Time has revealed there is not ONE way to wash nappies. You work it out as you go along. But here are some general guidelines to help you start out:
Wash nappies before use to make them absorbent. Once dry pour some water on to the nappy. If it absorbs the nappy is ready for use. If it runs off the surface it isn’t!
If you buy pre-loved nappies, wash before use without detergent/laundry soap. To ensure bacteria are killed either wash at 90 degrees (check label, only nappies such as terries, muslins, cotton prefolds can be washed at this temperature) or use a sanitiser such as MioFresh or Napisan.
Use liners to catch most of the poo. Bin them, don’t flush them. Then most of your nappies are simply damp.
Store nappies in a bucket with a lid until you have a machine drum’s worth of nappies. Do not soak.
To get nappies clean you need:
- Lots of water (sounds obvious but HE machines tend not to use much)
- soap (but not too much, follow the instructions)
- agitation (don’t over or underfill machine – look at laundry to see laundry is being agitated)
- to kill harmful bacteria use either heat (60 degrees wash) or sanitiser such as MioFresh or Napisan
- no fabric softener – it reduces absorbency of the nappy
- in London we have hard water. You may need to use a detergent that cleans well in hard water such as the Hard Core formula of Rockin’ Green
- line dry if possible. Sunshine is magic: it makes stains disappear.
Modern High Efficiency (HE) machines use less water. The simple way to overcome the lack of water in your washing machine is to do a pre-rinse cycle, then a wash cycle with detergent. This may seem like a lot of water but just remember, flushing the toilet after every pee and long showers are a waste of water. Getting nappies clean isn’t. Also, remember the production of disposable nappies uses a lot of water too. Plus when disposable nappies are incinerated they are heavy with urine/water – so it’s okay to do a pre-wash.
Modern fabrics, such as microfibre and bamboo have a stem like structure. This makes them more absorbent than woven fabrics but with a catch: they are difficult to get clean. Dirt can accumulate deep inside the fabric. At Nappy Ever After we still sell terry, muslin and 100% cotton prefolds because they are easy to clean. The benefit is also that you can wash at 90 degrees if necessary to zap bacteria. Two part nappies, where you can wash the absorbent part and the waterproof wrap separately (if necessary) are still popular options.
When nappies come out of machine, smell them. If they don’t smell clean they probably aren’t. If they smell of mould your washing machine needs a clean (run wash cycle at 90 degrees with a little detergent and no laundry in it.) If they smell of detergent, you need to do an extra rinse. If they smell of ammonia you need to read this.
As I said at the start, you learn as you go along. Washing nappies is great preparation for parenting. You need to keep observing because things change, teething or weaning, for example may make pee stronger and require a slight adaptation to your normal laundry routine. Enjoy the challenge! Using washable nappies gives you a great feeling.