Caring for wool covers


Caring for wool covers is not very difficultWool covers are amazing, versatile items and only require periodic washes. Wool covers can be used over any fitted nappy during day or night. With a simple regime, you can have clean woollies all the time.

The advantages of using a wool cover

  • Wool can absorb up to 30% of its weight, absorbing any excess urine from the nappy.
  • Lanolin (which is used to create water resistance) repels moisture.
  • Wool is the most breathable nappy cover.
  • It can be used over any fitted nappy during day or night.
  • It can be used many times before needing to be washed (unless soiled).

The disadvantages of using a wool cover

  • It will need to be aired out in between uses.
  • It can’t be included in the nappy wash cycle.
  • Need to be lanolised when new and after every wash.

Things You SHOULD NOT DO With Your Wool

  • Do not use hot water.
  • Do not use a detergent with enzymes.
  • Do not use bleach.
  • Do not twist or wring wool to remove water.

How to hand wash wool covers

Materials Needed

  • Wool wash (eg Softly) or laundry detergent without enzymes (eg liquid Surf/ Fab)
  • Sard soap, for stain removal
  • Lanolin
  • A towel

Wash process

Add a small amount of wool suitable detergent to lukewarm water. Use laundry soap on spots that are soiled or to remove stains.

Turn cover inside out (dirtiest side) and immerse in water. If the cover has any dirty spots, gently massage the stain.  Leave to soak, meanwhile prepare lanolin mixture.

Remove the cover and gently squeeze out water.  Empty liquid.  Refill with lukewarm water and rinse the cover.

Never twist or wring wool to remove water.

How to lanolise wool covers

In a mug add a small amount of boiled water, just over a pea size of lanolin per cover, and a small amount of hand or body wash/wool wash/dishwashing detergent.  Stir until it turns a milky white. The wash/detergents allow the lanolin to dissolve and emulsify in the water, giving a more even lanolising and preventing lanolin stains from occurring. If the lanolin has not dissolved, use more wash and reheat the water for a few seconds in the microwave.

Emulsion is a mix of watery and fatty liquids where the fat is suspended in the watery liquid. Breastmilk is another example.

Allow your lanolin mix to cool slightly. Add the mix to approximately 0.5L of lukewarm water and swirl. Put the cover inside out and submerge. 

After soaking, turn cover the right way out and squeeze excess water out (no wringing) then roll in a towel to remove excess water out. It can also be spun in the washing machine wrapped in a towel in a wash bag. The towel may be covered in residual lanolin, this will wash out in warm-hot water.


Dry flat.

The cover may be tacky after it is dry, this is normal and will disappear with use. Lanolin that is transferred onto nappies will wash out in warm-hot water.

Sanitising wool

Like all other cloth nappy systems, wool covers may need sanitising due to ammonia buildup, infections or being second-hand. However, sanitising wool covers provides a unique challenge.

Stovetop sanitise

To effectively thermal sanitise you need temperatures of 65°C/149°F for 10 mins or 71°C/160°F degrees for 3 minutes.

There are two slight variations to this method. The first variation may theoretically ‘shock’ wool causing it to shrink and the second may expose parts of the wool to hot spots while warming, damaging the wool. We tested both variations and found they both worked well with no damage to the wool. We leave you to decide which method you prefer to use.


Large stockpot/ saucepan, trivet and tea towels/cloths (or x2 cloths if no trivet), meat or candy thermometer and a timer.

Stovetop sanitise method:

Fill a stockpot with water, place trivet or cloth on the bottom of the pot.

Heat water to 65°C, then gently place the wool cover into the water, cover with a tea towel and keep at 65-67°C for 10 minutes.ORPlace the wool cover in lukewarm water (30°C), then gently heat water to 65°C, cover with a tea towel and keep at 65-67°C for 10 minutes.

Keep handling to an absolute bare minimum, do not agitate or handle the wool when hot. Heat and agitation can cause woollen items to shrink and felt.

After 10 minutes gently remove the wool, allow it to cool and drain by itself and prepare the lanolin mixture for lanolising.

Sanitisatising secondhand wool covers using benzalkonium chloride

Benzalkonium chloride is not environmentally friendly. It is a common cause of skin irritations, which in some cases can cause severe reactions.1, 2 It can also contribute to bacterial resistance because of its lack of biodegradability.

Wool can be sanitised using a Benzalkonium Chloride product. However, it will not remove ammonia.

Benzalkonium chloride is not suitable for:

  • Septic Systems, benzalkonium chloride does not readily break down like bleach does, therefore will kill the bacteria in septic systems.
  • oxidising (removing) ammonia, use thermal sanitise instead.
  • sanitisation after a fungal rash, use thermal sanitise instead.

Products to use

Canesten, Di-San Laundry Sanitiser, Dettol Laundry Sanitiser or Coles Laundry Sanitiser.

Benzalkonuim chloride sanitise method

Remember to only use cold water. Only one subsequent cold wash with detergent after sanitisation is needed.

Dilution: ¼ standard measuring cup of benzalkonium chloride product per 5L water

  1. Measure out cold water into a bucket
  2. Dilute the benzalkonium chloride product, in cold water in a separate container, add it to the total quantity of water.
  3. Soak for 30 minutes 

Use a white towel to keep the items submerged.

  1. Rinse with cold water
  2. Follow with a hand wash with detergent in cold water and rinse
  3. Lanolise

References and further reading

  1. Wentworth, Ashley B. MD, Yiannias, James A. MD; Davis, Mark D.P. MD, Killian, Jill M. BS, Benzalkonium Chloride A Known Irritant and Novel Allergen (January 31, 2022) <>.
  2. Aaron J Robinson, Rachael S Foster, Anne R Halbert, Emma King, David Orchard, Granular parakeratosis induced by benzalkonium chloride exposure from laundry rinse aids (January 31, 2022) <>.