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What is up with my cloth diapers!?


My cloth diapers are leaking!

Leaking can be caused by a couple of problems.  

The first possibility is that the diaper is full!  Remember that cloth diapers are not like disposables and can only hold a limited amount of moisture before it has to go somewhere, and that somewhere is OUT of the diaper.  Cotton/hemp cloth diapers generally should be changed after 1 ½ or 2 hours of daytime wear, but some babies will soak a diaper after 1 hour and some can go to 3.  If your baby is constantly leaking out of pocket diapers, remove the inserts and evaluate how saturated the inserts are and in what areas.  Experiment with the inserts, place them differently or use longer/thicker inserts, or try a combination of different fabrics, like hemp blends or bamboo, that might add some absorbency without a lot of bulk.  If you are using a prefold or fitted, consider adding a lay-in liner to the diaper before pinning on baby, and make sure that your covers fit properly and fabric is not peeking out to wick onto baby’s clothes, especially onto their belly at night.


If your older baby/toddler is consistently leaking overnight, consider purchasing 1-3 generously sized pocket diapers including Happy Heinys, Knickernappies or Doopsy, that are fantastic for overnight stuffing.  Natural fiber fitteds, like the hemp/cotton Kissaluvs, are terrific for overnights with a wool cover.  If nothing contains your toddler’s overnight pee, changing their diaper before you go to bed late at night might be the best solution to stop their waking from leaks and be as kind as possible to your baby’s skin if they are an overnight “supersoaker.”  My daughter was so used to her midnight diaper changes (from age 12 to 20 mos.) that she would stay asleep on the changing table while I changed her.  Now at 2 ¾, she tinkles on the potty before going to bed, which really cuts down on overnight wetting.  Also, withholding liquids after an hour before bedtime can be a good strategy.


Another possibility is improper fit.  Some diapers, particularly one-sizes, if not properly fitted to your child, can create gaps in the front or sides out of which urine can leak out.  Cloth diapers require the pressure of skin-to-fabric contact to allow the urine to pass through the lining.  Diapers that are fastened too loosely can allow urine to just pool up and pour out.  Snap-closing diapers are the worst culprits because they cannot achieve as exact a fit as a velcro closure diaper.  There is invariably going to be some point in time when your baby is “in between” sizes of a one-size diaper and there might be gapping at the snap-down area.  Generally, leaking is an indication that it could be time to change the size.  Sometimes as baby grows, it might actually be necessary to LOWER the rise of the diaper since toddlers tend to slim down once they become active and walking.  Don’t just assume that the fully unsnapped rise is the last setting your child will use.


Brand-specific leaking:

My Knickernappies are leaking right out the sides between the snaps!  This is caused by improper fit, a temporary problem with one-size diapers when baby is between sizes.  Try unsnapping the diaper to the next level to stop gaps at the front of the thighs.  If you feel that this is too big, keep the size the way it is, but when fastening the diaper on baby, reach down into the diaper with your fingers and turn the inside flaps back onto themselves under the front piece.  That way if urine pools up before being absorbed, it will only touch fleece and not roll out on the polyester outer fabric of the tabs.  Before you know it, baby will grow into this size a little better and the leaks will probably stop happening due to better fit.  This exact problem happened to my son at about 7 months and resolved by 8 or so months when he grew a little bit, and the Knickernappies have worked perfectly ever since without having to turn the flaps.


My Happy Heinys are leaking at the leg holes! Happy Heinys diapers were designed with baby’s comfort in mind, and as a result, they created incredibly soft leg openings in which the inner fleece rolls outward to be gentlest to baby’s skin.  Occasionally, a soaked diaper can wick moisture onto baby’s clothing.  Consider changing your Happy Heinys a little bit sooner if you notice that very wet diapers wick onto baby’s clothes.


Diapers can also leak because of buildup which causes water to repel.  “Buildup” is a term attributed to several different foreign substances that can attach to the inner fabric of the diaper and not allow it to absorb moisture.  The first matter is that of non-cloth diaper safe diaper creams.  Safe diaper creams contain substances that are designed to wash away during normal laundering.  Many store-bought “mainstream” diaper creams contain petroleum or zinc oxide that will coat the fabric and resist water.  The second substance is soap; even the purest cloth diaper detergents can build up on cloth diapers over time.  The third substance is minerals from hard water.  Lastly, if you dry your diapers in the dryer and use fabric softener on your clothes, fabric softener can build up on the inside of the dryer and transfer onto your diapers, causing them to repel.  You can wipe down the inside of the dryer before drying your diapers, or switch to wool dryer balls to reduce some static and drying time.  


Buildup is generally removed by “stripping” the diapers periodically.  Stripping too often can be harsh on the wear of your diapers, so reserve stripping for every month or two when the diapers need a freshening-up or you notice some leaking or odors.  There are lots of schools of thought on stripping diapers but here is the basic method:


How to strip your diapers:

The basic way to strip diapers is to wash them with very, very hot water to remove soap and oils.  Do not boil polyester because it can ruin the fabric!  Either turn up your hot water heater (ensuring everyone’s safety around faucets for the rest of the day!) or heat water on the stove to add to your washer load.  Soak and wash your diapers without soap, or with Rockin’ Green and rinse multiple times until you see no soap bubbles during agitation.  


