Cloth Diaper Preparation

Now that you have decided to cloth diaper your baby, it's time to work on your cloth diaper prep. There are a few things to consider when prepping your diapers, so read below and feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Why Do We Prep Cloth Diapers?

Cloth diaper preparation, often referred to simply as "prep", is simply making your diapers usable for your baby. There are two main reasons you want to prep your cloth diapers:

  1. Make sure they are clean before putting them on your baby. Cloth diapers are worn against your baby's most sensitive areas, so we want to make sure they are clean when you put them on your baby. Cloth diapers are a manufacturered item - and that process, whether at the hands of a work-at-home-mom (WAHM) or in a larger manufacturing facility, does not happen within the confines of your own home. A pre-wash cleanses away any of your concerns.
  2. Remove natural plant oils from natural fibers. Cotton, hemp, and bamboo fabrics all retain some of their natural plant oils. Oils inhibit absorption, so it is important to remove the natural oils from the fabric to make the diapers functional. Plant crops vary from season to season, so you may find the same fabric type takes more or less washes to be prepped when you buy diapers from different batches. For the most part, natural-based fabrics reach optimum absorbency after 10 washes, but can often be used during the daytime after 3-5 washes.

How Do I Prep My Cloth Diapers?

The first thing you want to do when prepping diapers is check your product tags and determine what types of fabric you have. The fabric content of your diapers wil determine what you need to do to prep your diapers.

  • Polyester - Polyester comprises stay-dry linings and microterry. If your diapers are 100% polyester or a polyester-nylon blend, the diaper just needs to be washed once before use. In theory a polyester diaper does not need to be prepped, but we recommend a wash before using as an added health and safety measure.
    1. Place diapers in your washer with an appropriate amount of detergent.
    2. Run a hot (110-140° F) wash cycle.
    3. Rinse a second time to ensure all detergent has been removed.
    4. Hang to dry or machine dry on low heat.
    5. Do not use bleach or fabric softener.
  • Cotton, hemp, and bamboo - Natural fibers require multiple washes to become absorbent. In general, the darker the fiber, the more washes it will take to become fully prepped. Whiter fibers have already had some of the natural plant oils removed from the fiber during the manufacturing process. Please note, shrinkage is normal and to be expected when prepping natural fiber diapers. Cotton and hemp diapers tend to shrink 10-15%, but bamboo will shrink up to 20%.
    1. Place diapers in your washer with an appropriate amount of detergent.
    2. Run a hot (110-140° F) wash cycle.
    3. Rinse a second time to ensure all detergent has been removed.
    4. Machine dry on low heat. Using the dryer helps make the fabric quiltier and softer, so it is recommended to use the dryer until your diapers are fully absorbent.
    5. Repeat the wash and dry cycle at least 3-5 times before putting the diaper on your baby.
    6. Diapers will be suitable for day use, but will not reach peak absorbency until 10 washes. It is recommended to wait until a diaper is fully absorbent before using it during naps or bedtime.
    7. Do not use bleach or fabric softener.

Cloth Diaper Prep FAQs

  1. I have a small number of diapers to prep. How can I save water and energy consumption?
    It is okay to mix your diapers with other household laundry that is washed on the same temperature. Be mindful of mixing the colors, so your diapers and laundry do not bleed onto one another. Natural fibers can be prepped with whites and sheets. I do not generally recommend prepping with towels as they are bulkier and can occasionally cause excess pilling.
  2. Can I mix fabric types in my prep washes?
    All natural fibers can be prepped together. I general recommend segregating synthetic (polyester) fibers so they do not retain any of the plant oils from your natural fibers. Once your diapers are prepped, they can all be washed together.
  3. How do I prepped used or preowned diapers?
    Previously used diapers should already be fully absorbent. In this situation we recommend washing in hot with 1/8-1/4 a cup of chlorine bleach to make sure the diapers are properly sanitized. This is one of the few times you should use bleach on your diapers.
  4. I really want to start using cloth diapers ASAP. Which diapers prep the fastest?
    Prep washing can sometimes take up to 24 hours of continuous washing, which can be a bummer for anxious parents. Polyester fibers are ready to go after one wash. If you are looking for a natural fiber, then you should go with white cotton or hemp prefolds or flats. The Thirsties and Geffen Baby brand hemp products are white and prep faster than other hemp products in our store.