Ode to the Humble Prefold (Or, Why Prefolds Could Beat Pocket Diapers in a Diaper Duel)

Don’t get me wrong–I think pocket diapers (like these pictured from BumGenius) are adorable.  They come in a variety of prints and colors, look cute flapping in the breeze on the clothesline, and go on just like disposables.  That last reason is why I see many parents recommending pocket diapers to new parents or cloth diaper novices.  Joy went on and on about pocket diapers here and herePocket diapers are advertised as “daddy and daycare approved;” meaning, I suppose, that once they are stuffed with an absorbent liner, they go on just as easily as a disposable.

Before my daughter was born, I stocked up on three dozen prefold diapers (like these pictured) and about six Velcro covers (like these basic Prorap covers Audrey is wearing).  I chose this system because they were the more economical choice.  Prefolds run about $1.25 each, whereas a Fuzzibunz costs about $17 new and $7 used. 

Now I’ve had the chance to try a variety of pocket diapers in addition to the prefolds and have come to an unconventional discovery:  I prefer prefolds to pocket diapers.  Here’s why:

1. It takes me less time to fold the prefold in thirds, place it on the cover, and put it on the baby than it does to individually stuff every pocket diaper. Sure, pocket diapers are “daddy approved,” but this seems to go along with the sexist assumption that the mom does the diaper-stuffing beforehand.

2. I spend less time doing diaper laundry with prefolds. I can wash a full load of prefolds every four days because three dozen can fit in the washer at a time. The pocket diapers, which look trimmer on the baby, actually take up more space in the washing machine. About fifteen to twenty pocket diapers make a full load.

3. Because I do less diaper laundry, using prefolds is better for the environment than pocket diapers. With my high-efficiency washer, I use 12.4 gallons of water a load. If I wash every four days, I’m using  just over 1,000 gallons a year on diaper laundry. Washing pocket diapers every other day would use 2,000 gallons–and multiply those figures by four if you have a top-loading machine.

4. Dirty diapers are easier to handle with prefolds. Cleaning out dirty pocket diapers is a mess if you don’t use diaper liners. Cleaning out prefolds is actually fun! (Okay, just joking about that one.) Seriously, though, I found that when a dirty diaper necessitated the dreaded toilet-dunk, it was easier to do with a large piece of cloth rather than a pocket diaper, which has little gussets and seams.

5. Prefolds are adaptable. Because my daughter is so small, I used just one set of prefolds–the size with the green stitching–until she potty trained. I just had to buy new covers. If I don’t have another child, I can use the diapers as rags or even resell them. (To be fair, pocket diapers have an excellent resale value as well.)

Again, the point of this post is not to diss pocket diapers, but to give the underrated prefold a chance to share the cloth diaper glory.  I keep hearing how pocket diapers are so easy to use, so cute, and so wonderful in every way, and I wanted my poor little prefolds to know that I loved them, too.  In many ways, I loved them more.  So thank you, prefold!

Prefold cloth diapers definitely work for me.  For more tips, head on over to Rocks in My Dryer.  Want to weigh in on the great pocket vs. prefold debate?  Post a comment!


  1. I feel the same way! I prefer prefolds to pockets. You pretty much summed up the whole thing.

  2. I’m all thumbs so I went with a batch of Motherease I picked up on Ebay, plus I sold them for £5 less than I paid for them so that wasn’t bad. I do know a lot of people that prefer prefolds though. They’re definitely more useful after the babies are done with them than shaped nappies.

  3. Sorry…I love my pockets….The stuffing Is not really all that time consuming and I just like the overall ease of it all. But prefolds do have thier place.

  4. Well I must say that you are both putting up a great fight. We use prefolds. I was actually considering switching after reading Joy’s inputs but for a few points. Currently I use a wonderful diaper service here in Colorado and love it!!! Also, how can I change when my husband struggled through the prefold drama. We love the versatility of the prefold….either wrapped all the way around or just folded in the cover. Plus she has a tiny behind and it gives her some substance:)

  5. I go back and forth… Some days I love my prefolds, some days I sing the praises of my BumGenius….

    At night and nap time though, hands down the pockets win. I can’t stand the thought of her in a wet diaper…

  6. I like both! But I started using OBV prefolds and wool for nighttime and my DS is so much better in the morning. He doesn’t stink like ammonia, and he doesn’t get rashes!

