Cloth Diapers: The Real Poop on Going Green

Have you ever heard the “cloth diaper scare stories” before?  When I was pregnant, these frightening tales worried my hormone-filled mind.  I was so concerned about being “ready” and was sure that I was making my life far too difficult by using cloth.  Most standard baby guides had no information on cloth diapering, except to recommend against it.  I couldn’t seem to figure out all of the vocabulary associated with pre-folds, liners, G-diapers, and all the other products on the market.  What if I invested lots of money in cloth diapers and then found it all to be just too hard?


Luckily, I had Rebecca as my guide to the cloth diaper world.   I went with her to a resale shop and bought some covers, watched her expertly diaper her baby in less than twenty seconds, and realized that even I could easily manage cloth. A year and a half later, the truth is that cloth diapering isn’t even remotely a hardship.  We toss in an extra load of laundry every few days and fold diapers while zoning out in the evenings.  It has saved us hundreds of dollars and quite a bit of landfill space.


So, what do I wish I would have known when I heard the cloth diaper scare stories?


All poopy diapers (including disposables) must be dunked. It’s true!  I had read this online but when I looked at the small print on a box of disposables I found the phrasing. It reads something like “soiled diapers should have soil removed before being disposed.” Disposable diaper manufacturers print the recommendation because there are concerns that human excrement shouldn’t be tossed into landfills.  (It doesn’t make our groundwater quite as palatable). 


You can use flushable diaper liners. When I felt overwhelmed about the possibility of being swamped by my baby’s many shades and fragrances of solid waste, it was good to know that I could use diaper liners–such as those by diaperaps.  This thin sheet of papery material can be dumped directly into the toilet and flushed when poopy.  As baby grows older and has fewer bowel movements, the wet liners can be washed and reused, so that you only have to throw away a few liners each day.


Breastfed babies have odorless poo.  O.K. in all fairness, I can’t say it’s totally odorless, but it really doesn’t have a strong smell.  (I promise I’m not making this up!)   Although the color and texture are pretty horrid, newborn excrement of breastfed babies is really pretty easy on the nose. I found the first four to six months of cloth diapering to be pretty stink-free and tossed the diapers(poopy or otherwise)  straight into the wash. As we hit solids and the poop began to truly reek, it also became more fully formed and could often be plunked into the toilet without any dunking.


This was mainstream once.  Now 90% of parents use disposables, but generations ago cloth was the norm.  When I was nervous about trying cloth I tried to remember that several decades ago everyone did just fine using cloth even without Velcro fasteners, high-efficiency washers and dryers, or access to Internet tips.


You have more choices than ever!  At the time, I didn’t know about some of the newer options that combine the best of both worlds like G-diapersThey are considered a hybrid diaper because they come with a cloth cover and a flushable liner.  If the liner is just wet with no solid waste, it’s safe to compost it!


Be open to change. I thought that I had to make a decision and stick to it, by gum!  But really there is no reason that I couldn’t have changed at any point.  My sister put four children through disposables before she switched to cloth with her fifth child. Although she has her hands full, she has found that her daughter potty trained much more quickly with cloth.


Although people still sometimes look at me with admiration or amazement when I say I’m using cloth, it’s really not that big of a deal.  I still use disposables at night and when traveling, so I’m not perfect.  But if someone wants find my use of cloth diapers heroic, who am I to correct them? 


  1. Excellent points, Joy! I would like to add that if you are too lazy to fold diapers, you can simply stack them up or stuff them in a drawer. I just grab a diaper from the stack, fold it in thirds, and place it in the cover right before I put it on the baby. There are also all-in-one cloth diapers, which require no folding whatsoever.

  2. Any thoughts on washing the soiled diapers- causing contamination of the next load secondary to the feces? I am interested in using cloth but my husband is hesitant about putting anything poopy into the washer for risk of cross contamination (e.coli & other intestinal bacteria). What are your thoughts?

  3. Genny, I suppose it is possible to contaminate the next load of laundry, BUT, that would be assuming your child already had e.coli or some other contagious disease! In that case, you could disinfect your washer after running a diaper load. Most of the time, though, your child will not have an infectious disease, so normal washing is fine.

    Keep in mind that after the baby is on solid foods, you’re putting the waste in the toilet before washing the diapers. So you’re not actually putting solid waste in the washing machine. If your husband is really worried, you could look into flushable diaper liners. This would keep the actual diapers completely poop-free.

    Another thing to consider: people use Laundromats all the time, where people are washing any number of things in the public machines. (I was going to elaborate, but I think you can use your imagination!) As far as I know, most people don’t catch too many illnesses from washing their laundry in shared machines.

Speak Your Mind