Cloth Diaper Terminology
Updated: Apr 13
Awesome that you are thinking about using cloth diapers! When you are entering the world of cloth diapers you find that there are so many types of cloth diapers and there are so many other accessories that are used that could make your head go foggy. And then there are also all these terms and abbreviations used to describe not only the diapers parents use but many more cloth diaper-related items. To help you on your way, I made an overview with terminology that is often used by parents are discussing cloth diapers online.
AI2 means All-in-Two. This is a cloth diaper that consists of two parts, a cover, and inserts that are the absorbent layer of the diaper. Both have snaps so two parts can be snapped into one another to create a diaper meaning the inserts can be attached to the diaper cover to create an AI2 cloth diaper. With this system, it is possible to only change the insert when the diaper is wet while the whole diaper needs to be washed when this AI2 diaper is soiled with solid waste.
AIO means All-in-One. Where an AI2 diaper consists of 2 parts, an AIO diaper is one piece meaning the absorbent material (insert) is attached to the diaper. This type of cloth diaper resembles a regular disposable diaper the most as there is no folding or putting a cloth diaper together otherwise. This also means that the entire diaper needs to be changed with each diaper change. This type of cloth diaper is also the most vulnerable to leaking as the absorbency is usually limited.
An abbreviation for cloth diapers that is often used online
See fitted diaper.
A diaper cover is a waterproof outer shell that is used with several different diapering methods. When using a pre-fold, flats, or fitted diaper you need to use a diaper cover to keep the wetness contained within the diaper so you need a waterproof layer. A diaper cover. This waterproof layer is usually made of PUL, fleece, or (Lanolized) wool.
Some parents use a (disposable) liner (see below) to collect solid waste on a cloth diaper to prevent solid waste from entering the washing machine while other parents prefer a diaper sprayer. A diaper sprayer is a toilet attachment used to rinse stool from dirty diapers over a toilet. This eliminates the use of a liner but can use lots of water in some cases.
A fitted diaper is a cloth diaper made from absorbent material only. It is shaped to fit the baby's bum usually with an elastic casing around the legs. As these diapers are only absorbent material, they need a diaper cover to make them waterproof.
A flat is a large flat piece of fabric (usually cotton, bamboo hemp, or other natural fiber) that can be folded into the right shape. This can be an insert for extra absorption in your cloth diaper but it can also be folded into the diaper itself where it is closed with a snappi.
Hook & Loop
Hook and loop is a type of closure also referred to as Velcro™ (brand name).
An insert is the absorbent part of a cloth diaper. They are usually rectangular-shaped but can also have a slightly fitted form. In the case of the latter, an insert is slightly more narrow in the middle which can be nice for very small babies. An insert fits inside a pocket diaper, is the absorbent part of the AI2 diaper, or can be used as extra absorption in other types of cloth diapers. Inserts can be made from natural fabric like hemp, bamboo, or (organic) cotton or synthetic like microfiber but are also sold in a mix of different materials.
Lanolin is used on wool covers (longies and shorties) to make them waterproof. It is a natural wax-line material that comes from sheep wool.
Liners are used in cloth diapers to collect solid waste from your baby to prevent most of it from entering the washing machine. Liners can be disposable, in this case, liners are disposed of in general waste when it has collected stool. Liners can also be reusable, in this case, the liner is emptied above a toilet when it has collected stool and washed afterward. The latter is often made from fleece as it helps with a dry feel around a babies bum.
One-size refers to a diaper that fits most babies from birth through potty training. This can be all different kinds of diapers from pre-folds to pockets to fitted diapers.
A pail liner is a large waterproof bag that is used to store dirty diapers between washings. The pail liner is washed with the dirty cloth diapers so it can be reused for the next batch of dirty diapers.
A pocket diaper is a type of cloth diaper that has a pocket opening between the outer shell layer and the inner layer that touches the baby’s skin. An insert is placed inside this pocket opening as the absorbent material. A pocket diaper needs to be taken apart before washing and the inserts need to be placed within the diaper again before use.
A pre-fold resembles a flat but a pre-fold has a thicker middle layer for extra absorbency. They are also smaller than flats but just like flats they can be folded for an extra absorbent layer for the diapers or they can be folded into the diaper itself where it is closed with a snappi.
PUL is an abbreviation for polyurethane laminate. It is the waterproof material used to make diaper covers.
A snappi is used to easily fasten a pre-fold or flat diaper without the use of safety pins.
A cloth diaper stash refers to one's collection of cloth diapers.
Stripping cloth diapers is an intense cleaning method to get rid of dirt build-up in cloth diapers. Dirt can build up in cloth diapers with a long-term improper laundry routine. If diapers are not properly cleaned between uses, dirt remains in the diapers and builds up over time. This could affect the absorbency of cloth diapers and even babies' skin due to all the bacteria that may remain in the diaper. Stripping cloth diapers should not be done frequently (or at all) as it is not necessary when you have a good washing routine.
A wet bag is a small washable waterproof bag that is used for storing soiled diapers. A smaller one can be used on the go while a larger one can be used to store dirty diapers at home.
I hope all these terms and abbreviations in this terminology overview did not discourage you to start cloth diapering. Once you have found your routine in cloth diapering it is easy and fun to do and you don’t want to go back to disposables.