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Types of Cloth Diapers

Are you welcoming a new baby into your life? If you’re considering using disposable nappies, you probably want to know more about the different types of cloth diapers.

As a parent, you have several options when it comes to taking care of your little one. Choosing a suitable nappy is an important decision because it guarantees the comfort and cleanliness of your baby. Keep on reading to learn more about several cloth diapers types and how to pick the right one for your baby.

Which Types of Cloth Diapers are Best for Your Baby?

Although disposable nappies are quite common, some parents still choose to use the old-school nappies as they come with several benefits.

  • There are different types of cloth diapers so you can choose between various styles until you find the one that suits your little one.
  • A good set of cloth nappies can last for a long time. Your second and third child can also use it.
  • Some cloth diaper styles can be expanded as the baby grows, so you don’t have to worry about buying a new size every few months.
  • Modern cloth nappies aren’t that difficult to clean. You can expect to have two or three more laundry loads per week, which isn’t much compared to all the other benefits. However, the cleaning and prepping time will differ from one style to another.
  • They’re more environmentally-friendly. One baby can use up to 8000 disposable nappies until they’re 100% potty-trained. If you want to avoid all this waste, you can switch to cloth nappies instead.
  • The layer that gets in touch with your baby’s skin is usually made of natural fibres and doesn’t contain a lot of chemicals to enhance absorbency, unlike the disposable nappies. Cloth nappies can be the only option if your little has rashes or very sensitive skin.

You can find out more about the best type of cloth diaper by understanding the difference between various styles and fabrics as we browse different cloth nappy options.

Cloth Diapers Explained

For some parents, choosing the right nappy is all about choosing the most affordable one. For others, they’re more concerned about the landfills and their baby’s skin. For them, choosing a cloth nappy is the right decision.

Forget about the traditional look of cloth nappies. Today’s nappies are as good as the disposable ones, but they’re more practical to use and are safer to the environment.

Just like the disposable ones, cloth nappies feature an outer shell and an absorbent layer. This layer is the one usually changed when it gets soiled. There are other models where the insert layer isn’t detachable, and in this case, the whole nappy needs to be cleaned when it gets dirty.

Different Types of Cloth Nappies

Luckily, there are different types of cloth diapers, so you can choose the most suitable one that works for you and your baby.

Flat or Prefold Cloth Nappies

These are the most common cloth nappies out there as they’re the ones probably used by your parents and grandparents. However, this doesn’t make them outdated or old fashioned.

are made of a single layer of woven fabric that folds in thirds or quarters to create a multi-layered nappy. By adjusting the folding style, you can add more layers where it’s needed.

Prefold nappies are just like the flat ones. The cloth is folded to create three panels, each featuring 2 or 3 layers of fabric for maximum absorption. They come prefolded, so they’re faster to use than the flat ones.

These nappies are practical to use as they’re quite versatile and easy to clean. The nappies are made of highly absorbent fabric and can be folded in any shape you like.

Once they’re fitted and fastened, you can add a waterproof nappy on top. You will have to buy safety pins or any other fastener and a cover to secure the nappy in place, so your little one can sleep comfortably.

These traditional-style nappies can be used as burp cloths or dusting rags when your baby outgrows them. You will have to buy new ones to suit the new weight of your baby after a few months, but they’re still quite easy to use.

Fitted Cloth Nappies

These nappies look very much like disposable diapers. They come fitted with an elastic band around the legs to keep the mess contained. They feature hooks or snaps, so you can adjust the nappy to match your little one’s size.

Fitted nappies are more absorbent than the prefold ones. They can be used overnight or when you’re away from home because the design guarantees that your baby won’t get wet. They can be part of your baby’s mini first aid kit.

There are several brands that offer one-size options. They come with several closures that allow you to expand the size of the nappy to suit your baby. However, in most cases, you will have to buy several nappies as your baby grows.

One of the disadvantages of these nappies is that they’re not waterproof. They have to be used with a waterproof cover. However, they’re easier to use than prefold nappies because you don’t have to think about the right way to use the nappy and they’re also less bulky.

Pocket Nappies

UN pocket nappy has a waterproof cover with a stay-dry polyester lining. You can insert an absorbent layer like a pad or a prefold nappy between the lining and the cover to provide maximum dryness for your little one.

This is probably one of the oldest cloth nappies used because it doesn’t need an extra waterproof cover and is quite easy to fasten around your baby. However, it has several disadvantages.

It feels bulkier than other cloth nappies, and the fit might be too poor. The process of cleaning or unstuffing the pocket nappy is a little bit more complicated than other types of nappies. Moreover, the polyester lining might irritate your baby’s sensitive skin.

All-In-One Nappies (AIO)

These are probably the easiest nappies to use as there is no stuffing and you don’t have to worry about inserts. The nappy is made of several layers of absorbent materials, usually in an hourglass shape. These layers are sewn inside the nappy’s waterproof cover, so it’s the closest one to a disposable nappy.

