Preparing New Cloth diapers And Keeping For Many Years
Your first box of fluff mail just showed up! You’re maybe feeling overwhelmed and excited - totally normal at first - where do you start?!
First things first, before those diapers go on the baby's bottom, you need to prep them. For some diapers a quick, regular wash is all they need, for others, multiple wash/dry cycles are required.
Start by identifying the types of diapers you purchased and their materials, this will determine what they need before they’re ready to be used.
Cloth Laundry Tips and Tricks
Non absorbent pieces and synthetic materials - microfiber, microfleece, polyester, PUL (polyurethane laminate)... - require only one regular wash to remove any dirt or debris from the manufacturing process before they’re ready to go.
These are generally inserts, covers, pocket outers, and occasionally AIOs. I like to just toss these in with whatever is going in the washer next (but remember not to use any fabric softeners) and put pocket shells and inserts in the dryer (skip the dryer sheets!
Try switching to wool dryer balls if you want to help dry and soften your laundry while hanging covers to dry.
Any natural materials - cotton, hemp - will need to be washed multiple times in HOT water to remove the natural oils from the fibers that may prevent absorbency.
While they can be used after just one wash, you may notice that they don’t perform as well as they should be until they’ve been used and washed a few more times.
I tend to just leave these in the washer as I add and remove loads to avoid wasting water on small loads of diapers. Drying between washes will help your prefolds quilt up nicely and shrink to the “right” size but it isn’t necessary!
They will do that the more they get used. The important part here is washing to remove the oils. If you purchase an organic natural material, more than 6 washes may be necessary before they reach full absorbency.
Again, make sure you’re avoiding fabric softeners and using cloth safe detergents while prepping if you choose to wash with non-diaper laundry.
What About Washing Bamboo?
Bamboo is a grey area as it is a hybrid material - both natural and synthetic. Some argue it still has oils that need to be removed, some say the oils are removed in manufacturing.
One wash has always been sufficient for me, but if you’re noticing absorbency issues a few extra washes won’t hurt! Nicki’s offers a wide variety of bamboo diapering products; such as flats, pre-folded, all-in-ones, and more!
If you’re like me and purchase way too many diapers at once you may be able to just throw them in their own load once they arrive.
If you’re buying here and there in small amounts, adding to your regular laundry will help save you time and water!
Also check out this great blog from Nicki’s Diapers! They show the steps and purposes of getting a fresh start on your cloth diaper wash routine, for new diapers that just came in the mail and for diapers you’ve had!
Caring For Your Cloth Diapers So They Last
Now that you’ve got them prepped and have started to use them, how can you keep them in good shape for any future babies?
There are a few steps you can take to ensure your diapers last many years and through multiple babies - some of my stash is 10 years old and on its 5th baby!
The cost of some cloth diapers can seem high but when you consider the quality, it’s absolutely worth the investment!
The $5 diapers may seem tempting, especially when many families start cloth diapering to save money, but when they need to be replaced often are the $10 diapers really *that* expensive?
The cost of an item is generally a good indicator of quality, so why would that not apply to diapers as well? Nickis and Imagine covers and flats are both high quality, budget friendly options that can be used for years!
Both of their pockets are a great mid-range option that have been in my stash for 4-6 years. Spend now, save later! Here are some great tips on cloth diaper budgeting!
Get A Good Fit
When your diapers fit well you won’t be straining the elastics or stretching out the PUL - both things that will wear your diapers down much faster.
Look at the material around your snaps - is it stressed? Try letting the rise out a bit. Is the elastic in the back completely stretched out?
You should probably loosen the waist snaps. Maybe your toddler is on the bigger side and needs some XLs to get a comfortable fit. You can always ask for a fit check in the Nicki’s chatter group if you’re unsure!
Additionally, here is a great blog on getting the perfect diaper fit!
Avoid Harsh Cleaners
While you may need to bleach occasionally and strip a time or two, it’s best to avoid doing so whenever possible as these can cause your diapers to wear out quicker.
