Cloth Diapering 101

New to cloth diapering? Use this guide to learn the basics.

Types of Cloth Diapers

There are different styles of diapers to meet the needs of each individual family and baby. All babies are shaped differently and have different absorbency needs so one type of diaper may work better for your baby than another. In addition to fit and absorbency, many families may also compare convenience versus cost. For example, an all in one or pocket diaper may be more convenient, but a two piece system is typically less expensive and can be more absorbent.

All In One

All In One, commonly known as AIO, is the most similar type of cloth diaper to a disposable diaper. The one piece system consists of a waterproof cover with the absorbency sewn inside.

Thirsties One Size AIO comes with 4 total layers of absorbent microfiber terry, a microfleece liner and a reliable waterproof exterior. The soaker is topped with our stay-dry microfleece which keeps your baby feeling dry. An additional layer of terry lies between the microfleece and PUL body of the diaper providing a last line of defense. 

To use: Simply slide the diaper under baby and fasten with hook and loop or snap closure.

Pros: Convenient, easy, quick, daycare and sitter friendly, great for diaper bags, can be paired with insert for additional absorbency

Cons: May need additional absorbency for heavy wetters or extended, overnight use.


A pocket diaper is a 2 piece system consisting of a waterproof outer shell sewn together with stay-dry lining with openings on one or both ends. The sleeve or pocket that is created is used to stuff the included absorbent insert.

Thirsties One Size Pocket Diaper comes with a waterproof shell with a stay-dry lining sewn into it. The openings on both ends make for easy stuffing while allowing the insert to easily agitate out of the diaper in the wash. The inserts feature three layers of serged microfiber terry snapped together with five serged layers of hemp jersey; eight thirsty layers in all!

40% of our customers chose pocket diapers as their favorite type of cloth diaper. (Based on 2012 Thirsties Customer Survey of 720 cloth diapering families)

To use: Secure the insert within the tunnel or pocket, slide the diaper under baby and fasten with hook and loop or snap closure. You may find it easier to stuff the inserts into the diapers right after washing and drying, so that your diaper is ready for use.

Pros: Convenient, adjustable, daycare and sitter friendly (when inserts are pre-stuffed), absorbent

Cons: Bulkier than other diapers, need to stuff inserts into diaper after laundering


Fitted diapers are made from absorbent fabric that is tailored to fit, providing complete coverage around your baby. Fitted diapers require the use of a diaper cover to make it waterproof. The use of the fitted diaper and a cover provides two elastic barriers at the legs and waist to prevent leaks.

Thirsties Duo Fab Fitted includes a signature tunnel design which allows for thorough cleaning and stuffing of additional absorbency as needed. The interior is lined with a stay-dry fleece to keep baby comfortable and dry. The soaker (absorbency) is made of microfiber terry.

To use: Simply take the fitted diaper, slide under baby, and fasten hook and loop or snap closure. Repeat steps with the diaper cover.

Pros: Ultra absorbent, soft, comfortable, can be paired with insert for additional absorbency

Cons: Bulky, long dry time, higher cost, 2 piece system that must be paired with absorbent layer

Prefold and Flat

Prefold and flat diapers are what most people think of when cloth diapering is referenced. Prefolds are popular for their affordability and are the most common diaper supplied by cloth diaper services. Using prefolds or flats requiring folding the diaper and then covering it with a waterproof diaper cover. Snappis are a popular closure used to secure prefolds and flats.

Thirsties Duo Hemp Prefold’s revolutionary tunnel design provides a trim fit and is beneficial for better washing and quicker drying times. Our custom hemp jersey is incredibly soft and knitted right here in the USA. We do not recommend the use of diaper pins or Snappi fasteners with Thirsties Duo Hemp Prefolds as the fabric is knit and the sharp points on the fasteners may damage the fabric. We recommend trifolding our prefolds.

To use: Fold the prefold into thirds, and lay into a trim waterproof cover such as the Thirsties Duo Wrap or Thirsties Diaper Cover, and fasten hook and loop or snap closure. For added absorbency in the front for little boys fold the prefold down on top and then trifold.

Pros: Very absorbent, durable, soft, versatile, affordable

Cons: Takes extra time to fold

Stay Dry Duo Insert (exclusive to Thirsties)

Thirsties Stay Dry Duo Insert is a specialty that has two layers of our fast absorbing microfiber terry, topped with our stay-dry and stain resistant microfleece and snapped together with five layers of our buttery soft hemp jersey. Use the insert with a trim fitting cover to provide a snug fit.

To use: Lay the insert into the diaper cover, slide the insert and cover under the baby, and fasten hook and loop or snap closures.

Pros: Easy, quick, absorbent, affordable

Cons: Less coverage than a prefold or fitted diaper

Cover and Wrap

Covers and wraps are waterproof barriers that are used over fitteds, prefolds, specialty inserts, or flat diapers. The laminate inside of the diaper can be wiped clean between uses, allowing you to use the cover for 3-4 diaper changes before washing.

Thirsties offers our Diaper Cover and Duo Wrap as waterproofing options for your cloth diapers. The Diaper Cover comes in 4 sizes, has a generous cut, and the x-small features an umbilical cord cut-out. The Duo Wrap uses the duo sizing system and offers a trimmer fit.

To use: With the absorbent layer fastened on baby or placed inside the cover, slide cover under baby, and fasten with hook and loop or snap closure.

Pros: Light and pliable, double leg gussets, easy to use

Cons: 2 piece system that must be paired with absorbent layer