Wednesday, October 9, 2013

All about Wool in Cloth Diapering

Wool is somewhat of a magic fiber in the cloth diapering community.  If you pair a good-quality diaper with a wool diaper cover, it is a great overnight solution.  Unlike most cloth diaper waterproofing, wool is breathable and does not trap moisture directly against the skin.  Wool is also absorptive- it can hold quite a bit of moisture before it begins leaking.  Lastly, wool is antimicrobial.  You can use a wool soaker for days before it needs to be washed.  Despite all the benefits of wool as a cloth diapering material, it only recently gained popularity in modern cloth diapering community.
Wool soakers: image shows the variety in style, color, and thickness.  Felted wool soakers (pink and brown) are wonderful for overnight diapering.  Knitted wool soakers (blue) are often a good choice for daytime use. Photo credit: Median Wool Works, used with permission.
Wool was used in cloth diapering for centuries, and, today, you can find a variety of wool diapering products.  Wool "longies" are pants made from wool.  They serve as both a diaper cover and as a warm clothing option for cooler months.  Wool "shorties" are the equivalent of wool shorts for warmer temperatures.  Why would you wear wool in the summer?  Because wool is so breathable, a thinner style of wool can be cooler than other types of cloth diaper waterproofing during the warm summer months.  Lastly wool "soakers" are designed to serve primarily as diaper covers. Soakers are often intended to be worn under clothing, but they don't necessarily have to be covered with pants. Intricately knitted wool soakers are often designed to be shown off. No matter what style of wool diaper cover you select, you will need to lanolize the wool before using it for cloth diapering.

Wool Shorties.
Photo credit: Median Wool Works, used with permission.
Lanolin is a waxy substance secreted from the skin of sheep, and it gives wool its water-resistant characteristics.  Lanolin is in a wide variety of cosmetic products and you have most likely encountered it in hand lotions and breastfeeding creams.  Although wool naturally contains lanolin, it must be replenished as wool fabric is used and washed.  "Lanolizing," or replenishing lost lanolin in wool diaper covers, is usually done when the diaper cover begins to show signs that it is loosing its water resistance.  You may notice that the wool diaper cover begins to feel damp on the outside, and this is a clear indication that it is time to lanolize.

Washing and lanolizing a wool diaper cover:

  1. Turn your wool diaper cover inside-out
  2. Fill a basin (or sink) with tepid water and mix in a squirt of baby body wash
  3. Soak the diaper cover in the soapy water for 10 minutes and gently press moisture out of the diaper cover (do not wring). Drain the basin
  4. Mix 1 tsp of lanolin into a microwavable cup containing water and baby body wash.  Microwave until the lanolin dissolves.
  5. Combine the lanolin solution and fresh water in the basin- water temperature should be tepid again
  6. Place diaper cover into the basin and soak for 10 minutes on each side
  7. Remove the diaper cover, press out water (do not wring), and lay flat to dry

Although washing and lanolizing a diaper cover looks to be labor intensive, it only requires a few minutes of actual work.  If you are looking to save time, you can purchase a wool wash [aff link] which washes and lanolizes in one step. Thankfully, wool diaper covers do not need to be washed and relanolized after each use.  Depending on how often you use the diaper cover, wool could be washed as often as every third day or as infrequently as every month. Products like wool refreshers [aff link], are a good way to give your diaper cover a boost of lanolin between washes. Pairing a quality diaper with your wool diaper cover helps to prevent leaks and minimizes the amount of washing you need to do. 
As indicated, Kelly's closet links are affiliate links.  Special thanks to Lauren from Median Wool Works for providing photos for this post.


  1. This is such a great post for anyone who is just getting started with wool! And Lauren's creations are gorgeous!

  2. Wool sounds like a lot of work to me. However, your description makes the process sound a bit easier.

  3. This is a great wool post, straightforward and simple...just like using wool is and should be. Don't fear the wool!

  4. Thanks so much for posting this! Wool has always been so intimidating and pricey - it's never seemed worth worth trying. You've really helped clear up a lot of questions for me!

  5. I haven't tried wool. I have to admit I am a little leery, as my daughter gets warm easily, even though I have read that wool would keep her cooler. It is difficult to get this through my head.