Get yourself set up with a solid wash routine so you don’t end up with stinky diapers that need regular deep cleaning or sanitizing.
This includes a quality detergent (Tide is a tried and true detergent for many cloth diapering families that is readily available), water softener if you have hard water, and a regular washing schedule - you don’t want to leave a pile of damp, waste soaked diapers sitting for a week!
Storing in a pail with good airflow and washing every few days (try to not go longer than 3 days!) will help keep them smelling fresh and, again, reduce wear on the materials.
You also want to stay away from fabric softeners and dryer sheets as both can cause absorbency issues and repelling. Not only are they unnecessary but that’s bad news for cloth diapers!
Vinegar seems to be a popular suggestion for laundry in some parts of the cloth community but it’s not good for your washer OR your diapers - you definitely want to avoid adding it to your routine.
The dryer is tempting for busy families or families without much extra space at home and it is sometimes necessary, but constant exposure to high heat can slowly ruin your diapers if you aren’t careful!
Inserts, prefolds, flats, any absorbent pieces without added material etc… can go in the dryer no problem (honestly, I prefer them in the dryer as they can get pretty stiff while drying on the line).
Diapers with added elastics and PUL are where you need to use caution. AIOs and fitteds can take longer to dry on the line due to the amount of layered fabric so most people do tend to toss them in the dryer.
If you end up doing this, add some Nicki's wool dryer balls to reduce dry time which in turn reduces the wear on your diapers caused by the dryer!
Pocket outers and covers air dry quickly and doing so could help your diapers last for years and through multiple babies!
If drying space is a concern there are many collapsible drying rack options to choose from, hangers on a shower curtain rod while not in use, or - if you’re feeling lazy like I usually am - throw them on top of your dryer or another available surface nearby.
Let Them Breathe
Now your diaper days are coming to an end or maybe you need to take a little break but you want to hold on to them for when your family grows or you're ready to revisit them - how do you store them so they’re good to go when you need them?
Let them breathe!! You’ll want to store your diapers in a way that air can flow through them- no air tight containers or plastic bags.
This will help your elastics stay fresh and prevent your PUL from drying out and cracking. A cardboard box works, but Planet Wise packing cubes are MUCH cuter, have a mesh top that ensures proper air flow, and can be used for more than just storing your diapers!
Planet Wise pail liners left open (meaning don’t close the top) are also an option but may not provide adequate air flow to diapers on the bottom. Those would be a good option for short term storage!
Steps 6 and 7 are not necessary- which is why I tacked them on the end - but they can definitely help and it’s good to keep them in mind!
Keep A Large Rotation
Not all families can afford to have a big stash and that's totally fine! You won’t ruin your diapers if you have just enough BUT when you have more, you use each diaper a little less often which means less wear on them all over time.
Also, if you’re diapering multiple babies of different sizes at once, try to keep a separate stash for each so that you’re not constantly snapping and unsnapping the rises which can also put stress on the PUL and snaps.
Keep Them Covered
“But I picked out these cloth diapers because they look cute! I want to see them and show them off!”
Yes. I get it. There are so many beautiful and fun prints available and I want everyone to see them too!
This is not an all the time thing, but when your baby is scooting on their tummy just before crawling or when your toddler is outside running around on cement or rocks, your diapers are much more likely to wear in certain spots (like the front while baby is sliding along the carpeted floor or the butt when the toddler is trying to finish their awesome chalk drawing in the driveway) or even get damaged.
Putting on a onesie or throwing on a pair of matching baby leggings or shorties from Nicki’s is a great way to protect that fluff while still enjoying the prints you’ve fallen in love with!
Getting started with cloth diapers can seem overwhelming - there’s so much to learn and it’s easy to feel like you’ll ruin your stash if you look at it the wrong way.
Just remember, quality cloth diapers are tough! They’re made for babies and toddlers, they have to be able to hold up to the chaos that comes with them, so try not to stress too much!
Nicki’s can help you learn about the diaper types available, grow your stash, fit them properly, work out a wash routine, and provide you with the extras that will help you keep your diapers in tip top shape.