You might think you ordered the wrong size or be shocked by how thin your prefold cloth nappies are when they first arrive but I assure you that is normal. Cotton prefolds will arrive smooth, flat and LARGE. Before you use them as a cloth nappy they will need to be “prepped”. This process basically involves repeated hot washes and will cause them to shrink and “quilt” up and become lovely and absorbent.
The cotton in unbleached prefolds isn’t a heavily processed form of cotton so it needs a bit more work to get up to its full potential absorbency. As they haven’t been bleached, you’ll notice they come to you a cream colour and will quickly fade to bright white with sun and use. They also haven’t been stripped of their natural oils so that is part of what the prepping process does.
The process is pretty simple and boils down to: Heat and repeat
There are a few ways to do this. The simple, most basic and the one we recommend is repeated washes. Just throw them in with your clothes, your nappy wash, towel wash, whatever. It really doesn’t matter long as it’s hot, 60ºC or higher. Hotter will just speed up the process. If you have a front loader you can use the 90ºC cycle but you don’t have to and be careful not to damage anything else along the way. Most clothes and NO PUL should go in a 90ºC cycle. If you’re washing them on their own use detergent for at least one or two washes but you don’t have to for all of them. There’s no need to dry in between washes but you can if that’s easier.
You can run them through the dryer a few times if you want. The heat will help but it’s not the most energy-efficient way to do it. But if you’re running the dryer anyway, by all means, throw them in. Our recommendation is not to do to extra work, I mean who wants that? ??♀️ Just put them in with other washes or dryer loads.
You can boil them if you really really want. But we don’t advise it. It’s dangerous, a lot of work and totally unnecessary. We have machines to do things for us these days.
You will need 6-8 washes to get to maximum absorbency. You can definitely use them after 3-4 washes but remember they won’t be as absorbent until 6-8 so add extra boosting or change more often until that point.
You’ll know when they’re fully prepped because they’ll look bumpy. This is called “quilting” and it means all the cotton fibres are fluffed up and ready to absorb. Have a look at these photos and you can see it’s quite obvious when they’re prepped and ready. You’ll also notice the prefold is thicker and smaller than it previously was, that’s exactly what you’re after.
How to Prep Prefolds – The Cheat Sheet
- Repeated hot washes of 60ºC or higher
- 6-8 washes to maximum absorbency
- Don’t make it harder than it needs to be