What is so magical about wool? Why does my daughter wake up with dry pajamas and sheets only when she wears a wool diaper cover to bed? Because wool is a wonder fabric! It is water resistant, repelling water naturally and keeping moisture in. Wool is also breathable, preventing skin irritations like diaper rashes, especially in baby's with sensitive skin. How does it do all that? Read more below about the wonders of wool.
Wool fibers, when properly lanolized, repel moisture as well as any man-made water repellant fabric. Lanolin is a natural secretion from sheep to protect their skin from the elements. It keeps their wool water repellent and does exactly the same for your diaper covers. When you lanolize, you create a protective seal that keeps moisture inside the diaper. For babies with sensitive skin, wool also provides great breathability, allowing air to reach baby's skin and preventing diaper rash.
Types of Wool Diapers
Most wool diaper covers and soakers are pull-on, though some fasten with Velcro or snaps. You can find short covers or “longies” that are basically wool pants. I have used both and like both for different reasons. For winter, I love longies and use the short soakers in warmer weather. You want to make sure your cover is 90%-100% wool (and yes cashmere works if you have some old sweaters you want to make into covers). Some Spandex or Lycra may be added for stretch. Other fabrics and blends will just not work the same way. You can find great covers at your favorite diaper shop or make them yourself if you knit or sew. Just search for patterns online and get crafty.
Caring for Wool
The amazing thing about wool is that you really do not need to wash the covers unless they get poopy, really badly soaked with pee, or maybe once a month or so for good measure. My daughter uses them every night and they never smell even though I do not wash them every morning. It really is amazing. If they get a bit damp, within an hour they smell fresh as rain. Wool is also naturally anti-microbial so odors rarely linger. I wash my covers once every few weeks when they need to be lanolized or when we have a surprise night poop. It is that easy!
When you use wool, it is important to care for it properly so it continues to perform well. Hand washing avoids the pulling and wringing of the washing machine which can damage fibers. I will admit that in a pinch I have thrown my covers in a lingerie bag and washed them on my delicate cycle in warm water. But usually, I hand wash in a 9x13 glass pan full of warm soapy water (you could also use a plastic bin). I do not recommend washing wool or lanolizing in your sink or bathtub. Lanolin in your pipes is just a clog waiting to happen. You can use a liquid wool wash or wool bar (they are best for the delicate fibers) or any other gentle soap. Just swish your covers around in the warm soapy water. Pour the soapy water out and replace it with clean water for rinsing. Squeeze out as much water as you can without wringing and set aside.
You don’t necessarily need to lanolize at every wash. If your covers can sit on top of the wash water and water pools on top of the diaper, just wait until your next wash. However, if the covers easily sink and soak up water, it is time to lanolize. Lanolin sprays are easiest but if you don’t want to buy anything new, just use the lanolin you used for nursing. Dissolve a few pea sized drops of 100% lanolin ointment in a cup of hot water; lanolin will stay or turn solid if the water is too cool. Stir the lanolin quickly until the drops dissolve, then pour the hot lanolin water into the bin of warm wash water and quickly dunk your soakers a few times on both sides. Squeeze out the excess. Toss your lanolin water outside not down the drain.
To dry, just lay your soakers on a dry towel and roll the towel up. Press to get out as much water as possible and hang to dry. Sounds like a process, but I did it last night in 5 minutes. Just like anything else, with practice you can do it in your sleep (it was midnight so I really was basically asleep).
So, give it a shot! Especially if your baby is waking up wet regularly. Washing a few wool covers by hand every few weeks is much easier that washing pajamas and sheets every day. Trust me. I know all about it. Happy Diapering!