Diaper Rash Creams and Cloth Diapers

If you’re just jumping into the world of cloth diapers, you’re probably thinking, “Whew! I finally got it all straight. I’ve figured out the cloth diaper systems, materials, features, and care. Wait, now you’re telling me that I also have to be careful about what kind of diaper rash creams can be used?!”

I know. I’m sorry. But I promise that it’s not hard to sort out the compatibility of diaper rash creams and cloth diapers. You just need to look at it on the ingredient level, which is what we will do in this article.

Diaper Rash Creams and Cloth Diapers

Common Diaper Rash Cream Ingredients

Ingredients Generally Considered “Cloth-Safe”

All of the “cloth friendly” ingredients should rinse away easily in regular the hot wash cycle of your washing machine without additional cleaning measures. These ingredients are not overly greasy or thick. They are best for preventative use.

  • Beeswax – locks in moisture; naturally anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-allergenic, and germicidal
  • Vitamin E – high in antioxidants; benefits the skin by helping it retain its natural moisture content
  • Lanolin – a rich source of skin lipids
  • Shea butter – effective at repairing damaged skin due to high levels of natural antioxidants and essential fatty acids
  • Cocoa butter – a natural skin softener, high in Vitamin E
  • Aloe vera – cool and soothing; can reduce skin inflammations, itchiness, and blistering
  • Coconut oil – contains a unique combination of fatty acids that moisturize skin beautifully
  • Olive oil – a gentle moisturizer for dry skin, containing Vitamin E, Vitamin A, and four different antioxidants
  • Grapeseed oil – aids with skin repair, as it has mildly antiseptic qualities
  • Jojoba oil – acts as a natural barrier to environmental allergens, and may help slow the growth of bacteria because of its anti-microbial properties

Ingredients to Use with Caution

Paraffin, petroleum jelly, white or yellow petrolatum, and mineral oil are common ingredients to see on the labels of diaper rash creams. These ingredients are derived from hydrocarbons and put through a refining process. Because they have a heavier, greasier texture than most of the ingredients in the section above, I recommend using these with caution on cloth diapers. Test them first (like I did with Grandma El’s – which contains yellow petrolatum) or use a disposable liner as a precaution.

Zinc oxide is questionable; many sources claim that it causes repelling and stains.

Ingredients to Keep Away from Cloth Diapers

The three ingredients in diaper rash creams that you should always keep away from cloth diapers are:

  1. Cod liver oil – will cause repelling and a “fishy” smell in cloth diapers.
  2. Calamine – may cause repelling; will leave a pink stain.

Tips for Avoiding Problems with Diaper Rash Creams and Cloth Diapers

Remember, natural fibers are more forgiving when it comes to washing away any kind of build-up, because the pores of the fibers are larger. Prefolds, flats, or any natural-fiber AIO or AI2 are great to have on hand for those times when you might need to use a particularly thick ointment. My mom, Crunchy Nana, recalls using Vaseline fairly regularly with prefolds without ever encountering a repelling problem.

If you’re not sure about an ingredient (or a combination of ingredients), just go ahead and use a liner to be safe. I’ve had to turn to Triple Paste a few times to resolve a bad diaper rash quickly, and I kept using my cloth diapers. Thanks to disposable liners, I had no issues with the thick cream transferring to the diaper.

One additional caution: If you’re dealing with a yeast rash, consider switching to disposable diapers until the rash has cleared up. It’s not necessarily the creams that cause a problem with your diapers (although they might), but you could have a bigger problem with the yeast lingering in the diapers.

Stripping Greasy Build-Up from Cloth Diapers

Oops! So let’s say that you were blissfully unaware of the problems that some diaper rash creams can cause for cloth diapers. Let’s say you smeared globs and globs of the greasiest possible ointment all over your baby’s bottom and then put on the best, most expensive, most beautiful cloth diaper in your entire stash.

The horrors!

Is there any recourse?

