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Home>Cloth Diapering 101
Cloth Diapering 101

Cloth Diaper Dictionary


Prefolds, pockets, AIO's, doublers, can be rather confusing! Let us help you sort it all out. On this page we provide explanations of all the major types of cloth diapers available on the market today.

AIO - All-In-One
- AIOs are fitted diapers that have a waterproof outer layer. This layer usually consists of fabric that has a PUL (PolyUrethane Laminate) backing, polar fleece such as Windpro, or wool. These are the closest in similarity to disposable diapers since they are a one-piece diapering system. The absorbent soaker material is often sewn into the diaper; it may also be detachable.

AI2 - All-In-Two - AI2s are very similar to AIOs with the exception that the absorbent soaker material is not attached to the diaper in any way. The soaker is usually a second, separate piece that must be used in conjunction with the diaper. The drying time for these diapers is shorter than the traditional AIO.

Diaper Covers - Covers come in many styles and shapes, but their function is to provide a waterproof outer layer for non-waterproof diapers (all except AIOs). They are often fitted with elastic and fasten with snaps or Velcro. Some covers pull-up, like underpants. Diaper covers are usually made from polyester, Polyurethane laminates (PUL), waterproof nylon, fleece or wool.

Doublers Doublers are pad-like absorbent soakers that can be added to a diaper to increase absorbency. They are especially useful during times when you know extra protection is needed, perhaps at nighttime. 

Fitted Diapers - Fitted diapers closely resemble disposable diapers. They are contoured and fitted with elastic around the legs and back. They fasten with Velcro or snaps, and a waterproof cover must be worn over them. They are the next step up from flat pre-fold diapers and much easier to use.

Liners - Liners are thin layers of cloth or paper that are placed inside the diaper to aid in the cleaning of solid waste. In the case of paper liners, the solid waste collected on the liner can be removed from the soiled diaper and either thrown away or flushed. Cloth liners must be washed, but aid in laundering. They also help protect the actual diaper from staining.

Pre-folds - Pre-fold diapers are rectangular shaped diapers that must be folded into the shape of a diaper. They are similar to flats, but have multiple layers with more layering in the middle. They often have 2-4 layers of absorbent material on either side and 6-8 layers in the middle. The amount of layers varies according to the size you choose, generally ranging from preemie to toddler. You may see a pre-fold described as being 4x8x4. This describes how many layers there are in the outer and inner sections: 4 layers in both outer sections and 8 layers in the inner or middle section. Pre-folds are usually the cheapest type of cloth diapers available. They must be used in conjunction with a cover.

Pocket Diapers
- Pocket diapers are like AIOs orAI2s. They have an outer layer of a waterproof material and an inner layer of a stay dry material, like microfleece or suedecloth. They close with Velcro or snaps. They have a pocket opening that allows for the absorbent material to be stuffed in the pocket during use and then removed for laundering. The absorbent material for stuffing can be an insert that comes with the diaper or a pre-fold or doubler. Pocket diapers are a popular choice among cloth diapering moms because you can customize the amount of absorbent material.

How to wash cloth diapers

How to Wash Cloth Diapers

This is the big question everyone asks! Here at the Little Monkey, we have experience using both a Front Loader (Whirlpool Duet Sport) and a Top Loader. If you need help figuring out the perfect cloth diaper wash routine, just ask!

HE Front loaders are great for using less electricity and less water -- great for your utility bills and the environment. With cloth diapers, you need more water, not less. How do you do wash cloth diapers with an HE washer? You need to trick your front loader into thinking there is more in there! Adding extra water through the soap dispenser or a soaking wet towel to increase the weight are two popular methods. Just make sure you don't void your washer's warranty -- check your warranty information before trying any tricks.

With top loaders, you can adjust your water level manually for washing cloth diapers. This makes it the perfect cloth diaper washing machine. With all of these instructions, I recommend setting your water level at 3/4 or full. It may seem like a lot of water, but these will decrease the number of rinses you will have to do to get your cloth diapers clean.

