Many people have asked me about cloth diapers and wool soakers. They are usually shocked to learn that wool makes a great diaper cover and does not leak. And I don't blame them. It truly is amazing.
Here's a few facts that I have found:
- Wool is naturally antibacterial. This keeps your wool soaker free from germs and smelling fresh.
- Wool can hold 30 – 40% of its weight without feeling wet. This makes your wool cover very absorbent.
- The lanolin in the wool also makes it repel moisture. You need a nice, absorbent diaper, and the wool will keep the moisture in the diaper but absorb any overflow from the diaper. You may feel that there is moisture under the wool without it seeming wet on the outside. That means your wool is working~ and it's also time for a diaper change.
- Wool is breathable. It is this quality which helps to prevent diaper rash and sweaty bums. This also allows moisture to evaporate. The breathability of wool is also why wool keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer. (It's also why people who live in the desert wear wool.)
- Wool is self-cleaning. What busy momma wouldn't like that?! The lanolin found in wool converts to a soap-like substance to keep it clean. (So when baby pees, he cleans his woolie~ sort of. 😉 ) It's a complicated process called saponafication. Basically, it means that you only need to wash your woolie when it gets dirty (those lovely diaper blow-outs) or if it smells of urine when dry.
When using wool soakers with cloth diapers, you need to be certain that you have sufficient diaper under your woolie. The diaper needs to be absorbent enough to hold the wetness. If you expect the wool to do the absorbing, you will likely have lots of leaking. After all, the wool optimally needs to repel in order to keep the moisture in the diaper. The absorbent quality needs to be a back-up measure. Put enough diaper under the woolie and change the diaper when you can tell it feels wet, and you will be surprised at how wonderfully woolies work!
When it seems that your woolie is getting very wet at diaper changes, leaks, or smells like urine when it's dry, then it is time to re-lanolize. Basically, most of the lanolin has been used up in the self-cleaning process, and you need to put some lanolin back in the wool. I just use solid medical grade, pure lanolin. You can simply use Lansinoh, but I like to buy a one pound tub from my pharmacy. Lanolizing sounds like a complicated process, but it's really not at all. I like to wash and then re-lanolize about every 2 weeks.
To wash your woolies, simply run very warm/almost hot water into a tub or sink with a couple squirts of whatever you use to wash your baby's hair. Put the soaker into the water. Do not scrub it or slosh it around~ it may felt your wool. Simply push down under the water and squeeze it. Then let it soak for a while. For spots that are still dirty, I simply squeeze them and move the wool gently with my fingers while under the water. This usually gets everything out.
To lanolize, you first need to soften the lanolin under some hot water (I always refill my old Lansinoh tube to make it easier).Then you simply mix a couple teaspoons of solid lanolin, a small squirt of whatever you wash your baby's hair with, and hot water in a small jar. (I use an empty spice jar and very hot tap water.) Then you shake the whole mixture really well. The liquid inside should turn white like milk, and all the lanolin should be melted. Pour this liquid into a tub or your sink and add warm (not hot) water. You only need enough water to just cover your woolie. Put your soaker (inside out) into the water and gently push down so that it will get wet and stay under the water. You do not want to swish it around briskly or scrub it because that could cause your wool to felt. Let it soak until the water is cooled. I only let mine soak about 30 minutes. I feel like they start to pill if I let them soak longer than that. Take the soaker out of the water, and squeeze out all the water that you can. NO wringing, only squeezing. Then turn the soaker rightside out, spread it out onto a dry towel, roll it up, and stand on it. You will be shocked at how much more water comes out! (Remember how absorbent wool is?) Take the woolie out of the towel, lay flat and reshape it to dry. Your woolie will dry much faster if you lay it in a warm, dry location. I like to put mine on a cooling rack or on an upside down crate to dry, often near the heat vent in the winter. It's not uncommon for it to take 24 hours for the wool to dry.
(I apologize for the blurry pics. Child photographers and all…)
When your woolies are dry, then will feel a little sticky on the inside. It's just the lanolin. They will only feel sticky the first couple of wearings~ and it will make your babe's skin nice and soft.
That's it! Now you can enjoy all the benefits of breathable cloth diapers and an all natural, breathable cover. Be careful, though, because woolies are so cute and wonderful that it is easy to get addicted. Soon you'll want more woolies than your babe could possibly need!