Cloth diaper comparisons and cloth diaper types.
GroVia has been a cloth diaper resource since 2008!
CLOTH DIAPER GUIDES
Cloth diaper laundry basics, detergents & a recipe for success.
Absorbency comparisons and definitions.
Cloth diaper stash size recommendations.
ADDITIONAL CLOTH DIAPER RESOURCES
Easy step by step guide to changing a cloth diaper and supplies you will need.
Cloth Diaper Laundry FAQ's
Top 6 Laundry Mistakes
We’ll help you make your diaper stash last.
By following our laundry tips and tricks, you can ensure that your cloth diapers will last a long time.
1. Underestimating stash size
We 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. With a one size diapering system we recommend enough diapers for at least 24-36 CHANGES. Even a system like GroVia's Hybrid requires at least 12-18 Shells and 24-36 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 not a single 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 10-15 in rotation! Ready to get started? Save with our Package Deals!
2. Extreme Wash Routines
You’ve just invested a large amount of money in your baby’s diaper stash. Protect your investment by caring for them properly. We cannot count the number of customers who have destroyed their stash by “sanitizing” or stripping their diapers, washing them in bleach (or other whiteners), or simply not following the care labels on their diapers. Get more helpful tips with our Quickstart Laundry Guide.
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, “Until you notice they’re wet!”
4. Washing once a week (or less)
The surest way to ruin a diaper is to leave it soiled in a closed, dark, warm pail for several days before washing the cloth diaper. This environment is prime breeding ground for fungi and bacteria. Treat your diapers as you would your own clothing. Soiled diapers should be washed every 2 or 3 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.
5. Not realizing that synthetic and natural fibers are different
There are advantages and disadvantages to natural fiber diapers. Natural fibers and organics are wonderful for absorbency and purity. Cotton, hemp, and bamboo are among the most popular. They have a lower environmental impact in their milling process and biodegrade rather well. Natural fibers are milled with fewer or no chemicals, and feel great against baby's tender skin. They do however wear differently and are not as tolerant of extreme washing conditions as polyester diapers can be. Natural fiber diapers will wear much the same as your favorite t-shirt or sweatshirt. Ready to go all natural? Our All In One Diaper and certified Organic Cotton Soaker Pads (combined with a Hybrid Shell) are great options!
6. Not understanding that “one size” doesn’t mean “fits everyone, lasts forever”
In the past few 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 (24-36 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!
Enough With the Stripping!
Our Customer Service department fields at least 5 "stripping" questions per day. The term, stripping, pops up daily on cloth diaper forums and manufacturer's Facebook walls, however this term has not been around for long at all.
As pocket diapers and other polyester cloth diapers became popular, a new generation of washing instructions was marketed alongside these products. Washing instructions that told customers to use 1/2 (or less) of the recommended dose of detergent. The result: unclean diapers, ammonia issues, diaper rashes, and ultimately unusable cloth diapers. This was then followed by a whole host of "stripping" processes and customers who think that this is normal for cloth diapers. It isn't. Common sense tells me this: I wouldn't wash a load of my own towels with half of the detergent. Why would I do this with soiled diapers and expect them to get clean?
Doing A Deep Clean?
Mighty Bubbles Laundry Treatment uniquely formulated powder treatment is used to remove buildup of urine and minerals from cloth diapers and garments. This is not a detergent. 10 pacs per bag.
Here's what you need to know about Stripping:
Today, this term is overused. Stripping is the removal of OILS left behind from fabric softeners and diaper balms. It is achieved by washing your cloth diapers with blue Dawn dish soap to strip the oils off of your diaper fibers. If properly cared for, you should never need to strip your diapers.
A laundry treatment that is for the removal of MINERAL deposits on clothing. It would be useful for people with extremely hard water (think well water) whose clothing gets dingy from mineral residue. RLR is not a soap or detergent. You use this with detergent and only if your diapers are dingy from your home's hard water.
Not normally recommended by cloth diaper manufacturers. If you are consistently getting your diapers clean you should never need to bleach them. The exception to this is if your baby has a diagnosed yeast or bacterial infection. You can safely bleach your diapers with 1/4 cup of bleach in a cool or warm wash. Make sure to rinse well to remove any remaining bleach.
