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?