So you've either chosen or are thinking of choosing to use prefold cloth diapers on your baby, and you need a little guidance. They arrived flat and coarse, how can you make them soft, fluffy and absorbent? Should you use a special detergent? Lucky for you, we've got answers.
Preparing Prefold Cloth Diapers for Use
The basics of prefold diapers make it an excellent choice for your cloth diapering stash. However, they will require some special attention once you get them. Unless you purchased your prefolds from a shop that took steps to make them ready for use, they'll require some special laundering. Depending on whether you purchased bleached prefolds (compare prices) or unbleached prefolds (compare prices) will determine how to go about that. Additionally, bear in mind that unbleached Chinese prefolds will likely require 2-3 more spins in the washing machine verses Indian prefolds.
Why You Should Prepare Prefolds
There are a few reasons why it is important to prepare your prefold cloth diapers for use.
- Hygiene. Just from the standpoint of cleanliness, you want to wash your baby's diapers at least once before you use them. This will remove any particles or whatnot from shipping.
- Sizing. Laundering the diapers will shrink them down to their intended size. If you don't pre-wash them, they just aren't going to fit right.
- Comfort and absorbency. As you launder your prefolds, they will fluff up considerably.
Prepping Bleached Prefolds
Bleached prefolds have already undergone chemical treatment to remove all the oils in the thread fibers. That's why they come to you bright-white. The benefit of this is that prepping bleached prefolds isn't complicated. Simply run your diapers through the washing machine on a hot wash cold rinse and toss in the dryer. You'll notice that your diapers will begin to fluff up, sort of similar to that of a quilt. If they don't appear to be puffed up enough, repeat the wash/dry cycle. However, you need to be aware that bleached prefolds tend to have a shorter life span than unbleached prefolds. Further, some parents are less than keen on using diapers that have undergone this chemical treatment process.
Prepping Unbleached Prefolds
Unbleached prefolds are a different story. These diapers have not been treated with chemicals to strip them of their natural oils. That's why the diapers aren't bright white, but rather a natural off-white color. You'll need to wash these diapers enough to remove all those oils. Otherwise, they just won't absorb well at all. The upside, because they didn't undergo chemical treatments they tend to last longer and, well, they don't have all that chemical residue on them.
So what you are going to need is really, really hot water. You'll need to run your unbleached prefolds through anywhere from 3 to 6 washes. And again, you'll need hot water. If you don't feel your water is hot enough, you may need to temporarily adjust your water heater to increase temperature.
Alternatively, some people prefer to simply boil their prefolds on the stove top and run through the dryer a few times that way. Others yet add a few drops of Dawn Dish Detergent to the pot, though others are very cautious about what sort of detergents are used on cloth diapers for fear of detergent build up.
Caution About Testing Prefolds for Absorbency
Some people suggest that you should test your diapers for readiness by pouring water on them and seeing how long it takes for the diapers to absorb the water. However, this may not be entirely accurate. Think of it this way, your baby will be IN the diaper, between the weight of his body and the force of his urine stream will help speed up the absorbing process. So don't be overly concerned if your diaper seem to fail this "test".
After your diapers have quilted up nicely and have increased in thickness significantly, they are more than likely ready for your baby. You've made an economical diapering choice. Once you've prepared them for use, begin enjoying the savings!