I cloth diapered for more than a year before I had a decent comprehension of certain cloth diaper terms. The most mysterious ones for me were wicking, PUL and stripping.
Is wicking good or bad?
Do I say P-U-L or pull?
Wicking is so simple you’ll kick yourself.
Is it good or bad? Both.
Wicking is the transfer of moisture from one place to another. It is good when moisture is wicked away from baby’s skin through a stay-dry fabric like microfleece, suede cloth, microchamois (pronounced micro-SHAMY) or athletic wicking material.
Wicking is a bad thing when moisture finds a weak spot or exposed area to leak out of. For example, if your pocket insert isn’t full tucked in the diaper the wet insert will wick (transfer) to clothing or the outer fabric of the diaper. Or if the inner fabric around baby’s legs isn’t rolled in moisture will wick to clothing, sheets, furniture…
Another very common instance of wicking occurs during oversaturation of the soaker material. This crosses over into more of a leaking issue but the same concept occurs.
At this point the moisture can transfer freely to the stitching and then outer fabric. All of this is easily visualized when considering how the capillaries in our body work or if you have ever performed carnation and dye experiment.
How do you prevent wicking? Make sure everything is tucked in nice and neat to the waterproof cover and change baby often.
I say potAYto, you say potAHto
Personally, I call polyurethane laminate P-U-L. But, many a diaper-making friend call it pull.
Polyurethane sounds bad, right? Let’s look at what it actually is and then you can call it whatever you want.
Polyurethane laminate is 100% waterproof, flexible and durable. A great combination for diapering products.
To make PUL it is laminated by the use of heat onto a (most commonly) cotton, polyester or polyblend fabric.
I’m no chemist but I know polyurethane is not natural.
Polyurethane is a polymer — a class of chemicals derived from petroleum. Polymers are created when small chemicals called monomers chemically react to other monomers and form a long chain of compounds. This chain is known as a polymer. The precursor monomer for polyurethane laminate is toluene 2, 4-diisocyanate, known as TDI. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’sInternational Chemical Safety Charts, this substance is possibly carcinogenic to humans. Prolonged inhalation exposure of the substance may cause asthma or skin sensitization. Polymers are generally stable, but some people worry that the toxic monomers can break down and become reactive. Other people see no hazards in using PUL, even on a baby.
Firstly, all of the fabrics used in these diaper covers meets or exceeds US Government CPSIA standards indicating that there are no diisocyanates present in the polyurethane lamination. Diisocyanates are a respiratory hazard for which inhalation and dermal contact should be avoided. Other potential toxins that are standard for CPSIA testing include hydrogen cyanide, pthalates, formaldehyde or lead. While these are not expected to be present at any level in PUL testing confirmed that the levels of these potential toxins were zero.
On the making of PUL – PUL is formed by reacting polyol with diisocyanates in the presence of suitable catalysts and additives. This makes the thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) from initial stages of the polymerization. This process is completed in a factory within a controlled environment. Once the polymer is made, these initial substances cease to exist as they were and have formed another compound known as TPU.
The newly created TPU is an inert material.
The Material Saftey Data Sheet for TPU states that it only releases harmful chemicals above 428F degrees. This is true for all plastics. If any TPU was heated to such a high melting point, they could release toxic fumes but this is not the case in a stable product with regular use.
Now I’m feeling a bit better about my cloth diapers with PUL/TPU.
When shopping for PUL use these tips from Jaime of Celtic Cloths:
The solid color PUL fabric I sell is a thin 100% polyester knit fabric laminated with 2 mil of the polyurethane film. The prints vary and may be 100% polyester knits, a cotton/polyester blend, or 100% cotton wovens. All are laminated with 1 mil of polyurethane and are coated with a durable water resistant coating. The reason for the difference is that the woven cottons result in a less pliable fabric once they are laminated. Using a thinner laminate helps keep the fabric as stretchy and soft as possible. Whenever you have a cotton fabric outer, you have a greater opportunity for leaks, the water resistant spray gives extra waterproofing properties to compensate for the cotton content. If your child is a heavy wetter, or you want the stretch and reliablility of the solid color PULs, choose a print that is a 100% polyester knit.
The breathability is still lacking in either of these compounds which can cause problems for long periods of time like overnight. Alternatives to PUL and TPU are wool and fleece.
Why do cloth diaper moms always talk about stripping??
Before you get your panties in a wad, stripping cloth diapers is completely G-rated.
Stripping simply means removing the detergent, rash cream, ammonia crystals, minerals or other yuckies that have built up over months of using and washing your cloth diapers.
I say “simply” but there are times when this process is anything but simple.
How do you know if your cloth diapers need to be stripped? If they smell like an animal died, ammonia that burns your nose hairs, leak suddenly and furiously or don’t appear clean through other signs then you should consider stripping.
Always strip cloth diapers that are cleaned. Then run a hot wash with no detergent.
The method you use for stripping your diapers can vary depending on whether you have hard or soft water.
For soft water, vinegar is a great stripper. The acid in vinegar neutralizes pH, breaks down the urea and alkaline detergent buildup in your cloth diapers.
When I lived in far north Dallas I would do a vinegar soak about once a quarter. I had a top loader at the time and soft water. By adding 3 cups of vinegar to a full basin and soaking the cloth diapers for a few hours I would eliminate the severe ammonia buildup.
A 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar can also be added to the final rinse of the stripping process to ensure all the soap is released.
However, vinegar can react with the minerals in hard water and cause yellowing and stink issues. If you have been using vinegar and have hard water, stop using it, strip and see if that helps your problems.
Calgon is a water softener and helps to break the “seal” on the diapers from hard water minerals therefore, allowing the fibers to be cleaned. RLR and Hard Rock are used by soaking diapers and causing buildup to be released from the fabric.
RLR can be purchased from many cloth diaper stores or Amazon. Simply follow the directions on the package for use.
According to the Rockin Green website you should not soak items with PUL/TPU longer than 1 hour. Microfiber, bamboo and hemp can be soaked for longer periods safely.
Soaking in an HE machine isn’t impossible. When the water pours in press pause and add 3TB Hard Rock for a soak. If you have a top loader simply fill the basin and stop machine.
After doing all these things it is important that you take steps to prevent buildup. Are you using a cloth diaper safe detergent, cloth diaper safe rash cream and rinsing THOROUGHLY?
These 3 steps will eliminate many hours of problem solving!
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