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! 

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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Cloth Diapers in Daycare in Canada

Last week, I published an article sharing advice on using cloth diapers in daycare. Since there’s a lot of misinformation out there about what is allowed by law (a lot of it spread by the daycares themselves), I included links to the daycare regulations for each state in the US. I hope that this information has been helpful to families who are trying to find daycare providers that will accept cloth diapers.

And to my Canadian friends: I have not forgotten you! Below you will find the results of my research on the use of cloth diapers in daycare in Canada.

Excellent news! Not a single province or territory in Canada disallows or restricts the use of cloth diapers in daycare.

Cloth diapers in daycare in Canada

Three provinces specifically mention cloth diapers as acceptable: New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, and Saskatchewan. They all get props for that, but at the same time, I had to chuckle because they all talked about the proper use of diaper pins! (For example: “If safety pins have been used to fasten the diaper, close them and put them out of the child’s reach. Never put the pins in your mouth.”)

Get with the program, government people. Diaper pins are so two generations ago.


Regulations for Daycares in Canada

Click on any link to view the current regulations for daycares. Please note that I have only included a link to the group daycare regulations, which are generally more stringent than those for in-home daycares. Once you have opened the document, hit CTRL+F and search for the word “diaper” to quickly find the pertinent section(s).

I hope that you find this information useful. I’m not Canadian, so if I’ve missed anything obvious or important about the use of cloth diapers in daycare in Canada, please leave me a comment below! 

Cloth Diapers in Daycare (USA)

I hear from many frustrated parents (or expectant parents) who have started researching child care options and want to use cloth diapers in daycare. Time and again, parents are told, “Sorry, but the state doesn’t allow us to do that.”

That’s usually a load of crap.

In fact, only four states (plus the District of Columbia) place restrictions on the use of cloth diapers in daycare. Even so, those statutes still provide an exception if a child needs to use cloth diapers in daycare for medical reasons.

Cloth Diapers in Daycare in the US pie chart

Getting Approval for Cloth Diapers in Daycare

Let’s assume that you live in a place where your state is cool with cloth diapers in daycare. Of course, even then, individual facilities can still decide not to accept them. However, with some advance preparation and a little sweet talking, you just might be able to get the go-ahead for using cloth diapers in daycare.

Here’s are five tips for approaching the topic once you’ve found a place that you really like.

  1. Don’t ask over the phone or by email. Once you’ve determined that this place is a great fit otherwise, bring it the subject of cloth diapers in person with the decision-maker.
  2. Be sweet and enthusiastic! If you’re argumentative from the start, they’re going to label you as one of THOSE PARENTS that they really don’t want to deal with anyway.
  3. Bring an adorable cloth diaper with you to show off. Pick your easiest diaper! A hook & loop AIO (or pre-stuffed pocket diaper) is probably best. If you bring in prefolds, pins, and covers with a million snaps, you’ll probably be laughed off the premises.
  4. Bring a list of other daycares that do accept cloth diapers, even if you’re not at all interested in those facilities. Ah, the power of peer pressure!
  5. Come prepared with a copy of your state statute just in case you’re given false excuses about state requirements. (Keep reading – I’ll give you links to every state’s current regulations!) If they insist on blaming regulations that don’t exist, then mark that place off your list anyway. If they’re willing to lie about this small issue, what else would they hide from you?

Regulations on Cloth Diapers in Daycare by State

Regulations by State

Now, for my grand finale, I present to you the links to the regulations for each state (and the District of Columbia) regarding diapers in daycare. Aren’t you just salivating over the wealth of information?

Click on the name of any state to view the current regulations for daycares. Please note that most states have different standards for group daycares versus home-based daycares; I have only included a link to the group daycare regulations, which are generally more stringent.

Once you’re in the document for your state, hit CTRL+F and search for the word “diaper” (for states noted as “specifically permitted”, it will be quicker to search for “cloth diaper”). In the states where I’ve noted a status of “not disallowed”, you won’t find anything for or against cloth diapers – you’ll only see general rules regarding the placement of diaper-changing stations, requirements for handwashing after diaper changes, et cetera.

