If you're intrigued by cloth diapering, today we're going to discuss what types of cloth diapers that are available and what all of those abbreviations mean.
Here are the most common types of cloth diapers
available in the "modern" world of cloth diapering:
Prefolds: These are the old school diapers your grandparents (and maybe even your parents) used. They are rectangular pieces of fabric with multiple layers, especially in the middle, that you pin (or snappi/boingo) onto your baby. They are cheap, comparatively speaking, and will likely last through more than a few children. They are usually cotton or some other type of absorbent natural fiber and are not waterproof so you'll have to put a cover over them.
Flats: Also old school. These are just large squares of fabric that you fold up and pin/snappi/boingo on your baby. You could also padfold them and simply lay them in a cover. You can use almost anything as a flat... old receiving blankets, t-shirts, etc. You can also use flour sack towels (FST) that you find at your local Target or Walmart in the kitchen area that are about $1 apiece. Flats also require a cover. They are probably the cheapest option and the easiest to clean with the fastest drying time.
Fitteds: This is a diaper that can consist of any number of materials and usually has elastic around the legs and adjustable waist sizing (with snaps, Velcro/aplix, or even good old fashioned pins). Fitteds are not waterproof so a cover is needed.
Cover: A cover is the waterproof layer you'll need for prefolds, flats, or fitteds to make sure you're child's clothing (and your home) stay dry. They can be made of PUL, TPU, or wool.
Cover: A pocket is usually made up of a waterproof shell sewn together with a liner that forms an inner pocket that is stuffed with an insert for absorbency. Many pocket diapers will come with microfiber (MF) inserts, but you can use almost anything including prefolds or flats to customize the absorbency based on your baby's needs.
All-in-One (AIO): Basically, this is just what it sounds like – all one piece. There is a waterproof (or maybe even wool) outer layer with a soaker sewn in. This style is the most similar to a disposable and probably the most daddy/daycare friendly. However, what you gain in convenience you lose in drying time - these can take a long, long time to dry.
All-in-Twos (AI2) or Hybrids: This is a diaper with a waterproof outer layer but with an insert that snaps in place or is just laid into the shell. Unlike a pocket diaper, here the insert will go directly up against the baby’s skin. The benefit to AI2s or Hybrids is that you can just change out the insert and reuse the shell as long as it's not visibly soiled, then just toss it in your wetbag at the end of the day.
Other types of cloth diapers abbreviations:
OS = one-size. This is a diaper that is meant to last from birth (or soon after) until potty learning. The diapers usually fit from anywhere between 8-35 pounds give or take a few.
MF = microfiber
PUL = polyurethane laminate, what some waterproof layers/covers are made of.
TPU = Thermoplastic Polyurethane, what some waterproof layers/covers are made of.
WAHM = work at home mom. There are many fabulous moms out there who make cloth diapers and sell them on Etsy, Facebook, or Hyena Cart.
Here is a link to an aggressively large list of abbreviations. I just wanted to cover the basics here.
If you decide to use flats or prefolds there are a ton of different resources and YouTube videos on different folds and how to use them. A quick Google search will bring you to many.
Hope this helps you learn more about the types of cloth diapers!
Updated to add: Many people have asked what my favorite cloth diapers are. I'll let my stash speak for itself - it's mainly comprised of bumGenius (with SNAPS - 4.0's, Freetimes, & Elementals), Smart Bottoms, and WAHM (work at home mom) fitteds/hybrid fitteds. If you do need an Aplix pocket, I'd highly recommend the Rumparooz brand - their aplix is fantastic.
Shop on our affiliate Amazon:
BumGenius Freetime All in One Cloth Diaper - Snap - Mirror - One SizeBumGenius 5.0 Pocket Cloth Diaper - Albert - One Size - SnapSmart Bottoms Smart 3.1 OS Organic All-in-one Cloth Diaper (Tie Dye)BumGenius Elemental All in One Cloth Diaper - Snap - Albert - One Size
Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links.