How to Use Cloth Diapers in Your Daily Life

Are you intrigued by the idea of using cloth diapers for your baby? Are you unsure how cloth diaper would fit into your daily routine, or how you would realistically use them day to day? This post walks you though the ins and outs of using cloth diapers in your daily life.

Whenever I tell someone I use cloth diapers I get lots of questions that could be used as reasons someone wouldn’t want to cloth diaper – Don’t they stink? How do you use a diaper pail? What do you do with the poop?  How do you run errands or travel with them?  How do you wash them?  What about wipes?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of cloth diapers, let’s talk about the details – the reality of using cloth in our everyday lives.

The Changing Table

Let’s start with the changing table – the place where the cloth diapers come on and go off.  Having a good changing area is pretty important, because cloth diapers do take up more room than disposables, and you need to have a place to store them.

When my daughter was a baby, we used the top of her dresser as our changing table, we just attached one of those changing table pads, and I dedicated a drawer in the dresser for diapers and supplies.

Before our son was born, our friends gave us an actual changing table, and that is what we have been using for the past year to change our babies’ bums and hold all our diapering stuff.

After you wash your diapers you can stuff the pocket diapers, fold the prefolds and fitteds, separate your wipes so they are handy and store everything nicely in your changing area.

Or if you’re like me most of the time, i.e. lazy, you can just keep it all in the laundry basket, and sort it out as you go, stuffing pocket diapers while trying to keep a wiggly baby from falling off the changing table, grabbing a handful of wipes to run under the water when your baby has an unexpected messy diaper, and searching through the pile to find a cover to go over the fitted diaper.  Really, I would recommend the first way – it’s a little less stressful and a little more organized, but hey, sometimes that’s just not the reality we live in, right?!

The Diaper Pail

Next to the changing area, or somewhere kind of close by, you want to have a diaper pail.  Now, this doesn’t have to be some kind of special thing.  I use a garbage can that I got at Target that has a lid that flips up and snaps down.  It also has handles on the inside that flip up, that I can use to carry the pail down to the washing machine – quite convenient.

I line my pail with a simple laundry bag, but you can also use a diaper pail liner, or large wet bag, if you’re worried about the wetness or smell.  Personally, I’ve never had a problem with my diaper pail smelling. Sure, it smells when you open it to stick a diaper in there, but I’ve never noticed a smell when the lid is shut.

The dirty diapers just hang out in the laundry bag in the diaper pail until wash day and then I carry the pail downstairs and dump the whole thing into the washer and throw the laundry bag in there too.  That way you don’t have to actually touch any dirty diapers, and your laundry bag gets washed every time you was diapers.

Washing Your Cloth Diapers

Now, actually washing your diapers can get a bit tricky. Cloth diapers are sensitive little buggers, and you can’t use just any old detergent on them. Pinstripes and Polkadots has a great resource for choosing a cloth diaper detergent, (and TONS of other great information about cloth diapering too!)

Basically, you want to use a free and clear detergent that will not cause buildup on your cloth diapers which would cause them to repel and not work properly, and yeah, you definitely wouldn’t want that! We use Purex Free & Clear most of the time and have had good success with it. I have also used Country Save and love that, but the only place I can find it is online, so it’s not as convenient as buying detergent from the store.

When washing your diapers you first want to run them through a quick cold water wash. This is like the rinsing stage. Use about half or a quarter of the amount of detergent that you would normally use for a load of laundry and run a quick load with cold water. This rinses out the diapers and keeps the stains from setting in (most of the time).

Then, you’ll need to run a long hot wash with an extra rinse. I use the heavy duty setting on my front loading machine. Add more detergent, again about 1/2 to 1/4 of the amount that you would normally use, it doesn’t take much detergent to get diapers (or clothes for that matter) clean, and you want to avoid detergent buildup on the diapers. Run the extra rinse just to make sure that all of the detergent is out of the diapers.

You can dry your diapers in the dryer on on the line. I have loved line drying my diapers this summer.  And even in the winter, I line dry my pocket diapers on a clothes line in our basement by the laundry.

Drying diapers in the dryer is obviously quicker and more convenient than line drying, but it can wear out the elastic and velcro on your diapers over time.

I usually wash my diapers every 3 days.  So it’s about 2 extra loads of laundry a week.  I’m doing so much laundry anyway, it really is not a big deal to me to have a few extra loads to throw in.

Dealing with the Poopies

So I’m sure you’re all wondering by now, okay, but what about the poop?? Dealing with the poopy cloth diapers is probably one of the main reasons why people would say that they are not inclined to use cloth.

To me, it’s really not that bad or that big of deal.  In fact, I think dealing with poopy cloth diapers is a lot less annoying then dealing with poopy disposable diapers.

*Another bonus of cloth diapers – they are just so stinkin’ cute!

To begin with, cloth diapers rarely, if ever, leak.  You know the newborn blowouts that are just an assumed part of the newborn diapering stage?  I never had a blowout with my newborn in a cloth diaper.

Cloth diaps have better elastic and better coverage, so the poop just doesn’t explode all over the place. No poop all the way up the back of the baby, no poop leaking out the sides, no having to give my baby a complete bath after a poopy diaper if they’re in cloth.

I did have those things happen on multiple occasions when my newborns were wearing disposables.  So, there’s one poopy problem actually eliminated by using cloth.

Also, when babies are exclusively breastfeed, their poop is water soluble.  So all you have to do is throw your dirty diapers into the diaper pail.  No rinsing, or dumping, or soaking required.

