Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wool Diaper Covers: A Rave


Uli, 5 months, striking a pose in a Disana wool cover
Of all the different diaper combos we’ve tried with Uli so far, I’ve found myself reaching for prefolds and the wool covers most often. Not that I dislike our six Bum Genius pocket diapers (in fact, I regularly put her in them at night, with a hemp doubler). And I’m a true fan of the one organic Imse Vimse cover I ordered (cotton with PUL, and such nice, adjustable hook and loop closures!). And the Bummis covers are still the basic, hardworking covers of which we have the most. But there’s just something extra snazzy about the wool. Not for the strictly vegan household, obviously, but they work well for us as we’re trying to invest in long-lasting pieces that will eventually biodegrade when we are done with them and/or they wear out.
We have three wool covers:  an Imse Vimse wool wrap, a Disana pull-on, and an Aristocrats pull-on.  Uli’s starting to grown into them well (they were a bit big when we first started using them) and I’m reminded that at this rate she won’t fit into them for much longer--I need to get some bigger sizes. But do I buy more or... try and make my own? In a moment of extreme self-confidence I purchased a knitting pattern from Little Turtle Knits (check them out--there are so many cute patterns!), certain I could whip some right up;  I haven’t been brave enough to put the yarn on the needles yet. But I just found instructions on the etsy cloth diapers group about making my own ‘long’ wool covers from old sweaters--and I want to try it so badly! Uli and I will have to take a trip to the resale shops this fall and scope out the old wool sweater scene. Wasting skeins of spendy wool yarn by knitting ineptly is a fear of mine, but felting an old $3 sweater and running it through the sewing machine? Not so scary!
I think what worries many folks about wool covers is the different maintenance they require versus the diapers themselves and the other nylon/PUL covers. You can’t just toss the wool covers into the wash along with the prefolds and the BumGeniuses and Bummis--you’d end up with a warped, felted cover sized to fit a Barbie. Wool covers have to be hand washed, occasionally lanolized, and always dried flat. Most of us don’t even hand wash our dishes much less our laundry and to hear that something requires a swirl in the sink sounds like a supreme pain in the rear. I can tell you from experience, however, that the ten minutes it takes to wash the covers is completely worth it--the wools is that nice and soft and easy to use. They’re also naturally resistant to stink (the magic of wool) which means that not only does baby’s bum stay fresh when she wears them, but you just air them out in-between uses and you only have to wash them about every two weeks! I was skeptical of that claim when I first read it. PUL covers have to rinsed out or washed daily or they get gross-smelling. Turns out that wool is a completely different beast and those claims are true. A slightly damp wool cover, hung up to air out, will be fresh-smelling and ready to go in just a few hours. Use, air out, and keep on repeating for two weeks.
Once it’s time to wash the wool, it’s not difficult. As I said, it’s, at the most, ten minutes of activity--the rest is spent waiting for everything to dry.  Green Mountain Diapers had great instructions for washing the wool, and I bought my Eucalan wool wash and Lansinoh lanolin from them. What I do:  run a sink of tepid/warm water, add the wool wash, swish the covers around a bit and then soak them for a few minutes, rinse (optional step--the wash says it doesn’t need to be rinsed out, but I choose to do so anyway), and then lay flat to dry. Every other wash I re-lanolize the covers (since I only wash every other week unless they get poopy, so this extra step is just once a month). Re-lanolizing is nifty: I use a squirt of lanolin--the same kind they sell to put on your nipples when you’re first breastfeeding--and put it in an old glass jar;  add hot water to melt the lanolin, shake it up, and add to the wash water. Quick and easy, and keeps the wool soft and ensures it won’t leak.
You’ll see Uli sporting wool for the next couple of years, I’m sure. Just wanted to share how they’re working for us. And to encourage anyone considering cloth to look into the wool covers. 


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