Friday, January 29, 2010

Cloth Diapers and Leaks

It is a myth that reusable diapers cause more leaks than disposables. In actual use, most parents actually report less leaks with modern reusables. If you are using cloth diapers and you experience leaks there are some common causes and solutions.

1. Poor fit
If your diapers do not fit properly, or you use adjustable size diapers such as Smartipants and they are not set to the right size for your baby, you may experience leaks. It is important to adjust the diaper before putting it on the baby. There is a helpful video showing how to adjust a Smartipants diaper for a small baby here

You will simply place you insert into the diaper, snap to the appropriate setting for your baby and then put the diaper on the baby. We find adjusting the size first provides a much better fit than attempting to snap the diaper to a smaller size while the diaper is being changed. It is also possible to adjust the fit with different or additional inserts. By doubling up inserts you create a different fit which can be helpful at times with growing babies.

2. Inadequate Absorbency
This is the most common problem with leaks in reusable and disposable diapers. If the diaper has reached its absorbtion capacity the only place for additional moisture to go is out of the diaper. For this reason and for baby's skin health it is best to always change babies every 2-3 hours no matter which type of diaper you use. If you find your baby cannot go 2-3 hours you might consider using more than 1 insert or using more absorbent inserts such as those made from materials such as hemp or bamboo which tend to hold more liquid for heavy wetters. Some babies do need to be changed more often than 2-3 hours and it is up to each individual family to decided what the needs of their baby are.

3. Repelling
Repelling is another common problem with reusable diapers. It is important to follow the manufacturers instructions on laundering your diapering products. No fabric softeners or additives or natural soaps may be used on stay dry fabrics which line most of todays modern diapers such as Smartipants. These fabrics keep your baby's skin nice and dry without the need for additional barriers or creams. These fabrics are high performace and must be cared for properly in order to perform as designed. Additives such as fabric softener leave a film on the fabric which renders it unable to perform. Instead of allowing moiture to flow through the fabric keeping baby dry,the fabric can repel the liquid causing leaks. Built up laundry detergent can also cause this problem. If this is the problem stripping the diapers by washing on hot with no detergent and adding a small amount of grease fighting liquid dishsoap is known to be helpful. A very small amount of bleach can also remedy build up issues. If the build up or film on the fabric is very bad, then scrubbing the liner with a brush and dishsoap is also helpful.

These are the top 3 causes for leaks in reusable products. If you take care to launder correctly, make sure you are getting a good fit on your baby and provide adequate absorbency you can enjoy your reusable diapers leak free!


  1. Many thanks for making the time to talk on the subject of baby care and children's needs.

  2. Which laundry detergent(s) do you recommend for use with Smartipants?

  3. You should make the information about not using natural detergents and stripping instructions appear on the packaging. Or, when a person orders their Smartis from you, email them an instruction manual. I know it's on the site but when we consumers first come here, we're not really looking at the things that aren't as easily found. I certainly didn't have the time having a new baby to go through your blog and find all the info. I'm lucky I found your site at all! Personally, I'd love to have had the laundering instructions, stripping instructions and a clearly stated list of what NOT to use on the diapers.

  4. thanks for your suggestions we will look into this :)

  5. I have been having absorbancy problems with my smartipants even though I thought I was following instructions on fabric care to a tee. When you say no "natural detergents" what does that mean? I have been using "All free and clear" and that seems to have built up residue over time. I am going to strip the diapers and see what happens. I was told by a microfiber expert that the best way to restore used microfiber to as close to original as possible is to boil in water for a couple of minutes. Any advice on this? I would just boil the inserts, not the covers. I am planning to use Charlie's soap on my laundry from now on. It iis a clean rinsing detergent with no additives, enzymes or brightners to cause buildup. Is that considered a natural detergent? There is tonnes of specific info out there on how to care for natural fiber diapers but I have had a hard time finding specifics for the synthetics. Thanks for a great product. I just want to keep it working great :-) I agree with Elise that you should have a little handout with all new orders for specifics on fabric care. Green Mountain Diapers sends out an 18 page, very comprehensive education and instruction book by request with an order. I learned a lot from it but all about natural fabrics, not microfiber, etc.

  6. Natural detergents often refer to those as having natural soaps which leave a lot of residue. There are also a lot of natural oils that different detergents contain which are not good for synthetics. Thanks for the suggestions also we are taking them into consideration.

  7. hey great job i like this
    n thanx