Do Cloth Diapers Leak a Lot? Here’s the Truth.

Interested in cloth diapers but afraid of them leaking all the time?

You’re not the only one. 

I used to wonder the same and that was the main reason I was put off by cloth diapers when my first daughter was just born.

Cloth diapers do not leak if used correctly. If you’re experiencing frequent leaks while cloth diapering, chances are you’re having absorbency issues, the waterproof layer cannot retain fluids, you’re not fitting the diaper well or the child started peeing more than before.

If the above-mentioned reasons seem kind of overwhelming, don’t worry. I’ll break them down in the next few minutes of your time and offer solutions for each situation. 

Are Cloth Diapers Just Prone to Leaks?

Cloth diapers are not more prone to leaks per se but there are a few common situations that might wrongly convince you otherwise. You almost certainly just need a little practice in diapering your baby. 

While you’ll find a long list of possible reasons for leaking in this post, keep in mind that leaks are really not that common, especially once you identify the culprit for leaky cloth diapers. 

You’ll very likely solve the problem when it comes your way and move on to the happy cloth diapering journey. 

A cloth diaper cover in a sink.

Why Do Cloth Diapers Leak and How to Fix It

There are a lot of reasons for a leaky diaper, however, some are more common than others.

The Cloth Diaper Can’t Absorb All the Fluid

  • The baby needs more frequent diaper changes: change your baby about every 1-3 hours, depending on your baby’s needs.
  • Not fully prepped: new cloth diapers need to be washed at least 3-6 times to wash away the natural oils present in the natural fabrics, which are hindering absorbency.
  • Not using enough absorbency: you might need to add a natural fabric booster (bamboo, hemp) under the original insert to increase the absorbency.
  • Not using the boosters in the correct order: fabrics differ in their absorbent capacity and speed of absorbing the fluid. Microfiber has the highest speed of absorbency and the smallest capacity, while hemp behaves the exact opposite. Place inserts in this order from top to bottom (not necessarily all at once): microfiber, charcoal bamboo, cotton, bamboo, and hemp. Just make sure the microfiber isn’t touching the baby’s skin directly.
  • Repelling inserts: likely to occur if you’ve been using a diaper cream that isn’t compatible with cloth diapers or have been using fabric softener while washing the diapers. Search for a cloth diaper-compatible diaper cream if you need it and do not use fabric softeners. You might need to strip cloth diapers.
  • The baby starts holding the bladder for a longer time than in the past and pees more at once: add extra boosters at the front side of the diaper (especially with a baby boy). Boosters should be able to quickly absorb the extra fluid. You can also add hemp at the bottom which will take away fluid from the upper inserts so they can absorb more fluid. See the bullet point where I talk about the order of inserts.

The Cloth Diaper Doesn’t Fit Well

  • The cloth diaper is too small: consider raising the adjusting snaps on the front of the diaper by one level. If you’re using newborn cloth diapers, consider switching to one-size.
  • The cloth diaper is too big: consider lowering the adjusting snaps on the front of the diaper by one level.
  • The elastics don’t fit snugly next to the baby’s thighs. The elastics need to go in the crotch area (like briefs) and not around the thighs (like boxers). If there is a gap between the leg and the elastics, make sure you fit the diaper tighter around the legs by adjusting the top snaps (second row if you have it on your diaper) on the front of the diaper. The top two snap rows don’t have to be closed symmetrically.
  • You can put more than two fingers between the diaper and the waist of your baby: make sure you fit the diaper tighter around the waist by adjusting the top snaps (first row) on the front of the diaper. The top two snap rows don’t have to be closed symmetrically.
  • Too many inserts in the diaper: in fear of having too few absorbent inserts inside the diaper, you can overstuff it, so you can’t fit the diaper well around the thighs. If you need boosters, use thinner options like hemp.
  • Baby boys only: the diaper can fit perfectly but the penis has to point to absorbent parts, otherwise the fluid will just miss the inserts. I always point the baby’s penis downwards.

Compression Leaks

  • Using only microfiber inserts: as already mentioned above, microfiber is the fastest when it comes to the speed of absorbency but it can’t absorb a lot of fluid and retain it when some pressure is applied to it. Therefore your best bet is to pair microfiber with natural fibers, such as cotton, bamboo, and hemp to avoid compression leaks. These will absorb the excess fluid that will leak from the microfiber when your baby starts sitting or after applying more pressure to the diaper in general (car rides, babywearing).

The Waterproof Layer Doesn’t Retain Fluids

  • Damaged PUL/TPU: if you notice leaks coming from the front of the diaper and not from the sides, PUL/TPU might be damaged. If you can see holes, there probably isn’t much you can do about it but if you can’t see anything, try using a PUL/TPU repair product to help you seal the little holes. If the damaged PUL/TPU happens on a cover, use it as a swim diaper. Read more in this post where I explore what to do if PUL starts leaking.
  • The wool cover needs lanolizing: if you’re using wool as the waterproof layer in your diapers, you’ll need to lanolize the covers every couple of weeks. Once the lanolin wears off, wool won’t be able to resist water anymore and it’ll start leaking. To learn how to lanolize wool covers without being left with lanolin spots, read this post.
Cloth diaper leak because of too little absorbency and a bad fit on the baby’s right side.

Real-life Examples of Leaky Cloth Diapers with Proposed Solutions

Example 1: You bought the perfect diaper, one that everyone in your local Facebook group is swearing by, but you just can’t seem to get it right and end up with leaky diapers.

Consider checking for these issues:

  • not fully prepped, 
  • not enough absorbency, 
  • compression leaks, 
  • cloth diaper doesn’t fit well, 
  • diaper too big or too small for your baby.

Example 2: Baby suddenly starts getting more and more leaks very quickly after a diaper change even though that particular combination used to be their go-to.

Consider checking for these issues:

  • not enough absorbency,
  • compression leaks, 
  • diaper too small
  • damaged PUL/TPU or wool needs lanolin treatment, 
  • your baby started peeing way more at once, 
  • repelling inserts.

Example 3: The diaper combination seems to be working great right until the time the baby starts practicing sitting or it starts leaking after a short car ride and after babywearing.

 Consider checking for these issues:

  • compression leaks.

Example 4: You heard how important it is to use hemp in your nighttime diaper but what happens when you finally muster up the courage to use cloth diapers at night? The diaper leaks after a couple of hours into the precious nighttime sleep.

Consider checking for these issues:

  • check the correct order of different fabric types (for example, hemp should be on the bottom).

Blowouts: Cloth Diapers vs. Disposables

Now that we’ve talked so much about fluid leaks, you might be wondering about the poop, and rightfully so! 

You might’ve already seen some horror pictures of babies in disposables that have poop creeping out of the diaper on the baby’s back and all up to their neck. It happened once to me, too (when we were still using disposables) and let’s just say that was no fun at all.

So let’s answer this one question once and for all.

Are blowouts really less common in cloth diapers than in disposables? 

Blowouts are much less common in cloth diapers than in disposable diapers. The elastics on the back of the cloth diaper retain waste inside the diaper. There are weak (or no) elastics on the back of disposable diapers, allowing waste to spread out of the diaper. 

In more than two years of cloth diapering, I’ve never encountered a blowout and I am confident I won’t ever deal with it again.


When I first became a mom, it shocked me how much more waste we produced by adding a tiny little member to our family. Since then, it's become very important to me to be more sustainable as a family. I'm excited to share with you what I'm learning along the way!

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