11 Cloth Diaper Types Explained Simply

What are the different types of cloth diapers? How do you know which type of cloth diaper is best for you? How do you know whether to buy multiple cloth diaper types? We’re here to help you better understand the different types of cloth diapers.

Cloth Diaper Types Explained

Each has their own advantages and disadvantages. Some will work better for some babies then others. Some fit better at different ages. There are diapers that will prevent leaks overnights, or allow you to add extra inserts to be more absorbent.

Because cloth diapers are an upfront investment, you want to make sure you’re getting the diapers that work best for you, your baby, and anyone who is going to care for your little. If you have never used cloth diapers, we recommend buy a few different brands and styles of diapers and test them before to buy your entire stash.

If you plan to use cloth diapers with your newborn, having 21 diapers to start will get you through a day and a half. Once you know which diaper work for your lifestyle, then you can invest all at once, or slowly until you have the quantity your comfortable with.

This post will explain how the different types of diapers work and offer a brief overview of cloth diaper type pros and cons. Check out our posts on individual diaper styles for more details on how each diaper works, along with some tips and tricks.

All-in One Cloth Diapers (AIO)

The name for this diaper says it all. This type of cloth diaper is the easiest to deal with, especially if you’re sending diapers to someone who isn’t as excited about cloth diapers are you.

Here are a few we love, and hope you do too.


See Hybrid below.

Contoured Flat Nappy

This type of diaper is an inexpensive way to cover your babies bottom. Contour diapers aren’t covered with a waterproof liner, and they also don’t have snaps or Velcro. A contour diaper is very simply a very absorbent piece of fabric cut in an hour glass shape, that wraps around babies belly. Because contour diapers don’t have snaps and Velcro diaper pins or snappis are required to secure them. Without elastic around the legs and waist there’s an increased likelihood of leaks and blowouts.

You can add a cover to these if you are leaving the house. Due to the lack of elastics, you carry extra covers with you as leaks could soil these, requiring a new one each change. If you spend a lot of time around the house, there’s no need for a waterproof cover. When you feel the diaper getting damp it’s time to change.


Fitted Diapers are very similar to Contour Diapers and often times they’re considered the same, that’s not the case. The main difference of fitted is elastic around the legs and waist. Elastics help to contain leaks and blowouts, allowing you to reuse covers if you add them to your fitted routine.

Fitted diapers are a very affordable approach to cloth diapers.

Flat Cloth Diaper

Also called Flats, these are the oldest form of Cloth Diapers, and what a lot of people envision when they think of cloth diapers. Flats are squares of cotton, usually birdseye weave or muslin fabric that are folded around your little and pinned closed or you can use a snappi.

Because they’re only 1 layer, you may need a booster for absorbency if you have a heavy wetter. However, the single layer also makes Flats the easiest cloth diapers to wash and dry.

Here are a couple options for flats, and also Snappi closures which will make holding the diapers together simple.

Hybrid Nappy or All in 2 Cloth Diaper

All in Two (AI2) consist of an absorbent cloth, it can be a flat, an insert you would use in a pocket, or a disposable insert ( Charlie Banana makes a great disposable.) If you plan to use a variety of different types, you can use the same inserts from your pocket diapers for your AI2.

There are a some varieties of AI2 that have snaps on the inside of the cover that allow you to snap the insert in. AI2 with snaps make it easier when you’re putting diapers on because the insert doesn’t move around if you have a baby that wiggles.

We’ve found some great Hybrid Diapers, and also some disposable inserts, check them out here:

Pocket Type Cloth Diaper

Pocket diapers are made of a waterproof liner, and a fabric liner that wicks moisture away, with an opening between. That opening allows you to stuff absorbent pad, or pre-fold into the opening , that insert is what makes the diaper absorb waste.

Pocket type cloth diapers diapers are easy to use, and are a great option for caregivers, but will require a little bit of prep work upfront with stuffing.

One of the major advantages of Pocket Cloth Diapers is that you can add more inserts to make the diaper more absorbent. Inserts are made of a variety of materials each having their own pros and cons.

