Washing & Drying Nappies
238 CommentsSaturday, 2 February 2019
How to Wash and Dry Your Cloth Nappies. BASIC or FULL DETAILS
Links to each manufacturers specific washing instructions are at the bottom of this article.
Section - Basic
For people who want to know the absolute very basics and that's all.
In summary washing is 4 steps
1. Load the machine no more than 3/4 full when dry - basically don't overfill it.
2. Run a rinse or quick wash cycle without detergent. NOT a prewash but a separate rinse or quick wash cycle. NO detergent at this point.
3.Long 60 deg wash should be at least 2 hours long and use lots of water.
A cottons wash is usually the best option to choose. Avoid an eco wash.
Your washing machine drum should be a maximum of 3/4 full of nappies NOT full to the top.
Add a detergent recommended by your nappy brand (commonly powder rather than liquid detergent). Your detergent dose should be proportional to the size of washing load you've put in eg if you have a 3/4 full drum use a 3/4 dose, half a drum load then use detergent for a half load.
NEVER any fabric softener.
4. Dry nappies. Ideally air dry but if you tumble only do this on low.
Section - FULL DETAILS
For people who want to know everything on how to wash properly and why!
It's very simple! When you take the nappy off your child, flush any poo down the toilet and put the nappy and any washable liner in a nappy bucket. If your nappy system uses a wrap then you do not need to change the wrap with every nappy. You only change the wrap if it gets soiled, or at the end of the day (or night). If any poo has missed the liner and the nappy itself has got soiled, you will find it best to rinse it through before it goes into the nappy bucket, to stop any stains from setting.
Before your nappies go into your storage bucket/bag make sure all hook and loop fastenings are done up so that they cannot catch on stray loops, otherwise your nappies will all end up in a big ball. Some nappies come with laundry tabs and can be folded back on themselves. Otherwise you can simply do the nappy or wrap up on the widest setting and turn it inside out. This also protects the loop (soft) velcro, as well as stopping the hook velcro from doing any damage.
STORING SOILED NAPPIES BEFORE WASHING: Dry pailing v Soaking Storage
Traditionally nappies would be soaked in a bucket before washing but we DO NOT recommend this now. Just place your nappies in a dry bucket (dry pailing) until you're ready to wash them and then your washing machine will do all the hard work. It is much easier to load the nappies into the washing machine from a dry bucket and you can also keep your nappy wraps in the bucket along with the nappies. There will be no significant smell from the nappy bucket Do not leave your soiled nappies in the nappy bucket longer than 2 days before washing as extended time left soiled will damage nappy fabrics (see our separate article here.) The longer nappies are left between washing the longer ammonia has to form and to start degrading the fabric.
If you decide to go against our advice and soak your nappies you should only use plain water. Soaking does effectively pre-clean the nappies a bit, which helps keep stains from setting. However, the downside is that the nappy bucket will smell when you take the lid off, you also have to dispose of the dirty water and soaking can damage modern fabrics, elastics and fastenings. It is also important to remember never to soak your wraps as this will cause them to lose their waterproofing. Use of soaking agents including vinegar, bicarbonate of Soda, Napisan, bleach or harsh stain removers should never be used as they can corrode the nappy materials and effectively destroy your nappies. Please note that if any of these products are used on the nappies or accessories it will invalidate your manufacturers product guarantee. Bamboo and organic cotton are especially delicate fabrics and are particularly susceptible to harsh chemicals.
Care of Motherease Nappies and Wraps
The binding on the Motherease products are the reason they are so fabulously waterproof so it's important to treat the binding with respect and make sure it can't get caught on velcro etc in the wash. When washing your Motherease nappies and wraps place them in a mesh washing bag separate from anything that could catch on the binding like Velcro to keep them in excellent and reliable condition. Do not use laundry detergent products containing sodium percarbonate, hydrogen peroxide (oxygen bleach) or optical brighteners these ingredients are often listed. When combined with uric acid and ammonia a reaction occurs causing natural fibres to dissolve. These ingredients are also harsh on nappy covers and cover binding.
