Are you done building your cloth diaper stash? Now that you've got your stash, I'm going to tell you how to prep cloth diapers.
So, you've got your new diapers... now what?
Let's talk about how to prep cloth diapers.
It's important to prep your new diapers before their first use for a few reasons:
First, these diapers are going up right against your baby's super sensitive skin. You'll want to remove any manufacturer's funk before putting the diaper on your babe.
Secondly, natural fiber diapers may arrive to you large and stiff (think prefolds and flats here). You'll want to prep them to shrink them down to their predestined size and soften them up.
And, most importantly, you'll want to get them to their state of maximum absorbency. Natural fibers like cotton, hemp, and even bamboo have natural oils on them which need to be removed in order for them to be fully absorbent.
How to prep cloth diapers:
Most manufacturers will have directions on their packaging explaining the optimum prep procedure. If your diapers have instructions, by all means follow them. But if they don't we'll go through the different types of diapers and their prep methods below.
Let's talk about the easy stuff first.
Microfiber//Microfleece/Micro-chamois/Suedecloth/Polyester: These are the materials that make up the linings and inserts of many of the popular brands of pockets, AIO and AI2 diapers. Examples of these would include bumGenius 4.0's & Freetimes, Rumparooz, Fuzzibunz, Alva, Thirsties to name just a few.
Diapers made out of these materials need to be washed just once to remove any dust or debris. Wash them as you would any of your other diapers. If this is your first time with diaper laundry, that means just running them through a hot wash cycle with your CD friendly detergent with an extra rinse cycle at the end.
Normally you'll want to pull out your pocket shells or covers (anything with PUL or TPU) and hang them to dry, but on the first wash I like to throw them into the dryer for 20-30 minutes on medium or high to seal the PUL since they may contain tiny holes from sewing done by the manufacturer that may allow moisture wicking.
Now, onto the harder ones.
Diapers with waterproof outers but natural fiber inners: These are typically pockets, AIO, or AI2s that have a PUL or TPU waterproof outer but the linings and/or soakers are made of cotton, hemp, or bamboo. Some examples of these would be bumGenius Elementals, Grovia AIOs, Swaddlebees, itti bitti tuttos, etc.
With these diapers you'll need to treat them a little differently. You need to wash them on hot with detergent and tumble dry between 3-7 times before use to strip them of their natural oils. Also, you need to wash them separately from your other diapers the first few times because you don't want those natural oils to coat your other diapers and cause repelling issues. Natural fibers will continue to gain absorbency as you wash them.
Sidenote: I'm too impatient to wash anything 6 times before I use it, so I usually wash it a couple of times and then start using it knowing I may need to change my little one a little sooner.
Last but not least... how to prep cloth diapers of the most basic form.
Prefolds, Flats, and some fitteds: Pretty self explanatory. Also in this category would be cotton, hemp or bamboo inserts or doublers.
These diapers will need to be washed with detergent and dried between 5-10 times before they reach maximum absorbency. Essentially you are "stripping" them of their natural oils. This will use up a lot of time, energy (yours and your home's), and water.
An easier way to strip them of their oils is to boil them. To do this:
1.) Fill a large stock pot with water and a small squirt (seriously, a little goes a long way - use less than a teaspoon) of blue Dawn and bring it to a boil.
2.) Add your prefolds or flats (or hemp inserts, etc) a few at a time - depending on the size of your pot you may be able to add more - and boil them for 30 minutes.
3.) Transfer the boiled prefolds into a large bowl/pot/bucket using tongs. You'll notice the water has a dingy tint to it - that would be the natural oils that you've just stripped from your diapers.
4.) Drain the dingy water then repeat until all of your diapers have been boiled.
5.) Once they're all done transfer the boiled diapers into the washing machine (probably not more than 18-24 diapers at a time depending on their size. Wash them on HOT. Do not add detergent. If you have any suds you'll need to repeat the rinse cycle until they're gone.
6.) Dry them on medium or hot in the dryer.
A note on boiling: a lot of companies and stores do not recommend this method because it's kind of dangerous to be handling scalding hot diapers and large pots of boiling water. Be careful if you choose this method. There are a lot of helpful tutorials and videos about this online.
Also: DO NOT boil anything with SNAPS, ELASTIC, or PUL/TPU.
Once prepped, the prefolds will have shrunken a bit (up to about 25% or so), will have "quilted up" and will be nice and soft.
I hope you found this guide about how to prep cloth diapers helpful!
Check out our other cloth diapering posts:
What are the different types of cloth diapers
All prefolds are not created equal - a comparison of prefolds