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Cloth Diaper Lifespans

Cloth Diaper Lifespans

By Amalah

My prefolds are deteriorating! For the past couple of weeks, I have to throw out a few diapers after each wash because they are in shreds. They are on their second baby round. My current baby is 5 months old. I wash diapers every 3-4 days using homemade laundry soap. I used the same method for my first baby also and didn’t have to throw any out. Do you have any idea what would cause them to fall apart all of a sudden? Thanks so much in advance!

Your prefolds are deteriorating because sadly, your prefolds have simply reached the end of their lifetime. You didn’t do anything wrong — they’re just old and wearing out. Imagine washing and tumble-drying your favorite cotton t-shirt every three to four days for months and years on end. It probably wouldn’t last six months. Goodness, I wash my kids’ clothing about once a week and regularly have to replace the cotton basics like socks and underwear as they get stretched-out and threadbare.The fact that prefolds are as durable as they are (and cost relatively little per diaper) is pretty amazing. But there’s still a limit to how long they will last.

There are a lot of things that can cause diapers to break down prematurely — the wrong detergent probably being number one, and I admit the Internet Jury seems pretty divided on whether the homemade laundry soap recipes are “good” or “bad” for cloth diapers. Plenty of people use it and swear by it, but I’ve definitely come across some diapering sites that caution against it. I really have no idea. So it’s possible the homemade soap played a part in your prefolds not surviving long enough to diaper two children, but in the end, we’re talking about cotton fabric. Cotton fabric that’s getting heavy duty use and heavy duty washing for months, even years. This seems like a simple case of diapers just wearing out, as all diapers eventually do.

I had very high hopes about reusing my pocket diapers a second time around, and sadly, they didn’t really do too well either. I know there’s a thriving market for second-hand diapers, but mine would not have made very good candidates, unless the buyer was willing to do some major refurbishing. The microfiber inserts were thin, worn-out and useless. All the hook-and-loop closures needed to be converted to snaps, and then the leg elastic was shot for a lot of them. (Another foe of diaper longevity: High Efficiency (H/E) washing machines. The low water level in the wash cycles mean more friction for your diapers, and more friction means more stress and wear and tear on the fabric of your diapers.) In the end, I resigned myself to buying new diapers for the new baby and was much happier with the results. If I were to have another baby (HAAAAA NOPE), my prefolds are still in pretty good shape — I didn’t use them exclusively, which helped — but I still wouldn’t count on never having to buy another cloth diaper again.

Luckily, as cloth diapers go, prefolds are easily the cheapest option to replace. And diapers you buy now will likely last you all the way to potty training. And then make excellent all-purpose household rags for awhile before they give up the ghost.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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