Mastering Cloth Diaper Covers: How to Reuse and Maintain Them Effectively

By April Duffy •  Updated: 12/27/23 •  9 min read

The world of cloth diapers can be a bit overwhelming, especially when it comes to understanding the specifics of diaper covers. How do you reuse them? When should they be replaced? And how many do you actually need?

Fear not! In this article, I’ll demystify the process of reusing cloth diaper covers, guide you through their maintenance, and support you every step of the way, ensuring your transition to the whole new world cloth diaper covers open up is as smooth as possible. So, let’s dive right in, and soon, you’ll be a diaper cover pro!

Understanding Reusable Diaper Covers: What Are They?

So, what exactly are cloth diaper covers?

Cloth diaper covers are the waterproof outer layer used in various types of cloth diapering systems. They work in tandem with absorbent inner layers, such as inserts, prefolds, or fitted diapers. The primary role of the diaper cover is to provide a barrier that keeps moisture contained within the diaper, preventing leaks onto clothing, bedding, or other surfaces.

How are Diaper Covers Different from Pocket Diapers or All-in-Two Diapers?

I’ve written a full article comparing cloth diaper covers and pocket diaper covers here, but in short, a true diaper cover has no inner lining, unlike a pocket cover or many all-in-two covers.

Diaper covers can also be used with a larger number of absorbent diaper types, including prefold diapers, flat diapers, flour sack towels, fitted diapers, and inserts (links lead to more information on each type if you need it). Pocket diapers, while flexible, are limited by the size of the “pocket” the inner lining creates, but that’s not so with the lining-free diaper cover, which are much roomier.

It’s the lack of inner lining that makes them so flexible, cost-effective, and sustainable, so keep reading if you’re interested.

Why Diaper Covers are So Great

So that naturally leads us to the question, “Why should I opt for reusable diaper covers?” The answer is simple, reusable diaper covers can be used multiple times before needing a wash.

Unlike all-in-one, most all-in-two’s, or pocket cloth diapers that require washing after each use because they hold onto the urine (in that lining I spoke about earlier), cloth diaper covers are laminated fabric inside, alloing for repeated uses in between washes. This not only saves you money on your initial purchase of cloth diaper covers because you don’t need to buy as many, but also cuts down on laundry time – something every parent can appreciate!

Sustainability is another key benefit. By opting for reusable diaper covers, you are making an environmentally conscious choice not only over disposables of course, but over other diapering systems as well. You need less of them, and launder them less often.

In short, cloth diaper covers are a key player in the cloth diapering process. They provide a cost-effective, environmentally friendly solution that supports your cloth diapering goals. Stay with me as we explore more about these handy diapering tools, including how to effectively reuse and clean them, and the common questions around how many you need.

The Art of Reusing Diaper Covers: When and How?

When it comes to cloth diapering, one of the key advantages is the ability to reuse components. This “reusability” is taken to the extreme with cloth diaper covers.

Not only do diaper covers offer reusability (and significant cost savings and a reduction of waste ) over disposables, but they can actually be reused several times even before washing, reducing your laundry needs as well!

But knowing when and how to reuse diaper covers can be a bit of a mystery for beginners, so let’s clear up that confusion.

When to Reuse Diaper Covers

The golden rule for reusing diaper covers is fairly simple: if it’s only wet and doesn’t smell, it’s usually good for another round. For instance, if the cover has only been dampened by a small amount of urine, you can wipe it clean with a damp cloth or wipe and let it air dry for the next use.

However, if the cover is soiled, with poop or a lot of urine, or if it’s been a significant number of changes and the cover is looking and/or smelling less than fresh, it’s time for a full wash before reuse.

Reusing Diaper Covers and Hygiene

Wiping clean an unsoiled diaper cover is perfectly hygienic and sanitary, as long as they’re cleaned properly. So let’s cover exactly how to make sure they’re cleaned properly.

