For many people considering using cloth nappies, this is a big question! There is a fear that it may be very complicated or messy to clean cloth nappies. But the good news is it is not! It can be a tricky question to answer however, as different brands may issue slightly different washing instructions and can cause confusion especially for parents who are new to using cloth. We like to keep things simple though, and the below guide (which is based on the instructions we got when we first started out with a loan from the https://clothnappylibrary.ie/) have always served us well!
Following a nappy change, place the nappy into a dry pail for storage until you are ready to wash. A dry pail could be a wet bag or a storage bucket – but the main thing is you are not soaking the nappy in water.
Note – if there are solids on the nappy, tip or scrape the solids into the toilet before storage! Dirty nappies from an EBF baby do not need to be “tipped” before weaning as this poo is water soluble – which makes for a nice easy job before the weaning stage arrives!
When you have enough nappies for a wash, put your nappies in for a rinse first. You should aim to have your machine ¾ full when washing to allow for good agitation of the nappies during the wash. If you have a smaller load you can add small items to the wash to bulk it up (no bigger than t-shirt size so the nappies don’t get caught up in any large items!)
Then wash your nappies on a 2-3 hour wash at 40 to 60 degrees celsius, using your normal detergent.
A couple of points on this:
- The lower the temperature you wash at the lower the environmental impact of your wash. A lower temperature is also kinder to the PUL, increasing it’s longevity. But a higher temperature may give a more thorough clean, particularly if baby has had a bug etc. We usually aim to do most washes at 40, but will do the odd wash at 60 just for an extra-thorough clean occasionally!
- You will find different people recommending non-bio or bio washing powder for nappies. Non-bio has of course been traditionally recommended for babies’ sensitive skin but recent studies have shown that bio detergents are not any more likely to cause skin irritation than non-bio. In addition, bio detergents clean biological stains (e.g. poo!) better than non-bio. However, many nappy manufacturers do still recommend non-bio stating that use of bio detergents can invalidate their warranty. We would encourage everyone to make their own decision as to the use of non-bio or bio. We generally use bio, have had no issues and are very happy with our wash routine!
Once you have done your main wash, nappies should be rinsed again to ensure all detergent has been rinsed out (as this can affect absorbency if not).
Nappies can be dried ideally by hanging nappies and inserts on a clothes horse indoors or outdoors on a line. Open out your nappies and hang any all-in-ones by the attached booster to speed up drying time. Inserts can generally be tumble dried on a low heat when needed.
You may have heard of strip washing in relation to a reusable nappy wash routine and be wondering what this is. Sometimes, due to a build up of detergent or ammonia, your nappies can come out of the wash smelling less than fresh (often of ammonia). This can also cause other issues including decreased absorbency and skin irritation for baby. You can remove the build up by doing a strip wash. This essentially means that after your normal main wash (ideally on 60 degrees for this), you keep rinsing your nappies until you can no longer see any suds in your washing machine during your rinse.
Hopefully the above will help guide you when getting started with setting up a wash routine for your cloth nappies. If you do anything differently or would suggest anything else to help other parents getting started, we’d love to hear your comments!