How to Wash your Washable Nappies

Cloth Nappies. You use them, you wash them, you reuse them. Simple as that right? Wrong. But also right. I don’t want to over complicate this and make it sound hard because it’s not but if at first your like me, a little too relaxed about how much washing powder you use, what temperatures you wash at and what setting on your machine you use, you could come up against some hurdles and my ultimate fear is that this will put people off and the trial and error part of it may seem like too much for many.

The fact is I do hear of people that don’t worry about it and never face a problem but I’m my experience and from the experience of many, on the many forums I frequent, this isn’t the case. So here’s what works for them and myself and hopefully for you too.

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First of all… Use a decent powder.

Washing powder rather than liquid is recommended for cloth nappies. Liquid can leave a coating over your nappies which can effect their absorbency, the same goes for fabric softeners so leave these out of your wash too.

Powder will give you a more efficient clean and it comes in a cardboard box so points in the plastic free department.

Avoid the cheaper brands.

I was using the Aldi non bio which always worked well for our clothes but when it came to nappies after a while I noticed we were getting ammonia smells. When I did a little research I found that cheaper brands like Aldi can bulk out their washing powders with soap suds, so although it looks like their getting a good clean it’s not going deep enough. I since swapped to Waitrose non bio which was recommended to me and haven’t had the problem since. CCNDU and Fluff Love University have a list of tried and tested brands to help you pick.

Avoid Eco-friendly products.

As much as it pains to me say this, eco-friendly washing products such as E-cover, Soap Nuts and the Eco Egg don’t seem to get it clean enough either in my opinion. Fine with clothes but nappies are the dirtiest thing your ever going to wash so something tougher is needed. I don’t want to risk ammonia again. Once we are past the nappy stage I’ll go back to to eco washing but until then I’ve settled with the lesser of two evils.

Bio vs Non Bio

This is a little controversial. But I’m nothing if not controversial right? For years we have been told to keep Biological products away from our babies. But actually the UK is the ONLY country that has two different types of washing powder. The rest of the world just has washing powder which is all Bio. And the reason we all believe that our babies will have a reaction to bio powder? Well because the NHS told us this. The Nappy Science Gang however could not see the reason for this and challenged the NHS who have since retracted their advice that bio should not be used for washing babies nappies or clothes and bio has been proven to wash things better.

“NHS Choices investigated and, like us, they couldn’t find any evidence for skin irritation due to biological washing powders. It seemed the information was “legacy content” from previous Department of Health pamphlets for expectant mothers.”

Ok so I’m telling you this but the fact of the matter is my daughter IS actually allergic to bio washing powder and as it happens so am I. But this is, I believe down to the fact that all bio powders I have tried are highly fragranced and it is the fragrances I have found over the years that make me react and so I am lead to believe it is the same for my daughter. Non bio powders with fragrance have also lead to rashes.

So it’s up to you weather you choose to use bio or non bio but do so in the knowledge that the NHS is no longer warning you against it.

A pre-wash is important.

And when I say pre-wash I mean a wash cycle. Just a short one cold one (my machine has a 30 minute wash) but you want it to do a little wash to wash away the nasties. If you have a pre-rinse function don’t use it. Many modern machine are so water efficient they will reuse the water from the pre-rinse in the main wash so your essentially washing in pooey water.

Get the right amount of detergent.

It sounds a lot but it’s important. Use HALF the recommended dose for your pre-wash and the FULL recommended dose in the main wash. That’s 210ml for me which looks loads but it wasn’t doing the job before and now it is. Look at the side of your detergent box and work it out depending on the size of your machine and the water hardness in your area. If your not sure about the type of water your area has find out here. Plus add what it suggests for heavy soiling, because let’s face it nappies are truly soiled. Pun intended.

This is the recommended advice from CCNDU. I am aware that the Nappy Lady recommendations are different but this so far has been the only thing that works for me.

Make sure you machine is 3/4 full.

Too much or too little in the your machine and you won’t get enough agitation. I have a huge machine so even though I only do a wash every 3 days there’s never enough nappies it in. So what I do is do a pre wash with just the nappies in. This gets all the yuk off. I then open the machine to unstuff any inserts that haven’t come out on their own. (Unstuffing unwashed nappies is not something I do) And then I can add things to the wash to bulk it out. Mainly tea towels, baby grows, t-shirts, socks. Just small things. (Big things like bath towels can get wrapped around your nappies and therefore they won’t wash well.) Some people don’t like doing this as the thought of washing things with nappies freaks them out but honestly the things that come out of the nappy wash are by far the cleanest because they get the longest, hottest wash with more detergent and you’ve already got rid of the nasties with your pre wash. This also is a god send for keeping on top of the other washing in your house.

Note that I mean 3/4 full when contents is wet.

Choose the longest, most water intensive wash at 60 or 40 degrees.

This for me is the “anti allergy” setting and I always wash at 60. I’ve tried doing 40 many times to save on energy but it just doesn’t cut the mustard for me. See CCNDU for their explanation on Hot vs Cold.

Many nappies brands will tell you to wash at 30. This is to make their nappies last longer but I want my nappies clean so if that means they last a few less months then so be it. So far however they still look brand new a year in.

I also turn down the spin to 800. This will protect your nappies and keep them going for longer.

Et Voila

You now have sparkling, sweet smelling nappies. Hang in the sun if possible and they will be even whiter than white.

Line drying is best. And make sure you don’t tumble dry anything with PUL (the waterproof part of your nappy) as it will damage it. But if you want to tumble dry any cotton inserts (or bamboo on a low heat to avoid balding) every now again this will soften them up. But you know, save on energy and all that so I wouldn’t do it unless you need to.

Top tip: leaving nappies out in the rain will also soften them up if really needed, or give them a good old rub together and save on the tumble drying.

Ok so that may all have seemed long winded but once you’ve got it, you’ve got it and you’ll be happily washing nappies for years to come without a single hiccup.

To summarise.

1. 30 minute cold pre wash with half recommended amount of detergent.

2. Bulk out your wash with small items. Make it 3/4 full (when wet).

3. Pop it on a long, hot wash with the full amount of detergent.

4. Hang it on the line and sit back looking at your pretty clean nappies drying while drinking a cuppa.

Hannah xx