Aquarium Descalers, Boiling, Dishwashing Detergents, Microwaving etc- NO, NO, NO, NO
With so many diaper laundry challenges, false information, and crazy wash routines, it is a wonder that anybody chooses to cloth diaper anymore. It must be insanely overwhelming to newcomers, when it doesn't need to be.
The science behind clean diapers is easy. Think SUDS!
S - Simple wash routine. Wash every two days with a hot or warm wash and an extra rinse. No soaking or watching for bubbles during the rinse cycle. Just throw them in and go play with your kiddo!
U - Use enough detergent. Use the FULL amount of detergent recommended on your detergent packaging. Eco friendly detergents are great but don't always clean really well. If you go with an eco friendly detergent pick a salt based one (not one with coconut or other plant oils as a main ingredient), and use enough. In fact, you may need to use a bit more than recommended.
D- Duration. Your diapers must be exposed to the proper concentration of detergent for at least 45 minutes to get fully clean. A 15 minute wash cycle won't cut it!
S - Stay away from additives. Baking soda, vinegar, boosters, essential oils etc. While when used seldomly won't harm your diapers, they are not good to use constantly. They can impede your detergent's cleaning ability, can cause rashes, and can ultimately ruin elastic and laminates. If you are adamant about using them, check with the manufacturer of your diaper first.
We hope that you will find this article useful and can help us in spreading GOOD information about how easy diaper laundry can be! Don't waste time contemplating extreme diaper care.....Life's too short to worry about an extra rinse cycle :-)
So you may have read our page about ‘stripping’ cloth diapers; it’s where we first introduced our SUDS acronym to you: ‘Stripping’ refers to removing an oily residue from the fibers of your cloth diapers, usually from the accidental use of fabric softener or a petroleum- or fish oil-based diaper ointment or cream. There are washing techniques—namely, the good, old-fashioned dishsoap-and-a-toothbrush scrub—that can be used to remove these oils. But we’d like to make a distinction between stripping and deep-cleaning.
Deep-cleaning is what you need to do to when the last few times you have washed your cloth diapers (or, truly, to any laundry) and, they didn't get QUITE clean. You can tell because, well, they STINK.
They might smell like ammonia as soon as your baby wets them. They might be in that pre-ammonia stage, when they’ll smell a little, hmmm. It’s been described around cloth diaper corners of the Web as “barnyard-y” and “sewery.” Maybe you weren’t using enough detergent for the load size and soil level that day. Maybe you were using detergent* that’s not effective in your water. Maybe your area is experiencing a mild drought, which can affect the mineral makeup of your water and change the way your typical detergent works. Maybe you didn't get to dump the solid stuff into the toilet right away, and so the load was more soiled than normal.
Whatever led you to this point, it all boils down to one thing: Lingering nasties. Bacteria trapped in the fibers. Deep-cleaning merely requires using a little more OOMPH before returning to a wash routine that is simple and uses adequate detergent and a long enough wash duration
Here are a few deep cleaning options,
Use a lot more detergent this time.
This one can be a little cringe-worthy. It’s a little like watching dollar signs fall down the washing machine drain. The good news is: it’s just this once. If you’re using enough detergent from now on, you’ll never need to triple-dose again. And while we normally say life’s too short for overthinking extra rinse cycles, you may want to go ahead and run a couple to make sure that uber-hefty dose of detergent is agitated and rinsed out of the absorbent fibers and can’t irritate your baby’s skin.
Keep Mighty Bubbles on hand for times such as these.
Good old Mighty Bubbles is formulated as a deep-cleaning laundry treatment! It penetrates fabrics better than a plain detergent can. You may need to use up to three back-to-back treatments, depending upon the severity of the lingering bacteria problem. Start your Mighty Bubbles deep-cleaning treatment(s) on already-washed diapers. Follow the directions on the packaging.
This isn’t our favorite option. Bleach is corrosive and, especially with repeated use, will not be gentle on the textiles or components of your modern cloth diapers. We prefer to advise you to turn to bleach in times of serious trouble, like if you need to sanitize your diapers in the event of a diagnosed yeast or bacterial infection. If the ammonia problem you are experiencing, however, is stinging your eyes and burning your nose, just bleach. Use 1/8 to 1/4 cup in a cool wash on already washed diapers. How much you use will depend upon the load size and the type of washing machine you have. You’ll use less in an HE washer and more in a traditional one. Definitely rinse 2-3 extra times to keep any bleach off your baby’s delicate skin.
