Guide to Prepping Cloth Diapers

Prepping is so important! This is because it is the process that allows your cloth diapers to reach their full absorbency. Prepping also rinses away residues from natural fibers that can deposit on other diapers and cause repelling (which means leaks). Oddly enough, most companies don’t include prepping instructions with new cloth diapers. A little work in the beginning results in better results from your cloth diapers in the long run. Check out our Recommendations Page to see some excellent detergent options for your cloth diapers.


Prepping Synthetic Fibers (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. Unofficially, I don’t prep pocket diapers or shells. I just throw them on the bum. Some people like to wash all new stuff at least once, (which I guess I should to remove anything left over from the manufacturing process) but I just don’t bother with these. 

Prepping Natural Fibers (Cotton, Hemp, Bamboo)

These should be washed separately 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 will deposit on them and possibly reduce absorbency. You should wash with a small amount of detergent at least 3 times separately. (This means no throwing any shells or synthetic fiber inserts in!)

While you can begin using natural fibered cloth diapers after the first 3 washes, they may not reach full absorbency until 6-8 wash and dry cycles. This is because the repeated washings basically fluff and pull apart the internal layers allow them to absorb more. Again, because I get impatient and I am excited to use my new stuff, I start using on the bum at this point. Because these more than likely haven’t reached their full absorbency yet I use them around the house during the day until they have gone through a few more wash cycles.

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. (edited: 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.

You might be wondering what to do if you just have one or two things to prep. Simple! Just throw in your next wash of regular clothes. If you normally add fabric softeners, just skip it on that load. After you can either just start using them (remember it won’t be at full absorbency yet) or continue to wash in with the rest of your cloth diaper laundry.

How do YOU prep your new cloth diapers?

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About Jennifer Reinhardt

Jennifer is a 33 year old WAHM to one beautiful little girl named Sophia. She closed her business, Curves, when she found out she was pregnant so she could stay home with her. Jennifer fell in love with cloth diapers even before Sophia was born and searches for ways every day to share the love!

View all posts by Jennifer Reinhardt

11 Responses to “Guide to Prepping Cloth Diapers”

  1. Kathleen Says:

    What if when prepping I mistakenly mix the natural and synthetic. Is there any way to fix the “residue deposits”?


    • Jennifer Reinhardt Says:

      Hi Kathleen! It’s ok! I’m going to tell you a secret. There are many moms who never wash or prep separately and have no issues at all. I think it will all be just fine with no intervention. Just keep using and washing and remember that cloth diapers aren’t made of unicorn hair. Most mistakes are very fixable and some aren’t really that big of a deal. Good luck! :)


  2. Ashley Says:

    Hi. This has been so helpful to me as I a, about to begin cloth diapering. How many times do I have to wash hemp and bamboo before I can throw them in with my other laundry?


    • Jennifer Reinhardt Says:

      Just once Ashley. And if I am only prepping a few I will just throw in with my regular laundry and make sure I don’t use regular fabric softener. Then I just wash with my normal cloth laundry.


  3. Ashley Says:

    We had to stop cloth diapering because the little guy peed so much nothing could contain it. I never could go all night with cloth with either of my kiddos. My current boy pees through a pull up most nights as it is. I prepped everything correctly, I added inserts, I even put hemp on the bottom knowing it’s a slow absorber and microfiber on top (pockets). All of my diapers are one size since I had one potty training when the second was born. I’d really love to go back while potty training #2 but the leaking was constant and seemed to always be along his legs like the insert bunched a little in the middle and pulled away from the edge just a smidge. Never could figure it out but if he wore pants they were always wet. Maybe an All in one would be better?


    • Jennifer Reinhardt Says:

      Hi Ashley, Can you tell me exactly which brands of diapers and inserts you are using. Maybe I can help.


      • Ashley Says:

        Soft Bums, Tweedlebugs, Fuzzi Bunz, Nifty Nappy and Rocky Mountain are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I never cared for the Tweedlebugs probably because both my boys were so skinny they never fit right as a OS when they were younger. The Soft Bums, Fuzzi Bunz and Rocky Mountain were my favorites because of the internal adjustment system rather than a snap down front. I have two other snap down front varieties that I can’t remember the brand without digging them out. I really liked the Nifty Nappy with the fold down concept, very convenient with two in diapers. I bought inserts with all of them and doublers. I first used them strictly with their respective brands then mixed and matched them throughout the years to try and find a combination that worked best. The Tweedlebugs Rocky Mountain and Fuzzi Bunz were microfiber. The Soft Bums and Nifty Nappy were Bamboo. I bought a Joey Bunz Hemp insert at one time to try that. When I prepped I kept the natural fibers separate. I did follow the prepping instructions as described above. Once fully prepped I did wash together after that. I have tried natural detergents but then had some odor issues when urinated in and it was recommended I try the original Tide. This helped with the odor, but never helped with absorbency. I now make my own detergent for laundry with Borax Washing Soda, Baking Soda, and Laundry Bar Soap. I also rinse with vinegar in the fabric softener compartment and add an extra rinse. Are there any issues with this detergent and cloth? I typically use a front loader but always kept our old top loader as this worked well when I had detergent buildup to rinse it all out. I last rinsed and rinsed and rinsed…got rid of all the suds, but never seemed to help with absorbency.


  4. Tanya Says:

    What about diapers that have a combo of natural and synthetic fibers? For example, the Bum Genius Elementals have organic cotton interior, but polyester (synthetic) exterior? Should those be washed completely separate from any other diapers, synthetic or natural?


    • Jennifer Reinhardt Says:

      Hi Tanya, Many inserts are blends of materials. Just the micro fiber can be thrown on the bum or worn immediately. Your BG Elementals falls under the natural fiber category. They should be washed by themselves or with other organic cotton, hemp and bamboo to prep. Once prepped they can go right in with your other cloth diaper laundry.



  1. Big Review of 5 Prefolds and Flats. There Isn’t a Bad One in the Bunch! {plus giveaway!} | All About Cloth Diapers - August 4, 2014

    […] One other cool thing about this shop is that they offer a prepping service. For $8, they wash your prefolds 3 times in hot water using Eco Sprout detergent. They arrive at your door ready to use! If you still need to prep them, this will explain how. […]

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