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Real Nappy Week 2018 (23-29 April)

According to the news this morning, today is an  historic day.  Wigan, a second-league club knocked the invincible Manchester City out of the FA Cup.  City manager Pep Guardiola defends his players “It’s the intention that matters, not the result.”

This seems like a great message to increase real nappy culture and reduce nappy waste.  What we need is more people with the intention.

Let’s get out there and spread these encouraging words.  It’s your intention to reduce nappy waste that’s important: surely the result wil follow.  Sadly, this didn’t work for Man City but this is not about winning today, reducing nappy waste is a long game!


How to wash cloth nappies

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)
  • biological or non-biological?  You probably already know whether or not biological works for you.  The important thing is for enzymes to work they need a temperature of 40 degrees
  • 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.








Brazelton UK: celebrating 20 years

Yesterday I attended a day to celebrate 20 years of the Brazelton Centre in the UK.  Having booked on some months ago, I found myself wondering why I had decided to attend.  What the real nappy industry knows child development expert Dr T Berry Brazelton for is endorsing the size 6 Pampers nappy with the mantra “Let the child decide when the time is right to potty train.”

What I discovered yesterday is there’s much more to Berry Brazelton than this.  He radically changed attitudes to the new born.  It was Berry who really championed the idea that babies are born individuals, that whilst babies may not speak their first word for a year, they are born ready to communicate.

Something else struck me deeply at the conference yesterday.  We also heard a talk by Professor Dieter Wolke who made the case that babies who find it difficult to ‘self-regulate’ are more challenging.  They make the life of her/his parents much harder.  The message was, be careful not to judge those parents who are having a tough time. Parenting is significantly more challenging for them.  These parents need support to understand how they can help their babies to self-soothe.  Their baby may need more regular routines.

I guess this is all common sense to to most of us now.  However, it feels important to understand that it hasn’t always been so and we have Berry Brazelton and the Brazelton Centre UK to thank for this.

With all the pressures of our busy lives perhaps it’s even more important to spread the Berry Brazelton message that we need to tune into new borns.  Suzanne Zeedyk is carrying on the work, showing just how important and enjoyable nappy changing can be when we ‘tune in.’  Watch this short film ‘Dance of the Nappy’ (on Youtube.)







When the Going Gets Tough …

Today a report was publishsed by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health saying child health in the UK has improved over the last 30 years.  ‘But seven years after the Marmot Review, “Fair Society, Healthy Lives”, it is tragic that the future health and happiness of a significant and growing number is in jeopardy because of an alarming gap between rich and poor.’

What I’m going to say is probably not going to be popular but it comes from experience of bringing up children in London over the last 20 years and retaining a high level of contact with expectant and new parents and child health professionals through my work at Nappy Ever After.

The truth, I’m afraid, is that if we leave child health in the hands of government, local authority and health professionals and just keep measuring how bad things are getting and saying more money will solve the problem, we, as families, as communities indeed as a country  will be the losers.  The money isn’t there.  The last Labour government invested in early years.  It worked to an extent.  But the trouble was that those in least need were the main beneficiaries – yes, including me and my family.

My view is that those who are capable of providing services for each other must do so.  Local authorities are closing children’s centres.  There’s no reason why local parents can’t get together and create facilities like shared childcare for themselves.  We may need some relaxation of regulations that prevent us from doing it but we need to recognise that the majority of us can look after ourselves.  State and local authority resources need to be targeted at those in dire need, who are extremely vulnerable and need help.

Life changes dramatically when you have a baby.  In many cases you find you don’t want to return immediately to the career you’ve left but move into a new space that opens up for you when you have a baby.   What’s missing is the knowledge and tools and confidence to empower new parents to get on and look after themselves.   This is what is lacking and it harms us all.  There are parents who set up their own nurseries and creches in the 1980s when childcare facilties had experienced a period of long and harsh cuts under Thatcher.  Find them and ask them how to do it.


Engel and Disana pre-order service

Every Autumn, Nappy Ever After puts in orders for organic woollen clothing to Engel Natur and Disana. This year our ‘Wool Event’ at the shop is on Saturday 15 October from 4 to 5pm. Preorders are due by Tuesday 18 October.

At our instore event, you can see and touch samples of  Engel Natur and Disana clothing.

Disana's new 'Melange' range of knitwear – jumper and hat

We keep down the price by taking pre-orders and pre-payment. This way you get high-quality organic merino wool and silk clothing (for babies, children and adults) at about 50% of the cost you would pay normally in a shop. Looked after properly these clothes are an investment; they last for ages, and baby and children’s clothes can be passed on.

For those of you who have a fear of washing wool there’s one simple rule: wool must be washed and rinsed at a similar temperature or you shock it.   If you do this they remain as good as new. We will have samples to show you.

Disana's new 'Melange' knitwear range

We do this event because we want to give business to the companies that continue to make these truly magnificent products but also we want your babies to have the experience of wearing them. We can also order for children and adults.

In the past, customers have ordered natural wool/silk vests for babies, sleepsuits with feet (for babies who kick off the blankets), colourful sleeveless and long sleeve vests and leggings for kids as well as adults . From Disana, we have ordered many boiled wool baby jackets and overalls.  The knitted jumpers (311), leggings (332) and trousers (331) are just so gorgeous and practical too.

If you know what you want send us an email and we’ll let you know the prices (No price list as we can never predict what you want to order and there are sometimes differences in prices according to size).  If you decide to order pre-payment is required.

After the event, you have until 21 October to choose, make orders and pre-pay. Engel products usually arrive within 10 days.  Some Disana boiled wool items may not arrive until December as they are made to order.

