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Child running on the grass in a cloth diaper. Reads: "Cloth Diapers Leaking? Here's Why."

Cloth Diapers Leaking? Here’s Why

Cloth Diapers Leaking? Here’s Why

A Modern Mom's Guide. Are you a modern mom considering the switch to cloth diapers? You're part of a growing movement! Discover the environmental and family benefits of cloth diapering in this insightful blog post

Cloth Diapers Leaking? Here’s Why

If you are a modern mom that’s decided to make the switch to cloth diapers, you’re not alone. Not only are cloth diapers great for the environment, but they’re great for your family. They’re cheaper, cuter, and even work better! It’s true. The customizable nature of cloth diapers and the firm elastics keep in poo and pee much better than the disposable alternative. 

If you’re reading this article, though, you might be thinking, “But, my cloth diapers keep leaking!” You might even be ready to throw in the towel. Don’t go that far just yet, because all of us at Alaskan Wildlings are here to help! 

Cloth diaper leaks are far from the norm. Though there are no “leak proof” cloth diapers, you should never frequently experience leaks. If you do, there’s definitely a problem. And, luckily, all those problems have pretty easy solutions! Here are 11 reasons why your cloth diapers might be leaking: 

Cloth Diapers Leaking? Here’s Why:

They’re not put on correctly. 

Cloth diapers aren’t super complicated, but there is a learning curve. Pocket diapers, all-in-ones, and all-in-twos do fasten pretty similarly to disposable diapers, though there are a few extra things you need to do know about putting cloth diapers on your little wildling. Check out our video here

If you have the problem of the cloth diapers leaking at the waist specifically, it might be because you don’t have the insides tucked properly. When you fasten the cloth diaper around your baby, all the inside fabric needs to be tucked back into the diaper. You should only be able to see the cute waterproof cover when you’re finished.

The fabric inside is usually white suede, muslin, cotton, fleece, or athletic wicking jersey depending on the type of diaper you use. Whatever it is, if it’s visible, you’ll have leaks. Because, the moisture is given a perfect pathway to escape the waterproof barrier! Tuck it in, and hopefully your problem is solved. 

They’re too tight. 

It might seem obvious that a cloth diaper will leak if it’s too loose. But, did you know it will also leak if it’s too tight? Cloth diaper compression leaks happen when the absorbent inserts are pressed too firmly against your little wildling. So, when they pee, the moisture is squeezed out before it has time to absorb. 

Liquid needs a little room to soak in. (The amount of time depends on the type of inserts, but we’ll get into that more later.) If your diapers are leaking from the seams regularly and you keep snapping tighter to keep it in, try the opposite! Loosen the diaper and see what happens. 

Close up of Alaskan Wildlings cloth diaper on a baby.

The fit is wrong. 

Babies come in all shapes and sizes. A long and lean child has different needs than a short and stout child. If you can’t seem to get a good “seal” on your child due to their skinny legs or waist, you might need to move to a sized diaper (instead of one size fits all one) or try a different style of cloth diaper to get a better fit for your little wildling. 

Conversely, if you feel like your chunky baby is stuffed into the one size fits all diapers, you might need to move up to an XL diaper or another type of cloth diaper. But, not every fit issue requires a new diaper. Try opening the rise snaps or off-setting the hip snaps (they don’t have to be even!) to get the best fit. If you’re still struggling, send us a picture of your fit on Facebook or Insta and we’d be happy to help! 

There’s not enough absorbency. 

If your cloth diaper is leaking overnight, during naps, or even around the legs between changes, you might need more absorbency! As your child grows, they’ll need more layers of absorbent fabric to hold all the liquid. This is completely normal, but can definitely be frustrating if you’re not expecting it! 

If you’re using pockets, try adding a second insert to your diapers. If you’re using other diaper types, you can do the same with doublers. We also recommend taking a look at the type of fabric used in your inserts. 

