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Everything you need to know about the initial preparation of cloth diapers!

Posted by Julie Clark on 3/21/2012 to Cloth Diaper How-To
It is so exciting when you get that package full of fluffy cloth diapers and it’s tempting to want to put those diapers on your baby immediately—but resist, because a very important step in using cloth diapers is the initial prep. You hear mom’s talk about prepping their diapers all the time on forums and blogs. What are they talking about, you ask? They’re referring to the initial wash cycle or cycles that need to be done on cloth diapers before putting them against a baby’s skin. There are a couple of reasons for doing this, and there are different ways of doing this for different fabrics.

Synethetic fabrics

If your diaper is made of synthetic fabrics such as microsuede, microfleece, or microfiber, then you really only need to pre-wash your diapers once before using them. There are two main reasons for this:
  1. Cleanliness—a prewash will wash away any germs or chemicals that may or may not have come in contact with your diaper while outside of your home—in other words, you don’t know where the diaper has been (the same applies to any clothing that you buy). It’s important to wash it once simply for your own peace of mind.
  2. Absorbency—even synthetic fibers absorb better once they’ve been washed, which is another reason you should wash your diapers once before using them.

Natural Fabrics

If you’re diaper is made of all natural fabrics such as hemp, cotton, or bamboo, you’ll need to put it through the washer and dryer 5-8 times before it is ready to be used. There are a couple of reasons for this:
  1. Size—Natural fabrics are cut large to allow for shrinking once washed. A size small prefold won’t really be a small until it’s been washed a couple of times, and thus, it won’t fit your small baby well. Hot washes and a couple of times through the dryer are very necessary for getting your diapers to shrink to the correct size.
  2. Residues—some cloth diapers, like Hemp or Cotton Prefold Diapers arrive large, flat and stiff from a chemical finishing agent known as fabric sizing. You want this sizing removed before the fabric touches baby's skin.
  3. In addition to shrinking the diaper to the appropriate size, washing these diapers before wearing them will begin to fluff and pucker the fabric which makes the diaper much more absorbent.
  4. Natural fibers have natural oils and waxy residues that will actually repel moisture. Until these have been stripped away (with 5-8 hot washes), your diapers will not attain maximum absorbency.
*It is important to note that while un-prepped diapers made of synthetic fabrics may be washed with your other diapers, un-prepped diapers made of natural fabrics should not, as they may leave an oily or waxy residue on them, causing them to repel moisture until stripped.

Stripping Diapers

There may be special circumstances in which petroleum based rash creams, or harsh detergents leave build-up on your diapers and it will be necessary to run them through a couple of hot washes to strip them of these unwanted moisture barriers. If you start to notice your diapers are repelling moisture, then this is probably the case. But, this is only necessary on a case by case basis, and is not something you need be concerned with when first buying your diapers, unless you’ve bought them used.

On your way!

Once your diapers have been pre-washed (prepped), there is no other special instructions you need follow before using them. They are ready to go, and you can be confident that they will perform at their best.