Whatever deep-cleaning method you turn to, when it’s all said and done, make sure you remember 'SUDS.' The goal, of course, is to never NEED to deep-clean again, but particular unforeseen changes to one or multiples factors, like water composition or soil level, that go into your wash routine could require that you do. If something about your wash routine isn’t working for you and you’re experiencing the persistent return of unpleasant odors in your diapers, please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Support staff. We are more than happy to help you! email@example.com and 1-877-899-BABY. Awful smells are not part-and-parcel of using modern cloth diapers. There is a solution, and it’s almost always simple!
*(Note: If your detergent is made from plant oils, it is probably not a good choice if your water is even slightly hard. Eco-friendly detergents are wonderful but they are not always effective at thoroughly cleaning heavily soiled laundry. Use something that cleans well in your water.)
IMPORTANT: Please do not soak your cloth diapers in bleach, Mighty Bubbles or any other solution.
Disinfecting Cloth Diapers
Cloth diapers will be cleaned completely by laundering in a wash cycle that uses an amount of detergent and a water level appropriate for the laundry load’s size and (heavy) soil level. Skimping on detergent (for fear of detergent build-up) and using too little or too much water are some of the most frequent causes of smelly diapers in our customer support history files, so think twice before heeding advice that sounds counterintuitive.
Cloth diapers really shouldn’t need anything more to disinfect them on a regular basis, but sometimes (pretty infrequent) when disinfecting cloth diapers we recommend adding disinfectant additives to their wash cycle. For example, when a child has had a yeast rash or bacterial infection, either of which is typically diagnosed and treated by a physician, it is important to disinfect the diapers so that the infection won’t be continually reestablished.
To keep the solution simple, switch to a disposable diaper until the rash is fully cleared for at least 48 hours. In the meantime, you should be treating cloth diapers for yeast or bacterial infection, as well as any wipes and wet bags that have been exposed to the yeast or bacteria, either by use on your baby or by being laundered with diapers that have been in contact with the infection-causing bacteria. You can disinfect them by washing your cloth diapers with a small amount of bleach. If you need to use bleach, it should be very periodic, as it can void your manufacturer warranty if used frequently. Make sure to contact your manufacturer if you have concerns or questions about bleaching cloth diapers.
Sunshine: Your Diaper's Best Friend!
Stains are part of cloth diapering. No matter how well you wash or what type of detergent you use, at some point you will find stains. Don’t panic! Staining does not mean that your diapers are not clean nor does it mean your diapers are ruined. But you may not feel like you are putting your baby in a clean cloth diaper if it’s stained, or if stains don’t bother you, they may be what turn off a mom who’s curious about cloth diapers when you whip one of yours out to show her how awesome they are.
So if you find your diapers are stained, you will discover that the sun is your best remedy.
Why sun your diapers?
The sun is an effective and natural stain remover; not to mention it’s a free way to not only remove stains, but also sanitize and brighten your cloth diapers without the use of harsh chemicals.
How does sunning cloth diapers even work?
It’s all about those ultra violet rays. The sun’s UV rays fade stains, on a molecular level, by breaking down the chemical bonds of the diaper stains. That same process also kills many of the germs on the surface of your cloth diaper.
How To Sun Your Diapers
After washing your cloth diapers, it’s ideal to put them outside directly under the sun. But direct sun is not required. Even on an overcast or winter day your diapers can benefit. Just lay the cloth diapers inside in front of a window. But keep in mind they may take longer than if they were outside on a sunny day.
Tips for Sunning Cloth Diapers
The following are tips and tricks when using the sun as a natural stain remover:
- If hanging cloth diapers on a clothesline, use plastic clothespins vs. wooden ones so you won’t damage the fabric. You can also use the snaps on the diaper.
- Sometimes inserts get a little crunchy when air dried. If this happens to you, put the diapers in the dryer, on a tumble low setting, for a few minutes to soften them.
- Don’t leave your cloth diapers out in the sun all day. Over sunning can deteriorate the diaper.
