Most people think of hippies, drugs, or an old Cheech and Chong movie when they hear the word ‘hemp.’ Although these references may be somewhat correct, they are only small pieces of the cannabis sativa plant history. The use of hemp dates back to over ten thousand years ago. From the oldest relic of human industry, a bit of hemp fabric that dates back to approximately 8,000 BC, to the hemp paper that the United States Declaration of Independence is written on, there are innumerable uses for hemp.
What exactly is Hemp?
Hemp is an annual herbaceous plant of the species cannabis sativa, meaning ‘useful hemp.’ Hemp is a distinct variety of the cannabis plant. Although hemp and marijuana have a similar leaf shape and are both “Cannabis,” Hemp contains virtually no THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in marijuana. Products made from Hemp are environmentally friendly, sustainable/biodegradable and psychoactive free.
Why choose Hemp diapers?
When Susie Little of What’s Hempinin’ Baby?™ began making cloth diapers, she wanted a cloth diaper that was more environmentally friendly than the traditional 100% cotton cloth diapers. In the six years since she decided to use Hemp in her cloth diapers, Hemp cloth diapers have become one of the favorites among cloth diaper users. This is because cotton and synthetic fiber cannot match Hemp’s ability to absorb moisture. Hemp fabric is three times stronger than cotton of the same weight, absorbs more moisture, and will last much longer than cotton alone. Hemp is a high yield plant producing the strongest natural fiber known to man. It can be grown pesticide free and has no known insect enemies. Hemp has inherent antifungal, antibacterial properties, is breathable, recyclable and non-allergenic; making it the ultimate cloth diaper fabric.
Hemp Fabrics All of the hemp/cotton knit fabrics used in cloth diapering are produced at a mill in China. The importer who originally designed the hemp/cotton fabrics that are imported into the US visits the mill many times per year. She monitors the conditions of the mill, the quality of the fabric, and makes any necessary adjustments in production.
- Fleece (55% Hemp 45 % Cotton)
This is the most popular hemp diaper fabric. It is similar to a sweatshirt, with a knit on one side and a soft brushed fleece on the other side. After repeated washing the brushed side of the fabric will lose some of its fullness, this does not affect the quality.
- French Terry (55% Hemp 45 % Cotton)
French terry is the fleece fabric with the loops intact (not brushed/combed like the fleece) and knit on the other side. Some report that the French terry is slightly more absorbent than the fleece. As with fleece after repeated washing/drying the loops will lose some of their fullness, this does not affect the quality.
- Stretch Knit Terry (53% Hemp 43 % Cotton 4% Lycra)
This fabric resembles an infant bath towel. It is slightly more stretchy than the other knits. It is knit on one side, and small loops on the other. This fabric is less bulky than the fleece and french terry, but being the same weight, it is comparable in its ability to absorb fluid.
- Knit Jersey (55% Hemp 45 % Cotton)
Jersey is a lightweight fabric that resembles a high-quality T-shirt. This fabric is generally used as an outer fabric, as it is very soft.
- Muslin (55% Hemp 45 % Cotton)
At this time this is the only woven fabric used for cloth diapers. It is the most durable of all the hemp diaper fabrics. It is especially good for the outer fabric of inserts for pocket diapers, as the insert does not touch baby skin. This fabric will look better and last longer than any of the knit fabrics.
Washing hemp diapers
Pre-washing hemp cloth diapers will improve the initial absorbency of the diapers. Any mild detergent works well on hemp cloth diapers. It is generally a good idea to use about half of the recommended amount of detergent per load to prevent build-up. You should never use fabric softener. Fabric softeners will leave a film, which will cause the diapers to be less absorbent, and may irritate the baby’s skin. Bleach should not be used, as it causes the fibers in the fabric to break down causing holes and a rough texture. In place of bleach or fabric softener, you can add a cup of vinegar to the final rinse cycle. Vinegar helps to soften, disinfect, and brighten your diapers. Line drying or “sunning” your diapers is the best way to remove any stains. As long as you get all of the detergents out of hemp and dry them properly, hemp diapers should never be stiff or smell bad. If you choose to line dry, it may be best to tumble dry on low for a few minutes after line drying. It is best to avoid drying diapers in high heat, especially diapers with snaps. If your diaper has snaps, high heat could cause the snaps to warp. Warped snaps do not snap properly, and sometimes become loose or come off. Diapers should be tumble dried on low heat or line dry.
Kane, Mari “Basic Uses of Industrial Hemp: Food, Fuel, Fiber” at www.hia.org
Conrad, Chris Hemp, Lifeline to the Future
Herer, Jack, The Emperor Wears No Clothes
Little, Susie “Natural parents choose cloth diapers and baby hemp clothing from What’s Hempenin’ Baby?” at www.globalhemp.org