Hydrophobic diapers? How to fix repelling in your cloth diapers.

It is not a common cloth diapering issue, but it has been known to happen. Luckily there are ways to fix it.

What is repelling, you ask?

Every once in a while, a diaper will be placed on a baby and you will marvel at the fantastic fit around their round belly and adorably pudgy thighs. Then baby will pee and leak everywhere, soaking everything they are touching! You’ll check for gaps in the perfect fit and come up short. You’ll furrow your brow and take off the diaper and hold it in front of you. You’ll turn it from side to side checking for micro-tears in the fabric. Your forehead will crease as you realize it is in perfect condition. Then you’ll touch the diaper and you’ll notice the diaper isn’t wet at all. With a puzzled look on your face, you’ll throw it into your diaper pail and grab another diaper.

Does that sound familiar?

If so, your diaper is probably repelling. This simply means that your cloth diaper isn’t absorbing any liquid in the absorbent part. Unfortunately there is no test to tell if your diaper is repelling other than using it and finding out the hard way. Normally a fabric that repels liquid will look like this:


Many fibers used in cloth diapers, however, require the pressure of the baby’s weight to absorb liquid properly. If you do the “water drop test,” you may find that perfectly absorbent diapers still have water beads on the surface like the pictures above.

What causes repelling in cloth diapers?

Repelling can be caused by using too much detergent in your loads, which leads to residue build up. It can also be caused by using too little detergent, which leaves your diapers dirty after a wash load. Using a detergent that is not cloth diaper friendly can cause build up that leads to repelling as well. Not rinsing your diapers thoroughly can also cause repelling. This is an especially common problem with those who use front loaders and are unable to add more water to their rinse cycles. Water conditions can also contribute to this problem; hard water leaving unwanted residue, and soft water being hard to rinse. Some diaper creams that are not meant for cloth diapered bums have also been reported to create residue that has lead to repelling. Some people also believe that a large amount of poop residue left on diapers may contribute to this issue.

So how do you fix the repelling issue?

There is no cut and dry answer to this, unfortunately, and sometimes it is difficult to pinpoint the source of the problem. But you might try the following until your diapers start absorbing again:

-Strip your diapers with RLR
-Try using 1 tsp (for front loaders) or 1 T (for top loaders) of the original blue Dawn dishsoap to your wash cycle.
-Make sure you are using a cloth diaper friendly detergent. If you are, use more or less of it.
-Add more water to your rinse cycles or more rinse cycles to your wash routine.
-Thoroughly rinse your diapers with a diaper sprayer before you place them in the pail, whether they are peed or pooped in.
-If none of the above help, it may be useful to take a scrub brush and some de-greaser to the inside of the diapers.

About SusanC

Susan is a cloth diapering, breastfeeding, babywearing, homebirthing,
homeschooling, natural-living mama to four boys. She has enjoyed trying a plethora of cloth diapers, carriers, and other baby products over the past decade and loves to
share her experiences with others.

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