We took some of the most stained diapers we could find (clean, but wet) and laid them in the sun for only 2 hours and the difference was AMAZING! So the next time your pristine diapers aren’t looking so pristine, put them out to sunbathe. You will be shocked by the excellent results!
Stinky Diapers Tips
How do I hate thy stinky diapers, let me count the ways! Wait, hold it…hold it….we can fix that!
We receive the most inquiries from customers experiencing stinky diapers. It can be a love/hate relationship for sure. But 99.9% of the time, the issue can be easily resolved. It just requires a little patience and extra washing, but troubleshooting usually works! We will try to give you a few more tips to follow for determining just how bad the diapers are and how you can get them back on track.
It is not unusual for even seasoned cloth users to experience stinky diapers once in a while. I mean, considering what those sweet little diapers deal with each day, it is more common than you think. So, do not feel like you are doing it all wrong, it just may be a case of realigning a few things to work it out.
First and foremost, how much detergent are you using and what kind of detergent are you using? I know many customers feel they need or want to use a natural detergent because they are using cloth and want to carry on the whole natural environment thing for their baby. That is all well and good but remember, washing human waste is the most difficult thing you will ever need to launder. Getting the diapers good and clean every wash day is going to be half the battle! Starting with a good cleaning detergent, and using enough of it, will eliminate most of the issues right off the bat. Absolutely use your natural detergents for all the other baby’s laundry, but use a better cleaning one for diapers. Especially if you have hard water, plant based detergents just don’t cut it in hard water. If you have softened water, plant based may work just fine. Don’t be afraid to experiment! (Want to know our top detergent recommendations? Find our list here: https://www.grovia.com/pages/grovia_learn_laundry)
Any free and clear or plant based detergent is going to be weaker than the regular version of that same detergent. When using the weaker detergents, you will need to add 1.5x more of it then it states on the packaging for a heavy soiled load of clothing to get the same kind of clean you need for cloth diapers. Customers with extremely hard water should try to avoid weaker detergents because you generally add more detergent for hard water to compensate. But add that on top of adding more for the weakness of the detergent and you may end up with too much detergent.
Some easy tips to follow:
- Do a regular maintenance deep clean with Mighty Bubbles every 6-8 weeks to prevent severe build up and stinky diapers.
- If you start smelling either barnyard or ammonia in the diapers, run a Mighty Bubbles treatment and start to take a closer look at your wash routine with respect to cycles you are using and most importantly, the detergent and amount you are using.
- If after a treatment of Mighty Bubbles, the smell comes back in 2 weeks or so, they need a deeper clean. Run two Mighty Bubbles treatments back-to-back and it then may also be time to do a quick bleach wash as well to disinfect any remaining bacteria.
- If your baby is experiencing a red burn-like rash along with very strongly smelling ammonia, it is time to do three back-to-back Mighty Bubbles treatments and follow up with a good bleach wash to kill the bacteria.
- I just want to note that we do not recommend using bleach every time you launder diapers. It is corrosive and will harm the fabrics in the long run. Save the bleach for specific necessary issues like yeast or bacteria infections or strong ammonia build up.
- For exact instructions on how to perform an occasional, necessary bleach wash, please follow the instructions found here: https://www.grovia.com/pages/grovia_cd_basics_deep_cleaning
- And lastly, please contact our customer service for any questions, or troubleshooting. We are always more than happy to help! firstname.lastname@example.org 877-899-2229
Getting Started FAQ's
Learn The Basics
There Are Four Big Reasons to Choose Cloth Diapers
1. Cost Savings
Up to $1800 per child!
2. Health & Safety
Remove unwanted toxins from your home environment! What’s in a disposable? Petroleum. Plastic. Bleaches. Dioxins. Artificial Fragrances. Trees. Sure doesn’t sound baby-friendly. While eco-friendly disposables may omit chlorine bleach and fragrances, many contain the same remaining ingredients as standard disposable diapers. They’re not any more biodegradable—they’re merely manufactured in a slightly more responsible way.
3. The Environment
The average baby will use 6-8,000 disposable diapers during her first 2.5+ years of life. That comes to more than 20 BILLION disposable diapers per year in just the United States. No one knows (yet), but it is estimated that it will take 500 years for each to decompose in a landfill.
