Alright, here it goes…a wool post. Yup, I just said the ‘W’ word…so now you’re in one of 3 categories:
– You’re cheering and waving your hands with joy, cause you’re one of those people that LOVE wool SO much
– You’re sitting at your computer screen with your eyebrows raised wondering what the heck is so great about wool anyway
– Or, you’ve always wanted to try wool, but it was all too confusing and just a tad intimidating.
Well, if you’re in category 2 or 3, this post is for you.
So, let’s start with the basics. Why is wool so great, how is it even waterproof, what’s this about not washing it after every use and isn’t it itchy and hot?
Sheep’s wool is a fantastic, all natural fabric. Many of us reach for organic, bamboo, cotton and hemp materials with our diapers (naturally derived, sustainable and/or environmentally friendly sources), that have TPU or PUL on the outside to make them waterproof (synthetic material). While this is totally fine, and still much better from manufacturing, cost, health and landfill points of view, wool is an option that allows water-resistance naturally.
A wool diaper cover is used over top of an absorbent fitted diaper or prefold secured with a Snappi or Boingo. If you want, you can even use a wool cover overtop of any other leaky diaper arrangement (leaky pocket diaper, disposable etc.) since they also double as pajama bottoms, shorts or pants depending on the leg length of the cover. NOTE: you don’t need to put clothing overtop of the wool cover, but you can if you like. Just be aware that clothing made of cotton or other natural fabrics may wick moisture evaporating through the wool diaper cover making it seem wet.
Now, how exactly does wool qualify as water-resistant? Well, you know that lanolin stuff everyone recommends for soothing your nipples when you’re breastfeeding? That’s the stuff that is secreted by the sheep’s skin and which coats the wool fibers and which helps them repel water. Lanolin naturally helps prevent bacteria growth, keeps the wool soft and protects the sheep’s skin from moisture. It also neutralizes urine by binding with ammonia and making a kind of soap, hence why can hang dry a wet wool diaper cover and it will still smell fresh once dry without washing every time. Self-cleaning in a sense.
Notice I didn’t say waterproof? That’s right, wool works by repelling urine back into a fitted diaper and then once the diaper is full, absorbing 30% of it’s weight in moisture and evaporating it off. So, since this evaporation is taking place, wool covers are super breathable and great for sensitive or rash prone skin. Think of all that airflow! Because of this evaporation, it is normal for your wool cover to feel slightly damp (that’s how you know it’s working), but never wet and leaky. So sheets stay dry and that’s what makes wool a superhero at or nighttime diapering.
Alright, next question, isn’t wool terribly hot? No. In fact it doesn’t conduct heat at all and acts as a breathable insulator keeping baby at a constant temperature; warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot. Think of wool in nature. Sheep are nice an cozy in the winter and don’t die of heat stroke in summer even if they aren’t sheared. And as for itchy, I know you’re thinking of a tacky Christmas sweater, but wrong again. There a number of varieties of sheep raised specifically for their wool. Merino wool in particular is very soft to begin with and is then milled different ways for different properties. You can get wool that is spun like yarn which can be knitted into a diaper cover, wool interlock which is like a piece of fabric, wool blended with other fibers (spandex, cashmere, alpaca wool etc.), boiled wool, wool flannel, up-cycled/recycled wool (ie. a wool sweater from a thrift store re-made into a diaper cover) and more. Generally fuzzy wool is thicker and ‘fuzzier’ and a better choice for nights. Silky wool is thinner, luxurious and super soft and makes a great daytime diaper cover.
So, in a nutshell wool is great because it is:
- Thermo regulating
- Anti-microbial…and because of this also odor resistant
- Moisture resistant
- Great for heavy wetters or nap/nighttime diapering when paired with a good quality fitted diaper.
- A renewable resource acquired without hard to the sheep
- Naturally fire retardant
So, if wool is so awesome, why do so many people shy away from it? Well a couple of reasons.
- Wool covers can be expensive…like $40+ each expensive when purchased new.
- While they don’t need to be washed after every use, they do need to be hand washed aprox. every 2-3 weeks (depending on the type of wool, you may be able to wash them on the gentle cycle and then lanolize and hang to dry) – no this is not hard, it can just seem like it at first
- They can take a long time to air-dry and cannot be put in the dryer (they will shrink, felt, stretch out and/or all of the above)
- They need to be re-lanolized every so often to retain their water-resistent properties. This can be done during the washing as discussed above. Many wool washes and wool wash bars contain lanolin in them for a wash/lanolize in one step.
And now for the lingo:
Soaker – wool diaper cover, sometimes with extra absorbency built into the wet zone
Shortie – wool diaper cover, sometimes with extra absorbency built into the wet zone. Made like a pair of shorts.
Longie – wool diaper cover, sometimes with extra absorbency built into the wet zone. Made like a pair of pants. Makes an excellent warm layering piece of clothing during winter.
Skirtie – wool diaper cover, sometimes with extra absorbency built into the wet zone. Made like a skirt.
There we go. Did I miss anything? Experienced wool users, if you have anything to add, please do so in the comments 🙂
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