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Types of Cloth Diapers

Types of Cloth Diapers - Different Types of Cloth Diapers

One of the most frustrating aspects of being new to cloth diapers is trying to figure out the different types of cloth diapers and cloth diapering terminology. When we were researching types of cloth diapers we walked around in an information-overloaded fog for a week. Although it may be confusing at first, most of the terms are easy to figure out once you know a little about them. This list will give you a good start to figuring out cloth diapering "lingo" and the main types of cloth diapers.

AIO - All in One

Types of Cloth Diapers - AIO AIO cloth diapers are shaped very much like disposable diapers with an hourglass shape and elastic in the legs and waist to keep messes inside. All-in-one cloth diapers consist a waterproof outer, an absorbent soaker, and a one-piece inner. They close with snaps or a hook and loop system similar to Velcro, called aplix or touchtape. All-in-one diapers come in different sizes to fit from birth to potty learning. There are two types of AIO: True and Quick Dry. AIOs are one-piece diapers that do not need a cover. This makes them one of the most simple types of cloth diapers.

AI2 - All in Two

AI2 cloth diapers are similar to AIOs except that the soaker in an AI2 is separate from the diaper body. Usually AI2 soaker is snapped to the diaper body, but it may be laid or sewn in also. AI2s do not need a cover because the diaper body has a waterproof outer layer. One advantage to AI2 cloth diapers is that the body and soaker separate for thorough cleaning and quick drying. Another advantage is that the soaker can be replaced if it wears out before the diaper body.

Contours - Contour Diapers

Contour diapers are hourglass shaped but do not have elastic in the leg or waist areas. They are very similar to prefold cloth diapers, but are easier to use because they do not need to be folded. Contour cloth diapers do not have attached closures so they must be fastened with a snappi or diaper pins. Contour cloth diapers do not have a waterproof layer so you will need a cover, unless you plan to let your child go coverless.

Contours - Contour Soakers and Inserts

Contour soakers and inserts are usually rectangular or hourglass-shaped and consist of several layers of absorbent fabric. Contour soakers are separate from the cloth diaper body and may be laid in, sewn in or snapped in to the back of the diaper. Usually QD contour inserts and soakers are left open on two or more sides so the absorbent layers will separate during laundering for thorough washing and quick drying.

Coverless

Types of Cloth Diapers - Coverless Many cloth diapering parents do not put covers over contours, flats, prefolds, or fitted cloth diapers when they are at home. Going coverless allows for better air circulation and is a cool option in warm weather. We let our son go coverless around the house in the summer, but our winters call for wool pants!

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Diaper Covers

Diaper covers come in different styles and are made from various waterproof materials. PUL, Windpro fleece, and wool are popular diaper cover materials. Diaper covers are used over contours, flats, prefolds, and fitted cloth diapers to provide a waterproof outer layer. Generally diaper covers consist of an hourglass shape with elastic in the legs and waist to keep messes inside. Some diaper covers fasten with snaps or a hook and loop system similar to Velcro, called aplix or touchtape while others simply pull on. Diaper covers come in sizes to fit from birth to potty learning, and when paired with prefolds or flats are a low-cost cloth diapering system.

Diaper Cover Clothing

Diaper cover clothing is known by many names. Longies, shorties, wool pants, wool shorts, soaker pants, and soaker shorts are some of the more common names. Diaper cover clothing is usually pull-on pants or shorts, although skorts, bloomers and capris are popular choices for girls. They are worn over flats, prefolds, and fitted cloth diapers to act as both a diaper cover and article of clothing. Diaper cover clothing can be knit from wool or acrylic yarn, or sewn from wool or fleece fabric. Diaper cover clothing is convenient because it replaces both a diaper cover and regular clothing.

Doubler

Types of Cloth Diapers - Doublers Doublers are similar to contour soakers but usually have less layers than a soaker and may be a bit smaller. They can be added to any cloth diaper to add absorbency for naps, long trips or if your child is going through a "super soaker" phase. Some doublers can be used as soakers inside newborn diaper covers or as inserts for newborn sized pocket diapers.

Fitteds - Fitted Diapers

Fitted diapers are very similar to a disposable diaper with an hourglass shape and elastic in the legs and waist to keep messes inside. Fitted diapers close with snaps or a hook and loop system called aplix or touchtape. Fitted diapers are not waterproof and usually require a separate diaper cover, unless your child is going coverless. Because the closures on fitted diapers keep them on without a diaper cover, they are a perfect choice for under wool or fleece diaper cover pants or shorts. Fitted diapers come in true,QD, and pocket styles, and sizes to fit from birth to potty learning.

Flats - Flat Diapers

Flats are probably the type of cloth diapers your grandmother used, and what most people picture when they hear the words "cloth diapers." Flats are large rectangles, usually made of a few layers of diaper gauze. They must be folded and fastened with diaper pins or a Snappi. Because they do not have a waterproof layer they must be covered with a separate cover, or wool or fleece diaper cover clothing, unless you choose to let your child go coverless. Flats wash and dry very quickly because they do not contain many layers of fabric. They are not the most absorbent choice of cloth diapers, but with diaper covers they are a low-cost cloth diapering system.