Does your child wear cloth diapers in daycare? Did you have to jump through hoops to make that happen?

Should I Use a Diaper Service?


Sometimes I meet people who like the idea of using cloth diapers, but they are intimidated at the thought of washing them at home because (a) they don’t have enough time, or (b) they’re total wusses. I kid, I kid! Some people just don’t like the thought of dirty diapers in their washing machine. It’s completely sanitary, but I’m married to a germophobe, so I understand how those types of minds work.

Anyway, if you’re lucky enough to live in an area with a diaper service, you can have the best of both worlds! Cloth diapers without the responsibility of washing them? (I could totally go for that some weeks…) Read on to see if you should consider using a diaper service.

What is a diaper service?

Diaper services rose to popularity in the United States during World War II. At that time, many women began to seek employment outside the home, leaving precious little time for household chores. A diaper service is a professional cleaning service that delivers fresh cloth diapers to the doorsteps of its customers on a weekly basis and picks up the prior week’s dirty diapers.

Parents folding cloth diapers, 1947.

Parents folding cloth diapers, 1947.

Diaper services continued to grow in popularity until the mid-1980s, when the diapering trend shifted toward disposable diapers. Today, cloth diapers are making a strong comeback, but most families who use cloth diapers now choose to launder them at home. So you might be wondering…

Why should I use a diaper service?

Diaper services have a wide variety of customers. If any of the following describes your situation, then a diaper service might be a great idea for you:

  • You want to use cloth from the get-go but don’t want to buy a full stash of your own diapers until the baby has grown enough to wear “one-size” diapers. 
  • You’re a frazzled parent who just needs a break every now and then.
  • You have more than one child wearing diapers.
  • You don’t have a washer/dryer in your house or apartment.
  • You want some time to decide if cloth diapers work for you without buying your own first.
  • You and your spouse both work full-time outside the home.
  • You’re a celebrity and you like full service! (I can’t drop any names, but one NYC diaper service keeps fresh, clean diapers on a few celebrity baby bottoms.)

What kind of packages are available?

When diaper services first debuted, of course, flat diapers were the only option. Later, diaper services shifted toward prefolds. (Sidenote – this is why you hear some prefolds described as “DSQ” – that stands for “diaper service quality”. It means they’re workhorse diapers that are made to last, unlike the worthless stuff Gerber makes.)


Nowadays, the rental of prefolds still tends to be the most common set-up for diaper services – and of course, it’s generally the most economical service option as well. However, some diaper services have branched out to offer additional or upgraded options, including:

  • Rentals for diaper covers, wipes, doublers, pails, pail deodorizers, and other accessories.
  • Premium upgrades to fitteds, pockets, AIOs, or AI2s.
  • Delivery of eco-friendly, compostable diapers to use as a supplement for babysitters or other times when a more convenient type of diaper is desired.
  • “We wash your stash” – the diaper service comes by on a weekly basis to collect and wash your personally-owned cloth diapers for you.

How does it compare to the cost of disposables?

The cost of using a diaper service varies depending on region, type and frequency of service, and the number of children you have in diapers. In addition, a real comparison of the cost of a cloth diaper service to disposable diapers would have to include specifics regarding the brand of disposables that the parents would choose and whether they buy them with coupons or in bulk, and so on. I’m not about to bore you with a bunch of long, drawn-out scenarios and numbers.

Most of the diaper services who responded to my questions indicated that their customers are most likely paying just about as much for the diaper service as they would for disposable diapers. These customers appreciate the convenience of a diaper service and value the environmental and health benefits of using cloth diapers.

And in case you still want some actual numbers:

  • One diaper service noted that their most popular service consists of 75 cotton prefolds per week for $23 per week.
  • Another diaper service said that their most popular service includes 60 cotton prefolds per week, which costs $73 for four weeks.

However, families with multiple children in diapers can easily pay less for a diaper service than they would on disposables. This is because the service still only has to make one stop to pick up and deliver the diapers, regardless of the number of diapers a family is renting. The costs only increase slightly for the washing of the additional diapers being rented for a second (or third or OMG, fourth?!) child. 

Special thanks to the following diaper services who helped me bring you this information: