You may have heard stories from your mom or grandmother about how exhaustive all that washing and ironing cloth diapers used to be.
But is ironing even necessary nowadays?
As a general rule, modern cloth diapers don’t require ironing. Washing machines are more efficient in washing away any germs, which means cloth diapers don’t require additional sanitizing by ironing them.
If you have additional questions regarding ironing cloth diapers and what to be mindful of, I wrote this post for you.
Does it make sense to iron modern cloth diapers?
As stated above, most cloth diapers don’t require ironing because they are washed in high-efficiency washing machines with a high enough water temperature (hot, 60 degrees Celsius).
If, for whatever reason, you want to iron cloth diapers, make sure you always read the labels carefully since different materials require different care.
Check out this table with the most common fabrics used for cloth diapers, with added ironing recommendations.
|Material||Heat Level||Special notes|
|cotton||high||dampen before ironing|
|bamboo||low||iron only if really necessary|
|hemp||medium-high||dampen before ironing|
|microfiber||low/cool||apply very little pressure|
|microfleece||low or no heat||dampen before ironing, use a pressing cloth|
|wool||low||dampen before ironing, use a pressing cloth|
As you can imagine, cotton absorbent parts will be the easiest to iron (source). Dampen the cotton, set the iron to high heat, and you’re ready to iron.
Bamboo should be ironed only if really necessary because it is a pretty sensitive fabric (source). You should iron it on low-heat settings, such as those for synthetics.
Hemp, on the other hand, can be ironed on medium to high heat. Make sure you only iron hemp while it’s still damp or dampen it thoroughly with a sprayer before ironing (source).
Microfiber inserts can be ironed on cool iron settings. Be careful not to apply too much pressure not to ruin the fibers’ structure (source).
Microfleece should be ironed on very low or no heat. Check for fleece/polyester settings on your iron, dampen the material and use a pressing cloth between the iron and microfleece to make sure the direct heat does not touch the material (source).
Wool should be ironed at low temperatures. Use a steam iron or dampen with a sprayer, then use a pressing cloth between the iron and wool (source).
Always use the gentlest settings when dealing with a blend of different fabrics!
For example, if you are ironing a cotton bamboo blend, identify the more sensitive fabric (bamboo in this example) and iron it according to bamboo care instructions.
Why they used to iron all the (flat) diapers
You might be wondering why our moms and grandmothers meticulously ironed all the diapers.
Back in the day, not every household had a washing machine, and if there was one, it definitely wasn’t as efficient cleaner as they come today.
If there was no washing machine available, diapers had to be hand washed, and as you can imagine, that couldn’t be done in hot water (unless they were boiled).
Ironing was an important step to ensure that they adequately sanitized the diapers. Since parents used mostly cotton flat diapers in the past, it was a no-brainer to iron them on high heat, seeing how cotton was a quite known and enduring fabric. The high temperature helped kill all the germs, and the diapers were safe to use with babies.
If you’re using flats, do you still have to iron them?
You don’t have to iron flat diapers in most parts of the world; however, in some tropical climates, it is necessary to iron all garments being dried outside.
This is because certain insects are present in those climates that lay eggs on the garments and can reproduce very quickly if they are not killed by ironing at high temperatures.
If this is the case in your home environment, you are probably very aware of it, so don’t worry about this issue if you’ve never heard about it before.
You can safely iron your flat diapers on the fabric settings of your flats.
Why do some parents like to iron cloth diapers
There are many benefits to ironing cloth diapers, especially flat diapers.
They soften up, you get rid of the wrinkles, and you get nicer-looking edges with flats.
If they shrink during the washing routine, you can stretch them out by ironing them.
Last but not least, you sanitize them additionally, at least when you iron on high heat (for fabrics that can take it).
Can you iron modern cloth diaper parts made of PUL?
It is not recommended to expose PUL and snaps to high temperatures. Ironing PUL can melt it or at least delaminate it, making it easier for the layers to tear. Snaps can melt as well since they are usually made of plastic.
Therefore, you should never iron covers, pocket shells, or the PUL layer of the all-in-one diapers.
If you want to iron the absorbent parts of the all-in-one cloth diaper, do so only if you can pull the absorbent part away from the PUL. Do not iron all-in-ones where all the absorbent layers are sewn directly onto the PUL with no possibility of spreading it apart because the heat might affect the waterproof layer.
How ironing wool covers affects lanolin in the fibers
Lanolin is a wax that is naturally present in wool and is the reason why wool is water-repellent. It also has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, making it very popular in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.
Lanolin’s great properties are the reason why wool makes great covers for cloth diapers. Read more about why wool needs to be lanolized in this post.
Since lanolin has a melting point between 100-107 °F (38-42 °C), you can imagine it will melt very quickly when ironed.
Because of this, I highly recommend you do not iron wool covers when lanolized.
Instead, iron wool covers only if you previously washed them with an appropriate wool detergent that doesn’t already contain lanolin. Use enough detergent to neutralize any excess lanolin in the cover.
Since wool diaper covers are kind of useless as covers if they aren’t lanolized, decide for yourself if it really makes sense to iron them after washing if you put them in a lanolin bath after this anyway.