If you’ve seen my YouTube video on Cloth Diapering at Disney, then Goofy butt may look familiar to you! And here it is, (somehow) almost a year later and the Sir still remarkably fits in his Goofy cover!
A bout of Hands Foot Mouth Disease struck our home on the anniversary of a previous infestation in our house. This time it claimed anyone who hadn’t previously contracted it, including our youngest. It primarily affected his diaper region, which was odd, but I had no doubt that those familiar blisters were HFMD, which we confirmed with a pediatrician. All that to say, since the poor Sir had blisters from his mid-thigh to lower-tummy region, PUL covers irritated him and we switched to wool while we waited for his poor skin to heal.
But why use wool?
Wool is a remarkable material, often believed to be ideal just for winter apparel. What many people don’t know is, though, that wool is hygroscopic, meaning it draws moisture from the air and disperses it to the “drier climate”. In other words, it vents well for summer apparel, too, thus being a recommended material for clothes worn to the tropics! This nature of wool not only makes it a temperature regulator, but also anti-static as well. Wool fibers have scales that create an impassable dirt barrier, and they’re eco-friendly to boot, being a renewable and totally biodegradable, natural resource! They make excellent, breathable, biodegradable diaper covers and wraps!
Wool covers can by DIY’d, purchased from a WAHM (work at home mom), knitted or crocheted yourself with wool yarn (bonus points for fisherman’s wool), or purchased by cloth diaper retailers who carry brands like Disana, Imagine Baby, Sloomb, and more!
How does it work? Wool covers have lanolin in them, which, amongst other amazing properties, repels moisture back into the absorbent diaper underneath. Once the diaper is fully saturated, wool kicks in as the plan B option, absorbing as much as 30% of it’s weight in moisture. But wool relies on an adequate diaper inside! If you fall short on absorption inside, you will feel it soon enough outside. Wool won’t pool excess urine in the cover like PUL can (to some degree); it can only serve as a back-up absorber.
You will often hear wool requires special care, needing to be lanolized and handwashed. (EEEEEEEEEEEK)
Don’t fret, it really isn’t that difficult! I demonstrate on YouTube how easy it is to wash and lanolize wool! Using them is no different than a pair of pull on/snap on/velcro on PUL covers, but with one magical difference: they self clean. That’s right! You put the cover on, and, unless it has been pooped on, you can let it air dry and use it again! The naturally anti-bacterial/anti-fungal properties of the lanolin in the wool neutralizes urine so as the cover dries, it essentially cleans itself. How many times can you use it before washing it? Until it stinks when its dry or until it’s been soiled with stools. Stinky when wet is normal, but stinking when dry is indicative of the need to wash (and lanolize).
Cleaning wool is simple, but you have to follow a few key rules: 1. Wool needs tepid water. Either Hot or Cold water (drastic temperature changes) can cause the fibers of the wool to felt (when the scales fall in love with each other and hug tightly, creating a shrunken, denser material that loses its elasticity). 2. Wool doesn’t like to be wrung, hung, or otherwise stretched out when wet. Unless you’re going for a distorted look, just make sure your wet cover has its full weight cradled so it doesn’t get stretched out or distorted. This sounds scary, like you might ruin your covers if you aren’t ultra careful, but you don’t have to be so meticulous. If you just keep these things in mind, you’ll be more than fine!
Now back to washing… for starters, if (for some reason) your covers smell like ammonia, you’re going to want to soak them in a solution of (tepid) water with a splash of white vinegar. This is going to adjust the PH of the water to neutralize the ammonia. If your covers do not smell of ammonia, no “pre-rinsing” is necessary!
You can use any gentle, wool-safe soap on your covers. A bar of ivory soap, baby wash, baby shampoo, Eucalan, wool detergent, anything wool-safe works! I always recommend Eucalan for several reasons: It has clear instructions, it doesn’t need to be rinsed out, and it is enriched with lanolin, which means having to lanolize less often! Yes, lanolizing and washing are two separate things! More on lanolizing in a bit.
Washing is simple! Just:
- Fill a sink or basin with room temperature water
- Add about a teaspoon of baby soap, baby shampoo, wool wash, or a cap full of Eucalan, swish it around to disperse the soap
- Drop in your inside-out cover, give it a quick gentle massage
- Leave it sit for 15-30 minutes.
- Press out the water (folding and pressing is best, do NOT wring it!)
- Rinse (unless you’re using Eucalan) by filling your basin with fresh tepid water and massaging the wool gently again
- Lay flat to dry (roll in a bath towel first if you want to expedite drying!)
If you’re using bar soap, you can either dissolve a little piece of soap in hot water and add to the tepid water OR you can spare yourself the hassle of doing that by just rubbing the soap directly onto the wet wool cover. This is great for spot treating a particularly soiled cover. Wool covers should not be hung to dry, but can be laid anywhere: a drying rack, a baby gate turned on it’s side, on the side of a laundry basket, anywhere flat that breathes. You can also just lay it on a table and turn it over once in a while. Washing can be as infrequent as several weeks or as often as they’re soiled on. It just depends on your baby and the diaper inside!
Lanolizing, on the other hand, is a process of adding more lanolin back into your wool. This can be done to a wet or dry cover but your cover should be clean first. Lanolin is surprisingly available, found online at cloth diaper retailers or at mainstream retailers both online and in stores as brands like Lansinoh (that weird purple tube of goo for nursing moms’ chapped nipples found near the breastpumps). Doing the dry method is only really good for touching up spots you want extra coverage/protection. For instance, my son wets in the front, as is the nature of boys, and so most of the lanolin will be used in the front, therefore putting lanolin there will help boost the cover’s performance. You can put a small dab of lanolin on your hands, rub your fingers together to warm/melt the lanolin, and simply wipe it onto the inside of the diaper cover in the wet zone. The most efficient way of lanolizing your wool properly is to do the wet method. You use far less lanolin and it is more properly dispersed into your wool. This can be done immediately after your wool is washed without waiting for it to dry. You can also apply lanolin right to the “wet zones” after doing the wet method, too.
You can simply:
- Fill the sink/basin with tepid water
- In a small, water-tight container, add about a pea-sized amount of lanolin per cover, a tiny blip of soap (like baby wash or Eucalan), and really hot water. Shake to create an emulsion and add to the tepid water.
- Place your inside-out covers into the water and let soak for about 30 minutes.
- Press out the water, let air dry laying flat.
That’s it! Sometimes wool covers will try to stubbornly float, which can be remedied by either weighing down the cover with a couple of spoons or simply flipping the wool cover halfway through. Your fingers (and wool) may get this weird tacky feeling on them, and that’s normal from the lanolin! And lanolizing should be done perhaps once a month for those who regularly use wool, especially if you use the lanolin-enriched Eucalan to wash them with.
As you see, the hardest part of laundering is waiting. Wool is a very hands-off process! Everyone I’ve talked to who has tried wool covers all say the same thing: “It’s so much easier than I expected!”. And that’s been true for me as well!