The cloth diaper community loves its rules. Do this, don’t do that; it’s full of them. But often, these rules are just based on feelings or hearsay and not actual data.
After years of hearing these rules get blurted out without being able to find any sources to back them up, I’d had enough and decided to do some experimentation of my own, starting with Vaseline and cloth diapers. During the Great Cloth Diaper Cream Experiment, I slathered Vaseline (along with zinc cream and other types of diaper creams) onto cotton prefolds and washed them — 24 times in a row.
So, will Vaseline ruin your cloth diapers? The jury is still out on synthetic fabrics like pocket diapers (part two of the experiment is taking place), but on natural fibers, I can confirm that Vaseline does not harm cloth diapers, cause buildup, or make them repel liquids.
You can watch my full experiment here:
What is Vaseline?
Vaseline is a brand name of petroleum jelly. According to the Vaseline website, “Vaseline® Jelly is made of 100% pure petroleum Jelly which is a blend of mineral oils and waxes.” While Vaseline’s Original product is made of 100 percent petroleum jelly, its Jelly Baby product is made of 99.96 percent petroleum jelly and 0.04 percent fragrance.
So, Why the Vaseline is Bad for Cloth Diapers Myth?
Petroleum jelly is great for healing and preventing diaper rash, no one ever argued that. The thinking was that it’s so thick, does such a good job of blocking moisture (and everything else) from touching your baby’s skin, and doesn’t melt away easily, even in a hot diaper, so it must be able to withstand hot water as well.
While that feels right, and it’s something I’ve repeated myself when I first started this website and hadn’t done any testing myself, it’s just not true, and a Measure Method cloth diaper wash routine will remove petroleum jelly from natural fiber cloth diapers (again, the testing on synthetic diapers is still taking place, but stay tuned!).
Alternatives to Vaseline for Diaper Rash
Though petroleum jelly is cloth diaper safe on natural fabrics, if you’re using pocket diapers or other synthetic inserts, you may want to use a more traditionally “cloth safe” alternative, I get that and there are a lot of alternatives that you can use that will do the same job.
Here are some of my favorites that are also favorites among the Cltoh Diapers for Beginners community:
If you are looking for a barrier cream that has the consistency of Vaseline, Live Clean Baby’s non-petroleum jelly is the most suitable alternative of the ones above. It’s a little hard to find, but you can get it on Amazon or you can purchase it in person at some pharmacies (check the baby aisle).
Fleece Cloth Diaper Liners for Extra Protection
If you’re set on using Vaseline with your cloth diapers but are still a little worried, here’s what I used to recommend before my testing proved it to be safe:
- Purchase or make some reusable fleece cloth diaper liners that are large enough to cover most of the surface area of your diapers. You can make liners out of any fabric, but fleece is recommended as it has the added benefit of giving baby a “stay-dry” feel. Do not use disposable liners (sometimes called Bio Liners) as these are too thin and the Vaseline will soak through anyway.
Fleece liners are not sold by many companies, but you can find some on Amazon here, or DIY some fleece liners using these instructions.
Use a liner each and every time you use petroleum jelly and make sure to keep the jelly off your diaper as best as you can.
- Make sure you have a good wash routine for your diapers that uses adequate detergent and hot water. This will make sure that if any jelly does still get on your diaper, you’re at least going to get most of it off.