Many families choose cloth diapers to ensure their little one’s bum stays rash-free (and it is true, that cloth diapers do indeed reduce diaper rash occurrences!) – but what do you do if despite your best efforts your baby develops a diaper rash? Can you use any old diaper cream to treat it if you’re cloth diapering?
In this blog post, we will explore all you need to know about cloth-diaper-friendly skincare; diving into the various products, tips, and strategies to keep your baby’s skin soft, healthy, and happy. Whether you’re a new parent or a seasoned one looking for fresh insights, we’ve got your baby’s back(side) covered!
The Scoop on “Cloth Friendly”
If you have read that you need “cloth-friendly” skincare when you’re cloth diapering but don’t know what exactly that means, you’re not alone! What does “cloth-friendly” mean, anyway?
First and foremost, it is VERY important that you only use cloth-friendly diaper creams when cloth diapering. There. I said it.
Cloth friendly simply means that the diaper cream will wash easily and effectively out of your cloth diapers so the cream will not cause staining or build-up.
Sadly, most creams and balms on the market contain ingredients that will wreak havoc on your diapers. Not only do these cloth-UNfriendly ingredients lock discolorations into the fabric causing intense staining, but the water-insoluble grease in these creams builds up on the surface of the fabric fibers, eventually rendering them moisture-repellant! So when your baby pees, instead of the pee absorbing into the fabric it beads up and rolls right off the edge. Not a feature you want for cloth diapers, for obvious reasons. ;)
While petroleum is the biggest “red flag” to look out for when choosing skincare products to use with your cloth diapers, there are other ingredients that should be avoided as well. Here is a simplified list of what ingredients we’d suggest avoiding while cloth diapering:
- Petroleum (and byproducts thereof)
- Mineral oil
- Cod-liver oil
- Heavy wax
- or products with high concentrations of zinc oxide (over 15%)
Products with these ingredients often do not rinse cleanly and easily from your diapers, resulting in staining, build-up, AND sometimes even bacterial growth – which can trigger a rash if left undetected.
We wish it were as simple as just avoiding those listed ingredients, but sadly in all of our years running a diaper service and formulating Esembly products we have found many more ingredients and combinations of ingredients* that can cause issues as well. Our advice? Choose only tested and proven cloth-friendly diaper creams. If you REALLY want to use a product that you are not sure is 100% cloth friendly, start small. Test the product with a few designated diapers to ensure things are washing out completely.
*We discovered that sometimes ingredients will be safe on their own but when combined with other safe ingredients they become problematic.
What cloth-friendly diaper cream SHOULD I use to PREVENT diaper rash?
We spent years testing diaper creams with cloth diapers and different wash routines to pinpoint exactly which ingredients are safe and in what percentage and combinations they remain safe for cloth diapers.
For daily nourishing and rash prevention, consider using pure organic coconut oil or our Everyday Balm, both of which help moisturize and balance your baby’s delicate skin.
We are lovers of coconut oil, for its notable healing and protective qualities. However, coconut oil can be a tad challenging due to its liquid state when warm and solid state when cold, making it, on its own, not so user-friendly at the changing table. So when formulating our Everyday Balm, we mixed organic coconut oil with beeswax and other organic liquid stable oils, like organic shea nut and olive, to ensure our Everyday Balm maintains an ointment-like consistency across all temperatures.
Instructions for use: Apply coconut oil or Everyday Balm to clean, DRY skin at every diaper change.
Pro Tip: it’s important to really work what cream or balm you choose into the skin (almost like you would a lotion) so you get the maximum benefit from the healing ingredients. Leaving gobs of cream on the surface of the skin can not only cause excessive product on your diapers, but you’re also just wasting product since so much of it gets absorbed by the fabric of the diaper and not the skin.
What cloth-friendly diaper cream SHOULD I use to TREAT diaper rash?
If you’ve been using your preventative balm and the redness persists, it’s time to switch to a zinc-oxide-based diaper rash cream.
You may have read that zinc oxide is not cloth-friendly, and in most cases that IS true. Zinc has to be used very carefully. Too high of a percentage of zinc is problematic (and unnecessary). Zinc can also cause buildup and ruin cloth diapers when it is combined with certain ingredients. So carefully choosing a diaper rash cream that has the right percentage and right ingredient list is critical when wanting to make sure the diaper cream is cloth-friendly. I won’t lie, this is not easy. We spent almost 2 years tweaking and perfecting our Rash Relief Cream formula to ensure it would both treat active diaper rash AND still wash out of cloth diapers. It was a true labor of love (and necessity).
Fun fact: our Rash Relief Cream was the very first Esembly product developed and we sold it through our diaper service for almost 5 years before launching the Esembly brand!
Backing up a moment, what’s so special about zinc oxide? And what is a “barrier cream?
Glad you asked. Zinc oxide (ZnO), a compound revered in the realm of dermatology. It creates a protective barrier on the skin keeping moisture away and allowing irritation to heal. Zinc oxide also has properties that help reduce inflammation and fight off harmful microbes, helping to soothe existing irritation and prevent further issues. So it works double-duty keeping wetness out AND helping irritated skin heal. A true multitasker in the world of baby skincare!
As mentioned above, we love and recommend Rash Relief Cream to treat diaper rash. Not not only is it guaranteed to fully wash out of your cloth diapers, it does an AMAZING job of treating rash with top-quality organic ingredients like non-nano zinc oxide, organic coconut oil, organic shea nut oil, and organic olive oil.
How to use a zinc-based cream to treat diaper rash
To treat an active rash (and again, zinc-based creams are really only needed when an active rash or irritation is present), you’ll want to work a nice layer of cream into your baby’s clean dry diaper area at every change until the irritation is gone. And for maximum healing and barrier protection, be sure to really work the cream into the skin as you would a lotion. Resist the urge to leave gobs of cream sitting on the surface of the skin as excess cream only gets absorbed by the diaper.
Once the rash heals, you can continue to use your zinc-based cream for another day to give the skin extra time to rebound, and then switch back to Everyday Balm (or something similar) for continued protection.
If, despite your efforts, a rash persists, it’s recommended to consult your pediatrician to rule out yeast. If an anti-fungal is required, both Lotrimin and Nystatin CREAM (not ointment) are safe to use with your Esembly Inners.
Fragrance free: While we LOVE things that smell great, we decided it was best to keep fragrance out of all our our baby skincare (and laundry) products. Their skin is so sensitive and their bodies are so little that we believe less is more and always eyre on the side simple when it comes tour products.
Please note: There is no mandate when cloth diapering with Esembly. You do not HAVE to use our skincare (we just think you’ll want to ; ) You’re welcome to use any products you like that are cloth-friendly! Look for products rich in natural oils like coconut, shea nut, and olive oil, to name a few.
Persistent Rash? It might be time to explore other culprits
If you’ve been treating your little ones’ skin with only cloth-friendly skincare products, and you can’t seem to get rid of a pesky rash (and ruled out yeast with your pediatrician), it’s likely time to explore other culprits like your washing routine.
If you want to make sure your washing routine is in tip-top shape, be sure to check out our detailed instructions on how to go about washing your cloth diapers here: www.esemblybaby.com/laundry
Want to learn more?
Our co-founders host a free, virtual, Cloth Diapering 101 class every month to help cloth-curious parents get all the tools and information they need! You’ll learn:
- How to use the Esembly diapers and accessories
- How to easily and effectively launder your Esembly diapers
- The impact that your choice has on the planet, your wallet, and your day-to-day.
You'll leave with the confidence to Live Less Disposably and a 20% discount code to use on your first order. 🥳 We hope to see you there!