Diaries Magazine

Cloth Nappies 101: How Do I Wash and Take Care of My Nappies?

By Sjay235 @naturalmommainm
Welcome back for part 3 of the cloth nappy series! So far we've had a look at whether cloth nappies might be for you, and how to go about building your nappy stash.  Today, it's a little look at the issue which seems to put people off using cloth nappies more than any other - the washing.
Cloth nappies 101: How do I wash and take care of my nappies?Now, of course washing your nappies is very important, as clean nappies are an absolute must for every little fluffy bottom. But, the important thing when washing nappies is that washing them wrongly can actually lead to problems, and it seems that incorrect washing creating problems is one of the biggest issues people have with their nappies. Contrary to most people's thinking, it's actually the wee which causes issues. Basically, if the nappies aren't washed correctly, ammonia from babies urine can build up in the nappies, which leads to smell and absorbency issues, and can contribute to nappy rash. So, getting your nappies clean is vital to ensuring that you can continue to use your cloth nappies happily.
Most people work out a system that works for them when it comes to washing - there is no set rule on what you 'must' do with your washing system, but I'll share our system with you as I know most people do something very similar. As I mentioned in the last post, one of the must haves for any family using cloth is a wetbag or a bucket, in which you deposit the used nappies after changing your baby.
We prefer to use a bucket, with a mesh liner in it. We keep this in our living room, as that's where we change Izzy mostly. We use disposable liners in our nappies, so when Isabelle poos, the liner is easy to lift out and I just flush it down the toilet. This means that no poo actually goes in to my washing machine at all. Once I take a nappy off and get rid of the liner, I simply pop the nappy in to the bucket.  I wash our nappies every second day, in the morning. The nappies go in to the wash and I clean the bucket, and put our second mesh liner in, ready to start again. I touched on this in my post 'A day in the life of a cloth bum mum'
It's important to read the washing instructions on your nappies, however most people wash many brands of nappy together with no issue. One of the most important things to think about when washing your nappies, and deciding which programs to use on your machine, is that you want to get as much water in to your washing machine and around your nappies as possible. Any setting that limits water is no good here, and it's not the time to use your 'Time save' button either. You need a good long wash, with plenty of water - a cotton wash is perfect for this. Some extra rinses both before and after the main wash will also make sure that your nappies get plenty of water round them, so adding a rinse is really helpful in getting your nappies as clean as you can. Washing on a long 60C wash kills all bacteria, so no need to worry about any nasties lurking in your nappies. My routine is:
1// Rinse (with spin turned off. This keeps the nappies wet and adds more water in to the main wash)2// 40C or 60C long wash3// Extra rinse (spin back on)
The whole thing takes over two hours, and that reassures me that our nappies are getting a really good wash. 
Now, what can you use to wash the nappies? There are a few different options for this, none of which seems to be any more 'right' than any other. The options are:
1// Use your normal powder (1/4 of your normal dose)2// Use a special cloth nappy powder3// Use an Ecoegg or soap nuts
One of the main issues with using regular powder is that, if you do not rinse well enough, or add too much powder, it will 'build up' in the fabrics, which leads to problems with absorbency and smell. Using a special cloth powder, Ecoegg or soap nuts seem to negate this issue. We use a cloth nappy washing powder (Ecosprout) which doesn't build up in the fibres at all. How much you use depends on the type of water you have - luckily ours is very soft, so I only need a small amount.
One of the most important things about washing your cloth nappies is to make sure you don't ever use fabric softener, or a washing powder which has it built in. Fabric softener is made to cling to fabric, so with cloth nappies that means they cannot absorb as well anymore. 
Once you have figured out how often you want to wash, and which cycles to use, your nappies should turn out lovely and clean. A good test is the 'sniff test' when they come out of the machine. Do your nappies smell of anything? They shouldn't! They should smell of nothing, not even washing powder, as that indicates it's stuck in the fibres - build up. They should smell of absolutely nothing at all! If they do, adjust your wash system and the powder you use to see if that helps.
After they are washed, nappies need dried. Many people dry in the tumble drier, but I don't. It shortens the life of natural fabrics like bamboo, and isn't good for the PUL in nappies.  So, instead, I air dry all my nappies, all the time. I have a clothes horse and two hanging 'sock airers' which I use in the garage and everything dries by the time the next load is ready to hang - so in 2 days. If you want to tumble dry, you should do so on low.
From time to time, Isabelle's poo will stain a nappy. Even though the nappy is clean after being washed, the stains don't look very nice. The best way to get rid of stains is simply by popping the wet nappy out in the sun and letting it work it's magic. And believe me, this really does work to get nappies sparkling white again! If it's summer, a few hours will do it, in winter, it might take a few days - but even if it's cloudy they will whiten again slowly. 
So there you have it - storing used nappies, washing them and getting them dry. This is really the most important (and time consuming!) part of using cloth nappies, and it's important to get that wash routine right to make sure your nappies are being well taken care of, and you don't run in to any issues.
Next up in this series...the ABC of cloth nappies - what do all the terms mean?! 

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog