Compare Cloth Diapers – Prefold & Flat Diapers

Hemp cotton prefold cloth diapers

Finally, my favorite cloth diapers. I did say that fitted diapers are my favorites. Well, prefolds and flat diapers are my other favorites, and I’m ready to compare them with the other great cloth diapering choices you have available.

Prefold Cloth Diapers

I just laugh when people talk about “modern cloth diapers” as if there is something about prefolds and flat diapers that they are trying to avoid. In my experience talking to a big variety of parents in a variety of situations, at least half still use prefolds. Why? Because they work!

Prefolds provide simple and adaptable moisture absorbency for any cloth diapering system. Prefolds are a rectangular diaper with extra layers down the center. As with fitted diapers, you will need to use a waterproof diaper cover over prefold diapers.

Because of the simple construction and materials of a prefold diaper, they are much less expensive than fitted, all-in-one, and pocket diapers. If fitting cloth diapers into a tight budget is your priority, prefold or flat diapers are your least expensive choice.

The prefolds sold at are either all cotton or a hemp/cotton blend. These natural fibers are absorbent and very easy to wash. You don’t need a special routine to get a cotton diaper clean. They can take a beating, which also means you save even more money because they will usually last for more than one child.

If you like variety in your cloth diapering system, prefolds can help. They can be used as inserts in pocket diapers as well as on their own under covers. You don’t need special inserts or special fibers since cotton prefolds will do both jobs all on their own.

Prefolds come in different weights and sizes, but you can usually use the same size for all but the tiniest babies, adding your newborn prefolds as doublers as your baby grows.

Flat Cloth Diapers

Flat diapers are what our (great-great)grandmothers used before prefolds were available through diaper services. My grandmother saved her flour sacks for both kitchen towels and baby diapers. My mother-in-law uses my husband’s old diapers as kitchen towels now. Towels and diapers do a similar job of holding moisture.

Flat diapers come in a variety of sizes as long as you are looking for variety between 18″x18″ and 36″x36″. (A bit like Henry Ford’s Model-T, which came in any color you want as long as you want black.) The smaller sizes are usually a heavier weight, such as terry toweling, in order to provide enough absorbency for a diaper. The flat diapers we carry are made from cotton birdseye and shrink to about 28″x28″ after washing.

Flat diapers will need to be folded to create a size to fit around your baby and into a diaper cover. Prefolds are called that because they took a popular diaper fold and sewed it into place. The diaper came prefolded, which meant more layers needed heavier washing to get clean, but cleaning both types of diapers is super simple compared to more complex diapers.

Most parents also use a closure to keep the diaper snug on the baby to prevent leaks. Yes, some parents—many parents—still use pins because they are practical and they work, but another very popular choice with prefolds is a Snappi diaper fastener. This is a plastic T-shape with teeth to grab and hold the diaper on the baby. I skipped both of these and used flat diapers without closures. I had pins, but I ignored them. I just used diapers folded in thirds with snug covers and T-shirts that snap at the crotch to keep diapers on.

Snappi cloth diaper fastener

Prefold & Flat Diaper Advantages

  • The least expensive diapering option.
  • Very quick to fold and put on a prefold. (My husband says he reached for them first because they made a quicker diaper change.)
  • Customized fit and absorbency for every change because babies can grow even week to week, and you don’t want to have to buy new diapers.
  • A variety of folds put absorbency and a kind of catcher’s mitt exactly where you need it.
  • Very easy to wash.
  • Very quick to dry, especially flat diapers.
  • Flat diapers have lower environmental impact in production, washing, and drying that any other type of diaper.
  • Now, prefolds even come in colors, sometimes with prints.
  • After they are done being diapers, either prefolds or flats make good cleaning rags.

Prefold & Flat Diaper Disadvantages

  • You have to fold, even a prefold.
  • On a very active baby, your skillful fold can move around inside the cover unless you use a Snappi or pins.
  • Harder to put on a standing or running toddler.
  • No gussets can mean messes if you don’t fold with messes in mind.
  • The chemical impact of the bleaching process on bleached (white) prefolds results in a shorter life for the fibers.
  • A substitute caregiver can be intimidated by folding no matter how simple you think it is.

Saturday we’ll share highlights from our customers’ reviews of prefolds and flat diapers. You still have a few days to add your review.

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2 thoughts on “Compare Cloth Diapers – Prefold & Flat Diapers”

  1. The was so helpful. Thank you! I was having a hard time deciding if I wanted prefolds or flats. Now I realize, I could actually use both.


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