How to wash cloth diapers for the first time

How to Prep Your Cloth Diapers for the First Time: A Comprehensive Guide

Posted by Vanessa Tomchik on

What does "Prepping" cloth diapers mean?

Prepping cloth diapers simply means preparing them for first use.  We do this by washing and drying cloth diaper inserts 5 times.  Most quality cloth diapers come with a natural fiber insert.  Since natural fibers like bamboo, hemp and cotton all contain natural oils, they have to be washed out of the absorbent fabric or insert before they can contain or absorb liquid.  If a diaper manufacturer says you don't have to wash and dry 5x it is because they are using microfiber in their diaper which does not require prepping.

How To Prep Cloth Diapers

 

Understanding the Prepping Process

Before you can start using your cloth diapers, it's essential to prep them properly to maximize their absorbency and effectiveness. The prepping process involves washing new cloth diapers to remove any manufacturing residues, oils, or other substances that may be present on the fabric.  Remember, oil repels water and we want our diapers to be as absorbent as possible!

 

Washing New Cloth Diapers

To prep your new cloth diapers, start by washing them 5 times in hot water (60C/140F) with a small amount of detergent on the first time you wash only.  Run the diapers through the wash cycles, rinsing them thoroughly between each cycle to ensure that all residues are removed. Once the diapers have been washed and rinsed, they're ready to be dried and for first use.  Always remember to avoid using fabric softeners or bleach, these can leave residues on the fabric and reduce absorbency.  Note, cloth diaper covers don't need to be washed 5 times, just the inserts do.  Diaper covers and pocket outers don't need to be prepped, just washed.  All-In-Ones DO need to be washed 5 times because the inserts are attached to the cover.

Understanding Natural Fiber Diapers

If you're using natural fiber diapers like cotton, bamboo, or hemp, you may need to prep them multiple times to reach their maximum absorbency. Natural fibers have natural oils and waxes that can coat the fabric and inhibit absorbency, so it's essential to wash and prep them thoroughly before use. If you have an HE or High- Efficiency washing machine, it is imperative that you set it on Heavy-Duty or extra water setting so that plenty of water can agitate and go through your inserts properly.

Prepping Synthetic Fiber Diapers

Synthetic fiber diapers like microfiber or polyester may not require as much prepping as natural fiber diapers, but it's still essential to wash them before first use. Wash synthetic fiber diapers in hot water with a small amount of detergent, then run them through a rinse cycle to remove any residues. Once the diapers have been washed and rinsed, they're ready to be dried and prepped for use.

How to Prep Cloth Diapers

Drying and Prepping

After washing your cloth diapers, dry them thoroughly before first use. You can air dry them outside in the sun for added freshness and disinfection, or tumble dry them on a low heat setting in the dryer.  Your cloth diapers are now prepped and ready to go!

Testing Absorbency

Before putting your prepped cloth diapers on your baby at night-time, it's a good idea to test their absorbency to ensure that they're ready for use during the day.  If for some reason you suspect your diapers are not ready, you can pour a small amount of water onto the diaper's surface and observe how quickly it absorbs. A properly prepped diaper should absorb the water quickly and evenly, without any pooling or leaking. If the diaper doesn't absorb water effectively, it may need to be washed and prepped again.  Remember that fleece fabrics are slower absorbers than bamboo fabrics so one side of the diaper insert may actually absorb faster than the other, this is normal.

How To Prep Cloth Diapers

Common Prepping Problems

If you've washed 5 or more times and your cloth diapers are still not absorbent, this means something is wrong with your wash routine.  One of our customers found out that her washing machine was not using enough water to clean her diapers, therefore, even though she washed plenty of times, her diapers were still leaking.  By switching to a wash basin and doing a soak, or finding a way to add more water to a your washing routine, your diapers will be absorbent and ready to use.

Final Thoughts on Prepping

Prepping your cloth diapers for the first time is an essential step in ensuring their effectiveness and absorbency. By following these simple steps and guidelines, you can prep your cloth diapers properly and get them ready for use on your little one's delicate skin. At Lighthouse Kids Company, we're here to support you every step of the way on your cloth diapering journey.

 

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Written by

Vanessa T.

Vanessa is a proud mama of two baby boys who were of course cloth diapered! Vanessa has helped thousands of parents cloth diaper since 2012. She was a cloth diaper leader educator through the RDIA, and helped parents navigate eco-friendly diapering through her cloth diaper brick and mortar store. In 2017, Vanessa started Lighthouse Kids Co. through feedback from parents in her weekly cloth diaper 101 classes who wanted an easy to use stay-dry cloth diaper with natural fibers. Since then, LKC has sold millions of quality cloth diapers in the US and abroad. Vanessa believes in cloth diaper advocacy and education and that every parent can cloth diaper sustainably.

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