For routine stripping you can add 1 tsp of Original (Blue) Dawn dish soap to the wash water, which acts as a degreaser.  To remove buildup caused by diaper creams, fabric softener or other substances, use a small amount of Original (Blue) Dawn on each moistened (clean) diaper and agitate it into the stained or affected areas.  Wash with no additional soap on hot, and rinse several times until there are no soap bubbles during agitation.


Mineral buildup, a problem we here in San Antonio face often, can be removed by doing a long or overnight soak with Rockin’ Green Hard Rock detergent.  Routinely adding vinegar to your rinse cycle can also help keep mineral buildup at bay AND help clean the minerals out of your washing machine’s innards.  Vinegar is also a natural odor remover and fabric softener.


My cloth diapers are stained!

Rogue Diaper Creams If a foreign substance like a non-approved greasy diaper cream stains the fleece or suedecloth inner of your pocket diaper, the best remedy is to apply Original blue Dawn dish soap directly to the stain, add water and agitate the soap into the stain.  Wash the soap out until there are no suds in the water (take advantage and strip the whole stash!).  Repeat if necessary.  In the future, use an approved diaper cream or use a bio-liner, cloth wipe or scrap cloth to protect the diaper from the cream.


Newborn Poop! Newborn poop will stain fleece inners as well as cotton prefolds rather alarmingly.  Don’t worry, this is normal!  Sun is the best stain remover out there, and sunning your diapers will bleach the newborn poop stains right out.  If you want to keep your pocket diapers looking nice for resale, you can use a cotton or fleece liner to keep baby comfy and keep the diapers from getting overly stained.  Rest assured, this is a temporary problem.  Cotton prefolds will bleach nearly completely out and be good as new after 1 or 2 sunnings.  


Regular Poop Stains! Regular poop stains can be very stubborn to remove, but the same rule applies-sun bleaches stains!  You can spritz some acid in the form of vinegar or lemon juice onto stubborn stains to accelerate the bleaching process, being sure to wash the diapers after this treatment, before you use them again.  Really stubborn stains from stubborn foods (like carrots, beets etc) might require repeat bleaching/vinegar but most stains should come out at least so the fleece does not look appalling. Use of a bio-liner, scrap cloth or fleece can help preserve the inners of your pocket diapers and also makes poop disposal much easier.  Use of a diaper sprayer prior to putting the soiled diaper in the pail can also help prevent stains from setting.  Last, doing a warm rinse instead of a cold rinse on your diapers before washing can help keep stains from setting.  


My cloth diapers stink!

San Antonio hard water  Tell us about it!  San Antonio water has lots of minerals that love to cling to fabrics, including your cloth diapers.  If your diapers appear gray and dingy, or have a “raunchy” smell after baby wets, Rockin’ Green Hard Rock cloth diaper detergent has been specially formulated to combat the mineral buildup that is characteristic of our water.  To get started using Rock’n Green, Rock a Soak–soak your diapers overnight with Rockin’ Green to give your diapers a serious facelift.  More than one soak might be necessary to fully clean them.  Wash as normal with Rockin’ Green to keep mineral and soap buildup at bay.


Ammonia stink The dreaded toddler pee is attacking–once your baby starts on solid foods, the amino acids cause that awful ammonia smell in the diapers.  A sharp, fresh ammonia smell on a wet diaper is NORMAL, especially a nighttime diaper.  This is what pee smells like.  However, if the diapers smell REALLY RAUNCHY when baby wets, this is not normal and you have the “stinkies.”  The stinkies can affect all kinds of diapers but can really permeate microfiber inserts and thick fitted diapers that might not be rinsed completely clean.  An overnight soak with Rockin’ Green, and then a short soak with Funk Rock Ammonia Bouncer attacks ammonia on a molecular level to return your diapers to a neutral state.  Be sure to follow package directions and soak with Rockin’ Green first to get those diapers fresh and clean.


Velcro/Aplix Issues

My Happy Heinys’ laundry tabs unfold, and snag everything in the washer! Yes, I too have pulled out the infamous “diaper chain” after Happy Heiny’s aplix closures unfold and all the diapers hold hands coming out of the washer.  Easy fix!  Instead of folding the tabs onto themselves before washing, attach the two straps to one another.  You will have to twist one of the straps, and leave the other flat, so they stick together forming a loop.  This bond is much stronger, and will keep your velcro nicer and cleaner for much longer, plus it won’t snag other stuff.  It’s also easier to pin on the clothesline.


My bum Genius/Thirsties velcro tabs are all curly!  You’re in luck!  Cotton Babies now makes a Diaper Refresher Kit, which contains 2 replacement velcro tabs, plus a set of leg and waist elastics.  For $1 per diaper, you can refurbish your tab closure diapers or covers between children or to reinforce the closure for a pesky toddler.