Pants are optional! A 2012 online survey of 3,000 cloth diapering families showed that 5% of buyers cite fun/fashion as the most important factor in their choice to use cloth diapers.
Why Use Cloth?
Cloth Diapers Are Typically Less Expensive Than Disposables.
There are a wide variety of cloth diapers available, all with different designs and prices, but even the more expensive cloth diapers will help you save a LOT of money when compared to the cost of disposable diapers. The average cost of disposable diapers is anywhere from $1,500 for “generics” to $2,500 for “earth-friendly” choices, while most cloth diaper systems will cost between $400 to $600. Even after factoring in the costs of detergent and energy used by laundering, reusables will still cost much less than disposable diapers. For a more detailed breakdown of the costs of cloth, read more in our ‘Disposables vs. Cloth Diapers’ article.
Cloth Diapers are Better for the Environment
After you consider all the environmental costs of manufacturing, distributing, and disposing of thousands of diapers over the course of a child’s lifetime, the argument in favor of cloth is even more compelling. A typical child uses about 7,000 disposable diapers before potty-training. (Seven thousand!) Meanwhile, each of those disposable diapers will take up to 500 years to de-compose in your local landfill. That means those diapers will potentially STILL be in the landfill during your baby’s great, great grandchildren’s lifetime! By comparison, a child who wears cloth diapers will only need 20-40 diapers total, each of which will be used hundreds of times. Remember from your grade school days: the 3 ‘R’s of the environmentally savvy are reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Cloth Diapers are Typically Healthier for Baby
Health concerns that drive many families to use cloth diapers include recurring rashes and other sensitivities attributed to some of the ingredients in disposable diapers. Though many children may be able to use disposable diapers without any kind of problem, others find incredible relief and comfort when their parents switch them to cloth diapers—particularly with brands that offer absorbency layers made of natural fibers.
Many parents are also concerned about potential environmental damage caused by the chemicals that are used in the production of disposables—and even more importantly, the possibility that trace chemicals may come into contact with their baby’s most delicate anatomy. Though there is not yet documented evidence procured from peer-reviewed studies of negative side-effects of the chemicals contained in disposable diapers, at least in the amounts in which they are used in those diapers, it is reasonable to question the level of chemicals that your child is exposed to every day. Cotton is one of the most popular fabrics used in the manufacture of cloth diapers—and also one of the least allergenic. Our experience is that children who face chronic rashes or have sensitive skin will often benefit greatly by using cotton diapers. Interestingly, this result can be further amplified through the use of certified organic cotton—an option you may want to review when researching various cloth diaper choices. (By the way… If you are going to the extra expense of purchasing organic, make sure that the product really is organic by reviewing the manufacturer’s organic certification.)
The Great Diaper Debate
Are Disposable Diapers Biodegradable?
In a word, no. Even with a host of more eco-friendly disposable options looking to take center stage these days, finding reliable, affordable access to truly eco-friendly and biodegradable diapers can be challenging. Your typical disposable diaper can take hundreds of years to fully decompose—which means, according to the Environmental Protection Agency—that potentially toxic waste is left to sit inside plastic diapers for centuries! What? There’s more. On average, one child goes through more than 6,500 diapers before potty-training, making disposable diapers the third largest source of household waste in the US. Poop-catching just got serious.
What Are Some Environmentally Friendly Options to Diapering?
If you’re looking for the most environmentally friendly diapering option, reusable cloth diapers ALWAYS win (and are usually also the most cost-effective way to diaper your baby). Instead of putting 6,500 diapers into a landfill, you could purchase a few dozen cloth diapers and be completely prepared until your baby is potty-trained.
Fewer diapers for your baby also means fewer resources are used to produce them… so not only will your pocketbook be happy, but so will Mother Earth! Another more environmentally friendly option is the hybrid diaper, which combines reusable and truly biodegradable components.
What’s the deal with Cloth Diapers?
Like leg warmers, disco music, and Betty White, cloth diapers are experiencing a resurgent popularity… and for good reason! With their positive impacts on the environment, infant health, and family finances, cloth diapers present tremendous benefits to the families who use them and to society at large, because we all live on this planet together. Cloth diaper users ensure that baby waste is flushed down the toilet and into an appropriate treatment system. And families who use cloth diapers also make a significant impact on the number of disposable diapers headed to the landfill.
