Friday, June 24, 2011

unwaterproofing diapers - achieving the impossible

When my oldest daughter was a baby, I sewed diapers straight for a month. I sewed when she napped and after she was in bed, sometimes late into the night. I later found out that my 40 year old, second-hand sewing machine could be heard quite clearly in our downstairs neighbors' apartment, and that, not infrequently, they would comment to one another, "There's Jennie, sewing again." I made 100 pocket diapers - an ingenious design that wicks moisture away from your baby's bottom. Half of these went to my sister. Just saying that now - 100 diapers - gives me the shivers. Oh, the horrible monotony! I never wanted to see a cloth diaper again.

Cloth diapers are incredibly nifty these days - a far cry from the accidental safety pin puncture wounds that were just part of being a baby in our family growing up. Not to mention the sickening feel of squeezing cold, poo-ridden water out of a diaper you've just rinsed off in the commode. But the ease and safety of pocket diaper covers with velcro fasteners comes at a price. One or two times of a dryer sheet accidentally making it's way into your load of diapers, and you may have just waterproofed your diapers. Not waterproofed in the good sense of them keeping pee from coming OUT of the diaper, but in the bad sense of not letting pee soak through the layer of suede cloth or fleece that often composes the inner layer of pocket diapers. When this layer gets waterproofed, it's as if you've diapered your child in a cotton pre-fold sandwiched between 2 layers of plastic - the urine simply runs out the legs of the diapers and onto their clothing (and your lap). Using too much detergent, the wrong kind of detergent, or putting diaper rash cream on your child's bottom can also waterproof diapers. And once waterproofed, I have found it to be nearly impossible to restore them to a useful condition.

The diapers I sewed for my sister were the first to get waterproofed. After hours of searching for solutions on the internet and many more hours of scrubbing the suede cloth layer with oxyclean, vinegar, baking soda or anything else that was said to successfully strip the waterproofing from diapers, she gave up and began using them as diaper covers - just laying the cotton pre-fold on top of the suede cloth layer instead of inside. But when mine were the next to go, even though I used Charlie's Soap, a recommended mild detergent for diapers, I was horrified. I was not willing to admit that the time-consuming process of sewing the pocket enclosure in each diaper had been a complete waste. And so I went through the same tedious process of unsuccessfully trying to salvage my pocket diapers as well.

When I finally threw my hands up in defeat, my husband suggested I cut some slits in the suede cloth layer to allow the urine a passageway into the cotton pre-folds. At first I was shocked. Cut holes in my beautiful diapers?? That idea never would have even occurred to me. But since I had exhausted all other possible solutions, I wincingly took a pair of scissors and cut a grid of holes in one of the diapers. And do you know what? It WORKED!!

And so my brilliant husband (who had not lived in front of the sewing machine for a month) unlocked the key to unwaterproofing the unwaterproofable. These diapers, although they aren't the pristine, hole-free diapers I planned to diaper my children in, keep their bottoms (and my lap) dry. And that's good enough for me.


  1. Form follows function, baby! Those holes are nice.

  2. I'm so happy you saved these, by the way. What a brilliantly simple idea. Form to function, indeed.