This series is intended for the first time cloth diaper user or the family who is considering using cloth diapers. Please feel free to ask questions (just leave a comment below) and I’ll be happy to help you along your journey.
A few weeks ago I was honored to be able to giveaway cloth diapers to over 50 families through an event that was held in conjunction with BlogHer ’11 (a social media conference for women <and men> bloggers). Some of the bloggers that attended the event had never used cloth diapers before and it dawned on me that sometimes the obvious is not always obvious to the beginner. I received a tweet from Nikki (blogger and special events planner for The Dragon’s Den restaurant) and the following conversation began:
Nikki: @TheEcoChic Trying the adorable diaper you gave me. So cute but I may need an instruction manual! 😉 now to see if we make it thru the nite!
Nikki: I’ll report back in the morning…12 hours later! RT @theecochic: But it sounds like you have the hang of it already!
Nikki: @theecochic I’m sad to report that I had a cold, soaked baby this morning:(
Me: @TheDragonsDenSD did you wash them before they were worn?
Nikki: @theecochic Um, no…is that in the instructions?
Cloth Diapering 101 – Get Started by Prepping Your Diapers!
Yes, you really should wash your cloth diapers before putting them on your baby or your baby may wake up “cold and soaked” in the morning.
Prepping your diapers:
When you get your cloth diapers home you’ll want to review the washing instructions that ‘should’ come attached to your diaper package. Granted that not all brands come with very good directions – if any. You will want to prep your diapers for a few reasons: 1) to remove any residual debris, dust, chemicals that might be on your diapers from manufacturing and shipping; 2) for the diaper to become fully absorbent. Some fabrics actually become more absorbent the more times they are washed. This is typically true with natural fibers (like cotton, hemp, and bamboo).
For natural fibers (or diapers made of primarily natural fibers) you’ll want to wash these diapers 3-6 times before putting them on your baby. Remember to prep your natural fibers separate from your microfiber (or other synthetic materials) diapers since natural fibers typically contain natural oils that can cause residue to build up on your microfiber diapers causing them to be less absorbent. Sound confusing? You’ll only need to do this the first wash/prep cycle (those 3-6 washes). You don’t need to use detergent to prep your diapers but you can. There really aren’t steadfast rules involved since each brand varies slightly in their recommendations. Just remember “natural fibers prep separate and wash multiple times before using.” Hint: I have washed mine 1-2 times and they’ve worked OK for daytime but I can be impatient when fluffy mail arrives. Side note: Natural fibers tend to be heavier and some manufacturers actually recommend washing separate from synthetic materials for all your wash cycles as they may wear out or prematurely age your diapers. I’ve never been too concerned over this but it is something you should know before you get started.
For Microfiber (or other synthetic materials) you’ll only need to wash these diapers 1 time before putting them on your baby. Microfiber doesn’t become any more absorbent after it is washed multiple times and prepping is primarily to remove any residue from shipping. Again, you don’t need to use detergent to prep your diapers but you can. Review your manufacturers directions to be on the safe side.
A note about detergents: Not all detergents are created equally. Most manufacturers recommend using a detergent that is free of perfumes, dyes, whiteners, brighteners, softeners, enzymes, and other fabric enhancers. For more information on what that means you should read my post “Cloth Diaper Laundry Do’s and Don’ts.”
In the conversation above with Nikki you can see that she didn’t wash her itti bitti tutto before she put it on her babe at night. Babies are especially heavy wetters at nighttime and the bitti tutto is comprised of mostly natural fibers. It’s no wonder that Nikki’s baby woke up cold and wet the next morning and to someone new to cloth diapers it can be a frustrating experience that will make you question your diapering decision. Luckily your baby is not going to remember this one wet morning and Nikki now knows why her diaper leaked. There are other reasons why diapers may leak but we’ll save those for future posts.