Are you considering cloth diapers for your baby but are unsure where to start? Our cloth diaper glossary will help you familiarize yourself with the terms you need to know to make an educated decision on which diapering option is right for you.
Cloth Diaper Glossary
An All-In-One Diaper is a reusable diaper that contains both the absorbent inner and waterproof outer components sewn into one finished piece. Most include an outer waterproof layer, elastic at the legs and back, sewn-in absorbent layers, and an integrated closure system of either snaps or hook and loop tape. This style of diaper is convenient and the simplest to use for many, as it goes on and off in one piece. For this reason, many families keep All-In-One diapers on hand for other caregivers to use, like babysitters and grandparents.
A drawback to some All-In-One diaper designs is that they can take a longer time to dry after washing. But for many parents, the trim fit and convenience of this cloth diaper overrides the longer drying times.SHOP AIO >
All-In-Two Diaper (AI2)
An All-in-Two diaper uses a waterproof cover and absorbent layers in the form of a soaker pad, which can be removed from the cover for laundering. The covers (sometimes called shells) will typically have snaps or hook and loop closures, as well as elastic at the legs and waist. Some leading brands will also have integrated snaps on the interior, which are designed to hold soaker pads in place. However, not every All-In-Two system is created equal. Some designs allow the sticky side of PUL fabric to touch baby’s sensitive skin, while others do not have a water-resistant backing to their soaker pads, meaning the cover can’t be reused as often.
Though the terms are often used interchangeably, there can be significant differences between All-In-Two and Hybrid diapers. The main differences are that Hybrid diapers use a disposable soaker pad option and Hybrids have a reusable soaker pad inside the Shell.SHOP AI2 >
A booster, often also called a doubler, is a way of adding more absorbency to a cloth diaper. A booster is usually made of 2 to 4 layers of fabric, depending upon the blend and is cut smaller than the main body of the diaper. The purpose is to add absorbency to a diaper for naps, nights, and sometimes for older toddlers. When choosing a booster you want it to be absorbent enough to work without being so broad and large that it effects the fit at the legs of the diaper, which could ultimately cause leaks. A booster or doubler that has a stay-dry top on one side of it is also a nice choice if they will be used at nights or for naps. SHOP BOOSTERS >
A cloth diaper is a reusable diaper which is laundered and used repeatedly, rather than thrown away like a disposable diaper. Cloth diapers are made with an absorbent material, either natural (cotton, bamboo, hemp, etc.) or synthetic (polyester, microfleece, etc.) Most modern cloth diapers also have an outer waterproof layer made out of some type of laminated polyester. They are available in many different styles from traditional flats and prefolds with covers to the modern styles of Pocket, All in Two, Hybrid, Fitted, and All In One. SHOP CLOTH DIAPERS >
Cloth wipes are used to clean up the diaper area of a baby when changing a diaper. Cloth wipes are reusable wipes made of an absorbent fabric which are made wet just before use. Many parents use cloth wipes in conjunction with cloth diapers, as laundering is quick and easy since both can go in the same pail when changing the diaper. Cloth wipes are typically the same size as their disposable counterparts, which makes storage in reusable containers and wipe warmers simple. They can be stored wet in a container or dry with a squirt bottle ready for dampening them. Some solutions used with wipes are made with essential oils or a few drops of baby wash, though it is both simple and safe to use plain water.
When choosing a cloth wipe, a two-ply wipe with at least one side textured is going to give the best control. Fewer cloth wipes will be used per change than disposable wipes because they are so much more effective at cleaning up. SHOP CLOTH WIPES >
Diaper Pail Liner
A diaper pail liner is a bag made of waterproof material used to line a diaper pail. When cloth diapers are soiled, they are placed in the pail until it is time to wash. Pail liners should be washed regularly with the diapers. A smaller version of a pail liner, known as a Wet Bag is often used when out and about. A pail liner might have an elasticized or drawstring opening and often fits in a standard tall kitchen garbage pail. There are also pail liners designed to hang from door knobs and hooks. Though these are great for adapting to storage space, they can be floppy and cumbersome to use. The patent pending Perfect Pailby GroVia is the only hanging pail that also has boning and structure that give it sturdiness and function, while also being fully machine washable. SHOP PAIL LINERS >
A disposable diaper is a 100% throwaway diaper made out of paper, synthetic, and chemical fillers which is meant to be disposed of after every use. Disposable diapers are available in a variety of styles and at many different price points. Having disposable diapers on hand in case of an emergency (such as prolonged power outage, unanticipated travel, if a child is using a medicated rash cream, etc.) is useful for families who otherwise use cloth diapers. Many manufacturers do not disclose the exact materials used in their disposable diapers, but some chemicals in them have been known to cause hormonal disruption in animals. There are also many children who have sensitivities to the materials in some disposable diapers, resulting in significant skin reactions. If disposable diapers are needed – or a family wishes to use cloth diapers part-time – there are low-chemical options that are ecologically more friendly as well.
