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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

All About Wool

Wool is an amazing fiber.  It is absorbent, insulating, and breathable.  These characteristics make it an excellent choice for a diaper cover over prefolds, fitteds, contours, or even other covered diapers as an emergency back-up.

Microscopically, wool fibers consist of overlapping scales (cuticles) that make liquid repel.  They are covered with a thin layer of natural oil called lanolin that further causes droplets to slide off.  The difference between wool's water repulsion and many other materials that repel water is the air flow.  Air still moves through wool and keeps skin feeling dry and temperature-regulated.  Wool fibers, beneath the water-repellent outer layer, contain a highly porous and absorbent core.  Thus wool can both repel and absorb water simultaneously.

It is worth noting that wool covers will 'compression wick' -- if the cover is saturated and baby sits/lies on it you may feel dampness.  The thickness of the wool and the absorbency of the diaper, along with changing frequently will all help to avoid compression wicking.  Wool cannot contain a true leak (such as over underwear) if there is too much volume.  Wool is only as effective as the diaper underneath it -- but the combination of waterproofness, absorbency, and breathability make it an excellent choice for a cloth diaper cover.  I find using wool overnight to be the best possible solution for keeping my boys dry and keeping their skin cool to avoid diaper rash.

Washing wool is different than washing the rest of your cloth diapers.  Wool covers need to be handwashed in a wool wash containing lanolin.  They should not be put through a dryer as they will felt and possibly shrink or lose stretch.  The bonus of wool, however, is that it is antimicrobial and can go for up to two weeks of use (as long as no poo gets on it) between washing.

Nicki's Diapers carries several excellent wool diaper covers and wool washes.  I personally love the Aristocrats soakers, and find mine to be absolutely bulletproof for nighttime use over a hemp or bamboo fitted.

By Casey


Lisa said...

Do you know if you can put it in the dryer on air? Or how about in a whirlpool front loader on hand wash cycle? I would love to know!

wrenb said...

I love the Baby Beehinds that I buy at Nicki's. My current kiddo has 2 in a size L (we tried lots of different woolies). Next kid will have them from birth! :)

Casey said...

Lisa -- I personally just hang dry all my wool. A little felting probably wouldn't hurt, some even feel it can help make wool more leak-proof. Just be aware that wool needs moisture + agitation to felt. A change in temperature really helps, but those two things alone can change the size of your wool. Some people have really good luck with hand wash cycles, some have had disasters. It depends on your washer and how adventurous you are!

Hannah Hammonds said...

I noticed an amber necklace on the little one in the picture. On an unrelated note - do you think it works?

Casey said...

That's my youngest in all his love-handled glory. :) I definitely think the necklace makes a difference. My little guy really wears his feelings on his sleeve and he seemed a lot happier in general when the necklace was on during teething.

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