Wool Covers for Cloth Diapers

By April Duffy •  Updated: 05/18/24 •  8 min read

When it comes to diaper protection and stability, wool diaper covers are awesome.

Why wool? Wool is a natural fiber that’s breathable and can absorb while also being water-resistant. These seem like opposites, but with wool, you really do get the whole package!

The magic all has to do with lanolin. Lanolin is the natural waterproofing oil in a sheep’s wool. Lanolin is what makes a wool diaper cover “waterproof,” however it’s not truly waterproof and the wool itself actually absorbs about 30% of its weight without feeling wet. This means no leaks! Seriously!

No leaks are just one of the benefits of wool though, other benefits include:

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Wool Cloth Diaper Covers for Night-Time

Without a doubt, the absolute best use for wool diaper covers is at night. A pull-on style wool cover with an overnight fitted diaper (you can find the ones I recommend here) is the one true bulletproof nighttime diaper that will last even an extreme heavy wetter all night long.

Caution: Be Gentle With Your Wool Covers

Though the benefits of wool probably have you shopping for some already, just note that they are a bit more delicate than regular PUL covers.

I think most moms, except for a lucky few, have been up at 3 am changing a diaper in the dark with their eyes closed because they are just too exhausted to open them for any longer than they absolutely have to. In those desperate moments, and in all the moments when your attention is short while doing your diaper duties, remember that wool covers need a gentler touch.

Rings and Other Jewelry Around Wool

Just remember to be especially careful when using wool diaper covers with rings and other jewelry on.

It’s so easy to snag it on these things when not paying attention and it may not be possible to fix the damage that snag will do. Any large hole or snag has the potential of being a leak spot, so just be mindful.

Snaps on Wool Diaper Covers

If you’re using a wool diaper cover that has snaps or buttons, it’s important to remember that wool is especially delicate and stretchy, so extra care should be taken not yank the snaps or buttons sideways to untie them, especially with stretchy wool.

Wool Cloth Diaper Wash and Care

While wool is absolutely awesome, it does require some very unique and special care when washing and drying it. Thankfully, you don’t need to wash it as often!

How Often to Wash Wool Covers Need to be Washed?

One of the best parts about wool diaper covers is that they only need to be washed every two to three weeks unless soiled or if they smell when dry.

How to Wash Wool Covers

Unlike PUL diaper covers, which I recommend get washed in a long, hot machine cycle if possible, with a strong detergent with surfactants, wool actually breaks all those rules and should be hand-washed with a mild soap.

When washing, soak the cover in cool water for 15 minutes with wool wash detergent (like Outback Gold, link below). Do not scrub unless necessary for removing soil.

After the time is up, carefully take it out (it can stretch easily at this point, so pick the whole thing up in your hands). Roll in a towel and gently squeeze to remove excess water then lay flat to dry. At this point you can do an additional rinse and then roll it out again, or you can leave it as is.

Lanolizing Wool Diaper Covers

Aside from washing, you may have heard some talk about “lanolizing” your wool covers before.

Lanolin is the natural oil that’s present in sheep’s wool. It keeps the wool conditioned and prevents the wool from drying out.

The magical thing about lanolin is that it also makes wool more water-resistant. Less lanolin makes wool absorb more quickly. You may like your wool cover more absorbent or you may like it with extra lanolin. That’s something you’ll figure out along the way.

A good wool wash, like the Outback Gold mentioned above does have lanolin in it, which might be enough for you, or you might want to add extra lanolin to your wool to lanolize it further.

Even if you do like to add more lanolin to your cover, you will likely not need to add more every time, and therefore lanolizing your diapers should be an infrequent task.

There are a few good diaper lanolin products out there, but you do have to search for them, one is Delish Naturals Lanolin Balm, which you can find at local cloth diaper retailers like Calgary Cloth Diaper Depot (Canadian retailer, but does ship to US).

Drying Wool Diaper Covers

Most of us know that putting wool in the dryer is a no-no as it will shrink, a lot. But it’s also important to note that while laying it flat to dry is recommended, don’t dry it in direct sunlight.

While direct sunlight is great for cloth diaper inserts as it gets stains out, and helps destroy some bacteria, drying wool in the sun will damage your wool covers.

According to Woolmark, a not-for-profit organization that works alongside Australia’s woolgrowers to research, develop and certify Australian wool, “When drying, avoid direct sunlight, magnified sunlight (close to an outside window) or direct heat. Avoid placing your wool garment over a radiator to dry.”

Woolmark adds that if drying over a heat source, the part of the garment that’s folded over the top of the heat will tend to dry the quickest and can cause the garment color to change or damage the garment in that one spot.

Prepping New Wool Covers

Like all cloth diapers, wool covers should be washed once before using them on your baby. Wool diaper covers do improve after a few washes, but you don’t need to wash them more than once unless the instructions with your diaper cover say to. This is because you want those natural oils on your cover!

Do you need to lanolize your new cover? Maybe. Again, always follow the directions that come with your new cover, but if there are none, you can test if you need to lanolize it by dripping some water on it. If it soaks right in, then it’s time to lanolize. If it beads up and can roll around a bit, then it already has lanolin on it and should be good to go.

Storing Wool Diaper Covers Between Babies

If you’re storing your diapers for any length of time, wash your wool diaper covers thoroughly without lanolizing it. Don’t fold or sandwich it between other clothes, instead hang it or spread the wool diaper cover on top of other clothes. If pressed, the wool may get stiff and/or lose its original soft and luxurious feel.

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.