How to Check and Clean Diaper Covers for Reuse

Cleaning a reusable diaper cover is quite straightforward. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Check for solids: If there is any solids that made their way onto the diaper cover, remove them using your usual poop removal method, and place the cover in your dirty diaper storage for washing.
  2. Remove any wetness: If the diaper cover has any urine on it, wipe it off with a wet wipe or damp cloth
  3. Check For persistent wetness: If any part of the diaper cover that isn’t laminated, such as the velcro or leg elastics, becomes wet and isn’t possible to wipe clean, put the diaper cover into the wash.
  4. Air dry: Once the the cover has been wiped clean and let it air dry. While many diaper covers can technically be tumble-dried, air drying is gentler and can help extend the lifespan of the cover.
  5. Check before reuse: Before you reuse the cover, check it for any signs of smell or lingering wetness; if everything looks good, it’s ready for another round!

By following these steps, you’ll not only keep your diaper covers clean and hygienic but also get as many uses out of them as possible. Remember, every time you reuse a diaper cover, you’re not just saving yourself laundry, you’re increasing the longevity of your diaper covers as the washing process can contribute to the wearing out of diapers, naturally (as can keeping bacteria on them, so definitely make sure you’re wiping them as clean as possible and cleaning them when they need to be cleaned).

How Often Should You Change Cloth Diapers and Their Covers?

You might be wondering – how often do I need to change a cloth diaper and its cover? The answer, like so many things in parenting, is that it depends.

The age of your baby, their food and liquid intake, and sleeping patterns will all dictate how often your baby will wet their diapers and the inserts, prefolds, flats or fitted diapers you use inside your diaper covers will need to be changed.

Newborns, for instance, typically need to be changed more often — usually after every feed. As the baby grows older and starts solids, the number of diaper changes might decrease to six to eight times a day.

You’ll often hear that on average, you should expect to change your baby’s diaper every two to three hours. However, this frequency is a guideline, not a rule to set your watch by as it’s crucial to change a diaper as soon as it becomes wet or dirty to keep your baby comfortable and prevent diaper rash (and yeast growth).

You can find my full discussion on how often to change your baby here, but the short answer is, as soon as they wet unless they are sleeping (sleep is so precious, it takes precedence).

With all that said, the number of times you need to change your baby’s diaper cover will be less. Unless you have a baby that soils their diaper every time they wet (this can happen, especially with newborns, but it usually passes), you can usually get away with two to four diaper changes to every diaper cover change.

In other words, you should be able to wipe your cloth diaper clean one to three times before putting it into the wash, meaning you need roughly one diaper cover for every three diapers (as a loose average).

How Many Diaper Covers Do You Need for Your Baby?

As usual, how many cloth diaper covers you’ll want to invest in depends on how old your baby is, how frequently they soil their diapers, and how often you want to wash your diapers (the longer you go between washing, the more you will need.

I have more information and a chart to help you work out how many diapers on average a baby needs here that takes those factors into account, but when consulting it, don’t forget that unlike the diaper itself, a cover does not need changing with every diaper change. If it’s not soiled, you can simply wipe the cover clean and air it out before reusing it with a clean diaper.

Most families start with around 10-12 diaper covers for a newborn, decreasing to about 8-10 as the baby grows and the rate of diaper changes slows, but again, this number may vary based on how frequently you prefer doing laundry, and your baby’s unique needs.

Conclusion:

Besides being a sustainable option, cloth diapering with reusable covers is a friendly choice for your baby’s skin, and guess what — your wallet too!

If you’re looking for a solid cloth diaper cover for a good price, check out our recent review of Mama Koala Diaper Covers, and do check out our Black Friday page for diaper deals coming soon.

Remember, parenting is a wild journey filled with beautiful moments, few floods, and many diaper changes! Happy diapering!

April Duffy

April is the founder of Cloth Diapers for Beginners and author of The Cloth Diaper Wash & Care Handbook. Since 2015, April has helped well over 75,000 parents and caregivers cloth diaper their children through this website, her book, her YouTube Channel, and the Cloth Diapers for Beginners Facebook Group.