Monday, January 20, 2014

Cloth Diapers: How To Lanolinize Your Wool

Two questions people always ask me about wool.
#1 Isn't it itchy???
#2 Is it too hot for summer???
The answer to BOTH of those questions is NO.
Then the 3rd most common question:
#3 Isn't  it a pain to care for?
and the answer to that one is a little more complicated I suppose.

First of all, I live in Southern California. San Diego to be exact, which in case you didn't know is the capital of 72 degrees and sunny.  It's really hard to find wool to upcycle here. Most people all around the USA can go to their local thrift store and pick up a bargain bin load of sweaters for $5. Not the case here. Most thrift stores know what they have and auction in off to the highest bidder - usually at about $7 PER SWEATER. I feel like I get a score when I find a men's XL at that price ;).  I use upcycled sweater wool for my wool wraps, but I also have to supplement with some crocheted wool soakers.  I use upcycled wool sweaters because they are usually soft and use long hair wool so the surface of the wool isn't as scratchy as you would think.  Of course, every one of them gets the "rub-against-my-cheek Softness test" and if it passes I buy it because i never know when I'll find another.  The other part of that scratchy wool issue is care.  When you use the wool for diapers, they are usually lanolinized first.  In simple terms, Lanolin is the oil that is found on sheep to make their wool water resistant.  During processing of wool and turning into fabric and yarn all of that lanolin is washed away.  But lucky you - you can add it right back in through the process of Lanolinizing.  I don't think I made that word up - all of us wooly mamas use it!

These are the diapers I have in my shop:

Wool Wrap from upcycled sweater wool.

Hand Crocheted wool soakers.

I use wool year-round here in SoCal, in the summer it's the only thing my kid wears, and in the winter he wears it under his jammies or clothes.  He doesn't seem to be any hotter than when he has on a plastic coated non-breathable diaper! Wool is a natural fiber, breathable and non toxic.  The only issue may be an allergy to it since it is an animal hair. In that case, wool is not better for you. Aside from that- it is the best. When you coat the diaper with a small amount of lanolin, the soft fibers are able to resist wetness from the fitted soaking layers of the diaper. Any urine that comes in contact with the lanolin goes through some magic process that turns it into salt water....Seriously magic - you will have to google the deatils on it - it's completely true.
Wool needs to be hand washed BUT not very often. So when your babe wets his diaper, you take the wool off, turn it inside out and hang it to dry. You can rotate it back onto your babe at the next change.  After about a week or so depending on your rotation of diapers - you can hand wash in warm water with gentle soap.  I'll explain that in a minute. After a few of those washes - I would say about once a month, it's about time to put more lanolin on your diaper.

How do you know when it time to dun-Dun-DUN relanolinize? Your diaper may smell like urine or it may start to leak through frequently.
It's an easy process and here it is for you in pictures:

Wash your wool. Add your diaper to a basin of warm water, a drop of soap. Swish. Rinse until clear.

Lanolinize your wool. Squeeze out a pea size bit of lanolin.

In a small jar add 1/2tsp of gentle soap and the pea sized drop of lanolin.

Fill halfway with warm water and swish until lanolin is melted.

Pour onto the wet wool diaper.

Fill bowl with warm water.

Swish around to coat the diaper with the lanolin. Then, let it soak for a few minutes.

Squeeze the diaper (like this). Do not wring it out or it might warp it's shape.

Lay it flat on a dry towel.

Tightly roll the diaper up in the towel.

Then, Un-roll the diaper

Hang to dry!

And, there you have it. As always - if you need help, please feel free to ask, or send me a message!


  1. I recently acquired a pre-used wool diaper and was told I would need to re-lanolinize, my question is what kind of soap is it I would use, you say gentle soap, what kind exactly?

  2. Hi! I use any gentle soap I would use on baby - or a free and clear laundry detergent like 7th Generation. Good Luck!