Ode to the Humble Prefold: Part I of the Diaper Duel

Joy and I had a friendly little diaper duel a few years ago, which I am reprinting this week in honor of our cloth diaper week. (And because I am on spring break!) On Thursday, prepare to hear Joy defend the pocket diaper. Today, I bow down to the prefold!

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. Pocket 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!

Stay tuned on Thursday when I re-post Joy’s impassioned defense of pocket diapers. Want to weigh in on the great pocket vs. prefold debate? Post a comment!


  1. I love my flats with one-size covers. They wash and dry so fast and easily, even compared to prefolds. They take a little extra time to fold them out of the dryer, but it’s kind of fun!

  2. We prefer prefolds, too. I have tried the others and I just never liked them. For the reasons above, and because they just didn’t seem to work for us. They always leaked and I’m big on changing my kids frequently. I had diaper rash for the first time ever with BumGenius and we only used 2 before it came and then it took forever to get rid of. I will say that prefolds have gone up in price – they are now more like $3 a piece. But at that price, I can buy a lot more and since we don’t use paper towels or paper napkins in our home, they will certainly have a long and useful life beyond my kiddos’ bums!

  3. I am glad there to see some other flat or prefold enthusiasts out there! I did not realize that they’d gone up in price. I distinctly remember paying $1.25/each six years ago, though I am not sure now where I found them. There were way fewer places that sold them back then, too!

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