When are Diaper Covers Required?

Posted by Bryana on 11/8/2007 to Cloth Diaper How-To

When you run a cloth diapering business, there are questions that arise that truly do throw you for a loop. Perhaps it is because we've been selling cloth diapers a long while now and can't clearly remember back to when we didn't know anything about cloth diapering. Perhaps it is because we've answered some questions so many times we think surely there isn't anyone else on the face of the earth that needs this question answered. And perhaps, just perhaps, it is because we try very hard to give detailed product descriptions so that those visiting our online cloth diaper store know exactly what each item is and does/does not do.

Of course we answer the questions, no matter how many times they are asked, because we are very appreciative of our customers and want them to return. We know each day brings with it new parents and/or guardians considering cloth and so, we remind ourselves to be patient and try to integrate even more ways to clearly answer these repeated questions on our website.

Do I need a diaper cover with this diaper?

Probably one of the most repeated questions we are asked is "Do I need a diaper cover with this diaper?" And so, now when you visit our online cloth diaper store, you'll see a friendly new graphic on all the cloth diaper product pages where a cloth diaper cover is required. If you see this graphic, the answer is "Yes!" a cloth diaper cover will be needed.

But maybe you shop at a different online cloth diaper store and just visit CDB for tips and cloth diapering news. That being the case, I thought I'd clarify when a cloth diaper cover is required - y'know, just so you'd know.

I'm a mother, so I think it is most fitting to begin this explanation with a visual. Think of a coffee pot. You have the actual coffee pot (the glass pot that holds the coffee) and the machine that produces the coffee. Now, when you make coffee, you drop the grinds into the filter, pour the water into the coffee maker and slide the glass coffee pot back on the burner before pushing the "brew" or "on" button, right?

Now, consider that you did everything, but did not take that final step of sliding the glass coffee pot back on the burner ... what would happen?

Exactly - water would pour out and run down your counter, over the edges, between your cabinets and stove and down to the floor for the dogs and cat to lick or make tracks through. (Not that we've ever PERSONALLY experienced that ... this is hypothetical, of course.) Once the mess was discovered and cleaned up, you'd murmur a few unspeakables and set to make coffee again, this time putting the pot on the burner.

Because the coffee pot "holds" the water in. It is the container.

Are you grasping where I'm going with this now? Do we really need to get into the toilet analogy? No?


Diapers were created to contain waste, both of the liquid and solid variety. We won't discuss solids today, as they aren't really the topic at hand, but we are going to talk about the fluid (pee) that diapers were built to absorb.

Let's start with disposable diapers. Why does your baby's urine not run out of a disposable diaper? It is because of the waterproof plastic shell that encases all that paper pulp that is absorbing your child's urine. Now, at some point that diaper is going to over-saturate and nothing will hold back the swell, but if you are changing it regularly enough, the plastic serves as a barrier to keep wetness in.

Cloth diapers, unlike disposable diapers, come in a variety of different styles. There are styles that closely mimic a disposable diaper in the way they are used. They are called All In One Diapers and do not require a diaper cover, because they are both a cloth diaper and a diaper cover, ALL IN ONE. I know, catchy name, right?

There are also Pocket Diapers ... and although they are not a single cloth diaper piece, they do have an outer waterproof material that serves as a barrier to keep moisture in.

Do you see a pattern? If there is a waterproof outer on any style of cloth diaper a cloth diaper cover is unnecessary. So... if there is NOT a waterproof outer fabric on the cloth diaper, then a cloth diaper cover is absolutely necessary.

Otherwise, you'll repeat my the coffee incident I mentioned earlier ... except with urine ... which is not a pretty picture.

Cloth diapers that need Cloth Diaper Covers

Because I'm all about bringing the point home, here are a few examples of cloth diapers that do, in fact, need cloth diaper covers.
  • Chinese Prefold Diapers - Made of 100% heavyweight cotton twill, they are not waterproof, nor have a waterproof outer layer.
  • Babykicks Hemp Prefolds - Made from 2 X 3 X 2 layers of luxuriously soft 55% hemp / 45% cotton fleece, neither of which are waterproof.
  • Kissaluvs Fitted Diaper - Made from a soft, stretch, plush Cotton Fleece with a deep pile sherpa finish, this fitted diaper is thicker than most cotton fleece, but again, not waterproof.

For the most part, unless a cloth diaper specifically states that it has a waterproof or water resistant outer layer, you can bet it doesn't.

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