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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How to Wash and Lanolize Wool Diaper Covers

Wool is a popular material for overnight cloth diapering when paired with an absorbent fitted diaper. Wool covers (sometimes called wool soakers) generally have a generous cut through the back to accommodate a bulkier overnight fitted diaper, with a high, elasticized waistband and long leg cuffs that are stretchy and soft. The best wool diaper covers are made of merino, which is finely knit, breathable, and not even remotely scratchy to the touch.

Caring for wool is not difficult, just different. You can’t throw wool covers in the wash with your regular diaper laundry because the heat and agitation will felt the wool, shrinking the cover drastically and making it lose is soft stretchiness. So forget everything you know about washing cloth diapers.

Please look right here for a second.


Ok, let’s continue.

Processed wool itself is not magically waterproof. In order to make a wool diaper cover do its job of repelling moisture, it must be lanolized every now and then; that is, coated with lanolin. In addition, wool covers must be hand-washed and air-dryed.

It may sound like a huge, time-consuming hassle, but it’s really not because wool covers don’t need to be washed after every use. I’ve found that washing every 10-12 uses works for me (and I always lanolize them at the same time). You’ll know it’s time to wash/lanolize them if you feel dampness on the outside of the cover in the morning or if they start harboring a slight urine odor. And of course, you should wash them immediately if they get dirty.

To wash and lanolize your wool cover, you need a few supplies:

  • Liquid soap for delicate garments (I’m using Eucalan because I have a bottle that is going to last me forever at the rate I’m going; plus it’s a “no-rinse” formula that’s environmentally friendly.)
  • Lanolin
  • Small container for the melting the lanolin in hot water mixture
  • Large container for the lukewarm soap/lanolin mixture
  • Towel for pressing the excess water out of your freshly washed cover

1_Lanolization Supplies

You can also use a lanolized soap such as CJ’s Wool Wash instead of using lanolin and soap separately. If you use a lanolized soap, skip step 1 below.3_Creamy CJs wool wash

Step 1: Mix up hot water and 1-2 teaspoons of lanolin. You’ll feel like you are melting worms. This part grosses me out.4_Melting Lanolin

Step 2: Mix lukewarm water and soap – about 1 gallon of water to 1 teaspoon of soap. Swish around to make it bubbly. I like to use a whisk so that I can pretend I’m the Pioneer Woman.5_Stirring Soap

Step 3: Pour the hot water/lanolin mixture into soapy lukewarm water. Stir well.6_Pouring Lanolin into Soap

Step 4: Gently submerge your cover. 7_Submerge

Step 5: Go do something fun while letting it soak, fully submerged, for about 30 minutes. 8_Soak

Step 6: Press out excess water with a towel. Do not wring the wool – be extremely gentle! Let it dry without adding heat. Be patient; this may take 24 hours or longer.9_Dry on Towel

You now have a freshly washed and lanolized wool cover, and you also received a little mini spa treatment for your hands. I just love how soft and smoothe my hands feel after their lanolin bath; don’t you?


PS: If your covers feel sticky after this process, don’t worry. It means they are well lanolized. The sticky feeling will go away after a couple of uses. You should never try to strip wool.



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