Before you're ready to wash your diapers, you will want to make sure that any poop has been rinsed off. Ideally, this should be done before you store your dirty diapers before washing. Bio-liners or a diaper sprayer are really handy to help with this. For those of you who exclusively breast feed, no need to rinse -- this poop is completely water soluble. But, as soon as you add solids or formula, you will need to rinse. Removing the inserts from pocket diapers before storing in your diaper pail helps too.
  1. Secure any velcro closures to the laundry tabs on the diaper.
  2. Pre-wash your diapers on cold to remove any waste and minimize stains. Recently I have read that using warm water helps prevent stains -- I've tried it and have not seen a huge difference, so I stick with cold. Save a little $$ on my Hydro bill. With a front loader I recommend pausing your washer once it's done filling up. Leave it for 30-45 minutes then finish the cycle. This will help get your diapers cleaner. With a top loader, a short wash cycle with maximum water will do the trick.
  3. Wash your diapers on hot with 1/4 (front loader) to 1/2 (top loader) of a recommended cloth diaper detergent. If it is a cloth diaper detergent such as Rockin' Green, use the full amount recommended. Here's a list of cloth diaper safe laundry detergent.
  4. Add a second rinse. With washing cloth diapers in a front loader you may need to extend this to a longer wash than just a rinse.
  5. Once your diapers are washed, you can line dry everything or pop the inserts, prefolds, and fitted diapers in the dryer. We recommend hanging PUL covers to dry as this will help lengthen the lifespan of the PUL and the elastics.

Tips for Washing Cloth Diapers

  • Wash your soiled cloth diapers every two - three days. This helps minimize stains and odour.
  • Rinse your dirty diapers with a diaper sprayer or use liners to minimize stains before storing in a diaper pail.
  • Use only cloth diaper safe detergent.
  • Once per month, use 1/4 cup of bleach to sanitize microfiber inserts and fight odour. Do not use bleach on anything else as you will void your diaper warranty.
  • Do not use bleach to remove stains, lay clean wet diapers in the sun.
  • Wool dryer balls help keep inserts soft and help them to dry quicker.

Washing New Diapers


New cloth diapers do not need to go through the full wash routine. A quick regular wash with a sprinkle of laundry detergent and they are good to go! If you have an embroidered diaper, such as the BottomBumpers, place these diapers in the dryer as this will help seal any needle holes in the PUL outer.

How to Prep Natural Fiber Cloth Diapers

Natural fibers such as, organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo need to be prepped before you can use them. Prepping removes the natural oils and brings the diapers to maximum absorbency.

If you have an organic cloth diaper such as Bummis Organic Cotton Prefolds, you will need to wash and dry your diapers 3-4 times before the first use. We recommend prepping your natural fiber diapers with your regular laundry. This way you're not wasting any water. Just make sure you use a cloth diaper safe laundry detergent and pick laundry that is not heavily soiled.

With hemp or bamboo cloth diapers or cloth diaper inserts that have not been prewashed, you will need to wash and dry these 6-8 times first.

If you're not able to wash your diapers with your regular laundry, you can wash them however many times you need to in a row and then one final dry at the end. This will work too.
Once your diapers have been fully prepped, you can go ahead and wash them with your other diapers.

Washing Wool

Washing wool diaper covers or wool longies is so easy! They only need to be washed once every 3 or 4 weeks, unless they get soiled. When the cover is wet, hang it to dry and you will be able to use it again!

All wool covers need to be washed and lanolized prior to the first use. We recommend lanolizing your covers twice for maximum waterproofing. How do you wash a wool diaper cover?

Fill a large bowl with warm water and add 1tsp of liquid wool wash or scrub with a wool wash bar. Work the soapy water through the cover and rinse with warm water. Your cover is now ready to lanolize.

How to Lanolize Wool


We recommend (and use) Sheepish Grins Foaming Wool Wash  or Holy Sheep! Super Woolie Wash Bars as both are excellent and very easy to use!
  1. Fill a large bowl with warm water.
  2. For the liquid wash, add it to the warm water.  For the solid Delish Holy Sheep! Super Woolie Wash Bar, boil 1 cup of water and a small chunk of the bar to dissolve.  
  3. Next you will add 1tsp of  Sheepish Grins Liquid Lanolin or Sheepish Grins Solid Lanolin  to the cup of hot water (per wool cover).
  4. Add this to the bowl of warm water and stir around.
  5. Soak your wool cover for a minimum of 15 minutes to an hour. Overnight is ok too!
  6. Squeeze the excess water out by rolling the cover between two towels or putting in the washer on the spin cycle (no water). *NEVER WRING YOUR WOOL as it will damage the fibers.
  7. Lay flat to dry.

That's it! Very easy and takes about 5 minutes total, plus the soaking and drying time.
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