There are so many choices for Pocket type cloth diapers, we found a few that offer variety and we have had in our regular rotations.


Pre-fold cloth diapers are often considered to be the most economical approach to cloth diapers. Pre-folds are woven fabric with thicker more absorbent layers in the middle section of the diaper.

If you like pocket diapers, and are looking for a way to boost absorbency, adding pre-folds is an excellent option. If you don’t plan to add your pre-folds to pocket diapers, then you will need diaper covers to go over the pre-folds.


When you think of a sleeve diaper, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Sleeve diapers are very similar to pocket diapers, the difference being instead of having an opening to fit the insert in only on one side, with sleeve diapers, there’s an opening on each end.

Having openings on each end makes stuffing inserts a bit easier. That extra opening also makes pulling a soiled insert out when dropping dirty diapers in the washer.

Swimming Cloth Diapers

One might think why can’t I just use my typical cloth diapers as swim diapers, and it’s a very common question from newly cloth moms. The main difference between swim cloth diapers and dailies is that your daily diapers are designed to hold a lot of liquid in. Meanwhile, swim diapers are made to let the liquid out, but hold the solids (poop) in.

If you find yourself in a pinch and you don’t have your swim diaper, and there’s a fun splash pad you stumble upon, go ahead and use your traditional cloth diapers, but remove any absorbent liners or inserts that you can. Removing any inserts or liners will keep from your little one being weighed down by any water the diaper might absorb while they splash and play.

Check out these cute swim diaper we think you will love.

Cloth Diaper Types Pros and Cons Comparison Table

All in OneGreat for on the go.
Minimal prep
Easy to use for someone with no
cloth experience
Shorter life span
Need for repair sooner than other styles
Longer dry time
More expensive upfront costs.
All in TwoSee Hybrid See Hybrid
Very absorbent (layers can be added to add
Easy to wash/dry
Prone to leaks
Pins or Snappis required
Waterproof cover required
Covers can’t be reused (due to leaks)
Very Absorbent
Easy to wash/dry
Contain leaks well
Pins or Snappis required
Waterproof Cover required
Easy to wash and dry
A lot of work to get a good fit
Pins or Snappis required
Not very absorbent
Waterproof cover required
HybridAble to mix cloth with disposable
Easy clean up if you use disposable pads
Prep work for inserts
PocketEasy to use
Able to adjust absorbency
More Expensive
Time consuming to prep
Pre-FoldsVery Inexpensive
Easy to wash
Prone to leaks
Covers required
Cloth diapers for Swimming
Cloth Diaper Types Pros and Cons

Newborn Cloth Diaper Types

So what is the best type of cloth diaper for newborn? We preferred All in One. But newborns and cloth diapers are tricky because they are so small. We are writing a Guide to Cloth Diaper Newborn Babies.

ClothDiaperBasics.com Recommendation

There are obviously plenty of options to choose from. It can be hard to know where to start. We have most experience with All-in-One and Pocket. Both of these are versatile, are easy to maintain, and easy to use. We were gifted most of the diapers we have, and with twins I wanted to make sure I had the easiest diapers to use.

Don’t Overlook Disposable Diapers

It is diaper blasphemy on a cloth diaper site to discuss disposable diapers. But there is a time and a place for each. Do not feel like you need to choose a side in the cloth diaper vs disposable debate. See the cheat sheet we created for you on when to use cloth diapers vs when to use disposable diapers. Sometimes it’s easier and more convenient to use disposables, and that’s okay.

Bottom Line Cloth Diaper Types Explained

It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the different choices, and knowing which cloth diapers will work best for you, and your family. If you have seen and used cloth diapers before, then you may know what you’re comfortable with. Otherwise, buy a few of each, give them all a try before investing in the mix that is right for you.

For any diapers that you try and don’t like, there is a resale market out there. You can post your diapers on Cloth Diaper grounds on social media, or on a Marketplace. You may also consider donating them to a local diaper bank, or pay to forward to another mom who is also unsure of what diapers will work best for her family.

Happy Fluffing!

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