After months of agonizing wait (me) and traveling distant shores and seven seas (USA to UK to Mumbai, via some Middle Eastern countries) these diapers reached me this week. This is them fresh out of the bags. I held them, touched them, gave them a little hug, admired them from all angles, probably like I did with T when he was put into my arms. It was so difficult to untag these beauties. But they are meant to go OTB (on the bum, in cloth diaper parlance) so off they went for ‘prepping’.
Prepping is a word you will hear often in the cloth diapering world. It basically means getting the cloth diapers ready to do their job, i.e. hold pee and poo. No rocket science there, is it? Oh but there is. There is a lot of science behind cloth diapering and its just one of these things about CDing which make me go weak in the knees. 🙂
Cloth diapers, are made of cloth, duh! No surprises. And cloth comes in all forms and types – natural (although experts will say there is nothing natural about the so-called natural fabrics which still have to be processed to get them into a recognizably usable state.) and synthetics (which undergo vigorous processing using chemicals and structured methods to give them their identity. ) Basically all this processing and running around machines in factories, mills and workshops gets them to a stage where they look functional, but they still need to be brought up to a level where they are functioning as effectively as they are meant to. That’s where prepping comes in.
Natural fabrics like hemp and organic cotton, contain a lot of their natural oils (oil repels moisture) and hence cannot absorb liquids readily. A good washing is needed, and several ones at that, to get rid of those natural oils and get the fibres ready to hold. Once fully prepped, there’s nothing quite like the efficiency of natural fabrics in cloth diapering. Synthetic fabrics don’t really contain any oils per se, but they are highly processed remember, so they do tend to pick up the processing elements and a lot of the factory dust, which needs to be washed away before ending up OTB.
Having said that prepping is no rocket science, but it can still be a daunting task. I remember how my first bamboo AIO sat on the shelf for weeks, because I was too scared to ruin it and never had the perfect set of dirty laundry, read: non-synthetics with which I could prep it. But moments like those are a distant memory now and I no longer fret over prepping. I follow a simple wash method which helps me get the diaper OTB faster and also saves much more water and detergent.
First of all, I would say, don’t worry about washing synthetics and natural fibres separately. Unless you have ten organic cotton or hemp and only one microfibre diaper in your laundry mix, don’t even bother washing them separately. I know experts will tell you that the oils from the naturals will get onto the synthetics but don’t forget that there is detergent present which is doing the job of removing all of that from your wash. Keep it simple, and make cloth diapering less tedious and more fun instead.
So here are some tried, tested and succeeded methods which work for me:
- Pre-wash fresh diaper in plain water, without detergent. This is like a 15 minute cycle of wash, rinse and spin on my machine. This removes much of the superficial factory dust from the dipes.
- Wash with regular laundry – diapers or other baby clothes. If I have a lot of natural fabric diapers, I even like throwing them in with bedsheets or towels. (Detergent does go into this cycle.)
- Now for synthetics I start using immediately after one wash (that goes for microfibre, charcoal bamboo and for pockets, covers, inserts) But natural fabric diapers (mostly in case of AIOs, prefolds, inserts) need several washes to come up to best absorbency. I find that my Smart Bottoms diapers (organic cotton AIO) are perfection only at 20+ washes. And I definitely don’t advocate waiting that long a time to start using the diaper. 3 to 4 washes are great to get the diaper on the baby, click some otb pics and post to social media. 🙂
- Where multiple washes are needed, you don’t have to dry the diaper before the next wash. One rule of thumb I follow, two washes – one drying – two more washes – dry – OTB. This ensures that the diaper gets up to 4 washes but is used within a time frame of 1 – 2 days. However, you may find that the diaper still won’t be good to hold for long hours, or overnight just yet. It will still need its double digit number of washes to get there, but you can start using the diaper albeit for shorter periods.
- Hot water is good, but not mandatory. I have a very simple, no-nonsense, top loading washing machine. It has only one type of water setting and we have been good thus far.
- Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble: Don’t be afraid to boil to prep your natural fabric inserts or prefolds. Bring up a large pot of water to boil, add the inserts/ prefolds/ flats to it and boil for about 15 minutes. No need to add any detergent. Some people do add dish washing liquid to it, to quicken the process of removing all the natural oils, but I don’t find washing diapers in dish washing liquid very effective. It left my prepping with varied and patchy absorbency.
Do remember to check that there are no plastic bits like snaps, pul/tpu or elastics on the items you would boil to prep.
- Accessories like wetbags don’t need any prepping. But I’m finicky about these things and if I intend to carry fresh diapers or other stuff which babyT is going to bite, chew or play with, I do make sure the wetbag has had a wash first.
How does one know if your diapers are prepped?
They will be absorbent and hold for the amount of time they are meant to. Genius!
But no, seriously, synthetic fibres are good to use after the first wash. You will see only marginal improvements in absorbency after subsequent washes. With natural fabrics there is no universal indicator as such. For example, I find that Blueberry AIO (organic simplex) is good for overnight use with even one wash (add a booster anyway), Grovia organic cotton AIO take about 5 -6 washes and Smart bottoms (again organic cotton) takes around 20+ washes before I will risk using it for nights. So you just have to go with trial and error and see what works for you. A lot depends of course on your baby’s wetting pattern. My recommendation is to therefore, test out the diaper for daytime naps (if you’re lucky to have a baby who naps more than 20 minutes *eye roll*) before venturing out for overnight use. And don’t underestimate the power of a booster, the right one can even sail you through the night with a half-prepped diaper. 🙂