two cloth diapers hanging on a laundry line being prepped for the first time

How to Prep Cloth Diapers: Quick Start Guide for New Parents

Okay, so you just got a brand new stash of cloth diapers and can’t wait to use them on your little one! But wait! Before you put those cute designs on your baby’s bum you have to prep your cloth diapers. 

Prepping cloth diapers may seem like a daunting task at first, but once you understand the simple steps involved, you’ll be well on your way to providing your baby with an eco-friendly and cost-effective diapering option.

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Understanding Cloth Diaper Prepping

Before you begin using new cloth diapers, it’s important to understand the process of prepping them. This ensures optimal performance in terms of absorbency and can prevent issues like leaks.

What ‘Prepping’ Means with Cloth Diapers

Unlike disposable diapers, cloth diapers are not ready to use right away. Prepping new cloth diapers is like the rehearsal before the big show. Essentially, prepping is the initial washes that your diapers undergo in the washing machine before their first use. 

This process is crucial for removing any natural oils and residues that are present in natural fibers, such as cotton, bamboo, and hemp. Not properly preparing your diapers can lead to decreased absorbency and unwelcome leaks.

Discuss Why Prepping Is Necessary for New Cloth Diapers

Prepping your cloth diapers is necessary for several reasons:

  • Increase absorbency: Natural fibers contain oils that can be removed through multiple washes. Doing this increases the diapers’ ability to absorb effectively.
  • Remove residue: Beyond natural oils, new cloth diapers might have residues or harsh chemicals from the production process that could interfere with absorbency and may cause skin irritations.
  • Prevent leaks: Without adequate prepping, cloth diapers may repel liquid rather than absorb it, leading to potential leaks.
cloth diapers hanging on a laundry line after being prepped for the first time

Washing New Cloth Diapers

Sorting by Fabric Type

When prepping your diapers, start by sorting them by fabric type:

  • Synthetic fabrics: Includes microfiber, microfleece, and polyester.
  • Natural fabrics: Includes cotton, hemp, and bamboo.

Each fabric type has different washing needs. Synthetics generally require only one wash, while natural fibers might need multiple washes to become fully absorbent and free of natural oils.

Choosing an Appropriate Detergent for Prepping

Select a cloth-diaper-safe laundry detergent that doesn’t contain fabric softeners, bleach, or additives like optical brighteners:

  • For all diaper types, use a detergent that works well with your home’s water type, be it soft water or hard water.
  • Avoid any laundry products that could leave residues and affect the diaper’s full absorbency.

Make sure to avoid fabric softeners during the prepping process as they can coat the fibers and create a build-up that affects TPU and PUL (waterproof barrier materials). Stick to a basic wash routine, using a recommended amount of detergent and performing enough washes to ensure all layers of your diaper are ready to perform their best.

Recommended Number of Pre-Washes or Soaks

Follow these guidelines for the initial pre-wash process:

  • Microfiber inserts and other synthetic fabrics: Typically, one hot wash followed by a drying cycle is sufficient.
  • Natural fibers (hemp, cotton, bamboo prefolds):
    • Multiple hot wash and dry cycles may be necessary.
    • Three to five pre-washes are recommended to remove oils and improve absorbency.

Remember, don’t use your diapers on your baby until they have been properly prepped. This will help avoid leaks and keep your baby dry and comfortable.

piles of laundry in baskets in front of a washing machine

Drying and Storing Prepped Cloth Diapers

After prepping your cloth diapers through thorough washing, the next steps – drying and storing – are crucial for maintaining their absorbency and ensuring they are ready for your baby’s sensitive skin.

roper Methods for Drying Freshly Washed Cloth Diapers

Once your diapers are washed, choose a drying method that best suits the type of cloth diaper you have. Pocket diapers, diaper covers, and shells made of synthetic materials can be machine-dried on a low or medium-heat setting. However, high temperatures can damage their waterproof coating, so be mindful of high heat. 

For diapers with natural fibers, air-drying on a drying rack is recommended to maintain their absorbency. You can also use sun-drying as a natural process to not only dry but also to help remove any lingering stains. If you have wool diaper covers, lay them flat to dry to avoid pressure that could misshape them.

  • Synthetic Diapers (Pocket Diapers, Covers, Shells): Low/medium machine dry or air-drying.
  • Natural Fiber Diapers: Air-drying preferred, sun-drying to remove stains.
  • Wool Covers: Lay flat to dry, avoid pressure.

Store Clean, Dried Diapers Until Needed: Tips & Tricks

Storing your clean diapers properly protects them from dust and keeps them ready for use. Store your dried diapers in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, which could potentially fade the fabric over time. Use a clean, breathable container – avoid plastic bags that can trap moisture and lead to a mess. For easy access, organize the diapers by type: inserts, covers, and pocket diapers. This organization will simplify your diaper-changing routine.

  • Store in Cool, Dry Place: Keeps diapers ready for use.
  • Breathable Container: Prevents moisture build-up.
  • Organize by Type: Simplifies finding what you need.

Remember, proper care during drying and storing is as important as the initial prep to keep your cloth diapers in the best condition for your little one.

a cloth diaper stash in a basket after being prepped for the first time

Frequently Asked Questions About Prepping Cloth Diapers

pile of three cloth diapers ready to be prepped for the first time

Get Ready to Prep Your Cloth Diapers

Prepping cloth diapers may seem like a daunting task at first, but with a little bit of patience and know-how, it can become a seamless part of your diapering routine. By following these simple steps and taking the time to prep your diapers properly, you’ll ensure that they are absorbent, comfortable for your baby’s delicate skin, and ready to tackle any mess that comes their way. 

Remember to adjust your expectations and be prepared for some trial and error as you find what works best for you and your little one. Embracing cloth diapering not only benefits the environment but also provides a cozy and eco-friendly option for keeping your baby dry and happy. Happy diapering!

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