Stains on Cloth Nappies

8 CommentsSunday, 3 August 2014

These are photos of my Easyfit V1. The first photo is how the nappy looked straight after coming out of the washing machine. The second photo is of the same nappy after approx 24 hours on the line on a cloudy day. (I left the nappy out overnight as well.) The stain had almost entirely gone using only the power of the sun.

Stained Nappy Stained Nappy After Sun

How frequently cloth nappies get stained really seems to vary baby to baby. My first Son wasn’t too bad as his poo was thicker and held more by the liner. My second Son had extremely runny poo and stained virtually every nappy he poo’d in and my daughter was a mix of the two, sometimes she stained and sometimes she didn't. All three children have been exclusively breastfed and have all used the same nappies and I’ve used the same detergent.

If you have stained nappies this doesn’t mean they are not clean and sanitised, so you could dry them and reuse without any problems. The stain will eventually fade with future washes. However if your baby is like my second and always seemed to poo in the same nappies, the staining can get quite bad and parents are often concerned that others may think their nappies aren’t sanitary.

So how can you remove stains without damaging your nappies? The answer is SUNSHINE or, more accurately, UV light from the sun. Here comes the science bit, it’s been a long time since I studied science so any scientists reading this please excuse any glaring errors and I’d love to be corrected. Coloured things are only coloured because they absorb light. The light moves the electrons in the molecule into an excited state. The excited molecules are often more reactive; they may decompose or react with oxygen in the air. If they react then they are likely to be converted to things that are less strongly coloured. "The stains aren’t removed but through a process of oxidisation they are made invisible by changing the way the colour (or stain) absorbs the light to make them seem colourless."

Bilirubin is responsible for the brown colour of all human fecal matter and is produced when red blood cells break down naturally in the liver. The chemical Bilirubin is photosensitive, which essentially means it breaks down under UV light which is why sunlight is good for cleaning nappies! (If i wanted to be completely accurate, it isn't actually photosensitive, it undergoes isomerization in the presence of light, but only scientists would pull me up on that point!)

So in layman’s terms hang your wet nappies (or stained clothes) in the sunlight and the stains will disappear or at least fade. Any UV exposure will help to lighten the stains, so if you don’t have access to an outside line or balcony, lay them with the stain facing the light on a window ledge or hang on a drying rack next to a window. The sunlight will fade the stain in bright sunshine or even on a cloudy day. The stronger and more direct the sun the better and quicker the results. In the summer one afternoon’s sun may be enough but in the winter or autumn in the UK a few days might be needed. The sun will lighten all stains even old ones.

A couple of weeks ago I was cooking a batch of tomato sauce in my favourite white linen top (stupid idea I know!) I managed to get several splashes down it and thought I’d ruined it. I washed it with a very generous dose of detergent plus a generous dose of a staining removing product and the stains hardly faded at all. I hung the top by the window for 3 days and the stains have completely gone much to my relief.

At this time of year there seems to be more wet than dry days. If it’s raining and you have stained nappies, i still put mine outside on the line. I’m sure my neighbours think i’m mad putting things out when it’s raining (and taking photos of my stained nappies)but it really does work. I also find the rain helps to soften cotton nappies that have gone hard. I believe this is because rain water is soft water whereas my tap water is hard.

Aimee Gillespie
Sunday, 9 September 2018  |  20:33

Is lemon juice okay to use to help remove stubborn stains while sunning?

Thursday, 23 May 2019  |  15:57

It is very acidic so we wouldn't recommend it

Tuesday, 16 October 2018  |  3:14

Hi, does this work at this time of year too? I've also been recommended olive oil soap and violets mineral bleach. Any thoughts/experience with these? Thanks

Michelle Rajab
Tuesday, 26 February 2019  |  11:05

Iíve bought a second hand Uno and it looks liked itís been washed in a dark wash and colours have run. The cover and inside the PUL are blue tinged. Any ideas how I can get this out please?

Sunday, 7 July 2019  |  9:41

Unfortunately there isn't a magic solution. Hopefully it will fade over time

The Nappy Lady Logo