Prepping is the process that allows your cloth diapers to reach their full absorbency. A little work in the beginning results in better results from your cloth diapers in the long run.
How do you prepare cloth diapers for the first time?
Prepping Synthetic Fiber Diapers and Inserts
For example: Microfiber, Pocket Diapers or Shells with microfleece or suede cloth linings
The official recommendation is to wash one time with detergent, dry and use. These can be washed with your other cloth diaper laundry as there are no natural oils that can be transferred. Covers have no absorbent material, so this is really to wash away the manufacturing yuck before first use.
Prepping Natural Fiber Diapers and Inserts
For Example: Cotton, Hemp, Bamboo, Charcoal Bamboo diapers and inserts
These should be washed separately at least once from your other cloth diapers and other new diapers that aren’t natural fibers. This is because there is a natural residue or oil that these naturally grown fibers contain. If initially washed with other diapers the residue could deposit on them and possibly reduce absorbency. You can either do this by washing them on their own if you have enough to make a load or you can just throw them in with your regular clothing laundry (this is good when you have just a few things to prep). Just no using fabric softener in those loads. After that first wash, they are fine to be washed with your regular cloth diaper laundry.
Natural fibers can take 8-10 washes to reach their full absorbency. This is because the repeated washings basically fluff and pull apart the internal layers allow them to absorb more. That doesn’t mean you can’t use them before that. You just have to adjust according. Since they may not be at their full absorbency yet either change more often or use them with other inserts as boosters.
People always ask if you HAVE to dry between each washing. Yes and no.
What I mean is that you probably don’t have to, but I think it helps increase absorbency faster. I dry between wash cycles, but you won’t ruin anything if you don’t. It just may take longer for everything, especially prefolds, to reach maximum absorbency).
This is not an exact science. You will not know the exact moment when all of your diapers have reached their maximum absorbency. If something is new and you use it and it leaks, just wash it a few more times. Chances are it just isn’t quite there yet. But if you have washed something more than 8-10 times and it still leaks, something else might be the cause. Check out this link to see if there is another solution for you.
How do YOU prep your new cloth diapers?
Jenn is a long-time cloth diaper educator and a passionate small business advocate. She has worked in the reusable diaper industry for over a decade, helping millions of families via her websites All About Cloth Diapers, Thinking About Cloth Diapers and Cloth Diaper Geek as well as hundreds of small businesses during that time. Her goal always to provide simple, reliable information.