Strip Washing Nappies
76 CommentsMonday, 4 August 2014
What is strip washing?
Strip washing is giving your nappies a more intensive wash than usual. It is designed to ‘reset’ any issues that might occur. Strip washing should not be needed regularly. If you find you need to strip wash frequently then it is likely that something within your machine routine is causing the problem.
Why would we need to strip wash?
Strip washing can be needed for a few of reasons. One would be that there is ammonia left within the nappies that is building up over time. Another reason could be that detergent residue is left on the nappies.
Detergent Residue -Modern washing machines are incredibly water efficient and use far less water than they used to. Modern cloth nappies are super absorbent and soak up lots of washing water plus need more for rinsing. Modern detergents also tend to be very strong. A combination of less water and strong detergents means you risk detergent not being rinsed away and leaving a residue on the nappies.
Ammonia Build Up -In addition should you not use enough detergent, the machine is overfilled or the machine doesn’t use enough water then this could lead to a build up of ammonia within the nappies as the nappies will not have been thoroughly washed out each time.
Signs that you have a build up within your nappies and they could benefit from a strip wash include:
- smelling when wet – this is often described as a barnyard or hamster cage smell
- smelling of ammonia or urine when clean
- smelling as soon as your baby wee’s (although during teething this can just be a sign of strong wee being produced by baby)
- redness when the nappy is removed
- your baby has a persistent rash
- loss of absorbency
- natural fabric nappies appearing to ‘repel’ water (this often happens after washing using liquid detergent)
Another time that we would suggest strip washing is when buying preloved nappies. This is because you can never be certain how they have been washed before.
The good news is these problems are easy to cure and can be prevented from returning. To cure the problem, you need to follow a process called strip washing. I've read MANY versions of "strip washing" on the internet including using fairy washing up liquid, dish washer tablets, vinegar or bleach. The Nappy Lady DOES NOT recommend any of these. All of these methods will invalidate brand warranties and risk damaging your nappies.
Here is how I always recommend you strip wash.
- Ensure your machine is clean. You should run a maintenance cycle once a month. If you haven't done this lately run this first and check your machine filters are clean.
- Load the nappies into the machine. You need to ensure that the machine is no more than ¾ full when DRY. Strip washing can be done with a smaller load and still be effective.
- Next put the nappies through a rinse cycle only with NO detergent and use a low spin. If your machine doesn't have a rinse only cycle use a cool quick wash. This is to get them nice and wet already so there is more water held in them for the main washes.
- Next wash using a FULL dose of detergent (the amount for heavy soiling, adjusted for your water type & machine size) and wash at 60 degrees on a long cycle (approx 2.5-3hours) and ideally additional water. We usually find a cotton wash the most effective.
- No need to dry in between for the second wash, use 60 degrees on the longest possible wash as above with NO detergent and ideally additional water (sensitive or sometimes called super rinse)
- Finally put your nappies through a rinse cycle again as in step 1. If you see any detergent bubbles in the rinse keep on rinsing until you don't see any more.
This should sort them for the short term.
Preventing the need to strip wash
Ongoing to prevent this happening again we would suggest doing a cold rinse cycle (with a low spin) then put your nappies on a long wash at 60 degrees. You shouldn't fill your washing machine drum more than 3/4 full when dry. If you over fill your machine the nappies won't agitate enough and nappies need a good jiggle to get clean. Similarly, if you have a very efficient machine and it weighs the load then underloading can cause the machine to use less water. The low spin on the initial rinse can help to make the load heavier and the machine use more water.
Find the recommended dose of detergent on your packaging for your type of water and machine size. You then need a proportional dose to your load size. This gives you a starting point and then adjust the dose up or down as you feel necessary. In general people in a soft water area can use less detergent, whereas people in a hard water area sometimes need a full dose even if load isn’t a full size.
If you are struggling then ensure that you wash on alternative days. In our experience people leaving nappies for longer often struggle to get them clean and frequently experience ammonia build up.
Adjusting the load size can also make a difference. For a machine that uses a set amount of water it’s finding the right load size, for some machines this is less than ¾ full when dry. For a machine that weighs the load then you may need a fuller load to make it heavier and ensure that the machine uses the maximum amount of water.
Ensure you run a maintenance cycle on your machine monthly.
As a last resort, if you dry pail your nappies you can try to rinse them before they go in the bucket or at least the overnight nappies as these are the worst. However, we don't recommend this is done as standard as leaving nappies wet can cause elastic to deteriorate faster.
If you have any questions regarding strip washing or would like any assistance with strip washing or your usual washing routine then our advice team is always available to help and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org