More Cloth Diapering Saga: Wool

When we left off oh-so-many months ago, I was in the process of switching Cricket from disposable diapers to cloth diapers for night time, and I was just about to try wool for the very first time.  My wool finally arrived in the mail, I lanolized it (more on that later), and tried it out.  We haven’t looked back!  When she wears the PUL covers (the ones with the plastic, waterproof lining) we get leaks.  When she’s in wool? NO LEAKS.

So, let me share with you my love of wool.  I love wool so much now that Cricket goes to bed dressed in wool from head to toe.  You might find yourself wondering, “Why wool? Won’t it be hot? Itchy?”

Why Wool?

Surprisingly, I have found that Cricket sweats far less when she is in wool.  This is because, unlike cotton, the wool wicks moisture away from her skin and allows it to breathe.  Even on the hottest nights here–and believe me, with no AC and the Santa Ana winds blowing, we get some hot nights–her skin feels cool, fresh, and dry under her PJs.  When you’re hot, wool helps you cool down.  When you’re cold, it warms you up.  Additionally, because she doesn’t have her butt wrapped up in what is, if you think about it, a plastic bag, her little bootie can breathe, too.

What about the itch factor?  This is a biggie for me.  I am one of those people who thinks of themselves as being “allergic” to wool.  I hate wearing wool sweaters.  The itching just makes me insane.  That said, I have not found the baby wool, which is generally 100% merino, to be itchy at all.  It’s very soft against the skin.  She seems to sleep comfortably in it, and there are no signs of irritation on her skin in the morning.  Something about the way this wool is processed helps to ensure that it stays soft.

Some other advantages of wool?  Wool is naturally fire retardant so you don’t need to worry about the harsh flame-retardant chemicals in pajamas.  Because of the lanolin, wool is self-cleaning and doesn’t need to be washed as frequently as another kind of cover or clothing.  Longies and shorties (long pants and short pants) make great articles of clothing on their own so you don’t need to worry about finding clothes to fit a cushy cloth-diapered baby butt, which, as my friend Katie explained her her cloth diapering guest post last year, can be a legitimate problem. Actually, it’s best to not put anything over the wool.  Cotton pajama bottoms run the risk of wicking the urine out of the wool and into the cotton, so the wool stands alone as diaper and PJs all in one.

Katie in all her woolie glory.

Wool Care

Wool care is easier than you might think, so please don’t be intimidated.  If I can do it while working 40+ hours per week outside the home and chasing two busy kids, it’s got to be easy, right?

The main thing to remember about wool is that you don’t actually need to wash it that often.  I wash mine every 2-3 weeks, and it does just fine!  The lanolin in the wool and the naturally antibacterial properties of the wool itself make it self-cleaning.

Lanolizing is basically infusing the wool with more lanolin.  Lanolin is just the natural oils that sheep have on their skin and wool.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) since the sheep is no longer attached to the wool, you do have to replenish the lanolin periodically.  I do this at the same time as I clean it.  It all gets cleaned and lanolized in one go.  Easy!

So here’s how I clean and lanolize my wool (I usually clean and lanolize two covers at a time):

  1. Run your water until it’s very, very hot.
  2. Put a dime sized blob of lanolin onto the bottom onto the bottom of your sink or a basin.  I use a basin dedicated to the purpose because the lanolin leaves a sticky residue that I am too lazy to clean out of my sink every time.  If I get extra lanolin on my fingers, I don’t bother to scrub it off.  I just wipe it off on the crotch of the waiting wool.  A little extra in the wet zone never hurt anyone.
  3. Run a bit of very hot water over the blob of lanolin (just enough to cover it) and swish it around until the lanolin melts.  Remember, it’s oil so it won’t mix with the water.  Squishing the blob with the non-fuzzy end of my toothbrush helps me think it melts faster.
  4. Add the wool wash as directed by the manufacturer, and yes, you do need a special wool wash for this.  More on this later.
  5. Swirl the wool wash around the basin gently and you will notice that the lanolin clumps disappear and the water turns milky and white.  This is exactly what you want to happen!
  6. Add cool water to fill your basin.  The resulting water should be a little warmer than room temp, but not hot enough to take a bath in.
  7. Add your woolies, squashing them around to make sure they get really saturated.
  8. Walk away and forget about it for a while.  I usually leave mine overnight or all day while I am at work.
  9. When they’ve soaked long enough, squeeze the excess water (no need to rinse if you’re using a proper wool wash), but don’t wring them out.  Just squeeze.
  10. Roll them up in a towel and squish the towel to get even more water out.
  11. Allow them to dry completely (24-48 hours).

Honestly, I know this sounds involved, but realistically, steps 1-8 take five minutes.  I have been known to lanolize woolies while I am at work, even.  It’s so quick to get the soak ready that I can do it as I brush my teeth.

When the wool is dry, it will feel a little sticky.  This is fine.  It’s just excess lanolin.  It will wear off on your baby and you as you snuggle together.  No need to worry about lanolin residue on the skin either. It is actually good for your skin.  Think of the lanolin nipple creams!

What about the Wool Wash and the Lanolin?

Wool wash is easy.  I use Eucalan.  It smells amazing and you don’t have to rinse it.  I have friends who use wool wash bars.  Do not use Woolite.  It is definitely not the same thing.

Lanolin is slightly trickier.  I have tried Lansinoh lanolin, but I found that the new version doesn’t melt well and the water doesn’t get cloudy when you mix in the wool wash.  I have a tube of old, expired Lansinoh from when the Grasshopper was a baby and that works pretty well.  They must have changed the way they process it at some point.  I have been told that Medela lanolin nipple cream absolutely will not work, and this is probably because it is not 100% pure lanolin.  My current favorite, though, is Sheepish Grins solid lanolin that I get from my local baby store.

Wool diaper covers are great.  They’re amazing for overnight and heavy wetters and they are a wonderful, natural alternative to PUL.  You wouldn’t think that a butt sweater would make a great diaper cover, but they do.  Since switching to wool, we haven’t had a single leak!

If you’re interested in trying wool, but you’re not to hip on shelling out the big bucks for an expensive wool cover, I recommend the Disana merino wool cover.  It’s a great price and allows you to try it out before committing to multiple expensive covers. This was the cover that got me hooked on wool!

Have you used wool or did you find it too intimidating?  Do you use it all the time or only at night?  What is your wool washing routine like?



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