When I decided to cloth diaper my daughter, I quickly learned that it wasn’t just “cloth”. There was a whole world of styles, brands, materials, and supplies that I had to navigate through. It quickly became overwhelming. I hope this dictionary of terms will help guide other new-to-cloth parents through the new language they’re learning!
Types of Diapers:
Prefolds: This is the type of diaper that your parents remember. It’s a thick, absorbent piece that can be folded, rolled, or finessed and then pinned around your babe. Pinned doesn’t have to mean safety pins anymore – there are new plastic “claws” that serve the same purpose, without the sharp points.
Flats: Similar to prefolds, but usually larger and thinner pieces of material.
Contours: Like prefolds, these diapers need to be pinned or snapped into place. However, they are cut in an hourglass shape to take some of that finesse out of it.
Fitteds: These diapers are made completely from soft materials and are not waterproof. They have their own closure, so no pin or Snappi needed. They require a cover (better version of the “rubber pants” of yesteryear) to make them waterproof for outings or naptime. Lots of moms like this fitted/cover combo or will use them without a cover around the house.
Hybrid Fitteds: A slightly evolved fitted, these dipes have a water resistant (not waterproof!) layer that ensures the inside layers of the diaper are thoroughly soaked before saturating the outside fabric. These are great options for awake home time. They can also be used with a cover for outings.
Covers: If you’re using a prefold, contour, or fitted diaper, you’ll need a cover to go with it. The nice thing about this is that you can reuse the covers if they haven’t gotten any waste on them, so you don’t need as many covers as prefolds/fitteds. They come in PUL (polyurethane laminate) and wool. “Wool?” you ask? Yes. Wool is antibacterial and the lanolin in wool makes it basically waterproof.
Pockets: These diapers are made with a PUL waterproof outer (sometimes then covered with a soft material, so the PUL is hidden inside), so they don’t require a cover. The inside is made with a soft material and has a pocket that can be stuffed with inserts of prefolds for absorbency. These diapers are easily customizable to your wetter’s needs and a definite favorite around our house.
Sleeves: A sleeve diaper is essentially a pocket diaper with openings at the front and back of the diaper, instead of just one or the other.
Hybrids: Not to be confused with a hybrid fitted, a “hybrid diaper” is one that can be used with disposable (or reusable inserts), so it’s kind of a mix of the cloth/disposable worlds.
AIO: All-in-ones (AIO) are as close to a disposable as you’ll get. No stuffing pockets, no covers. They also have a PUL outer, but the “inserts” are sewn into place. They are super easy to use and a great daycare/grandparent option.
AI2: All-in-twos (AI2) are waterproof outer shells with inserts that snap into place. Some of the shells can be used more than once before a wash, some can’t.
Types of Inserts:
These are the pieces you put inside your pocket diaper (or others) that handle the absorbency component.
Prefolds: Some people use prefolds as inserts in pocket diapers. I personally used them for nighttime absorbency for my heavy wetter.
Microfiber: This synthetic material is incredibly absorbent, which makes it a great fit for cloth diapering. It’s a very common insert sold with most pocket diapers. However, don’t ever ever let microfiber sit directly on babe’s bum. Since it is so absorbent, it can also pull the moisture out of babe’s skin and cause serious rashes and in extreme cases, even stick to the bum!
Hemp: Hemp inserts are often blended with cotton for softness. Many are attracted to it because it’s a natural fiber and also quite absorbent. Many swear by it for nighttime diaper stuffing.
Bamboo: These inserts are popular because they’re another “natural fiber”, however, bamboo is processed to become rayon and typically not very environmentally friendly.
CBI: Charcoal bamboo inserts are blended inserts.
Liners: These paper thin pieces can be laid inside diapers to make messes easier to clean up. They’re also handy when you need to use a diaper cream or ointment, to provide a barrier from your diaper material.
Doublers: These are second inserts that can be added to “double” the diaper’s absorbency. Some diaper brands’ inserts come equipped with snaps to attach a doubler insert to.
