If you’re wondering how to prep cloth diapers or aren’t sure how to do it properly, you've come to the right place.
Cloth diapering is a great way to be environmentally conscious and save money over disposable diapers. However, it can be intimidating to get started, especially when there are many different types of cloth diapers available, including those made with 100% organic cotton, hemp, or bamboo.
We've put together a list of tips, tricks, and techniques that will help you prepare your cloth diapers for the best results. With these tips in mind, you'll be able to get started on your cloth diaper journey with confidence!
Why Do You Have To Prep Cloth Diapers?
Prepping is one of the first steps in the cloth diaper process. If you don't prep your new cloth diaper properly, it won't work as well as it should.
Preparing cloth diapers before use helps to increase absorbency and greatly improves the overall functionality and longevity of your cloth diaper set. Prepping also helps prevent staining by removing any excess moisture that may have accumulated duringcloth diaper storage or manufacturing.
Natural fibers tend not to be 100% absorbent when they arrive in your home. The oil from manufacturing can repel liquids and decrease absorbency, as well as leave an unpleasant odor on the fabric. Pre-washing your new cloth diaper products before use will increase their absorbency, make them safe, and smell fresh for your baby.
All in all, knowing how to properly prep your new cloth diapers will help them reach their full absorbency and save you money in the long run.
How To Prep Cloth Diapers?
Prepping cloth diapers is a very simple procedure of washing your diapers several times to increase their absorbency and remove dirt and oil. You just need to be careful about two basic things: the material of your cloth diaper, and the detergent you’re going to use to wash them.
Not all cloth diapers need to be prepped the same. Generally, cloth diapers are made either from natural fibers or synthetics.
Natural Fiber Diapers and Inserts:
If you're using a diaper that's made up of natural fibers like hemp, linen, wool, or cotton, you will need to wash it in a hot water cycle on the highest setting and dry it 4-5 times before use. This is because each cycle will help remove the natural oils, break up the natural fibers, and increase the absorbency of your diapers.
Pro Tip: “It’s best to wash the new cloth diapers with hot water and rinse them with warm water,” advises Margarita McClure, founder of Blueberry Diapers, to new moms, “and instead of drying the diaper every time it’s washed, switch to ‘wash twice, dry once’ approach. This will save you both time and frustration.”
Synthetic Diapers and Inserts:
Synthetic fabrics like microfiber, bamboo, bamboo charcoal, baby fleece, microsuede, and polyester only need to be washed once before use.
A synthetic diaper is easy to prep because it doesn’t contain any natural oils to remove. Just wash in a hot water cycle on the highest setting, rinse and wring out, and you're ready to go!
Pro Tip: Dry your diapers in the sun after washing them. It's a great natural disinfectant!
Wait, why is bamboo in the synthetic category? Isn’t it made from natural fibers? Well, this is not necessarily the case.
The confusion over whether or not bamboo fibers are natural or synthetic comes from the fact that these fibers can be produced intwo ways: through a mechanical process (bamboo linen) or the more standard manufacturing process (bamboo rayon/viscose or lyocell).
So, if your cloth diaper is labeled as organic bamboo fiber, you should prep it as you would with other natural fibers. However, most bamboo diapers are actually created using processes that create more artificial fiber, so those just need one wash cycle.
Cloth Diaper Prep Detergent:
What makes laundry detergent so important in cloth diaper prep?
Many conventional laundry detergents contain ingredients such as optical brighteners, fragrances, and oil-based surfactants that stick to the diapers and cause them to repel moisture. This causes a problem, since the point of prepping new cloth diapers is to increase their absorbency!
There are so many websites, blogs, and communities about cloth diapers, but all experts agree on one thing: you can't just use anything to wash these delicate clothes. Make sure you carefully follow the washing instructions of your cloth diaper brand. Wash them with warm water, and do not use any additives or harsh bleach. You can dry it in the machine or on a line.
Warning Note: Never, ever, ever use fabric softener! The fabric fibers will get coated and won't be able to absorb moisture.
Related Resource: Best Detergent For Cloth Diapers
Dos and Don’ts of Cloth Diaper Prep:
Each brand and type of cloth diaper has different instructions forhow to clean cloth diapers and prep them. Still, in general, you'll want to do the following: washing in hot water, rinsing with warm water, drying completely in a machine or under the sun—repeat. Here are a few general dos and don’ts of how to prep new cloth diapers:
Cloth Diaper Prep FAQs
Do You Wash Cloth Diapers with Hot or Cold Water?
The debate over whether to wash cloth diapers in hot or cold water is common. Most experts agree that hot water is the best way to wash cloth diapers. This is because it kills bacteria, reduces odors, and removes stains. Nevertheless, other factors, such as detergent choice, material, andcloth diaper wash routine, can influence how efficiently a cloth diaper preps.
Why Shouldn't I Boil Cloth Diapers?
Boiling diapers is not a good idea because it will cause the fibers to degrade faster, shortening the life of your diaper. When boiled, polyester fleece, microfiber, and cotton terry cloth are all at risk of melting. Polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) plastics don't melt, but will warp when exposed to boiling water.
In a nutshell, boiling is too harsh on your diapers.
Will Cloth Diapers Shrink During First Wash?
Yes. Cotton, hemp, and bamboo diapers will shrink during the prepping process. Some hemp products may continue to shrink over time, but most tend to be of a higher quality and won't shrink as much.
Normal shrinkage for woven cotton, linen, and rayon diaper fabrics is about 2-10% in the first wash. Microfiber doesn't shrink at all, but it will shed over time.
You should expect your diapers to shrink over time, but no need to worry! It's all part of the natural process.