Why are my diapers leaking? It's a question we hear from time to time. Diaper leaks can be frustrating. Although cloth diapers are known for holding their own against even the biggest of blowouts where a disposable would have failed, sometimes leaks do happen. The trouble with leaks is that finding out why your having them isn't always straightforward... do you have a heavy wetter? How often are you changing him? Do you think your diapers are repelling? Here is a list of the common reasons why cloth diapers leak and how to fix it.

leaking diaper

Since this is quite a bit of information, I've broken this post down into two parts. Last week, in part one, we discussed the problems that are easily seen and don't take much effort to correct. This week we will talk about problems you could be experiencing with your diapers that aren't so easily seen...



Problem: Compression leaks


Microfiber inserts are very absorbent, but when they get oversaturated compression leaks can occur. The pressure from your baby sitting on the inserts can squish liquid out, much like squeezing a sponge. For example, you may notice you baby’s diaper has leaked after a long car ride.




Solution: If you know your baby is going to be in a position that puts pressure on their bottom for a while, or if you are going to be going longer in between changes, consider using natural fibers as you are less likely to experience this kind of leak with them. Natural fibers are not stay dry, so if you don’t want you baby to be in contact with wetness for an extended period of time, you can add a stay dry liner on top. You can also use natural fibers underneath a microfiber insert. The microfiber will absorb quickly and the natural fibers underneath will pull wetness down and provide more long-term absorption.  

Problem: Repelling

Fabric Softeners, conventional diaper rash creams, and minerals from hard water can all cause buildup on your diapers. Build up is a residue coating your diapers, and can block your diapers from absorbing. This can lead to leaks and sometimes stink issues.


Solution: Most fabric softeners are a BIG NO-NO when it comes to cloth diapers. Even using fabric softener on your regular laundry can leave behind a film in your washer or dryer which can make its way onto your diapers, so it’s best to avoid them all together. Alternatives to fabric softeners are drier balls which can typically be found at your local shopping mart.


Conventional diaper rash creams containing a petroleum base are a HUGE NO-NO. They clog the fibers causing diapers to repel and can also cause stains. If you must use a conventional diaper rash cream, simply use a liner to protect your diaper. Disposable liners can be thrown away after use. If you use a reusable liner, be sure to wash it separately from your diapers. There are diaper rash creams that are considered cloth diaper safe. Generally, if you use more than just a thin layer of these ointments you should use a liner to be on the safe side. If you think you may be having leak issues due to using ointment on your diapers, you will need to strip your diapers.


rash cream


Stripping in cloth diaper terms is the process of removing build up from your cloth diapers. For repelling caused by these kind of issues, some manufactureres would recommend stripping with blue Dawn Dish Soap, and yes, it has to be specifically Dawn. It is sometimes recommended  for high efficiency washers, to use one teaspoon (1 tsp) of orginal liquid Dawn in a hot wash without detergent, or one tablespoon (1 tbs) if you have a regular, (non-he, top-loading) washing machine. Then do 2-3 more hot water washes without detergent until you no longer see suds. *IMPORTANT!* Use caution when following this stripping method. The problem with newer HE washers and this method is that these machines are not made to deal with excessive sudsing, and too much can actually ruin your washer's motor.  If you would ask your washing machine manufacturer, they would probably tell you to NEVER put dish soap in your washer. Some avoid the risks of adding Dawn to their washing machine by stripping their diapers by hand. You just add a drop to the diaper itself and scrub gently with a soft bristled toothbrush and rinse in the sink. 


There are many different variables when it comes to solving repelling issues caused by trouble with your water... what kind of washer you have, the hardness or softness of your water... First determine what kind of water you have. Water testing kits are available to help you determine this and can be found online or your local hardware store. 


Hard waterWith hard water (which I have) mineral build up can clog the diapers’ fibers and cause leaking and stink issues. You'll need to removed the build up so that your diapers will be able to properly absorb again. Some recommend washing clean diapers with RLR laundry treatment to help break up mineral build up. (I used RLR to strip last month for smell issues due to hard water build up and it worked great for us) Contact your diaper's manufacturer to see what method the recommend for stripping diapers in hard water conditions. Once you have stripped your diapers free of mineral build up, you may consider adding a water-softening agent, such as Calgon, to prevent mineral build up in the future. For my hard water, I add a capful with every load as a preventative. It allows my detergent to do it's job more effectively and thoroughly rinse away. Always check with your diapers' manufacturer before adding anything other than the detergent they recommend to your wash routine.


hard water helpers


Soft water- Soft water is known for having a harder time rinsing detergent away. Detergent residue can cause problems with your diapers, such as leaks, stink, and even rashes. The way to check for this is to run your diapers through a wash cycle without detergent. If you see lot of suds, then the detergent obviously did not thoroughly rinse. Try doing several more hot washes without detergent until you no longer see bubbles. As long as your diapers are still getting thoroughly cleaned, you may want to consider cutting back the amount of detergent you use to prevent this in the future. *Note this recommendation for cutting back on detergent is for SOFT water, not hard water. Those with hard water may sometimes need to use MORE than the recommended amount of detergent if their diapers aren't getting thoroughly cleaned.


Problem: Delaminated diaper

Unfortunately diapers do not last forever. Some brands are superior to others, lasting through two or three kids, while some cheaper brands… well not so much. In most cases, you get what you pay for. Turn your diaper inside out to see if the lining of the diaper is cracked or separating from the shell. If the layer of plastic is starting to separate and bubble up, your diaper could be delaminating. If you think you see a crack in your PUL, you can test it by putting some water on the spot and see if it comes through to the outside of the diaper. If it does, that PUL is indeed cracked.


Solution: Unfortunately, once your diaper has delaminated, there is little you can do to save it. That's why it's a good idea to spend your hard earned money on diapers with good reputations and solid warrantees to protect your investment. If your warranty is important to you, always follow manufacturer instructions for care. Even if they give you the ok to tumble dry, line drying will help to prolong the life of your diapers.


When you have questions about your diapers, sometimes it's helpful to be talk to another mama who's been there, done that. That's why we started our Facebook group, TGN: Help a Mama Out! There are many experienced cloth diapering mamas in that group always willing to help you troubleshoot your diapering issues. 


*Although I am compensated for my time writing, all opinions are 100% my own. 




Stephanie Beck is the mother of a dinosaur expert, a set of twins somehow born 13 months apart, and a wild baby boy. She enjoys being outdoors with her kids, going on walks, swimming, fishing, and yard saling with her hubby. She started her blog,Apron Strings Attached, because she wanted to share her experiences with raising kids, breastfeeding struggles and success, and cloth diapering. She now enjoys blogging about life in cloth diapers for TGN, and also helps out with TGN’s twitter, so if you want to chat about cloth diapers, or just want to say “hi”, go ahead and send her a tweet!