Different materials are used in different ways with cloth. You’ll find what works for you, but here are the basics.
Bamboo: Although bamboo itself is a sustainable and biodegradable material, once it’s converted to a fabric, it’s actually just rayon. In order to convert bamboo to a soft material, it is exposed to harsh chemicals. According to the FTC, the material loses all of its antimicrobial properties in this process. It still makes for a great insert, but it’s important to know that bamboo fabric isn’t as “eco-friendly” as other bamboo products.
Cotton: Cotton is, of course, a natural fiber and feels wet to the skin. It’s been used in cloth diapers forever and is often blended with other rougher materials in inserts.
Fleece: This soft fabric often lines diapers, as it allows moisture to pass through it and absorb in the inserts. It makes a great barrier between babe’s bottom and natural fibers that would leave baby feeling wet.
Hemp: This natural fiber is environmentally friendly and a great choice for cloth diapering because of its antibacterial, antifungal, and considered by many to be hypoallergenic properties. As mentioned before, it is also touted as being very absorbent.
Microfiber: This manmade material is very absorbent and another favorite among cloth diaperers. Like previously mentioned, this fabric should never directly touch baby’s skin for prolonged periods of time.
Microfleece: This is a thin layer of fleece commonly found lining pocket diapers. It should not be mistaken with microfiber. Microfleece can touch the bottom!
Minky: This soft, stain-resistant synthetic fabric is very soft and often found on the inside of WAHM diapers.
PUL: Polyurethane laminate is typically used on the outside of covers, pockets, and AIOs and is waterproof.
Raw silk: Some liners are made of raw silk because it allows moisture to flow through and is a very thin layer, not adding any notable bulk to the diaper. It is also anti-bacterial.
TPU: Thermalplastic polyurethane is similar to PUL.
Other Terms & Tools:
Boingo: A newer type of clasp for prefolds, like the Snappi, that requires two for closure.
BST: Buy Sell Trade groups, commonly found on Facebook. You’ll also see terms like ISO (in search of), FSO (for sale only), FTO (for trade only), and PPD (postage paid, means including shipping costs), along with abbreviations indicating condition (for example, VGUC means very good used condition and NIP means new in package).
Closures: Most diapers will have one of two kinds of closures – either snaps or aplix (also known as velcro or hook-and-loop).
Cloth wipes: Many cloth diaperers also use cloth wipes. You’re already doing the laundry – why not add some wipes in the mix too? Cloth wipes are usually 8×8 squares made of fleece or other soft materials. They are wet with everything from water to homemade wipe solutions.
Diaper sprayer: A handy sprayer that attaches to your toilet and allow you to rinse waste off right into the toilet.
Disposies (or sposies): Refers to disposable diapers.
Double gussets: Two bands of elastic around the leg openings. Single gussets refer to one band.
Flour sack towels: Extremely reasonably priced, thin cotton towels, sometimes used as inserts or flats for diapering.
Fluff mail: When you catch the cloth diaper fever, you’ll find yourself running to your mailbox in hopes of a “fluff mail” package (aka a package full of fluffy baby goods like cloth diapers).
Laundry tabs: This is a common feature on aplix diapers. These little aplix tabs inside the diaper allow you to secure the aplix closure to keep it from snagging on other fabric, while still leaving the diaper open to be thoroughly washed.
Nappy: Same thing as a diaper!
Snappis: Plastic toothed closures that took the place of traditional safety pins in prefold diapering.
Soaker: Another name for an insert.
Stash: This is the pet name cloth diaper aficionados use to refer to their diaper collection.
Stripping: Refers to the process of removing gunky build-up from your diapers, most commonly used to correct absorbency and stink from a poor wash routine.
Sunning: Placing your diapers in the sun to remove stains.
WAHM: Work-at-home-mom made diapers.
Wet Bag: These are bags used to store soiled diapers in between washes. You’ll want one for your diaper bag and either a wet bag or diaper pail for your changing area too.