There are pros and cons to each type of insert, but as a rule, ditching microfiber for bamboo or hemp will hold a lot more liquid and have fewer leaking issues! You still might need to double up, but these fabrics will hold much better. 

Cloth diaper insert absorbency chart. Microfiber is the lowest cost, is a fast absorber, but doesn't absorb very much. Cotton is low cost, absorbs fairly quickly, and absorbs an average amount. Bamboo is a midrange for cost, is a fairly fast at absorbing, and absorbs a good amount. Hemp is the most expensive and absorbs slowest, but it holds the most liquid.

The right fabrics are in the wrong places. 

In the graphic above, we’ve broken down each type of insert, how expensive they are, how much they soak in, and how quickly they absorb. That last part is important. Because if your inserts absorb too slowly, that can cause leaks similar to the compression leaks we’ve already discussed. 

So, if pocket diapers leaking is making you crazy even after you’ve added better inserts and more inserts, use this tip. You want a fast absorber on the top and a slow absorber on the bottom. Pure hemp inserts hold a lot! But, they absorb slowly. 

You either need a bamboo and hemp blended insert like ours, or you need bamboo or cotton (faster absorbers) on top of the hemp. The fast absorbers will catch the initial liquid and pass it steadily to the slower absorber below. This way, you get the quick action of the cotton or bamboo and the absorbency benefits of the hemp. Best of both worlds. And, no leaks! 

There’s mineral build-up. 

Do you have hard water? If you don’t know, try a water hardness testing kit. Washing diapers in hard water will over time leave mineral deposits behind that will repel liquid. (You might want to reduce the amount of rinses you do or add water softener to your loads in the future.) But, to fix the hardness issue now, do a diaper strip! 

You can use RLR and your bathtub to do this. Stripping is a cloth diaper “reset” and fixes a number of issues like detergent build-up, mineral build-up, or barnyard issues (diaper not getting clean enough). This is a harsh process, though, so don’t make this a part of your regular routine. Adjust your wash routine to prevent mineral build-up in the future. 

Stripping instructions: Step One: Fill your bath Tub with Hot water  Step Two: Put a packet of RLR in the tub for every 30 diapers you have. Add a tablespoon of detergent.   Step Three: Add the absorbent parts of your diapers to the tub. (Not covers unless you use all-in-ones.)   Step Four: Swish your diapers around to agitate.  Step Five: Let soak for 6 hours or overnight.   Step Six: Rinse until everything is washed out.   Step Seven: Wash in regular cycle in the washing machine

There’s detergent build-up. 

Detergent build-up is exactly what it sounds like. Due to a problem with the wash routine, there is detergent stuck in the fibers of the inserts or diapers. This is usually accompanied with rashes. So, if you’re seeing leaks AND diaper rash, this might be your problem. 

To check for detergent build-up, take a clear bowl and fill it with warm water. Then, take a clean diaper and swish it all around. Wait for the water to settle. When it does, if you see a soap film and bubbles, you’ve got detergent build-up! 

To get out detergent build-up, rinse your diapers one at a time under a high pressure diaper sprayer or faucet. Then, wash, wash, wash until all the detergent is gone. You can also strip to pull out detergent build-up and reset your diapers. But, stripping shouldn’t be done too often, remember. 

To avoid detergent build-up in the future, you’ll need to diagnose where it’s coming from. Here are a few reasons your detergent might not be coming out: 

  • Too much detergent: Yes, cloth diapers are dirty. Like, really dirty. But, that doesn’t mean you should use extra detergent. Use only the recommended amount. Most washers are HE, which means they’re high efficiency and only need a couple tablespoons.
  • The wrong detergent: Many detergents and soaps aren’t good for cloth diapers. There’s a lot that goes into it. But, basically, their ingredients don't wash out well and can actually damage your cloth diapers. Check this resource for great detergent options! 
  • Poor agitation: If you have a front load washer, a top load washer without an agitator, or tend to wash in small loads, your diapers may not have enough friction to get clean. Get some agitator jacks and make sure your loads are always at least half full. 
  • Not enough rinses: One wash and rinse is usually not enough for cloth diapers. Try adding one more cycle to the end of your wash routine that’s detergent free to get out the last of the substances.