They’re the fastest nappies to use on the go, so they’re quite popular among newbies, parents with dexterity issues, or when grandparents are trying to help. However, they come with a few disadvantages like the long drying time.

In some cases, the insert can be semi-attached, so you can fold it out to accelerate the drying time. AIOs can be used as part of your cloth nappy experience, but shouldn’t be your only option.


Hybrid nappies represent a cross over between disposable and cloth nappies. The outer cover is disposable, and you can use a biodegradable disposable insert or a cloth one that can be washed and reused.

Sleeve Nappies

These are very close to the pocket nappies, but there are two openings in the pocket. As a result, you don’t have to unstuff the nappy when it’s soiled, which makes cleaning easier and more convenient.

Fabric Types Usually Used in Nappies

When you’re comparing different cloth diaper options, you must think about the fabric as well as the nappy style.

Waterproof Materials

Different kinds of cloth diapers feature waterproof materials like the Polyurethane Laminate or PUL. This is a laminated water-resistant fabric that keeps the surroundings dry when your baby wets himself or herself.

Another common material is Thermoplastic Polyurethane or TPU. This is not a fabric, but it’s a very thin layer of stretchy plastic that is shaped to look and feel like waterproof fabric.

Although these materials are very practical and convenient to use, you must make sure that you’ve chosen a safe option when you’re shopping for a waterproof cover for various cloth diaper styles. Some low-quality options can contain traces of solvents that degrade with time to stay in your house. You should also make sure that the spray-on water repellent used doesn’t contain any formaldehyde.


Wool is another safe option as the fibres repel moisture and redirect it towards the absorbent layer, keeping the surroundings dry and clean. Wool is extremely practical but is more expensive.

Most parents prefer wool cloth nappies because wool is a naturally breathable material. As a result, it’s a safe option if your little one is prone to rashes and can be safely used for nights.

You have to follow special cleaning and maintenance instructions to maintain the condition of the wool. You must also lanolize the fibres to unlock the moisture-repellent properties.


Fleece comes in different weights and can be used in several ways in your baby’s cloth nappy. The thinnest fleece is usually used inside the nappy as a stay-dry layer, while thicker types of fleece can be used on the outside as a breathable cover for your baby’s cloth nappy.

Athletic Fibres

As they can repel moisture while you’re practising sports, these fabrics can be safely used in several cloth diaper types. Made of porous polyester fibres, these fabrics represent a stay-dry layer that keeps the moisture away from your baby’s skin.

Types of Cloth Diaper Inserts

In most cases, several materials are used in combination with each other to achieve the highest level of absorbency.


Bamboo is incredibly absorbent and is also naturally resistant to bacteria. It grows very quickly, so using bamboo inserts is suitable if you want to make sure that you’re using sustainable resources.

Nevertheless, the process of converting the bamboo plant into inserts involves a lot of harsh chemicals that eventually get in touch with your baby’s skin. Although most bamboo inserts are labelled as organic, they might not be 100% natural as you would like them to be.


This is probably the most used fabric when you’re shopping for cloth nappies. Just like bamboo, you need to pay attention to the production of the inserts, as some GMO cotton can be used, creating a negative effect in farmlands and the surrounding environment.


Hemp is resistant to bacterial growth and will hold more water than cotton. However, it doesn’t instantly do so. As a result, hemp is usually used with other types of inserts like cotton or bamboo.

Modal Fabric

This is made of the fibres of the wood pulp of beech trees, so it’s very close to bamboo. The fabric retains its silky feel after several uses, and it’s resistant to mineral build-up if you’re using hard water to wash your baby’s cloth nappies. However, it can’t be labelled as an organic option due to the way the fabric is manufactured.


Also known as polyester, this material is made of petroleum. The material is quite absorbent but tends to lose its absorbency with repeated use.

Due to its origin, this material shouldn’t get directly in contact with your baby’s skin as it can be quite irritating. Instead, it can be used as an insert in pocket nappies. Due to the microscopic structure of the fabric, the cleaning process can be rather challenging.

How to Clean a Cloth Nappy?

Cleaning a cloth nappy is straightforward and can be easily learned.