(To find out more about cloth diapers, read this article - Why Use Cloth Diapers?)
What’s A Hybrid Diaper?
Because parents today have become more environmentally conscious, some diaper companies have combined both cloth and eco-friendly disposable components to make what is referred to as a hybrid diaper. GroVia proudly offers one of the best-known hybrid diapers, which consists of a Shell (aka: a waterproof diaper cover) and a menu of absorbency options. The parent or caregiver then chooses between cloth absorbency or an absorbency option called a BioSoaker that is made primarily from biodegradable and compostable materials. Designed to decompose faster than a conventional disposable diaper, the GroVia BioSoaker is also produced without the use of chlorine and perfumes and can be used and thrown away just like a standard disposable diaper. Hybrid diapers are a simple, flexible, and earth-friendly solution to the problem of disposable diapers, and even better… are a way for families to ease into primarily using cloth diapers.
Can I Use Diaper Rash Cream?
Only "cloth diaper safe" rash creams should be used. Avoid any rash cream that contains petroleum as an ingredient, unless you are going to use a disposable while treating your baby’s diaper rash. Petroleum jelly will cause severe repelling on your diapers which will then need to be cleaned with original blue Dawn dish soap. Our GroVia Magic Stick is formulated especially for cloth diapers and works quite well for most families.
Disposable vs. Cloth
There’s a common misconception out there about cloth diapers: they’re difficult to use and difficult to launder. In truth, modern cloth diapers are just as easy to change as disposables and just as easy to launder as a load of towels.
With hook and loop or snap closures, adjustable sizing, and durable materials, modern cloth diapers are both convenient and versatile. And they are arguably better at containing messes than disposable diapers, since they are designed with a more adjustable fit and stronger, thicker elastic at the legs and waist.
Cloth Diapers Are Better For Baby’s Skin
It is safe to say that most of us would never consider paper underwear to be comfortable. Additionally, some parents are concerned by the thought of exposing their babies to the kinds of chemicals that are used in the manufacturing of disposable diapers, like dioxin, a byproduct of the bleaching process that is a known carcinogen. Though no research has demonstrated definitive causation between wearing disposable diapers and effects on the skin or other organs, there are concerns that gases emitted by disposable diapers might be associated with an increase in asthmatic symptoms in children. Families who look to reduce overall exposure to chemicals in their families’ environment choose cloth diapers for this peace of mind.
Ultimately, a baby’s skin is healthiest when it is clean and dry. Disposable diapers do an incredible job of keeping skin dry because of the Super Absorbent Polymer gel (sodium polyacrylate) they contain. However, between reliance on this absorbent capacity and their high cost, they tend to be changed less frequently than they should be. When cloth diapering, there’s no need to hesitate—each cloth diaper can be reused hundreds of time, so the cost per change doesn’t need to factor in.
Prefold Cloth Diapers
Prefold cloth diapers are likely what all of our grandmothers used…so not exactly modern. But these standbys can be paired with modern companion products to make for an awesome result. Particularly if you are on a budget, prefold diapers can be a very economical cloth diapering choice, even though they may not be as convenient as some other choices.
All in One Cloth Diapers
The simplicity and ease-of-use that is found in most all in one (AIO) diapers are built upon the “one wear, one wash” design originally pioneered by the pocket diaper. AIO diapers are typically made up of quite a few absorbency layers that have been sewn together with a waterproof outer to create a one-piece diaper…hence the name. The best fitting designs typically provide an inner layer that is hourglass shaped, rise snaps that allow the diaper to expand as baby grows, elastic in key locations, and leg gussets to prevent leakage.
Hybrid Cloth Diapers
Often called all in two (or AI2) diapers, hybrid diapers are one of the final cloth diaper designs to be innovated and brought to market. They are seen by many as the diaper design that has finally made cloth diapers accessible to the mainstream public. Hybrid diapers are made up of two major components that are worn together: a waterproof shell (or diaper cover) which you then pair with a variety of absorbency layers. While the origin of the “all in two” name is obvious from that description, the name for the hybrid comes from the fact that hybrid diaper systems allow for the use of either cloth or disposable absorbency options…chosen based on where baby is going next. For example, most families will use cloth absorbency when at home, but switch to disposable when traveling or going to daycare.
