Using Wool for Cloth Diaper Covers

I’ve used cloth diapers for my babies since about 10 years ago, starting with my 2nd child.  I switched from disposables when she was 2 or 3 months old, and never looked back.  Over the years, I’ve tried just about every type and brand of diaper on the market.

By the time I was pregnant with my 5th and last babe, I knew exactly what I liked and didn’t like, and purchased only the things that I knew worked for us:  Fitted diapers with wool.  

It’s occurred to me that even among other cloth mamas, wool with fitteds seem to be a minority combination.  Maybe no one knows how to care for wool, or they think it’s difficult, or confusing…?

FYI:  Wool diaper covers are called a variety of things:  covers or wraps–these usually look like a regular cover and have snaps or velcro tabs; soakers or pull-ons–these look like underwear but are thicker, often with a roll-down waistband, and they pull on, as the name suggests; shorties and longies–these are usually knit, styled more like pants or shorts, and double as clothing and a diaper cover.

Wool care is actually really easy, and in my opinion wool covers and cotton diapers are much preferable to any diaper with synthetic fibers.  I will discuss the reasons why in a future blog post–but for now, let me just share some facts about using wool for cloth diaper covers:

  • WASHING:  Wool does NOT get washed with your regular diaper laundry, and NEVER goes in the dryer!  Unless you want to shrink it to fit your child’s baby doll..  Yes, I have done this accidentally.
  • One lovely thing about wool for diaper covers is that, unless it’s soiled, it only needs to be washed about once a week.  Yes, you read that right.  Wool is naturally anti-microbial, and so it simply needs to be aired out when damp, and then it can be used again.  In other words, you can use the same soaker for overnights several days in a row–just turn it inside-out to air-dry all day, and by evening it’ll be ready to use again.
  • However, woolies are a hand-wash-only item (For this reason, I especially love fitted diapers.  They ensure I never have to hand-wash poo stains!).  I do this in the sink, with Eucalan Wool Wash.  If you don’t have (or don’t want to buy) Eucalan, you can also use a teaspoon of Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild Castile Soap, or a teaspoon of your favorite natural baby wash or baby shampoo.
  • Water must be room-temperature/cold!  Too cold and you’ll shock the fibers, too warm and they’ll shrink.  Fill the sink with water, check the temperature, then add your wool wash or other soap product.  Swish it around, then add your woolies, turned inside-out.  Let them soak for about five minutes, then gently squeeze out the excess water, and place them on a thick towel to dry.  You can place another towel on top, then roll them up together, and stand on the towel roll.  This sounds awkward, but really cuts down on your drying time.
  • Hang your woolies, or lay them flat to dry.  This will take at least a day.  Don’t put them outside in the sun on a hot day, because the heat will shrink them!
  • LANOLIZING (what’s that?!):  All natural wool contains lanolin, which keeps it water-resistant and anti-microbial.  After repeated washings, the lanolin gets washed out and you’ll need to re-lanolize.  You can tell if your wool needs lanolizing if the water soaks right in, saturating the fabric when you put it in the sink.  If it floats/resists being pushed down into the water, and you see water drops beading up on it, it’s still got some lanolin in it.  Of course, the other way to tell if your wool needs lanolizing is if, when your little one’s wearing it, and her diaper leaks right through it!  But I’d recommend avoiding that if you can help it!
  • Lanolizing only needs to be done once every few months, and it’s quite easy to do as well.  If you have a tube of Lansinoh from your early days of breastfeeding, you can easily lanolize your woolies in a few extra minutes during your wash routine.

To lanolize your woolies:  

1. Fill the sink with cold water again right after washing them, and place your woolies in the water, inside-out.

2. Get a mason jar or drinking glass, and fill it with HOT water from your tap.

3. Put a small amount of lanolin into the water–either a pea-sized amount for one or two woolies, or about an inch-long strip for six or more–and stir vigorously until it melts.  It should look like golden oil droplets in the hot water.

4. Pour this quickly into the sink, on top of your woolies.

5. Swish with your hands, and let the woolies soak for about 30 seconds to a minute–then remove them and dry as usual.

  • BENEFITS:  Wool is THE BEST for bedtime leak protection.  No more wet sheets!  With wool, it’s water-resistant, not waterproof–which means that if it’s compressed, you might feel some wetness.  In other words, if baby’s absolutely soaked her diaper, and you pick them up, you might feel wetness on your arm, in the area where it’s squeezing the wool against the soaked diaper.  But this rarely happens unless the diaper is REALLY wet, and it won’t leak the way that a soaked pocket diaper would.
  • Woolies are also super-cute–if you buy shorties and longies instead of just soakers, they double as clothing, which simplifies things.  It’s more comfy for baby to wear fewer layers, and it gives them more freedom of movement, which is especially healthy when they’re learning to crawl.
  • You can use any sort of diaper underneath a wool cover–prefolds, flats, contours with snappis, fitteds, etc.  However, I prefer fitteds, for their superior poo-catching abilities!
  • You can spend as much or as little as you like on your wool stash.  You can find gorgeous, handmade works of art for your baby to wear that cost over $100 a pop; you can make your own wool soakers and wraps from cut-up woolen sweaters, sewn by hand–or anything in between.  It can be gorgeous and comfortable for baby, either way.
  • Not all wool is scratchy, and it’s actually a very healthy fabric to use, even in warm climates.  Wool is naturally breathable and has the ability to regulate temperature, so it keeps you cooler in the heat, and warmer in the cold.  This quality makes it much preferred over non-breathable synthetics in our Texas summers!
  • Wool is hypoallergenic.  Except for a small number of people who are allergic to lanolin, wool is an excellent choice for sensitive skin.
  • Wool is really, really durable.  While many of the new, synthetic, made-in-China diapers are falling apart after being used for only a few months, wool can be passed on or handed down from child to child with very little decrease in function.  Using gentle, correct washing techniques, woolies will stay out of the landfills and last for many years.
  • Woolies don’t have to be bulky or thick.  I have thicker wool for nighttime, and thinner wool for daytime use.  They sell jersey knit wool and even wool crepe fabrics–very trim under clothes, and very breathable on hot days.

I think wool is a beautiful, healthful, and useful alternative to both disposable diapers and synthetic cloth diapers.  If you’re curious about wool, I highly recommend buying or making one or two covers (here’s a great link for making your own soakers, diapers and more), and using them for nighttime.

My absolute favorites for nighttime are Aristocrats brand pull-ons.  They retail for about $35 each, but you can pick them up used for as little as $10.

I’m at the point now where I have mostly wool, and only a few PUL covers as backup.  For a long time, I avoided wool (as a former vegan, of course), but now it’s my favorite.

…and it’s so cute!
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