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Inserts

Inserts are the absorbent material in pocket diapers, and come in many different sizes, styles, and fabrics. By using different amounts of inserts and inserts of different fabrics, you can always provide the perfect absorbency for your child's needs. Inserts can be contour or trifold. Prefolds, flats, hand towels and other absorbent materials can also be used as inserts.

Longies

"Longies" is anotgher term for wool pants and usually refers to knitted or croched pants. For information about longies, please see diaper cover clothing.

Night Diapers

Night diapers can be as simple as doubled prefolds, or may be diapers made to meet the unique requirements of nighttime diapering. Most night diapers are more absorbent than regular diapers, and may be more bulky because of the extra absorbency. Pocket style night diapers are a great option because the absorbency can be customized to meet your child's changing needs.

PFs - Prefolds

Prefold cloth diapers are sometimes considered to be a step up from flat diapers. Prefolds are rectangles of absorbent fabric, usually serged on all four sides, similar to flats, but with extra layers of material in the center section. Prefolds need to be folded, then fastened with diaper pins or a Snappi. Prefolds need to be covered with a separate cover, or wool or fleece diaper cover clothing unless your child is going coverless. Prefolds come in several sizes to fit from birth to potty learning and when paired with diaper covers are a low-cost cloth diapering system. Prefold cloth diapers unfold in the wash for thorough cleaning and quick drying.

Pocket Diapers

Types of Cloth Diapers - Pocket Pocket diapers are similar to disposable diapers with an hourglass shape and elastic in the legs and waist to contain messes. Most pocket diapers consist of a waterproof outer layer and a stay-dry inner layer of microfleece or suedecloth, however pocket-style fitted diapers without the waterproof layer are gaining in popularity. Pocket diapers and pocket style fitted diapers are often used at night because the stay-dry lining helps baby sleep better. Pocket diapers are unique because the front or back edge is left open for stuffing with an absorbent insert. The insert comes out of the diaper for thorough cleaning and quick drying, and can be replaced if needed without replacing the entire diaper.

QD - Quick Dry

Types of Cloth Diapers - Soaker QD cloth diapers have an hourglass shape and elastic in the legs and waist to keep messes inside. The soaker in a QD diaper is separate from the diaper body and may be laid into the diaper, sewn, or snapped to the diaper inner. QD soakers come in trifold or contour shapes. One advantage to QD diapers is that the body and soaker separate for thorough cleaning and quick drying.

Shorties

"Shorties" is another name for wool shorts. For information about wool shorts, please see diaper cover clothing.

Snappi

Snappis are three legged plastic devices that fasten cloth diapers by grabbing the fabric with tiny teeth. Two legs are used to fasten the diaper horizontally and the third keeps the fabric from drooping in the front. Snappis are often used in place of diaper pins because they can be applied without worry about poking the child. Snappis do wear out over time and should be tested prior to each use.

Soaker

"Soaker" can refer to two separate cloth diapering products. Often it refers to the middle layer in cloth diapers that absorbs wetness. An absorbent soaker can be contour, trifold, or true. The term "soaker" can also refer to a pull on style of diaper cover.

Trifold

Trifold inserts and soakers are rectangles of absorbent fabric serged on all four sides and folded into thirds for use. Trifold inserts are stuffed into pocket diapers to provide absorbency. Some trifold inserts are large enough to be folded and laid into a cover like a prefold. Trifold soakers may be laid into cloth diapers or have snaps in the middle section to snap into a diaper body. Some trifold soakers have microfleece, suedecloth, or another fabric on the sections that touch baby's skin. Both trifold inserts and soakers unfold in the wash for thorough cleaning and quick drying.

True AIO or fitted

"True" is a term sometimes used to describe a cloth diaper that has its soaker sewn inside the the diaper body so the entire diaper consists of a single piece. True AIO diapers may take longer to dry than Quick Dry and some parents worry that they don't get as clean as diapers with a detached soaker. Because "true" style cloth diapers are one single piece they are a very easy transition from disposable to cloth diapers.

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WIO - Wool in One

A Wool in One is not really "in One" because wool fabric requires different care than diaper fabrics do. WIOs are similar to AI2s, having a waterproof outer diaper body made of wool, and a detachable soaker in an AI2 separate from the diaper body. Usually a WIO soaker is snapped to the diaper body, it cannot be sewn in because of the different care required for each fabric. WIO cloth diapers are easy to care for because only the soaker needs to be laundered after each use, the wool outer does not. Like AI2s, the soaker of a WIO can be replaced if it wears out before the wool outer.

WI2 - Wool in Two

"Wool in Two" is a more accurate name for the diaper system known as a WIO.

Wool Pants, Wool Shorts

Wool pants and shorts are a type of diaper cover clothing. Generally they are made of wool fabric instead of knitting or crochet. Knitted or crocheted items are often called longies or shorties.

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Happy Cloth Diapering!

Amy Sue

Amy S. Nogar - Owner Zany Zebra Designs, LLC
Cloth Diapering Expert and Advocate

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