I’m certain that you can fix any build-up problem you have. I once tried to ruin a diaper with Desitin, but was able to fully restore its absorbency with just a few extra steps. (It does still have some stubborn gray stains that won’t go away, but that doesn’t affect the performance of the diaper in any way.)

What types of diaper rash creams have you had problems with? What is your favorite “cloth-friendly” diaper rash cream?

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  1. I use lanolin as a barrier all of the time. I’ve had several people (and some cloth store owners) gasp and insist I’m going to kill my diapers. I don’t understand their theory- wool is coated with lanolin and then we put it over diapers- it transfers, so what’s the difference? I also use Motherlove diaper rash ointment and I always joke that if it can’t be fixed with lanolin or motherlove, it’s time to go to the doctor. 🙂
    I also agree with you about fixing buildup- everything can be fixed and if that was a widely accepted thought people wouldn’t freak out about creams and detergents.

  2. What’s the third ingredient to always avoid?

    • Whoops – it WAS zinc oxide, but after further investigation, I changed my opinion on that! 😉 Good catch!

  3. So based on this information, it looks like Watkins baby balm should be CD-safe, right? My Watkins rep didn’t know, and no one seems to address the issue on any cloth diaper blogs that I read…

    (Ingredients: Prunus amygdalus dulcis (sweet almond) oil, beeswax/cire d’abeille/cera alba, Theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter, Vitis vinifera (grape) seed oil, Olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, Triticum vulgare (wheat) germ oil, tocopherol, Helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, Glycine soja (soybean) oil, Calendula officinalis flower extract, Anthemis nobilis flower extract, Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract, Lavandula angustifolia (lavender) oil )

    • I’ve never heard of that brand before, but I’d agree that it should rinse out of your cloth diapers just fine!

  4. What about the ingrediant vegetable gylcerin.

  5. Hi! I’m still on the fence about Burt’s bees all purpose ointment …would you think it’s ok to use on cloth diapers? My stash is mostly made up of organic natural fibers: cotton, hemp, and bamboos.

    ricinus communis (castor) seed oil, cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, cera alba (beeswax, cire d’abeille), hydrogenated castor oil, parfum (fragrance*), butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter, calophyllum inophyllum seed oil, glycine soja (soybean) oil, prunus amygdalus dulcis (sweet almond) oil, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) butter, tocopherol, citral, citronellol, coumarin, farnesol, geraniol, limonene, linalool. * natural fragrance

  6. I love CJ’s BUTTer, I get teh 12oz tub for on the changing table, and their sample sizes to throw into the diaper bag. It also is nice when you forget your good old stand by chapstick and need something to put on, or when you have dry elbows, etc. For the really nasty yeasty rashes we used MotherLove diaper rash and thrush cream which worked wonders, cleared that all up in the matter of a couple applications (we always caught it early too though). We never used liners, but the few times the rash was so bad we had to go to just GDiaper inserts with a sweetpea cover.

  7. I find this very helpful. Now I want to make my own Diaper balm. But Ï want to know, can I use essential oils like lavender, tea tree and almond oil?

  8. Dorothy Boucher says:

    I know for us , we try using all natural products, I don’t want to be using anything that is going to clog the skin or anything, I love the tea tree and lavender oil and coconut oil, it seems to work for my other grandchildren

  9. michelle elizondo says:

    good to know

  10. I’ve been cloth diapering my daughter for 2 years. She is severely allergic to ANY disposable diapers. She did have a yeast infection a few months ago, and I discovered some interesting info. Since switching to disposable was not an option, I had to stick with my cloth. I started washing all of my cloth diapers with vinegar to kill the yeast in the diapers. Vinegar has incredible yeast killing powers and will also clean your diapers more deeply. I just wanted to share for those moms who may not have a choice to switch to disposables. 🙂 also, vinegar can be used safely on pacifiers, bottle nipples and other things that baby puts in their mouth when children have thrush (a yeast infection of the mouth) this will prevent re-introduction of yeast.