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Cloth V: Wool

October 23, 2009

When people tell me they are allergic to wool, I don’t believe them.  There, I said it.  Sensitive?  Sure.  Genuinely allergic?  Maybe.  Probably not.  Disagree with me, if you would like.  That’s fine.  I’m saying this because I know parents are sometimes hesitant to use wool diaper covers on their babies because they are worried the baby might be allergic.  Let it go.  You have enough to worry about without agonizing over this as well.  The trick is to find soft lovely wool.  Allergies to wool are often more likely sensitivity to the processing of wool rather than an actual allergy to the wool itself.*  Try something soft.  Try something organic.

Elizabeth Zimmermann had this to say on the subject in her Knitting Workshop:

Wool is warm and comforting, and pleasant to knit with.  It is an inifinite renewable resource and does not deplete our oil supply.  It looks good.  Its sheepish producers are happy to be rid of it for the summer, and will gladly grow a new supply for next year.  WOOL ALLERGY, YOU SAY?  Well, who ever heard of much wool allergy before the middle of the century, when allergies really came into their own?  Could it not come from the dyes or chemicals used in processing wool?  Have you ever heard of a sheep allergy?  Centuries ago, people had only wool and linen to wear, with silks and furs for the rich, and all they had in the way of allergies was old-fashioned hay-fever.  Start a baby off in the very softest baby-wool, and gradually increase the dose to immunize it against this particular allergy (sic), keeping it warm and comfortable at the same time.

Help me down off my soapbox, somebody.

Elizabeth Zimmermann
Knitting Workshop
Schoolhouse Press ©1981

Wool diaper covers do require special care, but nothing too extravagant and if you ask many parents the benefits are worth it.  First of all, wool is probably the most natural choice for a diaper cover you are going to find.  Wool is thermal and helps regulate body temperature.  It will help keep baby warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  Wool pulls moisture away from baby while remaining a waterproof barrier for baby’s clothes.  Wool breathes, allowing air to circulate through the cover.  Wool is naturally antimicrobial.  Wool is green, sometimes literally.

Caring for wool covers isn’t difficult, just different.  Care generally consists of hand-washing (though not always), air-drying, and lanolizing.  Wool covers generally only need to be washed once a week or so, depending on how many covers you have in rotation.  Most wool covers need to be hand washed or they may felt and shrink.  To wash your wool cover use a wool friendly wash and cool water.  Gently agitate the cover and then remove excess water by rolling in a towel.  Lay flat to dry.

Lanolizing your wool is also a fairly simple and quick process.  (I know you don’t have a lot of spare time.)  To lanolize your wool, turn it inside out and submerge it in a sinkful of lukewarm water (not too hot!).  Meanwhile, add about 1 teaspoon of lanolin and a little bit of wash to one cup of water.  I use Lansinoh lanolin because I happen to have lots of it lying around.  Heat the mixture for 30 seconds or so in the microwave, until the lanolin is liquid.  Stir your mixture until it is cloudy.  Pour the mixture over your cover and agitate gently.  Let the cover soak 15-30 minutes.  Do not rinse.  Roll the wool in a towel to remove excess moisture and lay flat to dry.

Easy, right?

* That said, you know your baby best.  If wool truly is bothersome, don’t use it.

Other posts in our Cloth Series include:

As always this along with the rest of the posts in the Oh Baby O Cloth Series can be found compiled on the Cloth page.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Erin permalink
    October 26, 2009 8:16 am

    I’d love to try a wool cover! I hadn’t even considered the allergy factor — my kids aren’t very allergic to things! My bigger concern would be leaks/blowouts…. Would love to compare to a PUL cover and check out the differences! Thanks for posting!

    • October 26, 2009 8:29 am

      Erin~ You should definitely give wool a try! As long as the wool is lanolized and fits properly, you shouldn’t have any issues with leaks/blowouts. I’m hoping to be able to do some wool specific reviews soon. :)

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