Soap Flakes & Cloth Nappies

Sunday, 14 July 2013

We sometimes get asked about soap flakes and natural soaps for washing nappies.  Pure soap flakes, rather than detergent, give a much softer feel to nappies and wraps. They are particularly useful when washing wool wraps, because they retain the wool fat. Soap flakes can certainly be used but they WILL affect absorbency so you must bear the following in mind:

Effect on absorbency

Soap is primarily made of fat, animal fat, or vegetable oil (e.g. olive soap) and sodium hydroxide. This explains why soap is alkaline and not great for sensitive skin. (You see, we do beauty tips free of charge here as well!). It can leave a film that can affect absorbency. But the main factor seems to be hard/soft water. Hard water will leave a "fatty scum" on the fibres, no matter how much you rinse, and that will affect absorbency. Soft water is better, as the soap disolves more completely. Soap flakes leave cotton very soft to the touch, but not as absorbent.

Soap Scum

As for clogging the machine, it's back to the hard/soft water thing. It shouldn't be a huge problem in the dispenser drawer, but can be in the waste pipes, because you are getting rid of the scummy water at that stage. The inside of the pipes can get clogged until they are totally blocked. However, a good dose of very hot water and washing soda crystals does wonders for that. It declogs the machine as well as the pipes.

Too much froth in the washing machine inhibits the cleaning process, which is why you should be really sparing when using soap flakes instead of detergent. Adding them direct to the drum rather than in the dispenser drawer makes sure that all the flakes get to the nappies rather than stuck on the path from the dispenser drawer.

If you have a toploading machine, there is less of a problem, presumably because there is more room for the froth to get to the top of the water and out of the way. This is probably why both toploader machines and soap flakes are so much more common in France.

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