If you are thinking about using cloth diapers but are scared by the problems, issues, and hurdles other people seem to have, you’re not alone.
Unfortunately, there are no one-size-fits-all rules for cloth diapers. Instead, it’s more of a “this has worked for other people, so give it a go, and see if it works for you, but it might not, and you might have to try something else before you find a solution” situation.
You’ll see and hear loads of information about diapering with cloth that’s just plain wrong. These common myths about cloth diapers crop up again and again, so we’re here to highlight the misinformation and share the knowledge and experiences of people in the know.
Here are 20 myths about cloth diapers, debunked by modern cloth diaper users.
1. Cloth Diapers Make Your Home Stink
“Oh, the smell,” “Aren’t you worried about the smell of pee and poo?” “You do know your house will stink?”
These are the kind of comments you might hear from some people when you say you’re going to use cloth diapers. While this may have been true in the past, the smell was usually the result of two things.
First, before electric washing machines were a regular fixture in homes, laundry had to be done either partly or entirely by hand. Laundry wasn’t done in small batches every couple of days; it was an all-day, once-a-week task. Consequently, diapers sat around for up to a week, waiting to be washed.
Second, dirty diapers were stored using a wet pail method. This method involved a large bucket or pail of water in which the dirty diapers were soaked. Keeping the diapers wet prevented them from drying out and stains from setting into the cloth.
Therefore, not only would you have diapers hanging about for a week, but you’d have them sitting in a wet stew of diaper, pee, and poop. Add the possibility that you might have two or more little ones in diapers, and it’s no wonder dirty diaper storage made homes stinky.
Today, dry pail methods and the option to do the laundry every day or two (or three) cloth diapers are unlikely to make your home reek.
2. You’ll Have to Use Diaper Pins and Plastic Pants
This is another “blast from the past” cloth diaper myth that may have been true for our grandparents, but that no longer applies to modern cloth.
Modern all-in-one, all-in-two, and pocket diapers have an outer layer made of PUL, a fabric with a super-thin layer of thermoplastic adhered to one side. This layer contains fluids, so you don’t need additional plastic pants over the top.
These modern options also have studs to do up the diaper, so you don’t need pins.
If you choose pre-fold or flat style diapers, you can use pins, but there are also plenty of modern alternatives that allow you to secure the diaper without the risk of sticking you or your baby with a pin.
Even these styles of diapers don’t need the old-fashioned crunchy plastic pants our grandmothers knew. Today, options include wool covers, softer plastic pants, and more.
3. Cloth Diapers are Difficult With Wriggly Kids
People will tell you that putting cloth diapers on wriggly kids is difficult. While this can be true, it is only part of the story because it is challenging to put any diaper on a wiggly baby or toddler.
4. You Have to Choose Between Disposables or Cloth
If you’re considering cloth diapers or disposables, remember, it doesn’t have to be 100% one or the other. If you want to use cloth during the day and disposables at night -perfect, go for it. If you use cloth at home and disposables at daycare and it works for you, fantastic.
Whether you use cloth in some situations and disposables in another or take a break from cloth for a while, you don’t have to choose between 100% cloth diapers or 100% disposables.
5. Cloth Diapers are Also Bad for the Environment
The environmental impacts of both cloth diapers and disposables are complex. For example, cloth diapers keep disposables from the landfill, but cloth takes energy and resources to wash.
Each user will wash and dry their cloth in different ways, which varies the environmental impacts, and disposable users will change with different frequencies or use a variety of brands.
Then, there’s a wide range of disposable and cloth styles and brands, each of which will have unique environmental effects. From the materials used to make the diapers to the manufacturing processes for each, there’s such variety that you can’t precisely compare one to another.
Consequently, it’s virtually impossible to say that either cloth diapers or disposables, in general, are better or worse for the environment.
However, if you’re thinking about keeping materials out of the landfill, cloth diapers are the way to go.
6. You’ll Have to Deal With Poop
Another myth with a hint of truth, “you’ll have to deal with the poop,” is a typical response when people discover you plan to use cloth.
However, we’ll let you into a secret, if you have a baby, you’re going to have to tough poop. It doesn’t matter whether you have disposables or cloth; human waste is part of your life now. Rather than thinking of ways to avoid it, you’re better off finding strategies to deal with your new companion, poo.
7. Cloth Diapers are for Weirdos and Hippies
Once disposables became mainstream, cloth diapers were seen as an uncommon option that only those who live an “alternative” lifestyle use.
As concern for the environment has become more mainstream, and the financial benefits of reusable diapers have been highlighted, cloth is now seen as no more “alternative” than electric vehicles or recycling.
In addition, unlike other people, we don’t see “hippie” or “alternative” as insults, but that’s another discussion!
8. Cloth Diapers Are Bad for the Hips
We have an in-depth post detailing hip dysplasia, what causes it, and treatment options. The one thing we make crystal clear both at both the beginning and end of the post is that cloth diapers do not cause hip dysplasia or any other form of a hip issue.
We’re not experts, but from what we’ve read, it seems that, if anything, cloth diapers may hold the legs and hips in a better position than disposables.
9. You’ll Need Special or Multiple Laundry Detergents
We’re not sure where this myth comes from, but it seems to have taken root in many minds.
The theory is that you will need some type of special cloth diaper-friendly detergent and that it will be expensive and challenging to find and use. On top of this, you’ll need to keep this special detergent for your diapers, have another detergent for regular clothes, and must be extremely careful not to cross-contaminate the two.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
While some people prefer to use an unscented or baby-specific detergent for their clothes, it is not required. The majority of the people we know who use cloth use mainstream detergents such as Tide, and some claim that these regular detergents are better for cloth than other, milder options.
