Friday, November 4, 2011

I Love Wool: A Lanolizing Tutorial

Right before his first birthday, my son began to get painful, infected diaper rashes. After a bit of trial and error (and a couple visits to our pediatrician), we figured out that he had developed a sensitivity to the synthetic cloth diapers we were using for him. Because of that, we switched completely to natural fiber fitted diapers and prefolds.

Little lambs know: wool is the best!
Since these kinds of natural fiber diapers lack a built-in waterproof outer (like the pocket diapers we were using) I used our trusty PUL covers. It didn't take long to notice that even in a cotton diaper with a PUL cover, Daniel would still sometimes get rashy. So I decided to make the plunge into the wonderful world of wool, and I've never looked back!

I crocheted my first wool soaker for him and I was hooked. (Please forgive the pun.) I knew about the magical properties of wool, but I'd been too intimidated by the washing routine to make the switch. Turns out, my fears were totally unfounded: washing wool is incredibly easy. And since it actually gets cleaner when it gets wet (as lanolin converts to a type of antibacterial soap when it comes in contact with wetness) wool only needs to be washed if it gets soiled. I end up washing my wool covers very infrequently, and I've never noticed them smelling bad. In fact, the wool covers get soiled so infrequently, that I usually feel the need to lanolize before I need to wash them.

Lanolin is a waxy substance secreted by the sebaceous glands of sheep which protects their coats and makes their wool waterproof, thereby aiding in the shedding of water when sheep are standing in the rain. Lanolin in wool diaper covers acts the same way: providing a water resistant coating to the outside of the wool fibers, which allows it to both repel (from the outside) and absorb (on the inside) liquid. Over time, the lanolin in a diaper cover will get used up, and you may notice some contact wetness or small leakage when your baby pees. When that begins to happen, it's time to replenish the supply of lanolin present in the diaper cover.

The process is simple and easy! I've made a short video tutorial to show you how to do it. (Read to the bottom for written instructions.)

How to Lanolize

Do this step after washing a soiled soaker in gentle soap or wool wash and rinsing it thoroughly, or without washing first to increase waterproofing.

The Steps:
  1. Fill your clean sink (or wherever you do your hand washing) with room-temperature (or slightly cool) water. Take care not to make the water too warm or too cold, as you don't want to stress the fibers of the wool.
  2. Put a pea-sized dollop of lanolin in your palm.
  3. Add a couple of drops of the liquid soap and mix it together with your finger until the two are well incorporated. (You'll be able to feel when the soap and lanolin have combined, as the texture will be consistent throughout.)
  4. Rub your hands together and swish them in the water to disperse the lanolin throughout.
  5. Put the wool soaker in the lanolin bath, being sure to get it fully submerged. (I like to move it around in the water a bit and I'm always sure to open it up to get a lot of contact between the inside of the cover and the lanolin water.
  6. Allow it to soak there for 10 minutes or so.
  7. Gently squeeze (don't wring!) the soaker to remove some of the excess water.
  8. Place it on a small towel or prefold and roll it up, gently squeezing to remove even more excess water.
  9. (Reshape and) lay it flat to dry on a dry towel or drying rack.
That's it! Your wool soaker is now just as waterproof as it was the day you got it, and you won't have to lanolize it again for a while.

These days, we do a lot of elimination communication (EC) and time spent at home in a cotton diaper without a cover. But for naps and nighttime, when we go out or when one of us is done with EC for the day, I always reach for my wool covers first. They're incredibly effective protection against wetness while still being breathable; they're both soft and adorable. Perhaps most importantly, they're made of a natural, renewable, biodegradable fiber that I know is completely safe to for my son to wear next to his most sensitive parts.

I love wool!

This tutorial post was written as part of Wool Week hosted by That Mama Gretchen: a whole week dedicated to the wonders of wool for use in cloth diapering! There's information about why wool is so incredible for diapering, how to build a wool stash, and more. Head on over there to read all the great Wool Week posts, and take a minute to enter one of the fabulous wool giveaways she's hosting!


  1. This is very timely for me. I was just trying to explain the process to my husband.

  2. I'm so impressed! I always wish I'd had the wherewithall to go cloth. I was so intimidated at the time.
    Great tutorial.

  3. Awesome! There's nothing like seeing a process like this "in person."

  4. We LOVED our wool covers!! Breathable and waterproof, capable of holding twice their volume in water, and lanolin NEUTRALIZES urine, making soap? Are you kidding me?? Sheep are total genius.

  5. I'm glad I read this. I am going to try the mixing lanolin and wash with my fingers. I have always dissolved the lanolin in hot water first. This seems easier.

  6. This is nice. Thanks for sharing with us. This is good to know
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