Cloth Diapers: How to Prep

Cloth Diapers: How to Prep

Now that you know about the amazing benefits of cloth diapers, you’ve decided to make the leap. Let me pause my happy dance (I get really excited when others join in the cloth journey) to tell you how to prep your newly purchased diapers.

Before using your cloth diapers for the first time, you will want to “prep” them. The prepping process ensures that you have an absorbent and clean diaper for you baby’s bum. My recommendations vary depending on the type of fabric (broken up into natural and synthetic fabrics below). Also, see the end of the article on how to prep used diapers.

NATURAL FIBERS: Hemp, Cotton, & Bamboo

3 Hot Wash Cycles (with detergent)

Followed by a 1 Dry Cycle.

The purpose of prepping these diapers is to remove the natural oils and bring the diaper to it’s full absorbency. Most manufacturers recommend a series of 5-6 hot washes to prep their diapers. But, my experience says you can start using natural fibers after just 3 hot wash cycles (with detergent), followed by a dry cycle. Subsequent washes (beyond the first 3 cycles) lead to a small increase in absorbency and a tiny shrinkage in size. These changes, however, are subtle and probably not worth the hassle of adding extra prep cycles. An exception might be if you are prepping the diaper specifically for nighttime, and you need every ounce of absorbency for those long stretches of sleep. In this case, you might consider 4 or 5 prep cycles.

To complete my 3 prep cycles, I simply toss my new diapers in with laundry that I need to wash anyway – towels, diapers, etc. It seems to do the trick! One word of caution: you may not want to wash your brand new natural-fiber diapers with your synthetic diapers for the first 1 or 2 prep cycles. This is because the oils washing out of the natural fibers can cause potential leak issues for your synthetic diapers.

A note on Bamboo: Most bamboo diapers are made of bamboo rayon, which, by itself, does not require prepping. However, most bamboo rayon is blended with cotton or hemp. Therefore, bamboo should be prepped like a natural fiber. I recommend 2-3 washes, followed by a dry cycle.


1 Wash with Detergent

1 Dry Cycle

No prepping required in order to maximize absorbency. I would, however, recommend 1 wash with detergent to remove any manufacturing chemicals and ensure a clean diaper for your baby.

Used diapers:

Consider bleaching used cloth diapers to remove any bacteria and germs from the previous user. Make sure that you use regular bleach that says “disinfects” or “disinfectant” somewhere on the label. Did you know there are different types of bleach, and not all of them disinfect?! I found this out a few weeks after picking up what I thought was regular bleach from the store. Turns out, it was “splash-less”, which does NOT disinfect.

Once you have the right bleach for the job, you can get to work. Here’s what to do:

  • Fill a bathtub 1/2 full with cold water.
  • Add 1/3-1/2 cup bleach and mix.
  • Add diapers and soak for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  • Wring out the diapers. Rinse well with hot water.
  • Complete a hot wash in your machine with detergent.
  • Rinse well.

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