Now, once your baby starts eating solids, it’s a different story.  It does get a little trickier, but is still very manageable. One great option is to use flushable liners.  I personally have never tried them, at our previous house I couldn’t use them because we had a septic system, and now I’ve just gotten used to just not having them.

If you don’t use liners, first, try to dump or roll off any solid poop directly into the toilet.  Then you can either rinse the diaper in the toilet, or if you’re like me and have a wonderful husband who hooked up an amazing diaper sprayer for you, you can simply spray off your diapers into the toilet.

A diaper sprayer is a sprayer like you would find on a kitchen sink, but is attached to your toilet’s water line, so you can spray off dirty diapers right into the toilet.  We used this great tutorial from Gidget Goes Home on how to make your own diaper sprayer, and Jer had it done in about an hour one afternoon.

If you don’t have a diaper sprayer, I didn’t for the first year and a half that I used cloth diapers so it is possible to survive without one, you can dunk and rinse the diaper right in the toilet. You hold a clean corner of the diaper, dunk it and swish it around a little bit and then flush, while still holding onto the diaper of course, and most of the poop will get swept away with the flush.

Definitely not glamerous, but what about dealing with poopy diapers in general is?  To me, it really wasn’t that big of deal. Especially when I found out you’re supposed to do the same thing for disposable diapers anyway.

Did you know that when you use disposables you are supposed to dump the poop into the toilet? How many people do you know that actually do that?  The fact is that human waste is not meant to go to the landfill – landfills are not designed to treat waste, that’s what the sewer system is for.  Not judging – I’ve done it too, just saying that disposables are not really as “easy” for dealing with poop as we assume.

If I have a poopy disposable diaper, I try to dump as much in the toilet as I can.  So, whether you’re using cloth or disposable, the poop is supposed to end up in the toilet so the sewer system can deal with it appropriately. Makes cloth not seem like so much of an inconvenience any more, huh?

Okay, so we’ve covered the changing area, the diaper pail, washing and drying, and dealing with the dirty diapers, and this post is way longer than I expected it to be.  So, I’ll follow up next week with Part III of Using Cloth Diapers and talk about going out, running errands, and traveling with cloth, as well as using cloth wipes.

Do you have any questions for me about the ins and outs of using cloth diapers? Any of you cloth diaper mamas out there have any tips or advice you’d like to add about using cloth on a day-to-day basis?

Works for Me Wednesday at We Are That Family

*Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post.  If you make a purchase through one of these links I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting Live Renewed!


  1. Michelle says

    Forget the landfills and saving paper. What affect do the chemicals in cloth diapers have on our babies??? With all of the fertility issues I have to wonder….. Also, it seems like all the “Grandmas” seem to say “in MY day our babies were potty trained MUCH earlier. Well, if the gels and “keep them drier liners” keep baby comfortable is that why our babies are so much older and harder to train?????

  2. Beverly says

    These are exactly the things I did 30+ years ago when using cloth diapers.

    And I am one of those weirdos who dump what I can off the disposable diaper into the toilet. Really cuts down on the smell!

  3. says

    What I’m curious about is how practically you can rinse them in the toilet while taking care of a baby. Where is the baby when you’re rinsing diaper? Do you put poopy diaper aside, put fresh one on them, then take baby and poopy diaper with you into the bathroom to rinse it? How does that work?

    • Emily @ Live Renewed says

      Hi Laci,
      Thanks for your question. When the baby is exclusively breastfed, you don’t have to rinse the diaper at all. The seedy yellow breastfed baby poop is water soluable and will rinse out in the wash. When they are older and start eating solid foods, yes, I do what you described. I change the baby and then you can either bring the baby into the bathroom with you, or put them in a safe place like their crib, exersaucer or pack-n-play, and then rinse the diaper and put it in the pail. Hope that answers your question for you – let me know if you have any others!

  4. Amanda says

    Thanks for all of the helpful CD info! I started CD when my daughter was about 4 months. She is now 32 months and not potty trained. Do you have a fav diaper for this age? I have made almost all of her diapers (pockets) but lately I cannot seem to contain her wet and she is having to wear disposable. I would love to find a cloth alternative. Thanks! (PS, our 4th is on the way and I appreciate your info on CD newborns!)

    • Emily @ Live Renewed says

      Hi Amanda,
      Unfortunately, I haven’t found a good diaper for the bigger toddlers. My son was in disposables also when he was that age and not yet potty trained. I have heard really good things about the Flip trainers from Cotton Babies, but I have not used them myself. Hope that helps! Come back and let us know if you find a diaper you love!

      • Sarah D. says

        A note on the Flip Trainers: I used them with my son who is a big 3 yo (think 4 or 5 yo size; not fat, just big). The liners are quite small/ thin and only work well if you actively trying to potty train the child. Otherwise, they don’t hold much at all. We had a few “accidents”. You can use a prefold diaper with the Flip cover, if you’re looking for more absorbancy. But, we just put him back in disposable pull ups until he decided, on his own, that he was done with them and wanted to wear underwear about 5 mo. later. He’s now completely potty trained (not quite night trained, but will wake up and go potty sometimes) and turns 4 next month. =)

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  6. Ashley says

    Are you supposed to wash each diaper and liner after a pee? Or is the diaper shell itself good all day, but after each pee you swap out the inner liner for a dry clean one?

    • says

      Hey Ashley,
      If you use a diaper cover with a liner or prefold inside, then you can just swap out the liner after it’s been peed on. You can change the cover if it starts to feel wet or if it gets soiled. Hope that helps!


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