How To: Prep a Prefold or Flat Cloth Diaper

Prepping prefolds or flats is SO simple. Prepping the diaper before you use it is absolutely essential to getting the best level of absorbency possible. If you order unbleached hemp prefolds, they still contain the natural oils of the hemp and must be washed to make them soft and absorbent. If you purchase bleached cotton prefolds, you still need to wash them to clear out any possible left over residue from their original processing and {again} add to their softness and absorbency. Washing = absorbency. Remember that.

Quick diaper trivia review: A prefold is a diaper that is divided into thirds. The center of the diaper is thicker than the other two thirds on either side for maximum absorbency down the middle. Flats have no such layering or division and can be used as one dipe, or folded up as a soaker for bedtime wear.

So, when you order your diapers, they’re going to arrive looking something like this:

They’re very pressed, stiff, and really leaky. When you wash cotton {or hemp}, the fibers will bunch up and create a quilted effect, which creates more and more absorbency. And just like a well-loved quilt, it will make your diapers softer and cozier for your little one.

{FYI, the color of the thread on the diaper indicates the size of the diaper. These are newborns.}


Here’s how I wash/prep mine. You can try any variation of this process, but this is what I found works:

1. Wash dipes in HOT water with a small cap full of Tide Free and Clear or any other kind of low-residue, unscented, pure and gentle detergent. {Some purists will avoid any detergent at all and simply use vinegar. This is okay too.}

2. Dry in the dryer or out on the line {I always put my diapers outside in the sun when I’m washing them, but during the prep stage, I use the dryer}

3. Repeat step one without detergent.

4. Repeat step two.

5. Repeat again until they’ve been washed 6-10 times. {I know, that sounds like a lot, but the more you wash them, the softer and more absorbent they will be!}

A Few Big DON’TS:

1. DON’T use ANY kind of fabric softener. I know it seems like it’ll make it smell good or feel soft, but it messes up the absorbency. Yes we want our diapers smelling/feeling nice, but isn’t the most important thing that they SOAK?

2. DON’T toss in any fabric dryer sheets. Again, the slightest bit of fabric softener can coat the diaper and mess up the absorbency. Think pure, clean, and simple.

3. DON’T use your normal fabric detergent. Unless you already use something that’s very simplified and pure anyway {free of fragrances and extras}

When you’re done with this process {or somewhere in the middle of it} you will start to notice that your diapers change in appearance. They should look like this:

Please excuse the not-so-great lighting my dryer provides. But notice the ripples? The cozy old quilt look? Quite different from the flat, stiff diapers from before, right? That’s what you want!

Now, these diapers should be put on baby and secured using pins or a snappi {I’ll explain in another post} and then covered with some kind of diaper cover.

Got it? Good! Now go! 🙂




Filed under Budget-Friendly Parenting, Cloth Diapering, Preparing for Baby, Simplify Your Life

2 responses to “How To: Prep a Prefold or Flat Cloth Diaper

  1. taurusmom18

    I have some prefolds that quilted up nicely like above and some others that didn’t! I tried boiling and hot washing and nothing! But they seem absorbent so I let it go, haha!

    • Haha well, as long as it still soaks, then all is okay, right?? I have heard about people boiling prefolds, and that’s definitely another way to prep them. I am far too lazy for this method though. 🙂

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