Step1. Loading the Machine - Washing Load Size
Modern washing machines come in all different size drums now so there is no hard and fast rule I can tell you as to how many you should/could get in a machine. You can also get more newborn sized nappies in a washing machine drum than you can big toddler nappies. As a guide you should be aiming to have your washing machine NO MORE than 3/4 full when dry. If you put too many into your drum and jam it full, your nappies won't have enough water to fully wash them and there won't room for them to move around and agitate - nappies need a lot of jiggling to get washed. If you put too few in then this can unbalance your machine so they don't spin properly but can also lead to excessive detergent bubble formation. If you don't have enough nappies to make up a wash add in mucky bibs, muslins or anything that would benefit from a deep long wash (husband's football kit was known to go in occasionally!)
Step 2. Rinse or Quick Wash Cycle
When the time comes to do a wash, put the nappies in the machine and do a cold rinse cycle or quick wash cycle without any detergent. A rinse or quick wash cycle is much better than using a prewash cycle. Modern washing machines are so water efficient they often reuse water from a prewash cycle, whereas rinse or quick wash dirty water is always fully drained away. Cloth nappies will be heavily soiled so we don't want any of the water used from the initial rinse/quick wash cycle reused in the main wash. This first wash cycle removes any remaining solids and flushes away urine.
Step3. Main Wash Cycle
Next simply run your longest 60 or 40 degree wash depending on your nappy brands temperature recommendation, this is normally a cotton wash and never an ECO cycle. Use an extra water function if your machine offers this. Use an approved detergent for your nappy brand (see links below) most commonly powder detergent opposed to liquid detergent AND dose appropriately (see below for dosage). Ensure you pay particular attention if your nappy brand requires you to use non-bio or bio as using the incorrect detergent can lead to damage to your nappies and your warranty being invalidated. Recommended Spin speed is 1000rpm
The Nappy Lady believes for hygiene reasons you SHOULD wash at 60 degrees in any of the following circumstances however be aware of any warranty temperature limits:
- If your baby is under about 3 months old (whilst they have no real resistance of their own)
- If using Eco Balls rather than detergent (using ecoballs/ecoeggs doesn't invalidate any product guarantees however we find they really aren't good enough for washing nappies even at 60deg)
- If your baby has any history of repeated rashes or skin sensitivity
- If you have two or more babies using the same nappies
- If you live in a commune or other "open" community (your baby will not become resistant to unfamiliar bugs)
- If your baby is unwell
- Petit Lulu Nappies insist on washing at 60deg.
The wash cycle should be the longest cycle you can find on your machine and not one of the economy quick washes. These are heavily soiled items so need a long deep wash. If you have the choice of cotton or synthetics on your machine, the cotton cycle should be used as it uses more water. If you have an "extra water" function on your machine please use it, modern washing machines are ULTRA water efficient which is generally great but when you're washing approx 15 nappies that hold 500ml each you need a lot of water to ensure they are thoroughly flushed through.
Lots of people get very hung up on the amount of detergent they should use, in our experience people tend to over dose and forget to regularly run a maintenance cycle on their machine leading to detergent residue in their machines too.
Our guide as a starting point is to read the packaging of your detergent and
1. Find the recommended dose for heavily soiled items, your water hardness and drum size .
2. NEXT compare to the size of your laundry load and make sure your detergent dose is PROPORTIONAL. If you have a 3/4 full drum then use 3/4 of the recommended dose you calculated above. This keeps your detergent dosage PROPORTIONAL.
Using too much detergent can result in residue building up in the fabric which can cause sensitivity, damage to the nappies, smells and leaks. If after washing they smell unclean this is a sign they've not been washed long enough, wrong dose of detergent used or too many in the machine (and or your machine needs a maintenance cycle run). The first thing we do when we have returns, especially faulty ones, is to sniff the nappies (glamorous job being a Nappy Lady). It is unfortunately common for "faulty" items to be returned reeking of detergent and we can feel it built on the fabric, this has led to refused warranty claims by manufacturers.
Bio V Non Bio Detergent
Many manufacturers recommend non bio and not biological detergent. This is NOTHING to do with skin sensitivity but to do with protecting bamboo and cotton fabrics. Some biological detergents contain an enzyme called ‘cellulase’ which can have a degrading effect on cellulose fibres like bamboo and cotton and this can be particularly severe if combined with the levels of heat used when tumble drying. Using Biological can invalidate some manufacturers warranties. Ensure you check your nappy brands washing instructions carefully!
How to use Biological Detergent Safely and Minimise Damage
If you have to use biological detergent as it's all you can find your Country or area or for any other reason then do the following!
1. Check your nappy warranty if the manufacturer specifically advises AGAINST biological detergent then you will need to accept you will invalidate your warranty and you're using bio at your own risk.
