Zinc Oxide and Cloth Diapers

Does ZINC OXIDE Cause Repelling in Cloth Diapers?  -via Diaper Wrecker

I don’t have to tell you that repelling is a dirty word amongst cloth diapering parents.

“You used WHAT BRAND OF DIAPER CREAM? Omg. You’re totally going to have repelling issues.”

You probably know that fabric softeners and ultra-greasy diaper creams are common culprits when it comes to repelling. Remember when I tried to ruin a diaper with Downy and Desitin? But how about zinc oxide? It’s an ingredient found in a lot of skin-care products and it’s hailed as a great cure for diaper rash.

Zinc Oxide and Cloth Diapers – Can They Get Along?

It’s a question that most cloth-diapering parents would like an answer to, considering the large number of popular diaper creams that contain zinc oxide – some marketed as “natural” products and some not. To name just a few, you have Desitin Rapid Relief, California Baby Diaper Rash Cream, Aveeno Baby Diaper Rash Cream, Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, Badger Organic Zinc Oxide Diaper Cream, and the new GroVia Magic Stick “Z”. Plus tons more.

More often than not, I read warnings that zinc oxide and cloth diapers aren’t exactly… sympatico. (Yes, I wrote that thinking in the voice of Flynn Ryder from Tangled. I’m putting that on my list of movies to watch again soon.)


For example:

  • According to a page on the Earth Mama Angel Baby website: “Zinc oxide coats cloth diapers and renders them non-absorbent.”
  • Similarly, the Motherlove blog indicates that “Zinc is not a cloth diaper friendly ingredient; it’s made to repel moisture from a baby’s skin so if it comes in contact with a cloth diaper unfortunately it will also work the same effects in the place where you really want absorbency.”

However, Anne over at the Zephyr Hill blog makes a fabulous case that zinc oxide has been unfairly blamed for repelling. Anne argues that it’s actually a matter of what else is in the diaper cream – after all, zinc oxide is a powder, so it has to be mixed with other ingredients to form a cream that can be applied to baby’s bottom.

Zinc Oxide Plus What?

Let’s take that list of diaper creams and examine the creamy/oily/greasy ingredients in each. Taking those other ingredients as an indication of whether the product is cloth-safe or not really matches up with most of the anecdotal evidence I’ve heard from other moms about which creams cause repelling and which don’t:

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What’s been your experience with zinc oxide and cloth diapers? Leave your wisdom below! 


  1. I’ve made diaper balm with zinc (zcote micronized zinc oxide), a variety of vegetable butters, olive oil, beeswax and coconut oil. My usual diaper balm doesn’t have the zinc, but I’ve not had a problem with the zinc. I think it would be a problem if it got on microfiber, but microfiber wouldn’t be against baby’s bum anyway. The zinc powder is available from a few suppliers if you wanted to test it. You’d have to use the powder by itself to get to the ‘bottom’ of this.

  2. I use powdered form of Zinc Oxide and have never had an issue…I actually Use Jane Iredale Mineral Make-up… it works great for healing skin irritation, it water resistant up to 80 mins in moving water, and doesn’t stick to the cloth. ( I sell it, so I have tons of old stock… I don’t actually recommend someone paying $50 just to use the make-up for bum cream).
    If you’re interested in doing a “Diaper wrecker test” of some sort I can send you some to experiment with…

  3. Ha! This is fabulous! I’ve long argued that zinc oxide is usually FINE with cloth diapers, but you’ve worded it far more eloquently than I ever have, so I’ll just be linking here from now on. 😉 Thank you!

  4. Courtney, thanks so much for linking to my blog and for tackling this often-misunderstood topic! Your ingredient breakdown is really helpful, too.

  5. Danielle Bennett says:

    Thoughts on Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Diaper Ointment? I’m switching to cloth, and so far it’s the only thing that adequately protects my daughter’s sensitive skin. It contains several of the ingredients that you have listed as safe in other brands, but there are a few in it that weren’t talked about. I’ve read that other mamas have had good luck with it, but I’d like to be sure before I possibly ruin my diapers. 🙂

  6. I have used the California Baby cream with zinc oxide with both of my kiddos on cloth pocket diapers and have never had an absorbency problem. I am now thinking about making cream for the arrival of #3. I’ve been making deodorant and lotion bars so I already have shea butter, beeswax pelletts, coconut oil and what not… I was thinking of buying some zinc oxide to make sunblock and so I thought maybe diaper cream would be good as well (is it just me or does everything home made have the same 5 ingredients? 🙂 From this post, it sounds like as long as I am sticking with those ingredients, it would be alright for CDs, though I would go very light on the beeswax. I’d love input!