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Cloth Diapering Tips & Tricks - Extending the Life of Your Investment

Purchasing a layette of cloth diapers can be quite the investment. While the cost benefits of cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers cannot be argued (choose prefold cloth diapers for the most economical system), we often get asked how long cloth diapers are expected to last, and whether or not an investment in cloth diapers will last through multiple children. While this is absolutely possible, there are a number of things to keep in mind.

Cloth diapers and cloth diaper covers are some of the hardest-working items in your baby's wardrobe and just like regular clothing, they will wear out over time. The simple act of using, wearing and washing clothes causes wear and tear. In fact, with the heavy washing and drying that cloth diapers will endure over a very short amount of time, you will likely find them wearing out much faster than you expect.

Cloth diapers are worn and washed much more often than most garments, and they will eventually succumb to all that wear and tear. Consider this - the average article of clothing is washed no more than once a week, therefore they are made to last approximately 90 washings (around 2 years). Think of your favorite t-shirt now. We've all had a t-shirt that we may have worn every single week for a period of 1-2 years. Eventually the t-shirt starts to look worn, perhaps frays around the edges, develops small holes, looses it's stretch and it just doesn't fit as "well" over time.

Now consider the amount of washes a cloth diaper layette will undergo. Cloth diapers could be washed 90 times in a much shorter amount of time. If you're washing cloth diapers daily, 90 washes occurs in only 3 months! If you're washing your cloth diapers the recommended every other day, 90 washes is approximately 6 months time. This is the average expected lifespan for the majority of cloth diaper brands.

When washing in hot water and drying on high heat, your cloth diapers and cloth diaper covers are being exposed to extreme elements that are much more damaging than the cold or warm wash your favorite t-shirt may have experienced. It is not unusual for cloth diapers and cloth diaper covers to develop issues such as elastic damage, small holes, fabric wearing (tearing) or Velcro coming loose or becoming less sticky after continued use, over an extended period of time.

Extending the Life of your Cloth Diapers & Cloth Diaper Covers

Many parents are able to use their cloth diapers and diaper covers for multiple children, although this is not generally the expectation from any diaper manufacturer. This does require some extra care when it comes to washing and drying them, as well as alternate choices in the style of cloth diaper you choose. If you take into account the following recommendations, your cloth diapers should work well for a long, long time.

To extend the life of your cloth diapers:

  • Have a sufficient number of cloth diapers and diaper covers in rotation. We generally recommend 24 cloth diapers and 6-8 diaper covers per size range of a child. Any less than this can mean excessive wear and tear on the few cloth diapers and covers that are being used on a daily basis. You can't expect 12 cloth diapers washed 2-3x per week to remain in like-new condition after 1-2 years. Basically, the less often you have to wash your diapers and covers, the longer they will last.
  • If you are using one-size cloth diapers, 36-48 cloth diapers are recommended for maximum longevity. You can always start out with less than these recommended amounts, keeping in mind that you will likely need to replace a handful of your diapers or covers after 6 months use. Don't expect one-size diapers (or sized diapers!) to last 2 years if you only have 12-24 in rotation.
  • Natural fibers (hemp and/or cotton) will generally hold up better than polyester.
  • Cloth diapers without closures (prefolds) will usually last the longest as they have less components to wear out over time. Snaps will wear better than Velcro. Velcro can be easier to use, but keep in mind it will wear out over time. Some companies provide Velcro replacement kits that make changing worn-out velcro easy, or a local seamstress (or helpful friend or family member!) can often help you switch your worn-out velcro with new velcro, extending the life of your diapers.
  • Avoid diaper creams, lotions and potions when using cloth diapers. Many products will have ingredients that can actually break down fibers and/or elastics over time. We strongly suggest avoiding petroleum-based products (Vaseline, etc.) and products that list fish oils as an ingredient. The use of diaper creams or ointments will often void any warranty's as offered by the manufacturer's of our cloth diapers and cloth diaper covers.
  • Rotate your diaper covers or shells between changes, rather than washing them after every change. Diaper covers can be re-used until soiled or retaining odors. Simply rinse off any urine residue and air dry in between uses. Rotating covers will also ensure an even amount of wear between all products in use.
  • Store your diaper covers separate from your diapers (or inserts, for pocket diapers) in different diaper pails, between washes. Do not leave a diaper cover on or wrapped around a soiled or wet diaper or wet inserts between washes.
  • Never soak your covers! This will interfere with their waterproof qualities and break down the fabric/Velcro faster.
  • Ensure your covers are not left too long in the diaper pail between washes (urine is acidic and will damage fibers over time). We recommend washing diapers every other day, and diaper covers every 3-4 days or when soiled.
  • Always close the Aplix closures before washing. Zip zippers, as well. This will prevent the velcro and zippers from chewing apart any fabric in the wash and dryer cycles.
  • Choose an appropriate detergent. This should be free of phosphates, enzymes and optical brighteners. Learn more about this here - What Type of Detergent to use with Cloth Diapers
  • Don’t use bleach. This will break down the fibers of your diapers and covers and is also very harsh on your baby’s skin and the environment.
  • Keep in mind that your water type may have much to do with how quickly your product deteriorates. Hard water is inherently more damaging to fabrics than softer water. Also, water that contains much bleach (chlorine) and/or other minerals may also cause your product to wear faster. Consider installing a water softener before you begin with your investment of cloth diapers. Your fabrics (diapers and clothing!), appliances, and plumbing will all benefit from this.
  • Always follow up a regular wash cycle with a thorough RINSE cycle. If you have an HE machine, you may need to add extra water to this cycle to ensure all detergent residue is being rinsed away. Detergent residue can lead to odours in your diapers, but it will also break down the diaper components faster (elastic and Velcro). This residue remains in the fabric and on the components causing a lot of damage over time.
  • Do NOT use the "sanitize" cycle on your new machine with your cloth diapers and cloth diaper covers. This is an extra HIGH heat cycle, generally found on newer machines. The heat is too high and unnecessary for use with cloth diapers.
  • You may be able to successfully wash your cloth diapers and/or diaper covers in cold or warm water. This would be desirable over hot water, to extend the life of your product.
  • Do not over dry your covers, if using the dryer. Only dry on MEDIUM heat and hang to dry for the rest of the time needed.
  • Always hang your covers to dry (includes pocket diapers and diaper shells such as GroVia) to achieve maximum longevity.
  • Avoid stretching any elastic when diapers are removed from the dryer. Stuff pocket diapers only once they have cooled.
  • When storing your cloth diapers and covers for another child, store them in your home where the temperature is constant. Avoid storing clothing in your garage, basement or attic. This can lead to mold, problems with moths or other pests, and the elastic on your diapers will wear faster with fluctuations in temperature and/or humidity.

There is still no guarantee as to how long your cloth diapers will last, but with extra care, your diapers and cloth diapers covers will last considerably longer. Keep in mind that even if you need to replace a number of diapers during your first year or more of diapering, you will have saved a significant amount of money by choosing cloth diapers in the first place. And when your cloth diapers have served their purpose as diapers for your baby, cloth diapers make the most excellent rags for dusting and cleaning. No need to toss them right away - there will still be lots of life in them yet for this purpose!

If you feel you have not received the expected life out of your cloth diapering product, you may wish to submit a warranty claim with the manufacturer of your product. Warranty claims or issues are almost always handled directly by the manufacturer for quailty control. Feel free to contact us with further questions.

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