Care of Plastic Pants

Baby or incontinent pants are made from vinyl, latex, rubber, or nylon. Old fashioned latex and rubber pants are becoming rare and difficult to obtain and nylon pants are made to look as much like adult briefs as possible. For obvious reasons, vinyl pants are the plastic pants of choice among most ABs because it is easy to find inexpensive vinyl pants that look and feel exactly like the plastic play pants of _babyhood. Vinyl pants come in two varieties, institutional boilable vinyl and the more inexpensive and readily available non-boilable vinyl.

To care for non-boilable vinyl pants, it is helpful to understand a little bit of their chemical structure and weaknesses. Vinyl is kept soft by chemicals called plastisizers. Plastisizers are slightly oily, long-chain polymers and will mix with other oils, such as baby oil or natural body oils. Once a plastisizer has been mixed with another type of oil, it tends to evaporate more quickly and become a gummy film. This film is unable to keep the vinyl soft, allowing the vinyl to harden. Once the vinyl hardens, cracks appear and the material begins to tear, thus rendering the garment useless for waterproofing purposes.

Bleaches of all types, including borax, attack plastisizers as do fabric softeners, detergents and soaps (they break the hydrogen bonds on the surface of the plastisizers to form short-chained molecules that readily evaporate). Heat, ultraviolet radiation and wind also causes plastisizers to evaporate more quickly.

Poop contains oils and fats (as discussed earlier in the diaper washing section) and mixes with the plastisizers as well. Finally, each time a piece of vinyl is bent, the polymer bonds are stretched, breaking some bonds while exposing a small area of the plastisizer to evaporation. The more often the plastic is bent, the more quickly it becomes brittle and begins to tear. The combination of body oil, baby oil and movement is why baby pants tend to fail around the legs first. Vinyl baby pants should be simply rinsed out in lukewarm water with a couple of drops of mild detergent and carefully hung up to dry.


To Wash Baby Pants:

To hand wash baby pants: (Recommended method) Fill a bathroom basin less than half full with lukewarm water. Add two drops of a very mild liquid dishwashing detergent like Ivory® and mix with your hand. Turn the pants right side out with the waist hanging down. Slide them into the water until they are completely covered. Turn once so that the elastic on the waist is at the top, then reach through the waistband and grasp the area between the leg openings (the crotch) and pull upwards to turn the pants inside-out. Swirl the pants in the water for a few seconds (not minutes) and remove. The entire process should take less than thirty seconds.

Next, wring out the elastic of each leg opening one-by-one as the pants drain into the basin. Finish by wringing out the waistband.

To machine wash baby pants: (Not Recommended) Wash the panties in cold water on the gentle cycle with an absolute minimum of detergent.

Special Instructions for Rumba Pants: Laced and bowed panties require special care. To protect the delicate lace, place the pants in a pillowcase if you are going to machine wash them. Bows should be removed by unpinning the tiny safety pins prior to either machine or hand washing. Once the panties are dry, you can re-pin the bows on the panties.


To Dry Baby Pants:

Clip each elastic band of the legs with a wooden clothespin to a bathroom clothes line (or a shower curtain) out of direct sunlight so that the elastic waistband of the inside-out pants is hanging down. Cool, dry, still air with no sunlight is the best environment in which to dry the plastic pants. A better method of hanging is to make a special hanger for your plastic pants by taking a heavy-duty wire cutter or small saw to cut the last inch off of one end of a plastic clothes hanger. Do not use wire or metal clothes hangers, because the metal will react with the vinyl! Then slip the open bottom piece of the hanger through the leg openings (the vinyl pant is light and will not break the "opened" plastic hanger). Let the pants dry until the outer plastic is dry to the touch (the waistband will still be wet), then remove and turn the pants right side out before shaking off any drops of moisture that remain. Hang on a regular plastic hanger to finish drying.


Storage of Baby Pants:

If you are lucky (or rich) enough to have a large enough number of baby pants or have special baby pants that you want or need to store for future use, purchase a vinyl hanging clothes protector and lay them out flat before zippering shut. Fold the clothes protector in such a way that the pants are layered, but not folded within the vinyl material. Then store the bundle in an air-tight plastic storage box. They should keep for years in this condition.