Cloth Diapers

Reusable diapers can seem overwhelming at first. By the time you get to the end of this guide you will have a much better grasp of how reusable diapers work, feel much more confident, and ready to leave disposable diapers behind. 

Cloth diapers are a great option for parents looking to reduce waste and save money. Did you know a baby will go through 4,000-5,000 diapers in their first 2.5yrs of life! At AED1-3 per diaper (depending on the brand) costs can really add up!  

Single-use diapers are made of plastic and absorbent polymers which can remain in the environment for up to 500 years – with around 20 billion disposable diapers put into USA landfills each year they are the 3rd largest consumers item in landfills. The environmental impact of production is over 90% lower for a reusable nappy than for disposable diapers, and the environmental impact of disposal of a disposable diaper is 9x higher than for that of a reusable diapers.

Cloth Diaper Parts

A reusable diaper is made up of the same basic parts as a disposable diaper. Working from the outside in there is: 

Waterproof part -  Also called a waterproof cover or wrap if separate from the absorbent part, the waterproof outer is simply the barrier between the absorbent diaper and the clothes, so baby’s clothes do not get wet. Every reusable diaper needs a waterproof layer.  

Absorbent part - Inside the waterproof part, the absorbent part absorbs the wee and contains the poo. This part could be a separate fitted or flat reusable diaper, an absorbent inner in an all-in-one diaper, or an insert stuffed into pocket diaper 

Booster/Insert - adds to the level of absorbency. Inside the reusable diaper you can also place an additional booster. A booster is simply a pad of absorbent fabric used to add extra absorbency to your diaper. You may not need a booster during the day, but you would usually use one at nighttime. Bamboo and hemp are great fabrics for boosters as they are thirstier than cotton or microfiber. 

Liner - to make getting rid of poo easier. Nearest babies skin you have the option to use a liner. Liners do not have any absorbency, but instead are used to assist with the easy removal of poo and/or to help keep baby's skin feeling dry. Liners can be either a reusable liner (most commonly fleece) or a disposable liner (paper material) which are often flushable (one at a time) also.  

There are lots of different types and brand of cloth diaper on the market. Whilst designs can vary, in general they fall into one of the below categories. They styles that require more folding etc tend to be cheaper, the styles that are simpler to use tend to be the more expensive options.

Prefold Diapers: rectangular pieces of cloth that are folded into thirds and then secured around baby with a fastener (pin or a Snappi) or simply held in place with a well-fitting cover. Typically made of cotton, bamboo, or hemp and can be used with waterproof covers. 


  • Affordable: one of the most budget-friendly options. 
  • Versatile: Easy to adjust absorbency and can be used as burp cloths or inserts for pocket diapers too. 
  • Easy to clean: Dries quicker than other types of cloth diapers. 
  • Not bulky 


  • Requires folding and securing. 
  • Require a separate waterproof cover. 
  • Requires learning how to use them. 

Fitted Diapers: Fitted diapers are shaped like a disposable diaper to fit your baby's shape and have elastic at the legs and waist for a snug fit. They do not have a waterproof layer, so they need to be used with a separate waterproof cover. 


  • Absorbent: Fitted diapers are highly absorbent and great for overnight use. 
  • Customizable: Can be used with several types of covers for added protection. 


  • Requires a separate waterproof cover. 
  • Bulkier than other options, hence most people use them at night only.  


Pocket Diapers: Pocket diapers have a waterproof outer shell and usually a fleece liner which makes a pocket inside where you can put an absorbent insert. The insert can be made of microfiber, bamboo, hemp, or cotton, depending on your preferences. 


  • Customizable absorbency: You can adjust the number and type of inserts your baby needs. 
  • Fast drying: Inserts can be removed for quicker drying. 
  • Versatile: Inserts can be replaced if damaged or worn out. 
  • Easy to use: once assembled, like an AIO they are most like a disposable diaper. 


  • Requires assembling before each use. 
  • May experience leaks if the insert is not positioned correctly. 
  • Must change the whole diaper every time rather than just an insert, since baby will wet on the fleece layer  


All-in-One (AIO) Diapers: AIO diapers are the most like disposable diapers in terms of convenience. They consist of an absorbent inner layer and a waterproof outer layer sewn together into one piece. AIO diapers typically have adjustable sizing options to accommodate your baby as they grow. 


  • Convenient: No folding or assembling required. 
  • Easy to use: most like a disposable diaper. 


  • Longer drying time due to being one piece. 
  • Generally the most expensive option 
  • Must change the whole diaper every time rather than just an insert 

Changing Baby’s Diaper 

  • Check the diaper regularly for wetness and change it as needed. Cloth diapers should be changed every 2-4 hours if only wet, or as soon as they become soiled. 
  • To change the diaper, carefully undo the fastenings and remove the dirty diaper. If using a flushable liner this can be flushed down the toilet. 
  • Wipe your baby's bottom clean with a cloth wipe or disposable wipe 
  • Put a clean diaper on baby. 
  • Place the dirty diaper in a (dry) diaper pail or wet bag for storage until laundry day. You may choose to separate the inserts from the covers if you find they do not separate by themselves during the wash cycle. 