Please let us know if you’re coming so we know how many people to expect. or call 020-7014 3006

PLEASE NOTE: Discounted prices are only available on pre-ordered items, not our usual stock lines. Prepayment is required. All orders are taken at the customer’s risk however we can advise on sizing. There are no returns or refunds on pre-ordered goods.

Soft merino wool bonnets by Engel

Soft merino wool bonnets by Engel


Why doesn’t Nappy Ever After have its own laundry yet?

We’re 13 years old this year.  Isn’t it time we did our own washing?  Why don’t we run our own laundry yet?  This is what I was asked at Zero Waste Europe’s annual conference in Ljubljana last week.  I was asked the same question in January when I met the Mayor of Tower Hamlets about the closure of the laundry we currently use.

It’s not that we haven’t tried.  Indeed,  our last application for investment in a laundry was turned down the very afternoon after I had met JM Simon, the director of Zero Waste Europe.  Coincidentally he was in London that day waiting for a connecting flight and he came and visited Nappy Ever After.

To say I was disappointed when we did not get the opportunity to even show our business plan to the investors is an understatement.   Not least because I had found the ideal person  with the experience, passion and desire to manage a nappy laundry – creating green jobs and reducing London’s nappy waste.

But the delay may not be a bad thing because  we continue to learn from others.  At the Zero Waste conference in Ljubljana I heard Joan Crous talk about how he has established a nappy laundry, Lavanda in Bologna which serves 40 nurseries.

Significant investment was needed for this laundry but the magicimage is in this  book that he created and distributed for the children in the kindergartens.  It is a beautiful picture book for kindergarten children showing why washing nappies is better than burying nappy waste.  Art and stories have the power to move hearts and minds.  I’m thrilled to have a copy of the book at Nappy Ever After.  Do ask to see it next time you visit.

So how do I cope with these setbacks and disappointments?   My philosophy has become the slower we progress, the more information and experience we accumulate and the more likely we are to make good decisions and succeed in the long-term.  Meanwhile we give business to an existing inner London laundry and continue to help London parents choose washable nappies and reduce London’s nappy waste.

My message to the zero wasters at Ljubljana who wanted to reduce nappy waste was to just help real nappy culture grow.  Start or support others in setting up a nappy library, an online nappy shop, nappuccinos, potty training sessions.  All these small initiatives will start having an effect in reducing nappy waste, raising awareness, building a network and growing real nappy culture.  It’s our friends and family who influence us the most.  The more people who start using real nappies, the more the behaviour spreads incrementally.




Popping the Weasel

It’s 1999,  I’m on a radio journalism course and for an assignment I put together an item about nappy waste for Real Nappy Week and pitch it to ‘You and Yours,’ the popular mid-day BBC Radio 4 consumer magazine programme.  At the time I had no plans to set up a real nappy company … I was hoping for a career in radio journalism!

To liven up the item and punctuate the piece I made up a song and recorded some boys singing it at our local park..  Or to be more precise I put new words to the tune of the nursery rhyme ‘Pop! goes the Weasel’ which contains a verse “Up and down the City Road, In and out the Eagle, That’s the way the money goes, Pop! goes the weasel.”  I can’t remember all the words of the nappy waste version now, but there were lines like “That’s the way a disposable’s filled, pop it in the landfill.

By coincidence, the company I founded almost 13 years ago, Nappy Ever After, moved last year from Camden to Hackney to premises just off the City Road, indeed very very close to the Eagle pub.  So, to find us, get a bus to the City Road and get off at the Eagle.  Or take the tube to Old Steet station, walk up the City Road and turn right at the Eagle pub on Shepherdess Walk.  (Your phone will show a quicker route.)  We’re more like a warehouse than a shop and don’t have normal shop hours.  We’re open every Tuesday 2-6pm and by appointment.


A real nappy item was aired for Real Nappy Week 1999 on Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours’ programme.  They used my idea and research but remade the item themselves.  The show’s producer said I’d included too much about nappy waste and this was not relevant as it was a consumer choice programme!  We think differently now, right?

To replace the nappy waste content they gave 2 mothers some real nappies to  test for a few days.  Would the consumers like them?  They were disappointed that both mums found they worked really well and intended to switch from disposables!  However as it was all so late in the day they had to run the item like that.

I was on the radio again recently.  BBC Radio London called me to ask me to talk about nappy recycling on Eddie Nestor’s drive time show.  The mic was closed on me when I wouldn’t shut up about 35% of children arriving for school in nappies.  Eddie Nestor didn’t ask me what relevance this had to the topic of recycling disposable nappies, he just told me it wasn’t relevant and closed the mic.

This is the sort of silo mentality that fed the financial crisis.  We need to connect issues.  Just as 17 years ago what happened to disposable nappies after you’d thrown them in the bin wasn’t supposed to concern consumers, now 35% of children arriving at school in nappies in one of the most deprived schools in the UK has nothing do with whether or not £20million should be invested in a new Knowaste nappy recycling plant.  How about spending a little bit of a public health budget on giving parents good information on how to potty train their children?  It could halve the amount of disposable nappy waste Londoners generate and then, work out whether you need the nappy waste recycling plant or not.

PS Pop was cockney for pawn, and weasel, coat.  There’s a metaphor in that nursery rhyme about nappy waste and the planet that I didn’t see at the time; if we waste all our finite resources on single-use nappies (which aren’t of course disposable at all, such a clever name, like clean diesel) our descendants may find themselves wihout a coat/protection from climate chaos.