When I first started diapering with prefolds 5 years ago, I religiously washed AND dried new diapers 6 to 8 times before first use. But we’ve tried many diapers since then that could be used right out of the mailbox.
Different fabrics require different prep, and I love seeing more options on the market that need less washing before you get to try them out. Here’s a handy guide to prepping all kinds of cloth:
Cotton and Hemp
You don’t have to wash a cotton or hemp diaper many, many times before it can be used. Untold numbers of mothers before me, in their rush to get a new diaper on their baby, have already discovered this. Two or three washes can remove most of the natural oils make it ready to add to your diaper rotation.
Will it increase in absorbency with a few more washes? Yes. It will also get softer with time. But it’s perfectly usable after prepping just a few times. Here’s what I do. After washing two times and drying only once, I’ll let my baby wear the diaper during the day. After several more uses (and washes) we might use it for overnight. There are two obvious benefits to this.
- You get to use your new diapers sooner! Yeah!
- Cutting down on washes saves some water and energy. (P.S. Another way to save energy, and time, is to prep natural fibers with a load of dirty towels or other household linens)
So why do many manufacturers and diaper makers still recommend so many washes? I think it’s because they want to insure the diaper is fully absorbent before first use. That way, you won’t be calling them after washing it once and then complaining that it leaked during nap time. They want to at least know it’s 100% prepped so they can seek out other answers if there’s a problem.
Bamboo is sort of a hybrid in that it comes from the natural bamboo plant but is actually a heavily processed rayon fabric. For that reason, a lot of the “natural oil” will already be stripped out of the fiber. One wash is usually enough for a first day time use. When in doubt, check the label, because bamboo is often blended with other fibers like cotton or hemp or polyester.
The Sweet Pea one-size bamboo fitted is an example of a blended fabric diaper
that will need more than just one wash. #sweetpeachampion
Microfiber, Microfleece, Suedecloth
Honestly, I don’t even prep these, and a lot of mothers don’t either. You can wash and dry your synthetics once before use, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Some do it only to remove any “residue” they worry might be lingering from the factory.
What about drying?
I don’t put my diapers in the dryer after every prep wash. Contrary to what you might think, drying doesn’t do anything to help prep the fibers. If you’re washing prefolds, it simply helps to fluff up and quilt the fabric. Once again, you can save a little energy by eliminating the dryer cycles between washes.
NOTE: Unbleached and organic fibers may need a few more preparatory washes.
Do you have any diaper prepping tips or questions to share?