2. Check the ingredients VERY carefully. Choose a biological detergent WITHOUT CELLULASE as at this time cellulase is the enzyme identified as the main problem. This is easier said than done as many just list "enzymes" on the box rather than each specified enzyme. However some of the bigger brand names do list on the full ingredients and actual enzymes used on the box or online.
We don't supply a list of Cellulase free biological detergents for the simple reason manufacturers change their formulas.
We DO NOT Recommend the use of Ecover with any cloth nappies as we find it frequently causes skin issues and problems with elastic in the nappies as it tends to build up on fibres very quickly.
Do not use fabric conditioner, as this will affect the absorbency over time.
A washing machine with a higher speed spin will reduce the amount of drying needed. However, I would recommend that you keep the spin speed around 1000 revs, because higher than this may damage some nappies, or at least make the fabric go tatty. You will know from your own experience of washing your clothes how fierce your spin facility is!
Step 4. Drying Nappies
In general order of preference, these are the best ways to dry your nappies:
- Outside on the line - the sun is a natural bleach.
- Ceiling drying rack.
- Airing cupboard.
- In front of an Aga or other similar oven (or old fashioned stove).
- Freestanding or overbath dryer - a dryer is best stood in a well-ventilated room such as a conservatory or bedroom, as bathrooms often have too damp an atmosphere to dry effectively.
- Tumble drier - makes nappies feel nice and soft, but works out expensive and also shortens the life span of your nappies by taking out the pile gradually. You will need to remember to empty the filter regularly of all the fluff, that fluff is lost fabric fibres and therefore absorbency. You could give your nappies no more than 10 minutes in the tumble drier and then finish them off in one of the other ways listed. This way you get some of the softness without the cost. Other people swear by keeping the 10 minute tumble dry for the end of the drying period, rather than the beginning, but that is difficult to time. Tumble drying should be avoided for any waterproof PUL covers which includes all in ones. If you have no choice but to tumble dry make sure you only dry any bamboo fabrics or waterproof layers on low.
- Near a radiator - nappies will feel quite hard, but can be shaken out to soften them up a bit. Never dry directly on a radiator as they will get too hot and burn fabrics especially delicate bamboos.
- Terries and prefold can also be ironed dry - many shaped nappies cannot be, either because they are too thick, or they contain some material which should not be ironed. This option is bottom of the list because it involves the serious disadvantage of requiring some effort on your part! Never iron wraps. In parts of Africa ironing is required to kill Putsi Fly eggs laid on wet laundry. If you live in one of these Putsi Fly areas please get in touch with us so we can advise you of the correct and safest washing methods for your region.
Note that you should not dry any clothes in a room used by anyone with a sensitivity to house dust mites, as these love to breed in the warm air produced by damp clothing.
With washing, all nappies will get stiffer than they were when new, although it does help to live in a soft water area (e.g. Wales!). Shaped terries with a stretch agent (e.g. Motherease) in them or microfibre nappies such as the Teddy will tend not to go as hard as old fashioned terries. Bear in mind, however, that your baby will not feel the material directly against their bottom anyway, because there will be a liner on top. Also, as soon as baby wees, the whole thing softens up.
Nappy Brands Specific Washing Instructions
AppleCheeks Washing Instructions are found here.
Baba and Boo washing instructions are found here.
Baby Beehinds Washing Instructions are found here.
Bambino Mio's Washing Instructions are found here.
Bambooty washing instructions are found here.
Bare and Boho washing instructions are found here.
Blueberry washing instructions are found here.
Bubblebubs washing instructions are here.
Bumgenius washing instructions are found here.
Charlie Bananas washing instructions are found here.
Close washing instructions are found here.
Disana care guides are found here.
Easy Peasy - No specific instructions.
Ellas House washing instructions are found here.
Grovia washing instructions are found here.
Kangacare washing instructions are found here.
Little Lambs washing instructions are here.
Little Lovebum washing instructions are found here.
Milovia washing instructions are found here.
Motherease washing instructions are found here.
Petit Lulu washing instructions are found here.
Popolini washing instructions are found here.
Smart Bottoms washing instructions are found here.
Thirsties washing instructions are found here.
Tickle Tots washing instructions are found here.
Totsbots Washing Instructions can be found here.
You'll find all the individual nappy brand warranties in more detail here. Ensure you double check this page before you start washing your nappies so you don't accidentally void your warranty by using the wrong detergent or washing methods.