Getting Started with Cloth Diapers – Part 2, by ADC

(Continued from Part 1. This concludes the article.)

Cloth Diapering when TSHTF

It is important to remember that SHTF is a spectrum. The S is H-ing TF right now everywhere and H-ing extra hard in several places. I, for one, have broken the seal on my SHTF ammunition reserve. Yet, the electricity and the plumbing still work. We can continue diapering as normal, and don’t have to hope that the shelves aren’t stripped of diapers, and that the store hasn’t shut down because of the pandemic, and that rioters haven’t burned the store down. Detergent is the only diaper supply that we have to purchase on a regular basis. We could lay in months worth of detergent, and it would take up far less space and cost far less money than months worth of disposables.

In a TEOTWAWKI situation, cloth will rapidly become the only option for diapering. If your baby is already in cloth diapers, simply continue using the supplies you already have. If you do not already cloth diaper your baby, or you need to help with someone else’s baby, flats will come in handy.

As discussed in the “Gear” section in Part 1, the prefolds that we have been working with are actually flats that have been permanently stitched into a specific size and shape. A flat in its native state is a single-layer square sheet of fabric, preferably somewhat coarse cotton, about 28 inches on a side. This size can be adapted to diaper a child from birth up through the completion of potty training.

The simplest flat diaper fold is a variation on the ever-versatile triangle bandage. Fold the flat into a right triangle (1), then fold that right triangle into another, smaller right triangle (2), place the long edge behind your baby (3), fold the right-angle corner up the groin (4), fold the tips under to adjust size, (5), then fold together and secure with a Snappi (6).

The winter camo bandana that Edward is wearing is a bit smaller than the proper size, but Edward is also a bit smaller than a typical full-term newborn.

When your baby gets too big for a double-folded flat, simply use two layers of single-folded flats. There are also numerous other flat folds, but I have no experience with them.

Improvising Diapers

A flat diaper can be improvised from many different items, but there are a few pointers to keep in mind. First, microfiber is so absorbent that it will suck away the natural moisture and oils that your baby’s skin needs. It can be used as supplemental layer for extra absorbency, but it should never go directly against your baby’s skin. Synthetic fleece is not absorbent at all: it will wick moisture away from your baby and into a puddle in the cover. Fleece can be used to make covers, however. I have never heard of anyone improvising a diaper out of wool, probably because wool is relatively less common and more expensive than cotton, and it is a good material for covers. Terrycloth towels are plenty absorbent, but many of them are so thick that they’re impractical for diaper material. In general, any fabric presented as waterproof or moisture-wicking would make a poor diaper, but might make a good diaper cover. Fabrics with high thread counts of very fine threads (such as bed sheets) can be made to work, but are not ideal.

If necessary, a cloth diaper can be used without a closure device (such as a Snappi), but doing so is much more likely to get the cover dirty. Two standard-size safety pins can be used (carefully!) to keep a cloth diaper shut, as can a pair of clasps from an ACE bandage. Both of these should be used with caution, as they are quite small and pose a choking hazard. You could also wrap the diaper with an ACE bandage or Koban, but this presents a strangulation hazard and would be a single-use affair unless you can get it clean.

Improvising Diaper Covers

While diapers themselves are easy enough to improvise, diaper covers would be more difficult. Cutting a piece of poncho or tarp into the correct size and shape, and then securing with duct tape, would be simple, but getting a leak-proof fit around the waist and thighs would be a challenge, and it would be even more difficult to get it to stay on a rambunctious toddler. Eventually, this would also consume a lot of duct tape.

The snap covers that we have been working with would not be impossible to construct, but with the numerous snaps and elastics, they would be complex. It may be helpful to say that diapers are like vegetables and covers are like canning jars and lids. In a TEOTWAWKI situation, vegetables and fabric for flat diapers would be fairly easy to get, but lids, jars, and diaper covers would not. A few diaper covers might be a good item to lay in as barter material (laying in PUL fabric would be a more economical and versatile, variation on this). This is not without precedent: I have it on good authority that, even now, Similac formula is as good as cash in some communities.

Cloth wipes can be cut from old t-shirts, and adults can use them, too. Toilet paper shortage? What toilet paper shortage?

If you already cloth-diaper your baby, the biggest change to your diaper routine that you would have to endure in a grid-down situation would be how you wash the diapers. Off-grid laundry setups have been discussed on SurvivalBlog and elsewhere. Post-TEOTWAWKI, community laundry facilities would be a high-priority “utility” to get up and running. Clean clothing is a powerful tool for preventing skin conditions that could be debilitating or fatal in a world without modern medicine. James Howard Kunstler describes this in some detail in his World Made by Hand series of novels. It would be fairly straightforward to adapt the aforementioned cloth diaper washing techniques to these setups. It is worth mentioning that, being only a single-layer, flats dry much more quickly than prefolds or fitteds. If you are on the move or have a slim supply of diapers, this might make a difference.

To prevent and treat diaper rash post-TEOTWAWKI, it may be prudent to bleach on a regular basis. My mother-in-law bleached diapers weekly, and recalls that her children only got diaper rash when they were in disposables. Beach is cheap and useful for other purposes, such as purifying drinking water, so many of us probably have some laid in already. Many of us have probably also laid in a good stash of oatmeal, which will be useful for oatmeal baths. Though I have no experience with making my own diaper balm, calendula and St. John’s wort are staples of medicinal herbology, and there are many resources for learning to make your own salves.


In summary, you can get started cloth diapering your baby with the following:

  • 36 prefold cloth diapers
  • 6 diaper covers
  • 6 Snappis
  • 36 cloth wipes
  • a diaper pail
  • 2 diaper pail bags
  • 2 bags or cases for storing moistened wipes
  • a travel wet/dry bag
  • appropriate laundry facilities
  • cloth diaper detergent
  • bleach (in quantity)
  • oatmeal
  • cloth diaper-safe diaper rash salve
  • medication-proof diaper liners
  • diaper bag
  • changing table

Most cloth diaper experts will tell you to not build out a full stash before your baby is born. Baked into this advice is the assumption that you will be using fitteds. We bucked that advice by using prefolds. Prefolds are more adaptable than fitteds, and most parents can find a fold that works for their baby. It is also worth mentioning that you will need most of this gear no matter what kind of cloth diaper you end up using.

Diapering is not a thrilling topic, as it is not a fun activity, and no one would ever dream of taking up diapering as a hobby. But, resilient diapering is one of the most useful preps you can make. It has already helped my family to endure the obnoxious dumpster fire that is the year of our Lord 2020.

Further Reading

Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert, by Erin Odom

Cloth Diaper Revival

Original Source