DSQ- Diaper Service Quality
DSQ is an acronym that stands for Diaper Service Quality, and is used to describe prefold diapers that are made of high quality cotton materials and can withstand the aggressive wash routine used by diaper service companies. A diaper service typically uses intense heat, industrial machines and bleach in the cleaning process. Each of these parts of the cleaning process can be very harsh on many fabrics. When diapers are able to regularly withstand these washing conditions they can be an excellent diaper to have on hand. Most DSQ prefolds, however, are not cut to the lengths needed to fit in modern diaper covers, so they require additional folding and adjustment for the best fit.
A fitted diaper is a diaper entirely made of absorbent materials with elastic at the legs and waist and a hook and loop or snap closure. It might also have additional soaking layers in the wet zone. All of this means fitteds provide more absorbency and keep baby messes contained, but it also means fitteds have a bulkier fit than All-In-One or All-In-Two style diapers. The only other disadvantage is that fitteds are not waterproof and will require a cover if wearing under clothes. However, a good quality fitted diaper can be worn coverless.
There are several circumstances where fitteds are an excellent diapering choice. Without a waterproof layer, they are very breathable, allowing maximum airflow. The breathability is very good for rash-prone children, as it helps promote healing and healthy skin. A fitted diaper is still very breathable when paired with a wool or fleece soaker, and it is also an excellent option for night-time use and heavy wetters.SHOP FITTED DIAPERS >
A flat is a large single ply piece of fabric which can be folded to form a diaper. Most often made of cotton, flats can also be found with bamboo or hemp in the fabric’s blend. A flat will need to be secured with pins or Snappi and will need a diaper cover to be waterproof. Many trim-fitting modern cloth diaper covers can be paired with a pad-folded flat to make a trim and functional diapering option that is adjustable and washes and dries easily. Flats are available in a variety of dimensions depending upon the manufacturer. This is most relevant when the flat is going to be folded and fastened on the baby. If flats will be folded into a rectangular shape and laid in the diaper cover, then size is less of an issue, though larger flats do tend to be bulkier when folded in this way. SHOP FLATS >
Hook and Loop
Hook and loop is a general term describing the fastening materials made up of a soft plush loop material paired with nylon or plastic hook tape. Most commonly known by the brand names Velcro or Aplix, it is common choice closure for cloth diapers. Hook and loop closure allows for incredible easy use and adjustability. However, hook and loop materials do require some level of maintenance in the wash routine and will eventually wear out. Leading brands include integrated laundry tabs to hold hook and loop closures closed when washing and to prevent items from snagging in the wash. Greatest longevity for a diaper which has hook and loop will be achieved by line drying, which is a requirement of warranty coverage by many manufacturers. When considering a diaper with a hook and loop closure, ensure that the hook material will not cause discomfort by being in contact with your baby’s skin. SHOP HOOK AND LOOP >
Hybrid Diapers – also often called an All-In-Two Diapers – use a system which combines both cloth and disposable options for diapering. The cover, or shell, in a Hybrid system is reusable and will typically have either snaps or hook and loop closures, as well as elastic at the legs and waist. Some leading brands will include integrated snaps on the interior which are designed to hold absorbency layers in place. The absorbent pad, or soaker, can be either cloth or disposable.
There are several advantages to using a hybrid diaper when compared to disposable diapers. The most important of these is the flexibility to choose between cloth and disposable soaker options depending on the setting (at home, at daycare, travel, etc.) Some hybrid systems also have the flexibility and longevity of a one-size cover which means fewer items to purchase, as a one-size cover can be used from infancy through potty training. In addition, disposable soaker pads from some leading brands contain fewer chemicals and produce less landfill waste than disposables. Most disposable inserts are the same basic design, a thin papery outer layer on both sides with absorbent filling in between. The simple design of most disposable and cloth absorbency options means that moisture can pass through the insert or soaker, get wet on the other side, and therefore messes can soak through to the cover. Some brands – for example, the carefully engineered designs from GroVia – use elastic gussets on the top and a water resistant backing, both of which help keep the shell clean and dry so it can be reused more often. SHOP HYBRID DIAPERS >
A diaper insert is the absorbent layer of a pocket style cloth diaper. They are inserted into the opening of pocket diapers, and are most often made of microfiber material sewn into rectangular pads. Since the invention of the first All-In-Two and Hybrid diapers the term insert became more broadly used interchangeably with the term soaker to describe the absorbent materials of these diaper styles as well.
