Will Meconium Ruin Cloth Diapers?

By April Duffy •  Updated: 06/26/24 •  4 min read

Nope. For some reason, it’s often recommended to new parents to use disposables for the first few weeks as meconium will just ruin their cloth diapers. Funny enough, this is usually advice from parents who haven’t used cloth in the first few days themselves.

The truth is that meconium washes out of cloth diapers easily. But newborn poo is weird and meconium can leave a light stain. Here’s what you need to know:

What is Meconium?

Meconium is black or dark-green, thick, tarry-looking, and odorless poo, which fills a baby’s intestines before birth.

How Long Does Meconium Last?

Sometimes meconium is released prior to birth in the uterus, usually because of distress like an infection or a difficult delivery.

Under normal circumstances, meconium stools are released some time within the first day after birth, though it can take up to 48 hours. Over about three to five days, you’ll see your baby’s poo gradually change color from black, to dark green, to yellow, and even to tan depending on how you choose to feed your baby. All the earth-toned colors of poop are fine and healthy. That said, consult your doctor if you have concerns, and especially if baby is having meconium poos after five days.

Do I Need to Do Anything Special to Wash Meconium Off My Diapers?

Though it’s thick and sticky, meconium actually washes off fabric easily. In fact, you don’t even need to rinse it off. Throw meconium poo, just like breastfed poo, right into the washing machine and it will dissolve on it’s own.

How Do I Remove a Meconium Stain?

If your cloth diaper comes out of the washer with a stain from meconium, it will be light. To remove it, dry the diaper in direct sunlight. I know it sounds hokey, but it really works.

Is There Anything I Can Do to Prevent Meconium Stains?

If you’re worried about staining and not being able to sun your diapers (hey, I am Canadian, I totally understand; it gets dark here at 4:30 p.m. some days!) disposable liners or fleece liners may be the peace of mind you’re looking for.

Disposable liners like these, will not completely block the meconium from seeping through onto the inside of the diaper, but they’ll let you dump the worst of it into the trash without much fuss.

Fleece cloth diaper liners, will keep the meconium from touching the diaper and will give baby a nice soft, stay-dry feeling on the bum. The meconium may stain the fleece of course, but that’s less heartbreaking than stains on your expensive diapers, if any staining happens at all.

Can You Use Oil to Help Meconium Cleanup?

Olive Oil

While newborn poops dissolve easily in your washing machine, they are still thick, sticky messes. Meconium can be a bit difficult to get off baby’s bum, especially since you won’t want to rub that cute, tiny tush too firmly. The common advice is to put some olive oil, coconut oil or almond oil on your baby’s bottom before the first meconium poop and after each change. The oil keeps the next poo from sticking to the skin, making clean-up much easier. This is good advice, and all of these oils will not harm your cloth diapers.

If you want to do this, just wipe any meconium/poop off first with water and a washcloth or wipe. Then follow with oil as barrier protection cream on baby’s bum.

Special Note: Instead of oil, some people recommend Vaseline to make removing meconium from baby’s bum easier. While it may make meconium removal easier, it can have consequences for your cloth diapers. Check out the previous FAQ post Can Vaseline Ruin Cloth Diapers? for more information.

April Duffy

April is the founder of Cloth Diapers for Beginners and author of The Cloth Diaper Wash & Care Handbook. Since 2015, April has helped well over 75,000 parents and caregivers cloth diaper their children through this website, her book, her YouTube Channel, and the Cloth Diapers for Beginners Facebook Group.