We need to take care of these lovely nappies we’ve bought, the better we care for them, the longer they last. But how are they washed? How are they stored? Here are some tips and advice I’ve picked up along the way on my personal cloth journey.
The dirty nappies go into the washing machine?! The same one I use for my clothes?!
Many people are put off cloth nappies due to the cleaning that is involved. But it really isn’t that bad, the washing machine really does all the hard work! Yes dirty nappies go in the machine; but if you have a good washing routine and do a maintenance cleaning cycle on your washing machine monthly, there are no grounds for concern. My clothes have actually never been cleaner since I started with cloth nappies, due to the fact that I’ve learnt how to optimise how to use my washing machine and the use of different cleaning products.
There is one thing I will say though;
Different nappy manufacturers recommend different wash routines for their nappies, from temperature to type of detergent. You’re of course free to use any detergent or washing routine you like, but this might invalidate the warranty. Have a look at the label inside the nappy, or on the manufacturer’s website.
Saying that, here are some general washing guidelines for cloth nappies:
Prepping of Nappies
Some nappies will need “prepping”, this will be the natural fibre nappies, such as cotton, bamboo or hemp. These nappies contain natural oils that needs washed out to maximise absorbency. Depending on the brand, the number of washes required can be anything from 4 up till 11-12. One tip I collected along the way: natural organic nappies are usually light brown/beige in colour when new, this colour fades when the oils are being washed out and the nappy is increasing in absorbency.
Nappies that doesn’t need prepping I would still wash once before use to get rid of any production residue.
- How many days should go in between nappy washes? This is completely up to yourself, it depends on how many nappies you have, the capacity of your machine and how you decide to dry your nappies. Most people wash every 2-3 days, the advice is not to go over 4 days, and that is with a shorter wash during those 4 days at day 1 or 2, so the nappies won’t stay un-washed for such a long period. Night nappies are recommended to rinse and pre-wash as soon as you get them off the bum, as it’s such a high concentration of urine in the nappy, and letting the ammonia sit in the nappy can really shorten its life.
- What about the poo?! For newborn babies, this is easy. The poo is water soluble when the baby is only on a milk diet. Just throw it all into the machine. If the poo is a bit harder though, some babies get this with formula or certain medications, I would advise to remove this first. How? I hear you say, well, basically you need a good jet of water, and somewhere for it to go. For some people this is easy, the shower reaches the toilet, and voila, poo gone. It didn’t for me though, and I just put a bucket into the shower, rinsed the nappy with the strongest setting on my shower into the bucket, for then to empty said bucket into the toilet. Find what works best for you, there are a lot of good advice out there.
- Pre-washing: it is recommended to pre-wash your nappies within 24 of hours of use, night nappies even straight off the bum. Ammonia does real damage to your nappies, and you want to get this out. I usually put the pre-wash on in the morning after the night nappy comes off, with the day nappies from the day before. I put on a 60 degree normal cotton cycle, which adjusts itself to just over an hour. I only use a smidgen of powder for pre-wash, I live in an incredibly soft water area. Then I dry-pail then until main wash day.
- Wash day:
o For the main wash, make sure your machine is full enough. This is important, because you need to use a proper dose of detergent, and without a full load, you get a foam party. It is also important as without a full load the nappies don’t agitate enough, and won’t get properly clean. I would go for loosely full drum when dry, and ¾ full when wet. Top it up with anything, but not big items as these will wrap themselves around the nappies and prevent them from getting a good clean. I usually throw in baby vests/grows, underwear, tea towels etc.
o The temperature should be 40-60 degrees Celsius; it’s recommended to use 60 degrees the first 3 months of your baby’s life, or when your baby is unwell. I personally always wash nappies on 60 degrees, they’re the dirtiest items you can wash and need proper washing; but some people say it can decrease the life of the nappy. DO NOT wash wool covers above 30 degrees; they will shrink.
o Powder is the recommendation for washing nappies; liquid can coat the nappies and making them less absorbent, and definitely stay away from pods. DO NOT USE fabric softener, I know it’s tempting if you live in a hard water area, but it’s really not good for your nappies, you get a grimy coat on everything and absorbency is heavily affected. I would also stay away from eco-products, they don’t wash away the ammonia in the urine well enough. The use of Eco-egg is also not recommended.
o Use the dosage guide on the detergent packet; and dose accordingly for when you’re in a soft or hard water area. You might have to play around with the dose for a while when you start out, it took me a while to figure out what worked best for our routine.
o Use the longest cycle available on your machine for the main wash; +/- 3 hours is a good amount of time. Usually a normal cotton cycle with an intensive setting will get the time up. Stay away from eco-cycles, the machine tends to use less water, but you need this to rinse out the detergent.
o A few rinses may be required at the end; you don’t want a lot of detergent left on the nappies next to your baby’s skin.
o Dry on an airer is what is recommended the most; do not use direct heat such a hanging on a radiator or using a tumble drier. If needed you can tumble on low, but I wouldn’t put nappies or covers with PUL in the drier, and definitely not wool covers, they will shrink significantly. Hanging outside in the sun is fine, but avoid exposing PUL to direct sun for more than a few hours as this may damage them.
- After a few washes some nappies may feel “crunchy” to touch, especially if you live in a hard water area. You can soften them up by rubbing them against themselves, and use a fleece liner in the nappy next to the baby’s skin. A little low temperature session in the tumble drier may also do the trick.
- Sometimes there will be stains on your nappies, and they’re still there when you’ve washed them. Calpol, blueberries and bananas are common culprits. Most stains will come out eventually after a few washes, but some stains needs dealt with, such as mould. If you find yourself in a pickle and would like some advice, feel free to get in touch, I will help as much as I can, I love getting out a good stain!
- Once a month, run a cleaning maintenance cycle on your washing machine. Some machines have actual set cycles for this, or use products such as Dettol washing machine cleaner. Make sure to clean the seals around the door and the detergent drawer as well.
Storing your nappies
Dry pailing is the way to go, you should not soak your nappies; it will damage natural fibres and turn into a bacterial soup, no one wants that. You can use anything, most nappy manufacturers sell drypailing storage solutions, such as nappy buckets and wet bags. I would recommend to dry pail with some access to air, open bag or lid off nappy bucket. Believe it or not, it will smell LESS. I would rinse off poo before drypailing, not letting it lie there for days and rinse it just before the wash.
There is no specific recommended way to store your clean nappies, anything will do. If you like to show them off as much as I do, Ikea has a lovely shelving unit meant for CDs, which works perfectly for nappies. If you’re storing your nappies in between babies, do not use airtight bags as this will deteriorate the elastics, a cardboard box will do, in a dry room temp area.
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