  7. Dina, what are OBV prefolds? What kind of wool are you using for nighttime?

  8. I use prefolds, but in my G Diapers. Hubby and I do a bit of outdoor activities (hiking and camping) and so use gdiapers biodegradable inserts when out, but use prefolds in them at home. They go on with the ease of pocket diapers, but have a liner in them that the prefold gets put into and taken out of, so that is the only thing that you wash (unless of course you have a poo-plosion!).

  9. I love prefolds for the same reasons!! This is a great post!

  10. OBV prefolds are Organic Bamboo Velour. They are super duper absorbent and cost about $10 per prefold. I use a 100% merino wool soaker that I knitted myself.

  11. I emailed you an article that I just wrote about bamboo diapers.

  12. i love my prefolds too, for all the reasons you mentioned, and the fact that they are 100% cotton, so they never get stinky and my baby never gets rashes!

  13. i completely agree for all the same reasons. we double stuff pockets at night, but much prefer the prefolds during the day. i might also add, that my hubby is a total pro at the prefold diaper changes, but struggles to stuff the pockets 🙂

  14. I love our prefolds! I was a bit intimidated when first doing research on cloth diapers. There are SO many to choose from. I think that might have been how I happened upon your site. I was lucky enough to find a service in Eugene that we can use that is very reasonably priced. Even without the service I think I’d still use prefolds because of the cost and other ways you can use them. If you need a burb cloth a pocket isn’t so handy!

  15. We love prefolds in our house – so cheap, so easy, and you’re right- 3 dozen fit so nicely in the wash.

    Now that the little guy is beginning to toilet train, most of the dipes have been recycled to all purpose mop up cloths, and change table mats. So add versatile to the list of prefold virtues 🙂

    Great post !!

  16. We started w/ prefolds but when she hit about 4 mos, no matter what folding technique (and we tried them all) or what cover (and we tried them all), every poop was a blowout, and I ended up spending as much trying to find the right combo than had I just gotten pocket diapers.

    When she went a size up, we went 100% w/ pocket diapers. I wish, though, that the prefolds had worked for us.

  17. I totally agree with your post. I love our prefold diapers – never thought cloth could be so much fun and easy!

  18. I love our prefolds! I tried a couple bumgenius diapers and they were terrible. They leaked all the time. Sure, I could of stripped them every week but that’s way more work than using a snappi. Prefolds are easy to wash and really not that hard to use. I see no reason to spend the extra money and try more diapers when what I have works. As my mother would say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

  19. Would you all say that prefolds and waterproof/wool covers are comparable to the FLIP diaper system? I’m considering switching to prefolds (which I can sew myself) and wool covers…

  20. Heather,
    Great question! Before your comment I didn’t even know what the FLIP diapering system was. In truth, the only difference between the FLIP system and prefolds, is that the covers are adjustable. Otherwise, they’re exactly the same! I would guess that prefolds are far cheaper and you might want to look into buying them too. They are usually between $1.25-1.75 apiece in the small size, which might make them similarly priced to homemade diapers. You’ve inspired an upcoming post comparing the FLIP system to prefolds!

  21. This might be gross, but with prefolds if you want to see if the diaper is wet, you can just pop your finger in! With pockets you have to take the diaper completely off–granted, it’s because they’re super absorbent and they wick all the moisture off your baby.

    We’re currently debating between buying more prefolds or pockets…I like the laundry volume point and it’s true because with pockets they tell you to only wash 24 dipers max in one load. I’m sure you can fit a ton more prefolds in one load!!

  22. Thank you for this post! It solidified my choice to use prefolds rather than trying out other varieties first. I’m also glad you pointed out the amount of prefolds that can fit in the wash at first. This is important especially to me because we live in an apartment so I have to pay for each load. The thought of $3 every 2 days was kind of a turn off but with every 3 days we will still be saving money over disposables.

  23. I think I must be a purist or some kind of traditionalist! I love prefolds. I just tried a Bum Genius this evening and I really don’t get it. I don’t like anything but a prefold touching my LO’s stuff and I found stuffing the pocket awkward. I am sticking with prefolds and Bummis.

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