flannel Wipes:

I made a stash of simple flannel squares, serged all the way around. However, I gave up on using them as diaper wipes, because the flannel repelled water (I don't soak my wipes in solution, so I had to spray or pour water on the wipes at each change) and they seemed to just smear things around.

They have come in handy for all sorts of household purposes, though, and I still send all of my scrap flannel to the serger! I much prefer the terry cloth wipes that we are currently using.

PROS: Lots of pros, just not for cloth diapering...
CONS: Repel water, not good for messy diapers
COST: Free! They were all made from scrap or leftover flannel

Diaper Duck:

I discovered this handy tool when I purchased my Dappi covers! The Diaper Duck is a plastic hook that hooks onto your toilet seat so you can rinse and soak messy diapers easily. It's really intended for prefolds or flat fold diapers, but I used it successfully with my fitteds and inserts (though I couldn't utilize the "wringing" aspect.

However, when it broke after a year (I think I was a bit rough with it when "swirling" diapers), I decided to upgrade to a handheld diaper sprayer -- now that I'm using flat fold diapers, I wish I could try it again, but the sprayer is easy and doesn't require soaking the diaper.

PROS: Cheap; Extremely helpful if you don't have a sprayer
CONS: Mine broke after a year of use; requires soaking the diaper in the toilet (thereby rendering the toilet useless until the diaper is removed)
COST: $7.99

~ Detergents ~

I initially used my homemade laundry detergent and an occasional splash of vinegar in the rinse cycle, but after my Econobum experience, I would no longer recommend pure soap, borax, or vinegar for PUL(polyurethane laminate) diaper covers.

I switched to Thirsties Pre-Wash every couple of cold cycles and Thirsties Super Wash for every hot cycle. However, I still had to strip my diapers, and wasn't so impressed with them that I'm willing to pay the (in my opinion) high price -- almost $0.25 a load for just the Super Wash.


Well, that's an exhaustive (or exhausting...) look at what we've tried in cloth diapering so far!

For the other posts in this series, go here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3


  1. what detergent do you use now?

  2. ArtistMommy,

    I currently use Ecos Free and Clear detergent -- I have no problems with build up (but I use flat fold diapers, which are known for being easy to clean). I purchase mine from Wal-Mart, because it's the cheapest price I've found!



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