Yes, much has been written on the proper care of wool covers. It’s not hard… just special.
You don’t need to wash wool with every wearing – hang it up to dry after each use, and wash once it starts to smell bad. Does your cover smell bad (once dry) after just one use? It might be less than 100% wool, or maybe your kid just has some seriously stinky pee. Consider just a quick rinse rather than a full wash.
You need a good wool soap and probably some lanolin. Good wool soap = Naturally Luxe Wool Ones Wash. Of course. Did you have to ask? In reality, though I love the NL wool wash, there are lots of other good wool washes out there. Choose something with a high lanolin content (which is why I like the NL wash), and avoid Woolite (no lanolin). For lanolin, you can use purchased lanolin (solid or liquid), or you can use the lanolin that’s sold as a nipple cream. You might even have gotten some samples during your pregnancy.
You may wash your wool by hand or in the machine on the Hand Wash cycle. (gasp) Yes, you can use your machine. Probably. If you are very familiar with your machine’s hand wash setting, and you know that it agitates only a very little and only infrequently, and that it spins gently and washes in warm with a cool rinse, you’re good. If you use your machine to wash, add the wool wash, water, and covers in whatever order you use for your other laundry, start the machine, and walk away.
If you wash by hand, fill the sink with warm water, add your wool soap (follow manufacturer instructions for amount, or be like me and just add a squirt that seems sufficient, lol), swish a bit, then add your wool. Get it completely wet, swish a bit, let it sit for a few minutes, swish again, drain. Rinse if your wool soap says to, otherwise, you don’t have to.
Poop and Stains
If you have poop on your covers, or other stains that need extra attention, take care of that by hand. Scrub gently (some people use an old toothbrush, but I’d take care if you’re scrubbing a hand-knit item) with some wool wash over the spot(s) until you get the poop out, or the stain taken care of.
Some people report a strange yellowish staining on lighter colored covers. In my reading and from what other mommies tell me, it’s probably from over-lanolizing and urine, and I am not sure there’s much you can do to remove the stain once it forms. I’ve experienced this myself on an Aristocrats soaker I purchased used – and it never did come out. It didn’t affect the cover’s use, it just looked bad.
Once your wool’s nice and clean, let it dry. If you washed it in the washer, it’s probably nice and wrung out, but might be misshapen. Gently re-shape your covers before drying them. If you washed by hand, you’ll need to squeeze some of that water out of your covers. I prefer to drain the sink and let my covers hang out in the sink for a little while to get some of the water out without any effort on my part. Then pick them up one by one, squeeze gently, and wrap in a towel. Stand on the towel to really squeeze out the extra water. Repeat with each cover.
If you’ve got wool covers that won’t stretch out of shape, hanging them to dry works just fine. You can hang them on a line, obviously, or drape them over the furniture. You can also lay them flat to dry, if you happen to have a sweater drying rack. I sometimes lay my wool covers on top of the dryer if I have other laundry to dry that day. My favorite is laying wool covers on the radiators to dry, and I’m not sure why I like it so much. Something about walking through the house and seeing diaper covers drying on my radiators just makes my heart warm. Most people have forced air heat these days, though, and so, sadly, are lacking beautiful 100 year old radiators on which to dry their wool. Take a moment to feel sad about that…. OK, let’s move on.
You MIGHT be able to machine dry your wool covers, too. (gasp.) I’ve had no problems using the Low or Air Only settings on my dryer with wraps – I have never tried it with hand knits.
Every so often, you might need to lanolize your covers. I rarely lanolize since switching to the Naturally Luxe Wool Ones Wash. How do you know you need to lanolize? When your wool just doesn’t seem to be performing like it should. Lanolin helps make the covers waterproof, so if they’re seeping, you probably need to lanolize.
Fill your sink with warmish water. Get your covers completely wet. Remove them from the sink. If you’re using solid lanolin, melt it in a small amount of hot water, then add it to the water in the sink. If you’re using liquid lanolin, just squirt some in the sink. Swish it around a bit, then put your covers back in and swish them around. Let soak for a few hours. Drain and follow drying instructions above.
Sticky Covers or Sticky Patches
Sometimes, you’ll notice that your wool is sticky or has sticky patches, or even whitish sticky patches. That’s either too much lanolin, or lanolin that got solid again before really soaking into your covers. Use slightly warmer water to soak in next time, and if you think you used too much lanolin altogether, use less next time. In the meantime, it’ll wear off and is not a terribly big deal.
Um… My wool is still seeping
There are several reasons this might happen. (Note: Only number 1 should ever happen with Wallypop Woolies.)
1. You just need more lanolin
2. You’re using hand knits (or, I guess, a machine knit) that’s too loose
3. The wool content in your cover is too low
4. There is not enough absorbency in your diaper
Sometimes, dark colored covers will bleed dye onto the diapers underneath. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Bizarrely, it seems to happen more with boys than girls. Usually, the dye used on wool really only adheres to wool and silk fibers, and washes right out of cotton, so throw the diaper in the wash like usual and the dye should come out, if not in the first wash, then over time. You can find instructions at various places online for setting the dye in wool covers – generally, these involve a mixture of water and vinegar, the microwave, and the strict instructions to NOT SHOCK YOUR WOOL (by moving it from very hot to very cold).