How to Wash Diaper Covers

Posted by Jason Rector on

Cloth diapers are more economical, environmentally friendly, and better for your baby’s skin than disposable diapers. With so many modern, easy-to-use options available today, it’s easy to see why many parents choose to diaper their babies the traditional way.

The most intimidating part of using cloth diapers is figuring out how to keep them (and your baby’s clothing) clean. Cloth diaper covers are used as an added layer of dryness protection over flat, pre-folded, and fitted reusable diapers. There are many different diaper cover styles and materials to choose from. Whether you’ve already settled on your favorites or are gathering information to make some choices, this guide will help you learn about various diaper cover fabrics and how to wash cloth diaper covers.     

Diaper Cover Fabrics

Before we get into how to wash cloth diaper covers, it’s important to understand the types of fabrics they’re made with. Diaper covers are either natural or synthetic. Natural covers are made of wool or cashmere, while synthetic diapers are made of polyurethane laminate (PUL), vinyl, waterproofed nylon, or fleece.

While synthetic diaper covers are preferred for their waterproof protection, this feature makes them less breathable than natural ones. Wool may not be waterproof, but it does contain lanolin, which is water-resistant and absorbent. Wool and cashmere diaper covers are also exceptionally breathable, which makes them much gentler on a baby’s sensitive skin.   

Wool diaper covers also require a little extra effort to care for compared with synthetic covers. Still, parents looking for the most organic, environmentally sound, and sensitive skin-friendly option will agree that it’s worth the extra effort. On the other hand, parents looking for the driest, easiest-to-maintain option may prefer synthetic diaper covers.

Lanolizing Wool Diaper Covers

Washing wool diaper covers requires a two-part process: lanolizing and washing. Lanolizing is what gives them their absorbent, waterproof quality. This part of the process should be repeated about every four weeks or sooner if you notice that the cover isn’t absorbing as much moisture as it used to.

How to Lanolize a Wool Cloth Diaper Cover

The following lanolization process should take approximately five minutes to complete.

  • Begin with dry, clean wool. If lanolizing items with snaps, be sure to unsnap.
  • Draw a pan/bucket/sink of lukewarm water. Hot water will felt and shrink wool.
  • Take a separate cup of very hot water, add a pea size ( this is for approximately 2 to 3 articles) of BabeeGreens pure lanolin. Stir to dissolve. Dissolving well is very important to avoid sticky spots on the wool.
  • Once well dissolved add to the sink of lukewarm water and mix well.
  • Add your wool, soaking it through with the lukewarm, lanolin-rich bath. Let sit for a minimum of 3 hours to overnight.
  • When it is time to dry the cover, longies etc, avoid wringing or squeezing the fabric. This can cause it to become misshapen. Lay the article in a clean, dry towel and roll it to remove excess water. Lay flat to dry and you are ready to go!
  • Your wool can be air dried for weeks unless soiled, and used over and over before needing to washed. Lanolize once a month or so.

Choosing a Detergent

Whether you’re choosing a detergent for natural or synthetic diaper covers, one fact remains the same. You should always look for detergents with a high concentration of enzymes and surfactants. These help break down stains. You’ll also want to ensure that the detergent does not contain bleach, dye, fragrance, harsh chemicals, or fabric softener.

If you’re using wool diaper covers, it’s highly recommended to wash them with a specialized wool wash. If you don’t have any on hand, use a pea-sized amount of baby wash or mild baby shampoo. 

To avoid redepositing issues that can cause rashes, choose optimally clean rinsing detergents whenever possible. If you use hemp products and your baby suddenly develops a blistering rash, check to ensure that you are NOT using a detergent with borax. While borax, in small amounts, is an effective disinfectant and is beneficial for killing bacteria in cotton, it can sometimes cause rashes.  

Washing Methods

Depending on the type of diaper cover you use, there are a few different ways you can wash them. Follow the simple steps below to clean your wool or synthetic diaper covers.

How to Wash Wool Diaper Covers

Wool diaper covers should be washed every week or two or as soon as they’re soiled or start to smell bad. Between uses, you can let them air dry. Since lanolin naturally neutralizes urine, any odor from urine should dissipate as the cover dries. If the smell remains once the cover is dry, it’s time for a wash. Here’s how.

First, rinse the cover well under lukewarm water. Urine residue can break down wool fibers and create a foul odor if it isn’t rinsed away before the cover is washed and lanolized, so this step is crucial. When the cover is well-rinsed, gently squeeze the excess water out.  

Next, use a gentle Olive Oil Soap Bar to give the wool a good wash and rub out any stains. Olive oil soap is a gentle, thorough cleanser that will prolong the life of the wool fibers in your covers. If you don’t have olive oil bar soap on hand, use another wool wash, bar soap, or gentle baby shampoo instead.

Lastly, fill a sink or plastic basin with lukewarm water. Add the diaper cover and a little wool wash to the water and handwash the cover gently. Let it soak in the water for 10-15 minutes. Rinse it under fresh lukewarm water until the water runs clear.

Never use a machine to wash or dry wool diaper covers. 

How to Wash Synthetic Diaper Covers

Washing synthetic diaper covers is a bit different than wool. If you use PUL, vinyl, waterproofed nylon, or fleece diaper covers, follow the simple steps below to keep them clean. 

Hand washing is recommended between wash cycles. Fill a sink or plastic basin with warm (not hot) water and add a mild soap or detergent. Submerge the cover, wash it gently, and rinse under fresh warm water.

While it’s recommended to hang or lay the covers flat to dry, you can tumble dry them on a low or delicate setting. If the covers are leaking on your baby, put them in the dryer for 15 minutes on low heat to reseal them.

Never use dryer sheets when drying diaper covers in a machine.

With so many economical and environmental benefits, it’s no surprise that reusable diapers are growing in popularity. Modern cloth diaper covers are comfortable, attractive, and easy to maintain. Follow the tips in the guide above to learn how to wash your cloth diaper covers and develop an easy cloth diaper wash routine.   

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