  • Use a nappy sprayer to remove the stuck poop. The longer you leave the spray to soak the nappy, the easier it will be to clean, regardless of the material used.
  • Pre-rinse the nappies with cold water to clean them before putting them into the washing machine.
  • Wash no more than 18 nappies in the washing machine at the same time. This will prevent them from getting stuck with each other and will guarantee that the detergent and the water will cover them completely to clean them thoroughly.
  • Pick the highest heat setting to make sure that the nappies are cleaned and sanitized.
  • Use a cloth-friendly detergent that won’t harm the cloth. There are special mild detergents that can suit baby clothes, so you should pick one of those. This will guarantee that the nappies will stay in excellent shape.
  • You don’t actually need to use bleach. If you want to, make sure that you’re using the minimum amount. You can prepare a mixture of water and lemon juice to remove stains. This will be safer than bleach than can damage the cloth.
  • Fabric softeners should be avoided. They contain too much fragrance and can irritate the skin of your little one.
  • Hang the nappies in the dryer or hang them to dry. The heat will sanitize the nappies, so they’re safe for use. Don’t use the highest setting if you’re using a dryer, as this can damage the fabric. You should follow the maintenance instructions to make sure that the nappies will last for long.
  • For best results, you can hang them overnight or partially dry them in the dryer because leaving them to air dry. This will expel the moisture before you can use the nappies one more time.
  • When you’re hanging the nappies, make sure that the weight of the wet fabric won’t weigh the elastic band down. Hang them in a way that the elastic band doesn’t get too stretched.

Which Nappy Type is Easiest to Use?

An All-in-One or AIO is the easiest one to use because it works just like a disposable nappy. However, instead of throwing it away, you will have to wash and dry it.

Pocket nappies are more affordable, but you need to remove the insert before washing them. All-in-Two nappies come with extra steps, but they’re still popular. Different brands offer these nappies, so you can easily find the right one for your little one.

Which Nappy Type is Easiest to Clean?

Prefold nappies are the easiest to clean thoroughly. The cloth is separate from the waterproof layer, so you can take better care of both.

Which Cloth Nappies are Safest for Baby’s Skin?

Wool and fleece are extremely breathable, so they will suit your baby if you’re concerned about skin rashes. Wool is more expensive and requires special maintenance, but wool nappies will last for long. Waterproof materials are also safe for your baby’s skin, as long as you choose high-quality nappies that haven’t been treated with lots of chemicals.

For the inserts, you can choose bamboo, cotton, hemp or a combination of all. These materials absorb the moisture and will keep your baby dry.

FAQs About Cloth Nappies

Here are some of the most common questions that parents ask when they consider switching to reusable cloth nappies.

What is All in 2 Cloth Diapers?

These AI2 nappies are just like pocket nappies and AIO ones, but instead of stuffing the insert inside the pocket, you snap it inside the nappy. In some way, this nappy looks like having a prefold inside a cover, so they’re very close to hybrid nappies. The insert can be removed, and this allows you to use the cover for another change without having to use a new nappy.

Can a Cloth Nappy Be Used as a Swim Nappy?

Swim nappies aren’t designed to hold water, but to let it out easily. This is actually safer for your baby because if the nappy swells with too much water, it can weigh your baby down.

Even with a waterproof cover, the nappy will let the water or urine out, along with some poop. As a result, some pools and other recreational facilities have special rules regarding the use of cloth nappies.

Moreover, the chlorine in the pool will ruin the outer waterproof cover of your cloth nappy with repeated use. If it’s a must, you can use a waterproof swim cover without any inserts.

If your baby isn’t going to get submerged in water, cloth nappies can be used without any issues, as long as you don’t use inserts The nappy won’t get filled with water, and the mess will stay contained inside. You can also use a waterproof cover without inserts if your baby is playing with sprinklers.

Do You Really Save Money Using Cloth Diapers?

To answer this question, you need to consider the up-front cost of cloth nappies and the cost of cleaning them for regular use. High-quality cloth nappies are not cheap, and will definitely cost more than the disposable ones.

Moreover, you need to think about the cost of electricity, water, and detergent used to clean them after every use. As a result, most families won’t feel the savings when they first switch from disposable to reusable cloth nappies.

However, in the second year, and if you have multiple babies, you can definitely see how the savings add up. Cloth nappies can be used for a couple of years, unlike disposable ones that have to be tossed away after each use.

The same cloth can be adjusted to fit the baby’s body as it grows, so you don’t have to worry that much about going for a bigger size. Moreover, if you’re having a second baby, you can still use the cloth nappies you bought for your first.

How Many Cloth Diapers Do I Need?

For a new-born, you will need between 24 and 45 cloth nappies, depending on how often you wash. Your baby will probably need around 12 to 20 daily changes during the first few months, and you might not have the time to wash the nappies every single day.

When your baby is 5 months old, he or she will need fewer changes. By the time your little one is 1 year old, you’ll probably need around 8 to 12 cloth nappies per day.

Types of Cloth Diapers and Nappies: Final Remarks

As a parent, opting for any of these types of cloth diapers comes with several advantages. They’re environmentally friendly and more affordable in the long run. There are several models available, so you can easily choose the best type of cloth diaper to suit your baby’s needs.

Paying attention to the style and materials used will help you pick the types of cloth diapers best for your little one. While they might seem a little bit more time-consuming than disposable nappies, the cloth nappies represent a good investment that can be shared by more than one child in the family.

Check out our tips for dressing your baby warmly at night.