How To Wash Cloth Diapers for the First Time
Washing cloth diapers for the first time is called “prepping” in the cloth diaper world. Before you use cloth diapers on your baby, you need to prep them. A lot of new cloth diaper mommas’ get hung up on this tiny little word! Don’t fret! Prepping cloth diapers simply means thoroughly cleaning them, flushing any excess plant oils, and building up their absorbency.
Why Is It Important To Wash Cloth Diapers Before Your Baby Wears Them?
Cloth diapers cover the most sensitive areas of your baby’s body. It is important to ensure that they are fully sanitized. While they are being manufactured, the cloth will be exposed to some amount of chemicals. And between the process of making the diapers and transporting them at least once, the cloth will have come into contact with some amount of germs or dirt. Washing diapers before the first wear keeps your baby clean and prevent any risk of infection or irritation.
This logic is true for any piece of clothing, but there is more to the story when it comes to cloth diapers. First of all, natural fabric diapers will carry excess plant oils that need to be thoroughly removed prior to their use. Additionally, cloth diapers can’t be used reliably right off the bat. When you take them out of the package, they do not yet have the absorbency needed to keep from leaking.
Cloth diapers actually need to be “prepped” in a specific way that includes more than just washing, before their first use.
Prepping Cloth Diapers
With the exception of those made from polyester, cloth diapers need to undergo repeated washings and machine drying. This isn’t because they need additional cleaning, but for another reason entirely. The washing process, and particularly the machine dry, adds to the diaper’s absorbency. The material fluffs up over these repeated washings and dryings, allowing it to do its job in protecting leaks.
In fact, you cannot use the diaper reliably until you’ve washed and dried it 3-5 times. It won’t have fluffed enough to support overnight use until you have done this about twice as many times. After the diapers reach maximum absorbency, there is no need to prep further. From there on out the diapers can be washed just once between uses. It is also fine to line dry if you wish after this point.
How To Prep Cloth Diapers
First off, only put diapers into your washer. Going further, keep natural and synthetic fabrics separate. Use only a small amount of diaper safe detergent, I recommend Seventh Generation. Do not use fabric softeners, and only use bleach with microfiber diapers. Some people choose not to use detergent after the first wash cycle. It is not necessary but it is up to you.
Put the diapers through a hot wash cycle. The water temperature needs to be between 110 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have used detergent in your load, add an extra rinse cycle.
Tumble dry the diapers. Hanging to dry won’t do much to increase their absorbency. The bounce of the dryer helps fluff them up.
For natural fabric diapers (like cotton, hemp, or bamboo), repeat the process 6-8 times. The diapers may be ready for daytime use after as little as 3-5 washes. Some diapers will take even more than 8 subsequent wash and dry cycles to reach maximum absorbency.
For synthetic fabric diapers (like polyester), there is no need to repeat the process. The diaper is fully prepped after the first wash. In essence, you do not need to actually prep synthetic fabric diapers, but rather you are simply cleaning the material well prior to use.
Cloth Diapers of Different Materials Need to Be Prepped Separately
When you prep cloth diapers, wash them separately from the rest of your laundry. Not only that but also do not mix cloth diapers of different materials in the same load. This is because the plant oils that wash out of the natural fabric diapers will actually wash onto the synthetic ones. When this happens, a repellent layer forms and the synthetic diaper basically becomes waterproof instead of absorbent, defeating its purpose.
What Parts of a Cloth Diaper Need To Be Prepped?
Not every part of a cloth diaper needs to be prepped, although all parts should be prewashed once before you put them on your baby. Only the parts that need to build their absorbency need to go through the repeated washings and dryings. For example, a cover does not need to be prepped.
How To Know When Your Diapers are Fully Prepped
If it is your first time using cloth diapers, it will be hard to know exactly when they are fully prepped. Generally, you can use them for day time after they’ve puffed up some, but they may still have further to go to reach maximum absorbency. At some point, you’ll probably notice that they are pretty fluffy and they aren’t getting any thicker with subsequent washes. That is when you can stop prepping and use the diapers for longer wear like overnight.
Cloth diapers are an excellent choice for our planet, your budget, and your baby. However, they are a novel concept for many new parents. It’s important to learn the ins and outs of these products, part of which includes how to wash them for the first time!