A cloth diaper liner is a thin layer of material placed on top of a cloth diaper. Cloth diaper liners are available in multiple materials for multiple uses. A flushable liner makes cleaning up a dirty diaper quick and easy because “solids” can be gathered and flushed away easily. A liner made from fleece gives a baby a stay dry feeling if they are sensitive to the wetness of natural fibers against their skin. These liners are also inexpensive, makes clean up easy, and minimizes staining. Liners in raw silk are also available, and are said to be useful in place of rash creams and ointments when baby’s bottom needs healing. These are delicate and expensive, however, so using them with every change is uncommon. Scraps of t-shirts or flannel are also sometimes used as liners with rash cream, as they help to protect the diaper from the repellant residue of the cream and are easily disposed of if necessary. SHOP LINERS >
A pocket diaper is made up of a waterproof cover that has a microfleece or suedecloth lining that forms a pocket between the lining and the cover. This allows you to insert absorbency layers into the pocket for collecting waste.
Key disadvantages of pocket diapers are that they tend to have a poor fit and you will have to “unstuff” the pocket before washing. Another disadvantage is the microfleece or suedecloth lining, which means you will have very little choice in what touches your baby’s sensitive skin besides synthetic fibers. Synthetic fibers aren’t breathable, so these fibers could cause diaper rashes. A key advantage of pocket diapers, though, is that it is relatively easy to add several types and amounts of absorbency layers.
A prefold is a style of diaper that is a rectangle of cotton, or another absorbent fabric, layered and sewn together. Prefolds are sized for the best fit, can be folded in a variety of ways, and can be fastened with either pins or a Snappi. SHOP PREFOLDS >
A diaper shell, also referred to as a cover, is a water-proof or water resistant cover that is worn over a fitted, prefold, or flat diaper. A shell can also be the outer piece used in an All in Two or Hybrid system. A diaper shell typically has elastic at the legs and back of the waist, and closes at the waist or hips with either snaps or a hook and loop fastener. A shell made of PUL or TPU fabric will be waterproof. Shells made from nylon, fleece and wool are also available and are water resistant. They are available in both sized and one-size options. A good-fitting shell can be the backbone of a cloth diaper stash. One-size shells tend to be a bit bulky at the smaller adjustments, but the flexibility of adjusting up (and sometimes down) in size as baby grows can be a very beneficial (and cost-saving) feature. SHOP SHELLS >
Snappi is a diaper fastener that was invented in South Africa in 1987 by a father looking for an easier way than pins to fasten his child’s cloth diapers. There are small plastic teeth on the ends of the fastener that allows the user to hook the snappi to the diaper and pull it to fasten from hip to hip and in the center below the waist. A Snappi is seen as a cloth diapering essential for anyone using flats, prefolds, or fitteds without a closure. SHOP SNAPPI >
A soaker pad is the absorbent layer of an All-In-Two or Hybrid diapering system. Soaker pads snap into the diaper shell, together forming a complete diaper. Soaker pads are available in a variety of materials to help fit the budgets and needs of different families. There are inexpensive soakers made of synthetic materials, bamboo, cotton and hemp blends, and organic cotton. There are also disposable soaker pads (also sometimes called inserts) designed for one-time use. The budget and diapering needs of a family will help determine which is best for them, but the flexibility of the All in Two and Hybrid design is behind the popularity of soaker pads. SHOP SOAKER PADS >
In the cloth diaper community a stash is one’s collection of cloth diapers. Stashes can contain a variety of diapers and can be fun to talk about and compare with other cloth diapering moms.
A wet bag is a small water resistant bag, typically made of the PUL or TPU fabric, and most often brought along in a diaper bag to carry home any dirty diapers. Wet bags have all of the same functions as a pail liner, but are smaller in size for convenience trips. Wet bags are a great cloth diapering accessory because they have many uses and functions, even after the diaper days are done. Keep one in the car with a spare set of clothing for your potty trained child, or take one along to the pool or swim lessons so you can bring wet suits home while keeping the rest of your bag dry. SHOP WET BAGS >In the cloth diaper community a stash is one’s collection of cloth diapers. Stashes can contain a variety of diapers and can be fun to talk about and compare with other cloth diapering moms.