Almost all modern cloth diapers come with a waterproof outer layer. Two common materials create this feature: TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) and PUL (polyurethane laminate).
The hardest-working fabric in a cloth diaper is the fabric that comprises the absorbency layers. They need to hold a lot of liquid and be comfortable against your baby’s sensitive skin. This is crucial, and all choices are not created equal. Here are some common material options:
Bamboo fiber is a very absorbent material that is said to naturally resist the growth of bacteria. It is derived, of course, from the bamboo plant, a super-fast growing species that can be farmed sustainably. Sounds like a great choice for cloth diapering, right? Well, yes and no. Sustainable farming is certainly a major upside, but, unfortunately, the process required to convert bamboo pulp into the soft and absorbent cloth that is found in clothing and cloth diapers is complex and chemical-laden, so much so that it may do more environmental harm than the good achieved by the sustainable farming of bamboo crop. Because of the manufacturing process, bamboo fiber can never rightfully be labeled ‘organic.’
Cotton is quite simply the most-used plant fiber on the planet. It’s absorbent, has many uses, and is hands-down the most popular fabric for making cloth diapers. Because of its widespread popularity, cotton farming and production has been a major industry for a very long time, and the ‘industrial’ form of the cotton business is one of the biggest users of pesticides on earth. As in most business arenas, the name of the game for conventional cotton is yield: the higher, the better. For this reason, industrial growers rely on the heavy use of water (for irrigation), pesticides, and sometimes even GMOs (genetically modified organisms) to do what they call ‘improving’ their business—even though ALL of these practices have a negative impact on farmlands over time. Luckily, you have choices. And so do we.
To seek a remedy to these issues, more and more apparel and, yes, cloth diaper brands are beginning to use organic cotton, which is grown with lower overall impact and without any pesticides. If you want to ensure that the cotton in your diapers or clothing is produced in the most responsible way, make sure to review or ask about your manufacturer’s organic certification process. Without a certification (like GOTS) in place, there is no guarantee that the cotton you are buying is actually organic. If you’re interested, you can read more about GroVia’s certification program. Organic cotton is often more ‘fragile’ than its conventionally farmed or polyester counterparts, and it will almost always show wear after about 100 washes.
Hemp is another natural fiber that is said to resist bacteria growth. It is more hygroscopic (water-holding) than cotton, and it is usually grown in a low-impact manner, using less water and other resources than is used to farm cotton. While they have the ability to hold more water than cotton, hemp’s textile forms are quite thin and stiff, and they do not absorb water as quickly as cotton or polyester. To overcome this issue, most diaper brands that use hemp (like GroVia) will combine hemp with another fiber, so you will usually see ‘hemp/cotton blend’ on the care tag.
Modal fabric has some similarities to bamboo, especially since it is made from wood pulp—in this case from beech trees instead of from the bamboo plant. Modal has become more popular in recent years in a wide variety of apparel, probably because it has an awesome, silky feel and because it wears well and maintains its softness over time. It is also another highly absorbent cloth, holding up to 50% more water than a comparable amount of cotton. Over time, modal fabrics tend to be resistant to mineral build-up, making them a potential solution for cloth diaper users who must launder in hard water. Because of the manufacturing process that reconstitutes the wood fibers, modal is another fiber that can never be properly labeled ‘organic.’
Polyester is a well-known man-made material that is produced using a variety of chemicals and petroleum materials. You will often see the word polyester used interchangeably with terms like ‘minky,’ ‘microfiber,’ ‘microterry,’ and occasionally something called ‘Zorb.’ The upsides to polyester in cloth diapering are that it can be used immediately (no prepping needed) and it can put up with a lot of abuse—like being laundered multiple times per week. Most polyester fabrics start out as quite absorbent, and they have a reputation for durability. But they can wear out over time, losing their ability to absorb and hold as much water as they once could. Most absorbent polyesters cannot be worn directly against a baby’s skin because they will irritate their sensitive skin, and their structures can make them more difficult than natural fibers to keep clean, often leading to sustained odors.
