Wednesday, March 7, 2018

7 Things You Should NEVER Do To A Cloth Diaper- Avoid These Diaper Mistakes

It's kind of funny, and maybe a little scary, to see all the conflicting cloth diaper advice out there. Thankfully, as time goes on, advice seems to be lining up more across the board, as the old cloth diaper myths are being dispelled.

First, I am going to put it out there that it is pretty hard to ruin a cloth diaper.
A lot of people tend to over-complicate the diapering process, or give off this fear of ruining their diapers. A cloth diaper is made to be heavily soiled, and heavily washed, over and over for years.

Short of putting your diaper in the microwave, or giving it to your dog as a chew toy, you probably are not going to ruin it.

There are things that can accelerate their wear, and destroy elastics, so you do want to avoid these.

Here are 7 things you should NEVER do to a cloth diaper:

1. Use fabric softener- Fabric softeners -or "fabric conditioners," as they're now being marketed - work by coating the fibers of the fabric to make them feel soft. This leaves a residue, which will cause repelling over time. Be aware of detergents with fabric softener already added.

Side note: plant-based softeners (like Method brand) are OKAY, because they fully wash away.

2. Strip regularly- If you don't even know what "stripping" cloth diapers is, don't even worry about! (Though I will be doing a full post on it soon). It's not something that should ever be needed. Stripping cloth diapers removes mineral or other buildup (like fabric softeners) from absorbent diaper fabrics. It is EXTREMELY harsh on diapers, and should never need to be done if you are washing properly. (See my post on washing cloth diapers here) This is one thing that is way overdone in the cloth community, and sometimes promoted as being normal. It is not. It should only be used for necessary cases.

Side note: most diaper stink issues can be resolved by a couple back-to-back washes, and routine tweaks.

3. Store long term without air-flow- Have you ever pulled out baby clothes from storage only to find the elastics along all the edges were completely brittle and shot? This is something that happens if you store elastics over time without airflow. I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate replacing elastics on diapers! When you're storing your cloth diapers between kids, spare yourself having to replace all the elastics by making sure you store them somewhere where they can breathe, like a mesh bag or open container.

Side note: elastic replacement is actually fairly easy- and inevitable at some point- on most cloth diapers. It's the weakest component of the diaper, and usually the first thing to go.

4. Stretch elastics after being exposed to extreme temperatures- Another sure way prematurely relax elastics is to stretch them while they are hot from the dryer, or after being left in a cold car all night. always wait until the diaper returns to room temperature before stretching. It can cause the elastics and PUL to crack or stretch if you don't.


5. Use improperly diluted bleach- Bleaching diapers a-okay. It can sometimes be necessary, in cases of yeast infections, or if you are buying diapers used. It is not something that should be done regularly, because it can cause early wear, but done properly and sparingly, it will not damage your diapers. Bleach needs to be properly diluted when used- no more than 1/2 cup per large washer load. Any stronger, and you risk wearing out the fibers of the diapers.

6. Use petroleum-based diaper rash creams -  Like in the case of fabric softener, using diaper creams with petroleum in them will coat the fabric and cause repelling.
I debated about adding this one, because if you use natural fiber diapers (like I do), you can use ANYTHING, even petroleum (though I would not for other reasons). As long as you are washing on hot and have a good wash routine with enough real detergent, even petroleum will wash away from natural fibers. You need to avoid it on anything synthetic or that has a stay-dry covering. Most all natural diaper creams will be cloth-diaper safe!

Side note: zinc oxide is the only other ingredient you need to look out for in diaper creams because it can cause staining.

7. Boil it/ put it in the dishwasher/microwave - Any of these crazy unconventional ways of disinfecting diapers using high heat just need to be avoided. Firstly, because exposing PUL and snaps to that high of heat will melt and destroy them. Secondly, because it is safety and fire hazard to expose fabrics to that high of heat. It is sometimes advised by people to boil flats or other natural fibers to help prep them, but honestly, throwing them into the wash every time you do a load of laundry is so much easier and safer.

There's some basic rules to abide by, but using and caring for cloth is simple, if you keep it that way! If you have any doubts or questions about caring for your diapers, you can always contact the manufacturer.

For more tips, check out my article on the 9 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Cloth Diapering.

You can see my complete Guide to Cloth Diapering here.


  1. I do strip my diapers a few times a year. We had an extreme case of yeast so now I'm extra cautious about it.

    1. Just jeep in mind that stripping won't get rid of yeast. It handles minerals, not fungus.

  2. I keep cloth diapering super simple too. This basically sums up everything I think when I think about cloth diapering. It should be simple, and no complicated rules. It's also not hard or fast this or that! Thanks for keeping it real and honest.

  3. These are great tips! Keeping cloth diapering uncomplicated is key!