Flat Diapers: Everything You Need To Know And More! 

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Flat diapers or “old-fashioned” cloth diapers are the ones your grandmother probably used on her children.

If you thought no one uses these anymore, think again. Flat diapers are still popular, and with good reason!

I’ve put together this exclusive post to include all the information that’ll be useful to you when deciding if this is the right cloth diapering type for you.

Don’t forget to check out the table, where I compare numerous flat folds on absorbency and make recommendations for who would benefit from a certain fold the most. I believe you’ll find it really useful!

What Is a Flat Diaper?

A flat diaper (affiliate link to Amazon) is a single-layered rectangle piece of fabric, typically made of birdseye weave cotton. Its average size ranges from 26 by 27 inches (about 66 by 70 cm) to 31 by 31 inches (about 80 by 80 cm), depending on the manufacturer.

Another common size is size half, which is usually around 16 by 27 inches (about 40 by 70 cm). As you can imagine, this size is particularly useful for preemies and newborns.

As you noticed from the sizes flat diapers can be squared or rectangle-shaped.

How Do You Use Flat diapers?

Flat diapers need to be folded before being used as an absorbent part of the diaper. They require a water-resistant cover, made of PUL or wool.

Pad fold (one of the simplest folds) will work best with the covers with “pockets” where you can prevent them from moving. You can also use the pad fold as an insert in pocket diapers.

Pad folded flat diaper in a PUL cover with “pockets”

Other folds will work best with covers without those “pockets”.

There are numerous folds known for flat diapers and because they’re so versatile they can be a great choice for almost every parent.

How do you know which flat diaper fold will work best for you?

Check out this table I’ve put together where I listed more than 20 different folds and gave my recommendations for when would they perform the best.

Click on fold names to find dedicated tutorials to show you exactly how to fold them.

Fold nameMost layersRecommended forEspecially suitable for newborns?
Modified kiteMiddlegirls
Angel wingFront and Middleboys/girls
Mini kiteFront and Middleboys/girlsyes
Happy AnteaterFront/Sameboys/girlsyes
Jelly rollFront and Backboys/girlsyes
Regular PadSameboys/girls
TriangleFront and Middleboys/girls
Pad for boysFrontboysyes
Pad for girlsMiddlegirlsyes
Maria’s boy foldFrontboys
MuttFront and Middleboys/girls
Doggie bagFront and Middleboys/girls
Angel wing prefold for newbornsFront and Middleboys/girlsyes
Master table of different flat diaper folds with tutorials and gender recommendations

Don’t be afraid to try certain folds even if the table suggests they might not be right for you. This isn’t an exact science so feel free to experiment and see for yourself.

A large pile of dry flat diapers waiting to be folded

How Many Flat Diapers Do You Need?

You’ll need about 45 flat diapers to use flat diapers exclusively. At the newborn stage this will generally suffice for washing them every two days and later for washing them every three days.

You’ll also need covers, let’s say you won’t need more than 10 if you’re using PUL covers. You’ll need about 4 day wool covers and 2 nighttime wool covers of you go this route.

Seeing how frequent newborns need diaper changes (every two hours at maximum), you’ll probably use about 12 flat diapers in a day. Because newborns can be especially unpredictable about eliminating and can wet the diaper as soon as it’s put on them, let’s assume 3 additional flat diapers per day just to be on the safe side. This makes the total day count about 15 flats.

By doing laundry every two days, you’ll need additional flat diapers that you’ll use when the two days worth of diapers will be washed and dried, so I’d recommend you stock up on three days worth of flat diapers, totaling at 45 flats.

Now, this may sound a lot but I’ve found that when the baby grows and starts peeing more, the less time will they be able to wear one flat diaper.

When baby starts potty training they also come in especially handy for wiping any fluids that didn’t make it into the potty.

Because they’re so absorbent we regularly use them when something gets spilled during meals.

They’re also great for drying hair, especially children because they generally don’t have that many yet.

If you find you have too many of them, there are so many more uses for them like using them as baby blankets, reusable wipes, cleaning cloths, and baby doll blankets. The list goes on and on, just use your imagination.

Of course, you can always resell them or give to someone.

Flat Diapers: Pros and Cons

Now that you’re getting warmed up to flats, your next question is probably about the pros and cons of using flat diapers.

Search no more, I made a neat table for you to weigh them to decide for yourself if they are right for your lifestyle.

dry quicklyrequire folding
cheaprequire covers
versatileusually need to be pinned with pins, snappis or boingos
made of natural fibers (usually cotton)not as absorbent as other absorbent parts
customizablecan unravel if not folded or stored neatly
can look very trimwill likely require a booster for nighttime use
can be used for cleaning
very durable
Pros and cons of flat diapers

What Materials Are Flat Diapers Made of?

I’ve already mentioned that flat diapers are usually made of cotton, however various other fabric blends are becoming more and more popular for flat diapers.

Bamboo and hemp blends are more absorbent but also a bit thicker than regular cotton flat diapers.

The weave/knit is also a very important factor here.

Different weaves of the same fiber (for example cotton) can vary greatly in thickness, absorbency, and stretch.

Common weaves are terry (very absorbent), jersey (stretchy), birdseye (very airy), and muslin (a bit more absorbent than birdseye).

Are Flat Diapers Right for You?

You’re going to have to see this for yourself.

Seeing how they can be used in so many different ways, I highly recommend you at least have a couple of flats in your cloth diaper set.

They are usually inexpensive, except if you go for the luxury flats with pretty prints and special properties, like stretchiness. Even then you can probably find preloved ones if you search for them a little.

If you end up not liking them for anything, you can always resell them or give them away to someone in need.


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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