How Many Cloth Diapers Do I Need?


You will need 36 cloth diapers in order to cloth diaper your child full-time. A baby can soil up to 12 diapers per day, and most families wash diapers every 3 days. If you plan to wash every 2 days, 24 cloth diapers will all that you need in order to use cloth diapers full-time.

36 (or 3 dozen) cloth diapers is a good place to start when building your cloth diaper stash. This number will change as you figure out what works best for your family. There are many variables that will affect how many diapers you will need or want.

For instance, if you plan to wash the diapers every day or every other day, you may be able to get by with less than 3 dozen. Or maybe you have more than one child in diapers, this means you will need a larger stash.

Start with 36 diapers per child and over time you can adjust that number to fit your life. Chances are you will end up purchasing more cloth diapers as you try out different types, and as new adorable prints are released.

How often do I need to wash cloth diapers?

3 dozen cloth diapers will easily get you 3 days until you will need to wash them. It is not recommended that you let soiled diapers sit more than 3 days without washing.

Some people wash diapers every day, some people wash every other day, but I have found that life happens and I can’t keep up with all the other laundry if I am washing diapers every day. I prefer to have a large enough stash that will allow me to go as long as possible before I need to wash.

The reason for washing at least every 3 days is to minimize stink, to prevent stains from setting in, and to prevent mold and mildew issues. If you encounter any of these problems then you might need to consider a disinfection/sanitation treatment.

I also like to have a large enough load of diapers so that I don’t have to worry that they are not agitating properly, which can happen if your load size is too small. Anything less than a dozen diapers is a small load. Even with 2 children in diapers, it might take two or three days for my kids to dirty enough diapers to fill my washing machine.

It takes some trial and error to figure out your ideal load size as well as how long you like to go between washes. If you prefer to wash more often but you need a larger load size for proper agitation, you can throw in some towels to bulk up the load.

If you have an HE washing machine you might find your machine is not getting the diapers clean. This may be because HE machines determine how much water to add to the cycle based upon the weight of the load. This can cause issues with cloth diapers because they are so absorbent that they soak up all the water that is intended to wash them. If you encounter this problem, you can add a wet towel to the load before you start the cycle. This will signal to your machine that the load is heavier and it needs more water.

How often do I change a cloth diaper?

If your child poops you will of course need to change that diaper immediately. Some people change their baby as soon as they wet. This might be more feasible with disposable diapers, as most disposable have an indicator line on the outside that turns a different color when the baby pees. When using cloth, you would have to be checking quite often either by opening the diaper up to look or feel or by sticking a finger in the diaper to feel if it is wet. Personally, I don’t like to stick my finger into a possibly dirty diaper, I also do not spend my day constantly checking to see if the baby has peed in their diaper. A good rule of thumb is to change a diaper every 2-3 hours.

How many cloth diapers do I need per day?

Some people wonder how many diapers they will go through per day. This will vary based upon how old your child is, as well as how often you will change your child. Newborns will go through the most diapers per day. You can expect a newborn to soil up to 12 diapers per day. If you are diligent to change a diaper as soon as it is soiled, you might go through more than that.

I tend to change as soon as baby poops, and if baby hasn’t pooped then I try to change around every 2-3 hours. I certainly don’t have a timer going, nor am I looking at the clock to make sure it has been exactly 2 hours. This is a mommy skill that is developed over time. It just becomes second nature, and you’ll know when it’s time to change baby.

For older babies and toddlers, you will go through less diapers per day. If you change every 2 hours you’ll need 6 diapers to get you through the day, and another 1 or 2 for overnight.

How many cloth diapers do I need for 2 kids?

Photo: My two youngest sporting mother-ease fitteds.

If you have twins or 2 children in diapers at the same time, you will need to double your cloth diaper inventory. 3 dozen diaper changes per child will be an adequate amount. 72 cloth diapers are enough to cloth diaper 2 children if you wash every 3 days. Just take the number of children you have in diapers and multiply it by 36. This is how many diapers you will need in your stash in order to cloth diaper full time.

How many cloth diapers do I send to daycare?

Most daycare providers change children at least every 2 hours, so take the number of hours your child will be at daycare and divide by 2. 8 hours at daycare = 4 diapers. If you have two children then double it to 8 diapers. I would pack an extra diaper or two just to be safe.

You’ll need to discuss cloth diapering with your childcare provider prior to sending your child to daycare with cloth. Some providers may be more than willing to accommodate your request, while others may not. All-In-One type diapers are going to be the most daycare friendly option, so it may be worth investing in at least a dozen All-In-One type diapers to keep things simple for them. Disposable cloth diaper liners would also make diaper changes easier for them.

How many cloth diaper covers do I need?

cloth diaper waterproof cover

If you are using a cloth diapering system that requires a waterproof cover such as prefolds, flats, or fitteds, then you will need to purchase a minimum of 6 diaper covers. A cover can be reused for several diaper changes as long as poop does not get on it, and it stays dry.

So for example, if you throw the cover in the diaper pail every other time you change baby, then 6 covers will last you 1 day. This would not work for me and my 3 day wash routine. Another way people determine how many covers they need is to simply figure out how many times their child poops in a 2-3 day period, and to buy that many covers.

Something people often don’t account for is the diapers they will keep in their diaper bag. I like to keep a few cloth diapers, covers, and a wet bag in the diaper bag ready to go. You might consider buying extra of these items so that you don’t have to dip into your home stash.

How many cloth inserts do I need for pocket diapers?

If you are using a cloth diapering system that requires inserts, then you will need to purchase a minimum of 36 inserts. Keep in mind if your inserts are sized, you will want 36 inserts in each size.

How many cloth wipes do I need?

Because it usually takes more than 1 wipe to clean up a messy bottom, you’ll need at least 4 dozen cloth wipes. You really can’t buy too many wipes. If you find that you don’t need as many as you thought, then you can always use them for some other purpose.

How long do cloth diapers last?

Another thing you might be considering when building your cloth diaper stash is how long will cloth diapers last. How much use will you get out of your stash before wear & tear causes you to purchase replacement diapers? Generally, you can expect to be able to use your cloth diapers from birth to potty training, before they deteriorate beyond use. Another common time-frame to go by is 1 year of use.

This is largely influenced by the quality of the diaper to begin with, and also how large your stash is. A larger stash will last longer because the diapers will not have to be washed as often. The more they go through the washer and dryer, the more they deteriorate. This is true of any fabric or piece of clothing.

Limiting harsh cleaning agents such as bleach and vinegar will also increase the longevity of your diapers. If you can hang/line dry your diapers this will also help.

I personally have found the cloth diapers I’ve used to last much longer than 1 year. My GMD Cloth-eez Prefolds have been used on 3 children, and they are still in great condition. This won’t hold true for every type or brand of diaper however.

Other Cloth Diapering Necessities

  • Wet Bags – 2
  • Pail & Liners – 2 of each if you will be cloth diapering on multiple levels of your house
  • Pins, Snappi, or Boingo – 3 or more if you will be using diapers that need to be fastened

How to save money on cloth diapers

If you are looking for ways to save money on your cloth diaper stash, consider buying in bulk. You can get great discounts this way. Be sure to check out the article I wrote here for more ways to save money when purchasing cloth diapers.

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