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Cloth Diapering, Decoded

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cloth diapering

Common Cloth Diaper Terms

Cloth diapes have come a long way from the big piece of fabric and a safety pin that you might picture if you’re not familiar with modern cloth diapers. Those cloth and pin options are still out there, but there are many, much easier options available! Here are a few of the common terms you’ll find when you start looking into cloth diapering.


What it is: This is basically a big piece of very absorbent fabric that’s stitched in three horizontal and three vertical rows. The stitching helps guide you as you fold this big piece of very absorbent fabric to stick it into your diaper cover.

How you use it: There are two ways to fold your prefold. If you look at the stitching, you’ll see that all of those lines form rectangles. You fold the diaper in thirds along those guidelines. For a small baby, you fold along the shorter lines, and for a larger baby, you fold along the longer lines. You want the folded cloth to be long enough to cover the baby from front to back inside the diaper without sticking out.

Diaper Liner

What it is: Some cloth diapering systems, like Grovia, have custom-made liners that fit in the covers perfectly. This replaces the prefold.

How you use it: Your liner will either snap into the diaper or you’ll be nestling either end into pockets built into the front and back of the inside of the liner. You can also buy disposable liners, which are handy to have when you’re traveling. Some of the disposable liners are flushable!


What it is: Some diaper systems have fitted liners. These are shaped a lot like paper diapers but made from cloth. They are by far the easiest liners out there, and in my experience they leak the least. The downside is that I haven’t seen fitted liners that adjust to grow with your baby from year-to-year.

How you use it: Just like little pants. There is a row of snaps or a strip of Velcro on the waist, so you can adjust some for your baby’s size. Usually, they’ll be for a weight range, like 7-14 pounds, and you’d need to replace them when your baby outgrows them.

Diaper Cover

What it is: The cover is a water-resistant shell that goes on over the liner. Check out my son’s super cute Grovia liner above!

How you use it: The liners can be a little bit tricky. Some are very simple and go on just like paper diapers, and some are a little bit more complicated. If you have an adjustable liner, the front it most likely covered in snaps, so that you can size the cover to fit your baby. Here is how you use those snaps to size your diaper cover:

The Grovia isn’t the only adjustable cover that uses this snap system to resize – we have a pack of Econobum diapers that work the same way.

Next: Making cloth diapering work for you!

Image Credit: photo by Becky Striepe

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!


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12:34AM PDT on Sep 30, 2013

great info! thanks so much for sharing!

9:15AM PDT on Jul 8, 2013

this was so helpful you have NO IDEA! We did disposables with my son, but have decided to do cltoh diapers this go round. I like the cover you have! I have 6 covers and 60 prefolds right now. i would like to at least try the insert on the video, sounds awesome. We have the bucket and liner, the stretchy fasteners, the wet bag and more. I am so excited to do this instead.

7:47PM PDT on May 30, 2013

Lots of new ideas since my kids were in diapers. I used the plain old diapers with plastic pants. Was pretty easy really, Just an additional washer load every other day or so. My kids had terrible skin reactions from disposable diapers, so we were much happier with cloth diapers.

5:15PM PDT on May 30, 2013


10:51AM PDT on May 30, 2013

thanks, very interesting

6:11PM PDT on May 29, 2013

Thank you for interesting info.

6:10PM PDT on May 29, 2013

Thank you for interesting info.

3:38AM PDT on May 28, 2013

Thanks for posting.

7:19AM PDT on May 23, 2013

I am considering using cloth diapers for my eighth child on the way. I have tried them, and had ups and downs, used disposable ones for convenience and I sure wish I could get a service. Since my budget is small , the tub and washer are my handy dandy tools. I can see as baby grows I will have to make decisions about how to handle it when we go out...that was always a disaster for me, wet clothes, soaked or poopy smelling and then that makes for more laundry. I think I like the disposable for long outings and prefer the cloth around the homestead and outside. I do not like the idea of adding more to landfills and I try to minimize my usage. Right now, I am potty training my son who is two to Pee and he is doing great! Any suggestions about the transition to pooping in the toilet? Thanks for the article and I will get on to sewing my own diapers again, it is fun to do these things before the baby is born!

4:04PM PDT on May 21, 2013

I love these things. Thank you for the info!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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