Cloth Diaper Liners: What they are, why you might want to use them, the difference between disposable liners and reusable diaper liners, and how to make them.
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Originally published 7/17/2013. Completely updated 9/13/2019.
The major complaint with cloth diapers is dealing with poop. And in fairness, it’s not that much fun. So hold onto your pants folks, I’m about to get into the nitty gritty grossness of cloth diapers— you’ve been warned.
Once babies are through the breastmilk phase and move onto solids or formula, poop needs to be rinsed from diapers into the toilet. This can be hard or easy- sometimes you can just flip the poop into the toilet, and other times you need to actually swish, dunk, and all that jam.
It’s not the most glamorous part of cloth diapering.
There’s a number of ways to make rinsing diapers a bit easier- but the one that I like the most is using a liner.
What Do Cloth Diaper Liners Do?
Cloth diaper liners provide a barrier between the baby’s butt and the diaper itself. Poop will, hopefully, get only on the liner so you can either toss the liner in the garbage or do the dunk/swish routine with the liner only.
I find that cleaning off a liner is a lot easier than dealing with the whole diaper- which I need to remove the inserts from first (I use pockets).
One of my favorite things is that there aren’t any crevices to a liner… versus my diapers sometimes get poop near the elastic area and I find that area is harder to rinse off.
In case you’re wondering- we use the dunk and swish method exclusively for cleaning our diapers. I have cloth diapered three kids and prefer this method to using a sprayer. It’s simple, it doesn’t use a lot of equipment, and I don’t need to worry about storing items like the Spray Pal, which is a method of containing all of the water splatter that happens when you use a sprayer. Sprayers and buckets work great- don’t get me wrong. It’s just not my thing.
OH! Another use for liners is to provide a barrier between the baby’s bottom and the diaper if you’re using diaper creams for a rash. This keeps the diaper from being ruined (there’s a lot of fixing to do if some chemicals get on the cloth diaper- some chemicals can effect the absorbency of the diaper which thereby causes leaking).
Disposable Liners for Diapers
Many people love disposable liners so I tried some with my first son. They work well– much better than I anticipated. What it boils down to, however, is that they are costly. They must be disposed of, not reused, and you need to remember that you’re disposing of them every diaper change… not just for poopy diapers.
When I bought them (I got the Bummis brands) they were $8 for 100 large liners or $0.08 per liner.
While they worked well for us, they did have TWO major issues:
- I cloth diapered to save money and this negated some of those savings.
- You need to dispose of them. This means more poopy garbage to deal with. One of the things I like about cloth diapers is that I can flush the poop, then wash everything. There’s no lingering poop in the garbage can (or wet bag or any other place).
Many of these liners claim to be flushable, but this is probably not a safe bet, particularly if you have septic. Even some popular toilet paper brands- and Kleenex- really shouldn’t be flushed because it doesn’t break down easily.
That’s the whole point of toilet paper- when water hits it, it breaks down quickly so it won’t cause clogs. I imagine this is just as relevant to public systems, but public systems clogs may not come back to — ahem— bite you in the butt like a septic backup will.
Needless to say, if you plan to use disposable liners then you need to plan for how you’ll store the poopy liners until garbage day.
The one time I STRONGLY prefer disposable liners is when baby has a rash and needs non CD-friendly cream. I’d rather just throw them away than worry about washing the reusable liners, seeing the chemicals can impact absorbency.
DIY Disposable Liners
If disposable liners are your thing, some folks like to make them to save money. Many just use heavier duty paper towels. This is a decent savings. You can read more about the effectiveness and comparison of the DIY liners vs. store bought liners here.
Reusable Diaper Liners
Reusable liners are my preferred option for every day use because they don’t cost as much to use. The reason they’re cheaper is that ANYONE can make their own, provided you have a good pair of scissors.
They do require you to rinse them out, just like a cloth diaper, before putting them through the wash. Some people choose to throw them out for particularly gross diapers. I just rinse them- again, I’m
cheap thrifty and 3 kids in so I’m immune to grossness too tired to care. Haha.
How to Make Reusable Diaper Liners
Making your own reusable diaper liners is EASY. You need some scissors and some fabric. Fabric from upcycled blankets/clothing is fine!
Fabric Choice for Diaper Liners
For fabric, you want to use something that will let liquid pass through. For example, fleece is a good option for liners, but you need to test your fleece. Some fleece will repel liquids which means that if you put a few drops of water on top of them, the drops will stay on top of the liner and may even roll off to the side. THAT is not good for a liner. You want pee to pass through easily or you may end up with leaks.
Fleece for liners should let the water droplets pass through fairly quickly. This is called “wicking” and they wick the moisture through them to the absorbency below (the insert). It also provides a stay dry barrier so the baby doesn’t feel like they’re sitting in wet all night (or during the day).
From my experience, 100% polyester anti pill fleece works. But I always test because occasionally I run into cuts of fleece that repel liquid. I think blizzard fleece also did well. But I’ve had a few licensed fleece prints that will only repel. So just make sure to give it a test.
A note on testing your fabric: If the fabric is brand new or has been washed with fabric softener, it may repel EVEN IF it would normally be okay for diapers. You really need to wash the fabric a few times with cloth diaper safe detergent before testing it.
Making the Liners
All you need to do is cut your liners into the size and shape you want. I use rectangles and make sure to cut them so they fit MY DIAPERS. As you may know, I make most of my diapers.
I made some brown liners for my one size diapers that are 11×4.5″. They fit well, but I made green liners for my larger diapers.
These green liners are 5.25×13″.
Take your fleece. Wash it well.
Cut it into rectangles that are slightly less wide than your diaper… I like mine to fit between the elastic area. I don’t want the fleece liner peeking out when the diaper is on.
Here’s a quick and unnecessary video…
I recommend cutting a few and seeing how you like the size and shape. If they work, repeat and make a bunch. If not, adjust the size or shape and experiment a bit.
Fleece doesn’t fray so you don’t need to worry about sewing the edges.
Just pop those liners in your cloth diapers before you put the diaper on baby. They don’t ALWAYS catch everything, but I find they work most of the time.
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Danielle Pientka is the sewing and DIY blogger behind DIYDanielle.com. She taught herself to sew in 2011 when she wanted to make cloth diapers for her first son. She’s been sewing everything from ecofriendly items to kids products to clothing since, as it has become a passion. She loves learning how to do new things and teaching others in the process. She hopes to inspire other moms to take time for themselves to find their own creative passion.
Danielle lives in Maryland with her three young sons and her husband, Brandon. In her spare time, she gardens, reads, horseback rides, and has a small homestead with goats and ducks. Visit her shop to buy patterns or her sewing eBooks. Subscribe to her newsletter to get blog updates, free patterns and other printables by clicking here.