The Minimalist Mom's Guide to Cloth Diapering Part 1: What You Need to Cloth Diaper

There is an overwhelming amount of information out there on cloth diapers.
Seriously overwhelming.
I know, becausse four years ago, I was a pregnant mom, trying to figure out what on Earth I needed to do once I had a little bum that needed to be diapered.

If this is you, breathe.
Then, jump in.
Once you start cloth diapering, everything will just. make. sense.

After over a year and half of cloth diapering, and two babies, and my laziness reaching it's height, this is the system I have fallen to.

This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I receive a small commission for my referral, at no extra cost to you.. As always, I would never recommend something I don't stand behind and use myself!

I use covers with cotton flats (which replaced my flour sack towels), which I think is the easiest way to cloth diaper after all this time, with two in cloth currently (I originally thought pockets would be).

My favorite are one-size Cloth-Eez birdseye cotton flats, but there's so many varieties available from elsewhere.

I like to keep things simple.

I like to keep things easy.

I also like to keep them cheap, but that has been an unexpected bonus to accomplishing the above.

Most of my routine and recommendations do apply to whatever cloth diaper system you choose, but I will be going very specifically into what I personally do.

Firstly, I want to go over what you need to cloth diaper.

You need waterproof covers.

This in itself is beyond overwhelming because the brands out there are overwhelming, and if you haven't cloth diapered before, you won't even know what features you'd like.

I personally like a snug fit and double gussets, so Buttons are my favorite covers.
I also have Best Bottoms, Lalabye Baby, Grovia, Smart Bottoms and Thirsties (and have tried quite a few other brands).

You can see my complete budget brand cover post here.
Or my review list here.

You need something absorbent go in the covers.

I use birdseye flats, now.

But I initially started with flour sack towels, when I wrote this post:
I buy the packs of ten from Walmart for $7.88. I've tried the Target brand also and I cannot tell the difference between the two whatsoever.
It's recommended that you have 3 inserts per cover, since your cover can be used multiple times. I think this is a really good rule of thumb, though I will be honest and say I went a little overboard buying FST every time I ran out and now I have half a million.
So I need a few more covers. Hee.

You can use any prefolds, flats, fitteds, (or even snap-in inserts if you buy a diaper like Buttons, Best Bottom, Lalabye Baby, or Grovia) in a diaper cover.
EXCEPT raw microfiber, since it is too irritating and drying to go against baby's skin.

Shop inserts at Nicki's Diapers. 

You need somewhere to put dirty diapers.

I use an open garbage can with a large Planet Wise pail liner.
Some people just use a plain 'ol laundry basket, but again, I'm lazy, so I prefer something that can just be tossed in the washer when it needs to be washed.
If you leave your house, ever (I rarely do, but I still use them), travel wetbags are nice to have. Though I do tend to forget anything that is not a baby, so I've used plastic bags in a pinch.

You need laundry detergent.

Real laundry detergent. 
Diapers are the dirtiest, most disgusting (hopefully) laundry you will do. You need something that has surfactants, preferably with enzymes. This is what I use and love.
If you're thinking "what the heck is this lady even saying?" Chances are -you can just use whatever laundry detergent you use on the rest of your clothes. As long as IT DOES NOT HAVE FABRIC SOFTENER.


There's the optional items I use and recommend:

Cloth wipes are nice to use in place of disposables.

Snappis (or another closure) work awesome if you will do anything but pad- fold (that's all I generally do because -lazy

I initially recommended making fleece liners:
If your baby is not exclusively breastfed and you don't want to dunk 'n' swish your diapers or get a diaper sprayer, this is the easy way to deal with poop once your kid's is no longer washer-safe.

*Another optional supply is a WATER softener, like Borax, if your water is hard.
Mine is. Hard water doesn't clean the diapers as well, especially since I use plant-based (AKA weaker) detergent.

Here is a post on extra cloth accessories I use and love, but are definitely NOT needed! I have gone a long part of my diaper journey without.

That's it. Diaper covers, diaper inserts, wet bags, and laundry detergent.
Fleece liners, Snappis, cloth wipes, accessories optional.

I will be walking through the actual diapering process. The folding, putting it on baby, with a few fit tips I've picked up over time.

Don't forget to follow me on Instagram and Pinterest for more cloth diaper tips and reviews!

For the rest of my cloth diapering system, check out my complete Guide to Cloth Diapering


  1. Great list! I tried flour sacks and flats. I loved both of them but I like to use wool covers so I have to fold them and snappi them on... I'm going to make some of them into fitted diapers I think so I don't have to fold as much

    1. Thank you for reading! I've seen people sew them into fitted folds to save time, looks like it would work well!

  2. After reading what feels like thousands of articles, this is a breath of fresh air! I second all of to try flower sack towels myself. Frugal and simple! Thank you!!

  3. This article saved me so much time! I had a baby in October and started using cloth diapers when he was 4 weeks old. I was trying to sew my own pocket and AIO diapers and it wasn't going well. They leaked all the time! After reading this I promptly bought 8 very affordable used diaper covers off of Poshmark. I made my own inserts from absorbent fabric I already had and started diapering. Instant success! Thank you Kaitlin for the simple advice!