Saturday, January 15, 2011

What's the Deal with Wool?

If you’ve done a little bit of research on cloth diapers, you’ve probably heard of wool soakers/covers. While the soaker name is somewhat misleading, wool makes a fantastic diaper cover. It is a natural fiber that is breathable and can both repel and absorb water at the same time.

Confused yet??? How about a little science lesson:

The microscopic makeup of wool already gives it a tendency to repel water. When you add Lanolin (an oil secreted by sheep) to the mix, wool becomes a water repelling machine. Once you get past the water repellent layer, wool is extremely porous and is able to absorb up to 30% of its weight! Wool is also breathable, making it a wonderful diaper cover for babies prone to heat rash.

Many people are intimidated by wool because they feel it’s hard to care for. You can’t wash wool covers with your normal diaper laundry and you need to lanolize them every now and then to keep them water resistant and prevent leaks. The natural properties of wool also make it resistant to dirt and give the wool an ability to absorb and neutralize odors. Because of this, you can go longer between washings than you normally would with PUL diaper covers. Depending on the amount of use, many people go a couple weeks to a month between washings.

You can find wool washes through many cloth diaper stores, but you can easily wash and lanolize your wool with products found at most discount stores. At our house, we’ve used Crow Mountain Crafts lanolin wool wash and we’ve also used the store brand version of Aveeno baby wash and Lanolin for nursing mothers. If you are using a wool wash, follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

To wash and lanolize your wool using baby wash and lanolin:
  1.  Rinse your cover under cool water and gently squeeze out any excess moisture.
  2.  Mix about 1 tsp baby wash and ¼” strip of lanolin to 1 gallon of lukewarm water wither in a bucket or a sink. (FYI – I rarely measure everything exactly. Think of this as a guideline.)
  3. Press your cover into the water and let soak for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Rinse cover under cool water again and gently squeeze out any excess moisture.   
  5. Lay your cover flat to dry.

If your cover still seems to be losing its water resistance, you can still follow the steps above, but add ½” strip of lanolin instead of the ¼”. To make the lanolin easier to dissolve, I mix it in a small amount of hot water before adding it to the sink.

There are many different makers of wool covers and I suggest searching Etsy, Hyena Cart, and Google to find the best prices and styles you prefer. You can also make your own soakers using old sweaters purchased from thrift stores. Besides soakers, you can find wool longies, shorties, and skirties. As with anything else cloth diaper related, you just need to find what works best for you.

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