TRUE OR FALSE: Reusable nappies are difficult to wash
The truth is, if you can wash your own clothes, you can wash reusable nappies. They don’t require any specialist products or machinery, and modern washing machines are more than capable of making sure that nothing is left in your machine afterwards either. A monthly maintenance wash is recommended for your washing machine, regardless of whether you use cloth nappies or not. Some machine have a set programme for this, or simply run a 90 degree wash and clean out the drawers and seals.
Modern cloth nappies don’t even require soaking like they did back when I was in cloth nappies as a baby; in fact, soaking is definitely NOT recommended for reusable nappies as it will negatively affect the elastics. Instead, just pop the dirty nappy into a dry bucket or wet bag until wash day. I would advise that you dispose of any solids before you do this though, as no one wants to spot a poo spinning round their machine at the end of a wash!
Fleece liners can help with easier disposal of the solids down the toilet; hold onto one end and flush the solids away (do hold tight though, especially if your toilet flush is strong!). Some people find that they need to scrape the solids off and have a dedicated ‘poo spoon’ or ‘poo knife’ for this; I’ve never actually had to do this, but I do know people that do! Disposable liners are another option as these can just be bagged and binned; despite some packaging saying that these are flushable, please DON’T flush them, as they do cause blockages further along the line. See this recent article on fatbergs to see exactly why not… https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/18/dont-feed-fatberg-museum-london-clogging-sewers-oil
Right, back to the washing itself…
First a rinse to break up and remove any solids that may still be on the nappies, plus cold water can also help to loosen any stains. Some machines have a cold prewash which works just as well. Ideally your machine should be 2/3 full; not full enough and the nappies don’t bash into each other enough, and too full and they can’t move to bash into each other. Other clothes, towels, etc can be added to the nappies after the rinse to bulk out the load if needed.
Secondly, the main wash. Obviously every machine is different, and so it will take a bit of trial and error to perfect the washing method for your machine, but the general rules are always the same:
- 40/60 degrees
- Full dose of non-bio powder detergent
- Long/intensive wash
I always recommend checking the manufacturer’s guidelines on any nappies you have bought new, as some specify 40 degrees in order to fulfil warranties. 60 degrees is recommended if your child is under 3 months old, has been ill or has been diagnosed with thrush. Temperatures above 60 degrees will negatively affect elastics and PUL, and may also cause bamboo to bald prematurely.
How much detergent to use is always a contentious issue, because there are so many variables to take into account, such as water hardness, machine capacity, load size and programme used. Always start with a full dose of powder for heavily soiled items (after all, reusable nappies are probably the dirtiest items that you will wash in your machine) and then adjust from there, using the guide on the side of the detergent box to help you. You want suds in the main wash, but none in the rinse, and it can take a few washes to find the dosage that works for you. I also find that I have to readjust if I change detergent too (just to throw another variable into the mix!) Nappy manufacturers tend to recommend non-bio powder to wash with; this is because the enzymes in bio can eat away at the fibres in bamboo and other natural materials. Liquid detergents and fabric conditioners are also not recommended as these coat the nappy fibres and reduce their absorbency, and bleach is a definite no-no.
You may need to do an extra rinse at the end of the wash if there are any suds still remaining, but this is not advised in the long run for those in hard water areas; repeated rinses can cause mineral build up on the nappy fibres, again reducing absorbency. If you are consistently having to run a rinse at the end, it’s time to adjust the amount of detergent you are using.
Line drying nappies is preferable to tumble drying; again some manufacturers state that tumble drying will void warranties on their nappies. Some people do choose to tumble dry on low regardless, though be aware that this may shorten the lifespan of your nappies. Bamboo, PUL and anything with elastics shouldn’t be placed directly onto a heat source for drying. In order to speed up the drying process in winter, my godsend has been sock octopi hung off the shower rail or curtain rails above radiators. But personally, nothing beats a washing line full of drying nappies!