How to Prevent Cloth Diapers from Leaking

Rumparooz One Size Cloth Diaper

A few days ago, Mummy Regina wrote on her blog that her BumGenius All-in-Ones leaked from the sides for 4 times. Investing hundreds of dollars into cloth diapers to find that they leak is horribly disappointing. I know because I have been through it before. After a little trial and error, Vee’s cloth diapers rarely leak. He even goes through 12-hour nights and wakes up dry EVERY morning. The following are six main ways to overcome cloth diaper leakage (situations before insert / soaker is even wet).

1. Prewash Enough Times Before Use

For new cloth diapers, this is extremely important. Prewashing is needed to “prep” the diaper, especially the insert or soaker.

How to prewash:

  • Wash diapering items in warm or hot water by hand or by washing machine, using very little cloth diaper-friendly detergent
  • Wash separately from existing diapering items (especially important for fabric containing natural oils)
  • Dry
  • Repeat prewash as necessary

Number of prewashes needed for different insert / soaker fabrics:

  • Microfibre: 1 to 3 prewashes
  • Cotton: 1 to 3 prewashes
  • Hemp: 1 to 10 prewashes or boil once (if there is no plastic snap). Prewash separately from other diaper items to prevent the fibre’s natural oil from coating them and causing repellent. (Expect some shrinkage.)
  • Bamboo: similar to hemp

More tips:

  • For hemp or bamboo items, try to get prewashed ones.
  • If unsure, check with the manufacturer if the hemp or bamboo items have been prewashed.
  • For a new diaper stash, prewash 3 times before first use.
  • For a single new diaper,ย prewash once and try the diaper on baby to see if it absorbs. Place towels or traditional square nappies under baby to catch any leak. If it leaks, then prewash more times.
  • For PUL diapers, dry it on HOT using dryer to seal the PUL. (Check laundry label if this is allowed.)

2. Use Appropriate Detergent

Detergent could make or break your cloth diapering journey. Yes, it is THAT critical. Wrong detergent, too much detergent, or insufficient rinsing could lead to buildup the diaper fabric, resulting in leaks. Note these:

  • Use detergent without softener to prevent buildup (Also no enzymes to prevent diaper rash and no bleach to preserve the lifespan of the diaper).
  • Alternatively, use detergent designed specially to wash MODERN cloth diapers. (Some detergents state that they can be used on cloth diapers, when they are actually referring to traditional cotton nappies.)
  • Use 1/4 to 1/2 of the recommended amount for each load. If you have a smaller load, use even less detergent.
  • Rinse thoroughly. Consider adding an extra rinse when using the washing machine. If washing by hand, ensure that there are no more soapy bubbles at the final rinse. (Agitation bubbles burst quite fast; soap bubbles stay around longer.)

3. Use Appropriate Diaper Cream

Babies with sensitive skin may need diaper cream even when wearing cloth diapers. Some oily diaper cream would coat the diaper and cause repellent.

  • Use a disposable or washable liner (more economical) when using diaper cream.
  • Alternatively, use a confirmed cloth diaper-safe diaper cream.

4. Choose Correct Size and Proper Fit

Bottombumpers Side Snapping AIO Diapers - Back

One-size diapers usually start to fit babies from 3 to 5kg. Even then, weight is a very rough guide as 5kg-babies come in a range of shapes — long and slim vs. short and chubby. Usually, the chubbier newborns start “filling” up cloth diapers earlier, especially at the thighs.

  • For newborns, consider getting a few XS or S diapers. During prenatal scans, ask your obgyn for a rough gauge of baby’s size and weight. If baby is on the bigger side, you could most likely skip getting XS diapers.
  • When putting the diaper on baby, ensure that it fits snugly at the thighs and waist..
  • If diaper is too big, wait for baby to grow into it. Newborns grow at an amazing rate!

If you are buying new diapers for baby who has outgrown her existing ones, it is important to take her measurements accurately. Waist, thigh and rise statistics are much better gauge of a diaper’s fit than weight. Some diapers are more suited for slender babies while others have huge cuttings appropriate for chubby ones.

How to measure your baby:

  • Get a measuring tape
  • Ensure baby is diaper-less or wearing a relatively-thin diaper
  • Waist: measure circumference at about 1 inch below the navel (belly button), where the diaper would rest on her tummy.
  • Thigh: measure circumference of upper thigh, where it is fullest / meatiest / chunkiest
  • Rise: measure from 1 inch below the navel, down between the legs, and up to the back opposite of “1 inch below the navel”.

More tips:

  • If the measurements of the diaper are not stated, send a request to the manufacturer or retailer.
  • If your friend has the diaper, borrow one for fitting if she does not mind.
  • Generally, diapers with wider crotch are better at preventing leaks. For size Medium and above, at least 5.5 inches is preferred.

5. Put It On Correctly

Each diaper design may need a different “trick” to make sure it covers baby nicely. A checklist:

  • Pocket diaper:ย Insert is stuffed right in and does not stick out from behind
  • Pocket diaper when double-stuffed: microfibre insert (fast-absorbing) is nearer to bum than hemp insert / booster (slow-absorbing)
  • Label does not stick out from behind
  • Inner-layer fabric is concealed by outer-layer fabric
  • Diaper without encased seams at the thigh: Ensure inner-layer fabric is totally rolled into the diaper (i.e. minimal inner-layer fabric seen round baby’s thighs)
  • Diaper cover or shell completely covers prefold, fitted diaper or soaker
  • Clothings are completely OUTSIDE diaper (That’s why for bedtime, I prefer to dress baby in onesie pyjamas.)
  • For baby boy: ensure his p**** is pointing downwards

6. Check Baby’s Position

Sometimes there is nothing wrong with the diaper; it simply does not suit baby’s position. Some situations:

  • Pee leaks from the back as newborn tends to pee during diaper changes: Just before fastening diaper, arm yourself with a towel and wait a while (10 seconds) for any pee. Swiftly fasten the diaper snugly. For newborn, consider adding absorbency at the back by folding insert.
  • Pee leaks from the side (especially between side snaps) when breastfeeding or sleeping sideways: Use side snaps diaper when baby starts sitting up
  • Pee leaks from the front when baby is having tummy-time: Add absorbency in front by folding insert; or use diapers with front elastics
  • Pee leaks from the waist or inner thigh when baby moves about actively during sleep: Use fitted diaper with all-round absorbency for bedtime.


For the best value, always choose good quality cloth diapers made of materials that would last through many washes. After some experimentation, cloth diaper leaks should be fairly rare. Happy cloth diapering! ๐Ÿ™‚

Any cloth diapering questions? Leave them in the comment box below.

18 thoughts on “How to Prevent Cloth Diapers from Leaking”

  1. Hi MieVee,

    A few of my CDs (fleece inner lining) feels moist to the touch after 1.5hrs and insert is not fully soaked. Not leaking thru the sides or back so shd i be concerned? Is it normal for the fleece inner lining to be moist to the touch? I asked the manufacturer and she said shdn’t be this way.

    Also, for my 2-mth old son, I only use 1 insert but sometimes within 2hrs, I can already feelhis pants a little moist. The insert is also not fully soaked. Any idea what’s wrong?


    1. Hi Grace, I always find fleece a little moist to touch, especially right after baby pees.
      This is across several different brands of diapers we tried.

      Regarding moist skin, maybe he just pee-ed?
      The fleece needs some time to wick the moisture away from the skin, after that, he’d be drier.

      As long as there is no leakage before insert is too full, your CD is working fine.

      If you or baby prefer very stay-dry diapers, then consider suedecloth or alova suedecloth inner layer.

      The upsides:
      – very stay-dry
      – usually resistant to pilling even after many washes

      The downsides:
      – a very small minority of babies are sensitive to suedecloth
      – staying too dry may not aid potty-training later on

      My boy was fussy in the early months, so we used only suedecloth early on.
      Now that he is potty-training and totally not fussy about wetness, we are fine with using fleece, bamboo or cotton too.

      Just go with your personal preference. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Thanks for the in-depth article on cloth diapering. My boy’s cloth diapers, especially the brand new ones, tend to leak a lot too at the beginning but they get more absorbent over time. I didn’t know we actually have to make sure the p**** is pointing downwards when cloth-diapering; no wonder his shirt gets wet sometimes. Thanks for the tips!

  3. Hi MieVee,

    Can I check with you is hot water an absolute necessary when pre-washing? I do not own a hot water washing machine so I wonder if I can skip this step?

    If by hand wash, how hot are you talking about? I used to boil my pre-folds when prepping them and they work great. But for A-in-1, that’s not possible, around which temp do you recommend to wash in?


    1. Prewashing using hot water helps to prep the soakers faster.

      When prewashing by machine, I use 60 degree Celsius.
      When prewashing by hand:
      – I turn the shower tap to the hottest. Our ducky bath thermometer says it is at least 39 degree Celsius, considered a “warm wash”.
      – At my mum’s place, I have also poured water from the hot water flask into a pail of new soakers. After that, I prewash by hand.

      Wear rubber gloves to protect your skin from the warm to hot water when washing.

  4. Pingback: How to Strip Wash Cloth Diapers | Mummy's Reviewsโ„ข

  5. Hi MieVee,
    If I switch from paper diaper to CD, How many CD is enough ?

    Currently I have 7 moo moo kow, 8 inserts for it and 4 bumwear, 8 insert for it. is it enough?
    Btw, my Bb is 1 mth at 4 kg. Normally poo 2 to 4 times and 6-7 wet diaper ( included poopy diaper) a day.

    1. Hi Christine, 1 month old at 4kg may not fit well into one-size diaper yet. You’d need to try 1 of each brand on baby and see if it fits nicely around the thighs to prevent leak.

      Assuming your baby needs 8 diapers a day:
      For daily laundry: need 8 diapers + about 3-4 backup, inserts x 2 of diapers in case of rainy days (at least 16)
      For laundry once in 2 days: multiply above by 2

      For a low cost backup, can get a pack of 10 traditional cloth nappies as standby insert, just fold into a rectangle with many layers and stuff into pocket diaper.

      Baby’s pee volume may increase over time, so you may find the need to have a more absorbent night-time diaper in future.
      When the time comes, can use 2 inserts or get hemp inserts or boosters to add behind microfibre.
      For daytime, heavy wetter may also need 1 hemp booster behind microfibre to last 3 hours, especially for a long nap.

      Your current stash seems good for daily laundry. Try it out and you’d know if it’s really enough.
      All the best in cloth diapering! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. My daughter started soaking through her diapers several months ago, it seemed to come on quickly. She turned two in October. How can I tell if she is just peeing too much/too fast now that she is older, or if it is something I’m doing wrong with her diapers.
    She goes on the potty when she wants to.
    We use one-size, pocket diapers with snaps from Kawaii Baby brand, from theluvyourbaby(dot)com


  7. Dear MieVee,

    Can you share what brands of CDs are big enough for 5 yos(approx 20kg) who is still not night time trained?
    Thank you.

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