Dealing with the poo! 

When starting to use reusable nappies new parents often worry how to clean dirty diapers but it's not as bad as you might think! A young (pre weaning) baby's poo is water soluble, so can just go straight in the wash. You may however prefer to remove the worst of it to minimise staining of soiled nappies. For older (weaned) babies, a disposable liner can help catch most of the solids. Simply remove the disposable liner, poo and all, and dispose of this in the bin or toilet (one at a time if flushing). Once baby is older and established on solid foods, the poo becomes much easier to just roll off the nappy and into the toilet. 

Washing Diapers 

  • Wash the diapers according to the manufacturer's instructions, this is usually a 40-60C cotton wash. Same washing machines might require you do a prewash first, or an extra rinse cycle at the end to ensure all detergent is washed out of the fabric. Play around with your washing machine settings until you have the shortest wash that still cleans your cloth diapers effectively.  
  • Load the machine no more than 3/4 full when dry - basically don't overfill it. 
  • Use whichever detergent you use for your baby’s clothes, but it must not contain fabric softener (see below). Your detergent dose should be proportional to the size of washing machine load you have put in, e.g. if you have a 3/4 full drum use a 3/4 dose, half a drum load then use detergent for a half load. 
  • Do not use fabric softener – fabric softener coats the fabric and repels liquid rather than allowing it to absorb as we need cloth diapers to do. 
  • Do not use bleach or optical brighteners as that can damage your cloth diapers. 
  • Hang the diapers to dry or tumble dry on low heat to preserve the fabric and elastic. 
  • If diapers require folding or assembling do this and then store clean diapers in a dry place, ready for the next use. 
  • By following these steps, you can effectively use cloth diapers for your baby in an eco-friendly and cost-effective way. Remember to adjust the fit and absorbency as needed to keep your baby comfortable and dry. 

Prepping new Diapers 

  • Before using cloth diapers for the first time, it is important to wash them. This helps to improve their absorbency. 
  • If you are using organic cloth diapers, you may need to wash those multiple times to remove any natural oils that can inhibit absorbency. 
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for washing and drying the diapers. 

The very basics you need to get started with cloth nappies are: 

  • Diapers – all-in-ones, pockets, fitteds + covers, prefolds + covers. 
  • Liners - either disposable liners or washable liners to catch solids 
  • Diaper pail/bucket or wet bag to store the dirty prior to washing 

Many people will also add the following: 

  • Cloth wipes & container 
  • Small wet bag for out & about 
  • Laundry mesh for inside your diaper pail, to make laundry day easier 

You do not need to start out with your full quantity of diapers. Many families might choose to start with a handful of diapers to see how they get on and ease themselves into it, others choose to cloth diaper full time.  

For full-time cloth, a baby under 6 months old will need: 

  • 8-10 diapers per daytime (if using different day/night nappies). 
  • 2-3 diapers per nighttime with 1-2 waterproof covers. 
  • A total of 20 diapers is usually sufficient if washing every other day. 

 For full-time cloth, a baby over 6 months old will need: 

  • 6 diapers per daytime (if using different day/night nappies). 
  • 1-2 diapers per nighttime with 1 waterproof cover. 
  • A total of 14-16 diapers is usually sufficient if washing every other day/. 

You can use reusable diapers from day 1 if you want to! If you would like to use cloth diapers from birth, you will find it much easier to use specific newborn size cloth diapers. Size 1 prefold can be a great option from birth. These will give you a much trimmer fit on a little newborn than “one size” or “Birth-to-potty" diapers will. Once baby has reached 5-6kgs in weight, they can then move into One Size / birth to potty diapers. Some families prefer to use disposables for the first couple of months, while they find their feet or until baby is big enough for a one size diaper. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer, just what works best for your family. 

Reusable wipes are a great alternative to disposable wipes, which can be expensive, environmentally damaging, and also cause reactions on baby’s skin. With cloth wipes, you choose what goes into them. 

Reusable baby wipes are simply small fabric cloths that are used to clean baby's bum, hands or faces. Once used, the wipes are washed and reused repeatedly, saving thousands of disposable wipes from landfill and saving you money. Reusable baby wipes are also far more effective and efficient than disposables. One reusable wipe will do the job of 5-6 disposable wet wipes 

You can wet your wipes just with water or you can make your own wipes solution. If wetting with water, it's nice for young babies to wet with warm water just before changing their diaper, so it's not cold on their skin. For older babies, you can pre-make a wipes solution and soak your wipes in it in a glass jar. The possibilities of a wipes solution are endless but a popular one is: 

  • 1 mug camomile tea (as you would make for yourself to drink) 
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (organic, raw, virgin oil is best) 
  • 2-4 drops lavender essential oil (once baby is over 4m old, patch test for allergy first) 
  • Mix, add dry wipes to soak. 

Remember this has no preservative so will go musty after a few days. Every 2-3 days, when washing your cloth diapers or other laundry, simply add any unused cloth wipes to the load. Once clean, make a fresh solution, no need to dry the wipes after washing.  

If going out, you can take some soaked cloth wipes in a waterproof container or take some dry wipes and wet with water to use. If there is no tap nearby, use water from your drinking bottle.