My husbands jokingly suggested I call this post “not all diapers go to heaven.” However, that makes zero sense. Diaper die. That’s life. Let’s talk about the realities of wear and tear on cloth diapers. Just like we should give up the expectation cloth diapers will hold resale value, we need also come to terms with the limited lifespan of a cloth diaper.
Cloth diapers are frequently toted as being absolutely spectacular. I’m not going to disagree, but the expectation that a set of diapers will last more than 2-3 years needs some wiggle room. Wear and tear on cloth diapers is normal. Even the brands admit to it. And even other blogger, also check out change-diapers photos of natural wear and tear.
Whether you have brand name cloth diapers or cheap cloth diapers, there is a limited lifespan.
Think about it: washing weekly in hot water with strong detergent, sitting in toddler urine in a bag for a few days, being stretched and snapped onto the slipperiest of babies, finding its way into evil washers/dryers, being hung from clothes both inside and in the sun, the accidental bleach soak when you should have done a wash, or thinking vinegar was a safe cloth diaper additive, or the sanitize cycle on the washing machine… the list of diaper abuse is long.
It happens to the best of us. I have an entire drawer of cloth diapers that were eaten by my washing machine, and a few that found their way into the dryer. They leak and I use them for cloth diaper science or bumming around the house.
Diaper Ailments 101
If we are to personify how Diapers die, these would be the ailments they suffer from. Some of these ailments are less serious than others, while others are the ultimate stab the heart that requires the diaper to land straight in the garbage.
- Even a good pair of underwear need replacing every few years – elastics just break down over time, and finding that forever elastic is not a realistic dream. Replacing elastics on diapers after 3 years of heavy use should be the assumed normal. It can be easy to replace, but it can also be a pain.
- PUL gets cracked, destroyed, delaminated or more – PUL grade varies amongst diaper brands and suppliers. Some is amazing and some is not. Some can handle my evil washing machine, while others got torn right up. Regardless of the calibre of the PUL/TPU the expected lifespan is not very long. Different accounts suggested mere 100-150 washes. That’s like one year or the length of your cloth diaper warranty! don’t freak out because most cloth diapers dont just fall apart.
- But also, life happens and sometimes PUL falls apart because of user error. Has this happened to you? Tell me your horror story.
- Some brands are a little more notorious for problems, particularly cheapies but at less than $7 a diaper there’s not much room to make the complaint worthwhile. Based on online chatter, I see Rumparooz Diapers delaminate frequently, and Buttons Cloth Diapers don’t seem to handle the dryer without major consequences. Apparently, this blogger had a problem with the life expentency of cloth diapers such as bumGenius, but I can’t see I’ve seen this complaint anywhere else.
- Natural Fibres got holey. After a time, strong detergents, urine, the whole shebang will break down the organic fibres and they begin to have first layer holes, and then even more holes. This is the normal and healthy use of the textile.
- Microfibre just gives up. Microfibre sheds overtime and will, therefore, be less than effective at holding moisture and for many people that happens you need it most (toddlerhood). Don’t be surprised if less than fluffy microfibre fails to keep the wet in.
- Fleece will pill… eventually. That’s just what happens. It’s normal.
- Hook & Loop isn’t forever, and in my experience, a solid year or two before it really goes downhill. Good thing it can be replaced and is relatively painless if you own a seam ripper and a snap plier!
- Snaps snap. In my experience snaps break straight out of the factory as a major quality control issue, but I have had a snap break in half when it got caught on something somehow.
- Seams pop. This happens to me mostly because I get a little too rough with my slippery child and the stitching for the casing around the elastic pops (its because Blueberry Simplex really needs stretchy tabs like the bumGenius diapers).
A Second Life?
When elastics go on a cloth diaper…
- Replace them yourself. The concept is relatively simple, and one day I’ll do a post but check out this one.
- Hire someone to replace them. Ask in your brand group or a local group if there’s a recommended seamstress for replacements.
- Offer them up for free or at a highly discounted rate for someone else to take care.
If the PUL/TPU is destroyed there’s not much you can do with them, but here are some ideas.
- Use as a swim diaper.
- Use as a play diaper (pantless) – knowing you’ll need to change it when wet and treat it more like an uncovered fitted cloth diaper.
- Use with fleece or wool pants.
Holes in the Natural Fibre? Just keep using it, and use it until it dies. That’s the beauty of this product.
Did your microfibre beat the dust? Well, really just toss those bad boys and check out some natural fibre prefold cloth diapers. Or maybe a selection of flat cloth diapers?
The death of hook and loop means some careful unstitching and then a snap plier to put snaps back together. You can also find someone to do it, or sell it/give it away for someone else to do.
Snaps are easy to replace, but not always convenient. Contact the brand to see if they have snap warranties, and then find a snap plier. This is great opportunity to make some friends in your local cloth diaper community. Find a neighbour with one. Looking to buy new? I’ve heard great things about the Kam Snap Pliers.
Seams need a sewing machine, but a little double over and you’re set to go. Toss in the dryer to reseal the holes and it works just fine.
Tell me your cloth diaper horror stories! Because lets be real, not all diapers survive 2-3 years of use. Some diapers just die and its part of the course. They aren’t made of steal or an unbreakable material and they break down just like everything else in life. Even high quality diapers die after some time. Luckily, I’ve had some great customer service from brands which fell apart on me within 6months to a year of use.
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