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How to Wash Cloth Diapers for the first time

You finally decided on the perfect cloth diapers for your family. Your long awaited cloth diaper package has arrived! Now what?

Washing cloth diapers for the first time is simple, even for prefolds. Here are some tips for washing cloth diapers before using them.

  • Always use a cloth diaper safe detergent when washing diapers. Never use fabric softeners of any kind.

Cotton Prefolds and Cotton Fitted Diapers

Cotton prefolds, such as Indian or Chinese prefolds, need to be washed 3 times before use. They will achieve maximum absorbency after about 6-8 washings, but they are fine to use after 3 washings if they are bleached. Natural, unbleached prefolds need to be washed at least 4 times before use to remove the natural oils found in the plant fibers.

Cotton fitted diapers also need to be washed 3 times before use to be sure they are absorbent.

Most washing instructions say that the cloth diapers need to be washed and dried before rewashing each time. I have washed thousands of prefolds for dying, and I no longer dry them between washings. This apparently has no effect on them as they are soft, fluffy and absorbent after just one trip through the dryer. Yes, I do use washing soda when dying diapers, but I have had just as good results with undyed diapers.

Hemp or Bamboo Prefolds or Fitteds

Hemp and bamboo are both eco-friendly fibers that are super absorbent. They both require 4 prewashes in warm water with 1/4 cup diaper safe detergent before use. Some manufacturers okay hot water and hot dryer, some do not, so be sure to look at the instructions. Hemp items should not be washed with pocket or fitted diapers for the first few washes, after they are prepped it is fine to wash everything together.

If you are washing just a few hemp items, it is fine to wash them with your whites for the prepping washes, as long as you use cloth diaper safe detergent and do not use any fabric softeners.

Pocket Diapers, Diaper Covers, Microfiber Inserts

These synthetic diapers usually require only one wash before use. Occasionally you will find a suedecloth lined diaper that needs an extra wash or two to remove manufacturing chemicals to avoid leaks.

Wet Bags, Diaper Pail Liners, Cloth Diaper Wipes

Wet bags and diaper pail liners do not have to be washed before use. If the wet bag or pail liner has a cotton print, it is a good idea to wash it once before use just in case the print has some extra dye in it.

Cloth wipes usually only need to be washed once before use. Hemp wipes will improve with 2-3 washings.

Washing cloth diapers for the first time doesn't need to be intimidating.

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