The wrong diaper creams were used. 

Did you know that not all diaper creams are cloth safe? This is because petroleum jelly repels liquid by design. So, cream with this jelly smearing on your diapers causes them to repel liquid instead of absorb it. Oh, no! 

Getting the petroleum jelly off your diapers won’t be easy. But, a lot of moms find success with Dawn dish soap and a toothbrush. Once it’s brushed away, it’ll need a number of hot wash cycles to completely get rid of the build-up. 

In the future, try Boudreaux's Butt Paste in the green tube, Motherlove Organic Diaper Rash Cream, or GroVia All-Natural Magic Stick for cloth safe diaper creams. Warning: Zinc oxide in many cloth diaper creams do cause bright white staining on the inside of diapers. But, after a few washes it goes away. So, if you see this staining, it does not mean it’s not cloth safe.

They’re not prepped correctly. 

Cloth diapers don’t usually come ready-to-use. Depending on whether they’re synthetic or natural fibers, they could take 3-8 washes and machine dries to reach full absorbency. (Towels are the same way! That’s why they’re so thin and scratchy at first). So, if you did a quick wash and threw the inserts into the diaper, you’ll probably have leaks. 

Follow the instructions that came with the diapers or inserts to know the manufacturer recommendation on prepping. If you don’t have those, reach out to the company and ask for the instructions. They normally have them readily available for customers, especially small shops like ours. But the general process is going to be washing and drying over and over! 

They’re not the right type of diaper for your little wildling. 

The best leak proof cloth diapers are different for every family. Pocket diapers are our favorite diapers, and for many modern moms, pockets are their favorite too! They are just the right amount of affordable, easy, and customizable. We know they work for most people. So, that’s why we’ve committed to making these handy, modern reusable cloth diapers. 

That being said, they’re not the right solution for every baby. If you’ve tried pockets, attempted to diagnose leaking issues, and aren’t seeing success, your little wildling might need something else. Prefolds, preflats, or flats with covers sometimes provide a better fit for certain babies.

Start with pockets, but if your cloth diapers are leaking at night or you’re having frequent blowouts, try a different type of diaper. It’s okay to use multiple types or experiment with different styles. There are no loyalty rules here! Find what works best for you. 

They’re worn. 

Sometimes cloth diapers can leak through the PUL (the waterproof covers). Or, they can leak through loose elastic at the waist or legs. If you have either issue, your diapers might simply be worn out. 

Elastic overtime loses its elasticity and can even dry and break away. This can happen even faster if you frequently machine dry your diaper covers. (We recommend line drying.) Elastics can be replaced. So, if you need a little more life out of your diapers, grab that sewing kit or mail the covers to a professional

If you’re experiencing leaks through your cover, the waterproof lamination may be ruined. To check this on a pocket diaper, turn the diaper inside out. If you see cracking on the seal or you see the lamination has separated completely from the fabric, your covers are shot. This could be because of a poor wash routine, frequent machine drying, or natural wear and tear.  

Unfortunately, there’s no way to fix delamination. But, hey, look on the bright side: Time to go diaper shopping! Alaskan Wildlings has quality pocket diapers that come at a great price. We even have bundle options that make stocking up even more affordable! 

Cloth diapers don’t leak by nature, so use these tips to diagnose and fix your problem and get back to reaping all the benefits of using cloth! 

We hope this helped you diagnose your leak issue! If you have questions or want more guidance, please reach out. We’d be happy to help. And, our community is full of helpful and experienced cloth diapering mommas who’d also love to support and help you find a solution. 

Most of the time, though, one of these problems is the source of your headaches. So, try each of these solutions first. You’ll be back to enjoying your cloth diapering journey in no time! And, leaks will be in the past. 

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