10. Your Utility Bills Will Sky-Rocket
There’s no getting around it; cloth diapers mean more laundry, which in turn means more water and more power.
Having a baby in your home is likely to increase your water and energy use. There’s more laundry in general, more bathing and washing, and you might need to wash and sterilize bottles, breast pumps, and other feeding equipment.
Because of regional variations in utility costs, the diversity of models makes, and styles of laundry machines, and their energy use, and the differences in how people do their laundry, exact figures are difficult to pin down.
We calculated the costs of three extra loads of laundry a week. We used different parameters such as top or front-loading machines, a range of electricity costs and a variety of wash temperatures, incoming water temperatures, number of rinses, etc.
On average, we calculate that washing cloth diapers costs between 80 cents and $2.11 per week, with an average of $1.42. Whatever way you look at it, this is hardly “skyrocketing” utility bills and still more cost-effective than disposables.
11. Cloth Diapers Cause Diaper Rash
Diaper rash is usually caused by skin being in contact with moisture for too long.
Disposable diapers contain an absorbent gel that draws moisture away from the skin. Consequently, you can leave a baby in a wet disposable diaper for longer than you can a cloth diaper before diaper rash develops.
The flip side of this is, “do you want to leave your baby in a wet diaper for as long as possible before changing them?”
Cloth diapers do not cause diaper rash; leaving a child in a wet diaper for too long causes diaper rash. So, if you change your baby’s diaper after they pee, there’s no reason they will be more likely to develop diaper rash in cloth than in disposables.
12. You Can’t Use Cloth Diapers in Daycare
Some daycares are happy to use cloth diapers; others are not. While using cloth might make it more challenging to find daycare when you do find that daycare, they are more likely to be aligned with your wider values.
Even if you cannot use cloth diapers at daycare, there’s no reason why you can’t use disposables there and cloth diapers at home.
13. Cloth Diapers Are Expensive
As with almost anything you can buy, there are more affordable and less affordable options when it comes to cloth diapers.
Yes, some people choose specific brands and buy dozens of options running their costs up into the high $100’s or low $1,000’s, but you can buy a new stash of 18 pocket cloth diapers for under $100.
In addition, there are multiple ways to use cloth diapers on a budget of under $100 or less.
14. Babies in Cloth, Potty Train Later
The “later to potty train” myth is another where there’s no element of truth. If anything, children who are in cloth diapers seem to potty train sooner than those in disposables.
The reason for this could be that your child is more likely to feel dryer for longer in a disposable diaper. Consequently, there is less motivation for them to use the toilet. On the other hand, a baby in cloth is more likely to feel the moisture, motivating them to toilet train sooner.
15. Cloth Diapers Slow Development
If someone tells you that cloth diapers will slow your child’s development, ask them for more information. You’ll find that they cannot provide any evidence to support this claim, and it comes down to the assumption that cloth is bulky, and as a result, your baby will find it more difficult to move.
However, if this were the case, all our grandparents and great-grandparents would have been significantly delayed, and today’s pediatricians would be raising the alarm about 1,000s of babies of modern cloth diaper users.
In reality, there are zero developmental delays attributable to cloth diapers. Babies who wear cloth develop at precisely the same rate and hit their milestones in the same ways as babies in disposables.
16. Cloth is Only for Smaller/Bigger Babies
Depending on who you speak with, cloth diapers are only suitable for tiny babies or bigger babies.
While you may have trouble finding suitable cloth diapers for an especially small little one, for example, a sub-four-pound baby, there’s no reason why you can’t use cloth on pretty much any size child.
17. Cloth Diapers Make Clothes Buying Difficult
The idea that cloth diapers are so big and bulky that they prevent clothes fitting has a kernel of truth.
Yes, cloth diapers can be a little bulkier than disposables, and as a result, you may have to move up a size in some clothing items. However, for most clothes, there’s no problem with cloth diapers, and even on those rare occasions, cloth does make a difference; choosing a size larger overcomes the issue.
18. Cloth Diapers Are SO Much Work
This is the deal-breaker for so many potential cloth diaper users. There’s no getting around it, cloth diapers do require more laundry BUT, not that much more.
In past decades, when washing machines weren’t a sophisticated as they are now, cloth diapers could mean at least a solid half-day of work, soaking, washing, and drying.
Today, when you can drop the diapers in the machine, press a button and walk away, it’s more work, but not my much. Also, with disposables you have to go to the effort of getting ready going to the store, buying your diapers, queuing to pay, and getting them home, usually with a baby in tow.
19. You Can’t Wash Cloth Diapers in a Shared Laundry
We’re not sure, but we assume the thinking behind this myth is that cloth diapers get poop into the washing machine, making it unsanitary, and unsuitable for other washing.
This idea is completely untrue. When you do a short cold water wash, a full hot water wash, then a though rinse cycle, there’s nothing left behind in the machine that can contaminate other laundry.
20. Cloth Diapers are Complicated
At first glance, the amount of information about cloth diapers can feel overwhelming. Everyone has different opinions on the best:
- Style of diaper.
- Makes and manufacturers.
- Wash routines.
- Storage systems.
With so many options, it’s no wonder new users can feel cloth diapers are too complicated.
However, we put together a complete beginners guide to cloth diapers, detailing all you need to know. When you have all of the information laid out, in an easy to follow way, choosing and using cloth diapers is no more complicated than find the “right” disposable for you.