Cloth diapers are not what they used to be! The days of safety pins and rubber pants are long gone - and we welcome the modern version of cloth diapering! If you are new to this idea, chances are you are just as confused as we were when we started researching cloth diapers. Depending on where you look, you might find a variety of terms and shorthand that is completely foreign to a cloth diaper newbie.
Not to fear! We've got you covered with our glossary of cloth diapering terms and words, and acronyms, so you can be confident in your informed decision-making! Here we go:
PRE-FOLDS/FLATS AND COVERS: This is the closest thing to old-style cloth diapering. It consists of two parts - an absorbent layer and a waterproof cover layer. A flat is just a large piece of absorbent material that you fold to fit, and a pre-fold already has a thicker pre-sewn channel down the middle. A cover is a waterproof material shell that goes on like a pair of underwear, or closes with snaps or velcro, and is meant to keep moisture away from clothing. These are by far the most customizable way to cloth diaper as you can adjust the fit and absorbency as you need. It's also the least expensive, because you can reuse the covers in most changes, just swapping out for dry absorbent layers.
FITTED: A fitted is still a 2 piece diaper setup, except that instead of folding a piece of cloth, the absorbent layer is cut and fit into a diaper shape that fastens with snaps or velcro. You still need to use a waterproof cover with these, but you can reuse them the same way if they're not dirty. It's less complicated and frustrating than folding. Some people will use a woolen pant as a cover over a fitted instead.
- Contours: These are fitted diapers that don't have a closure, they just fit inside the cover and go on as one piece, but they're cut like a diaper instead of a flat piece of fabric.
POCKETS (AI2): By far the most common cloth diaper system we see here, pockets are a customizable "all-in-2" diaper setup. You have two pieces - an insert and a cover. The cover typically is lined with fleece or cotton, and has a pocket sewn in where you can stuff it with absorbent inserts, depending on your absorbency needs. They're easy to use, dry quickly and if you pre-stuff them are simple enough for a non-diaper-savvy person to figure out. The downside to pockets is that you have to change the entire diaper including the cover every time because of the lining. This makes more laundry, and is less cost effective.
- Inserts: These are strips of absorbent material that get stuffed into the pocket to absorb the liquid. They come in various materials like unbleached cotton, bamboo, charcoal bamboo and microfibre, which most people have a variety of for various purposes. Microfibre is the most absorbent, however it cannot be directly on the skin. Charcoal bamboo has odor-reducing and antimicrobial properties, but it's not as absorbent so you'll be changing them more often. Unbleached cotton is great for sensitive skin, but the least absorbent. Some people use pre-folds/flats as inserts for overnight use.
ALL-IN-ONES (AIO): The easiest way to cloth diaper little bums! Seriously, an all-in-one is essentially like a disposable diaper that you throw in the washing machine and re-use again. The cover, lining and absorbent layer are all sewn together, making it super easy to use, pack and store. All-in-Ones are the most expensive, obviously, and the entire diaper has to be changed each time so you will be doing more laundry. The trade-off can be worth it though, especially if you are working with a childcare provider who doesn't have time to learn cloth diapering techniques.
PUL: Polyurethane Laminate, which is the waterproof shell material used in diaper covers. Most PUL covers recommend you line-dry them, as the heat from the dryer can melt the polyurethane and cause it to de-laminate and lose its water resistance.
WOOLEN: Covers made from 100% pure wool are warm, cozy, adorable AND water resistant when coated with lanolin. They aren't as waterproof as PUL, but if you are an all-natural family you may just love this anti-microbial natural option. You will have to change them more often though, because eventually moisture does get through the wool. They're easy to make if you have knitting, crochet or sewing skills and can be made even from recycled sweaters! Downside, you will need to hand wash them, lay them flat to dry, and probably will need to re-lanolize them on occasion.
POLYESTER FLEECE: Also called microfleece, this material is usually found in absorbent layers for pocket diapers, and occasionally as the lining in an AI2. The important thing to know is that microfleece is really absorbent, and shouldn't be next to the skin as it will actually draw moisture from the skin causing irritation. This is why putting them in a pocket style diaper is beautiful - you get maximum absorbency without worrying about the skin irritation.
HEMP: Hemp fibre is remarkably absorbent and odor-resistant also. It's soft, and a renewable resource that grows naturally. You will see hemp used as flats/prefolds, inserts and fitteds. More commonly, you will see hemp in combination with other fibres like bamboo or organic cotton.
BAMBOO: This isn't the same bamboo that pandas munch on, although it's the same idea. A very sustainable resource, bamboo is hardy, super soft and absorbent of both liquid and odor. Charcoal bamboo is simply bamboo fibre that has been through the pyrolisis, or charring, process - meaning that it is more porous with a larger surface area. This makes charcoal bamboo VERY absorbent. It's also a dark color, which many prefer when cloth diapering as it hides stains better!
FLUFF: A slang term meaning "cloth diaper"
FLUFF MAIL: Social term for receiving cloth diapers by mail or courier.
WETBAG: A zippered or drawstring bag made from PUL designed to hold wet, dirty diapers until they reach the laundry. Can also be used to carry wet clothing, like swimsuits.
PAIL LINER: This is a large PUL bag with an elastic or drawstring top that fits over a diaper pail and is a receptacle for dirty cloth diapers. PUL Pail liners are brilliant because you can throw the whole bag in the washing machine at diaper time - no need to pull poopy diapers out by hand.
SNAPPI: Snappis are a rubber Y-shaped piece with claws on the end. They are designed to hold prefolds/flats and contour diapers together under the diaper cover.
There you have it - a glossary of cloth diaper terms that will make your journey with cloth a better, more understandable one! There's way more terms - but if you come up against something you aren't familiar with online, post a message and ask. Different regions have different lingo too!