A particular form of polyester, fleece comes in a variety of weights and can perform a host of functions. Thin fleeces are often used on the interior of a diaper as a ‘stay-dry’ layer (described below), while thick fleeces are sometimes used to make breathable diaper covers. Because fleeces can be simultaneously water-resistant and breathable, they can make for a very comfortable and flexible diaper cover. Fleece does vary in quality, however, and can sometimes create what is called ‘compression leaks’ (think of a wash cloth being wrung out when your baby sits on it) if used in a car seat or baby carrier for an extended period of time.
Conventional vs. Organic Cotton
What makes organic cotton different?
Organic cotton is grown without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or genetically modified seed. To supply nutrients and mitigate pests, organic farmers use crop rotation, cover cropping, trap cropping, and hand -weeding instead of chemicals. The seasonal freeze—not synthetic defoliants—removes the plant leaves so the cotton bolls can be harvested. Over time, these methods can improve soil fertility, as well as keep groundwater and rivers free of synthetic chemicals.
Organic cotton is also more socially conscious. Organic farmers don’t suffer the consequences of pesticide exposure, they incur less debt, and the market value earns them higher prices for their crops.
Why Choose Organic Cotton Cloth Diapers?
Organic cloth diapers mean chemical-free diapering, and chemical-free diapering means wrapping your baby in safe and soft cloth diapers that won’t harm or irritate their sensitive skin. It means doing your part to reduce the amount of toxins our environment, farmers, yourself, and most importantly, your baby, come in contact with.
Organic cotton is the most commonly used organic fabric choice for cloth diapering. Many believe organic cotton is softer, thicker, absorbent, and longer-lasting than conventional cotton (but you can be the judge of all that).
Like organic foods, organic cloth diapers also tend to be a little more expensive than conventional cotton and other types of cloth diapers, but you will still save more than you would if you were using disposable diapers. Organic prefold cloth diapers are a pretty affordable and convenient option if you are concerned about money. But, what’s really more important—money or your baby’s health and the wellbeing of the environment?
Because diapers are often made with a combination of different fabrics, two of the common certifications are the “OE 100” and the “OE Blended” standards. Both of these standards (soon to be combined into one: “Organic Content Standard” or “OCS”) guarantee that the cotton in the product is grown to organic standards, which are verified by an independent third party. OE 100 means that the product contains 100% organic cotton fiber, but that it may (or may not!) be processed to organic standards. An OE Blended product has a minimum of 5% certified organic cotton. OE and OCS certifications should not be confused with “OEKO®-TEX Standard 100”—a standard that ensures products do not contain harmful substances. Just because a product does not contain harmful substances does not mean it was grown or processed organically.
Many of GroVia’s products (all-in-ones, soaker pads, boosters) adhere to either the OE or GOTS organic requirements and are certified by the Institute for Marketecology (IMO). IMO is a world-wide leader in the field of ecology and social quality assurance along the whole textile production chain. IMO is a Switzerland-based organization that was significantly involved in the development of GOTS—and was the first agency approved by the International Working Group on Organic Textile Standard to be a GOTS certifier.
Therefore, GroVia cotton is more than just described as organic; it is verified and certified by an internationally-recognized quality assurance organization. By choosing GroVia cotton products, you can rest assured that a reputable organization is ensuring that the entire process—from farm to fanny—is organic. If only what happens afterwards were this clean!
The IMO certification process begins all the way down at the farm level, where a rigorous set of rules is established to ensure that production of our cotton has a minimal impact on the environment. These rules require that organic cotton products be grown to ensure:
Avoidance of synthesized fertilizers, pesticides, or defoliants
The sustainable use of water and other resources Avoidance of Genetically Modified Organisms
Sustained and ongoing improvement of soil fertility
But the process doesn’t end there, even though sometimes the audit can seem to never end! The next step is to ensure that IMO-certified products are manufactured in a socially responsible way. IMO certification requires a positive impact on the quality of life for farmers and workers in areas considered to be disadvantaged regions, as well as safe working conditions during the manufacturing process. Finally, IMO evaluates the fair trade policies of our company and ensures that our workers are being paid properly.
When manufacturers use a substantial certification process for their organic products, it makes it easier for consumers to make environmentally and socially conscious decisions. That integrity is important to us. At GroVia, we are very proud of the quality and standards of our certified organic products. We would be happy to provide additional details if you want to know more!