As you can imagine, Cloth Nappies undergo quite a bit of laundering in their lifetime, a good quality nappy will be washed around 300 times or perhaps more. Washable nappies will spend a lot of in time wet acidic or alkaline solutions, they go through high wash temperatures and may be tumble dried from time to time. All of these things will all take their toll and can shorten the lifespan of your nappies.
The instructions below are a general set of washing instructions, you must always check the care label on your nappies before you use them because the manufacturer will have tested different washing scenarios. To get the most out of your cloth nappies follow The Nappy Lady’s guide to washing cloth nappies and extend the life of your nappies.
ALWAYS follow the wash care instructions on the manufacturers label.
ALWAYS wash with the correct amount of washing product. If the label on the washing product packet says wash with one cap full for a full load, use exactly that. No more and no less. If you use more it will build up in the nappies and if you use less you risk not getting the nappies clean enough.
WHEN YOUR NAPPIES ARE BRAND NEW.....Soak your nappies for 24 hours in cold water only, to kick start your nappies absorbency and then pop them through a normal wash and they will be good to go! - You don't need to wash them lots of times before use.
ALWAYS Fold back the hook and loop laundry tab’s otherwise they will damage your nappies in the wash. Unfolded laundry tabs are a major cause of fabric balding so please, please use them.
Use a one-way liner if you are using barrier creams. This will protect your baby’s bottom by keeping it dry and it will protect your nappy from residue. It won't keep it out 100% but it will prevent it from building up.
Liners can help prevent your nappies from staining especially from the dreaded bright yellow breastfed poo! It also makes getting rid of poo easier, not to be underestimated.
RINSE WELL - Even if you are using a liner get as much poo off the nappies as you can before putting them into the nappy bucket by sluicing i.e. holding in the flush of the toilet. Or consider getting a nappy sprayer to make rinsing time super easy.
Use non-biological powders as they are better for both baby and the environment. There is also an enzyme present in some bio detergents, which is corrosive to bamboo fiber and cotton. It works by digesting the stains out of your nappies but unfortunately takes the fabric with it! From the supermarket, I suggest liquid or anything that you find currently works best with your clothes. I personally look for more earth friendly choices that are biodegradable and won't leave any residue for our earth to cope with. If you want to do more reading on bio vs non-bio products check out this article here
SUNLIGHT IS BEST - Line-dry whenever you can. Not only will sunlight bleach stains out of your nappies but the UV radiation will help kill bacteria too.
Some brands say you can tumble dry the nappies on a cool setting if needed but buy some pegs and save your pennies unless it is the middle of winter, then save your sanity.
If your nappies are smelly or if you have been using a lot of nappy creams and notice that they are not as absorbent as what they were before, you may need to strip wash your nappies. To find out about strip washing there is a full page of information about it on my website. (Strip Washing)
If you continuously use nappy creams, I suggest that you wash your nappies in a warm / hot wash. The fats and oils in the creams will build up over time and you need a warmer wash to get this out of the fabrics. Cold washing will not get fat out of the nappies.
If you don’t have a hot wash, you can hot soak (60 degrees but check with manufacturer) using laundry powder to help break down the fat in the nappies.
If you have hard water, using a bit of borax in the wash can help soften up the water.
IMPORTANT: Barrier creams, oils and bottom balms will coat the fibers in your nappy reducing their absorbency and will cause them to leak. When using a barrier cream you must always use a liner but this does not guarantee that your nappies will not suffer from a build up. If you notice your nappies begin to leak or liquid just runs across the top and does not get absorbed, you will need to strip the oils / fats out of the nappies. Check out my website for more information (Strip Washing)
Don’t leave them for more than 2 days before washing if you want to reduce the chance of nappies staying stained or getting really smelly. Daily washing is best for your nappies.
Don’t use fabric softeners as this leaves a residue, which coats the fabric fibers and decreases the absorbency of the nappy.
Don’t soak your nappies in harsh stain removers. If you do have a pile of very stinky nappies and want to soak, use either water or a mild solution of your washing liquid and only soak for a short period of time. In the middle of summer we stored our nappies in a wet pail with just cold water, but we washed every day.
Don’t use bleach or other harsh stain removers. They will shorten the lifespan of your nappies (especially the elastic) and will void your guarantee.
Don’t use pastes of wash powder and apply direct to stains, this is too concentrated.
Don’t wash your nappies using dishwasher tabs!!
Don’t boil wash. If you are worried about bacteria, leave your nappies in bright sunlight, even a frost in winter-time is fantastic. Or if you want to give them an anti bacterial and anti fungal treatment, you can get a product called Canesten Hygiene Rinse at the supermarket and put a cap full into the fabric softener area of your machine.
Don't use Bicarbonate of Soda and Vinegar to wash bamboo nappies as it can dissolve the bamboo fibers. Whilst a lot of nappy websites recommend using them to sanitize and soften nappies they will drastically shorten their lifespan and render some guarantee’s void.
A final note:
I have seen some very sad over laundered nappies and it just amazes me what some people do to them to keep them white or stain free. Repeat after me “Whiter than white simply ain’t right”! The nappies will get loads of poo on them and over time they will become stained. Remember that if the nappy is clean, it is just a stain and if the sun doesn't get it out, it doesn't matter. The stain is on the inside of the nappy. I see mums going crazy trying to get the nappies white again and then they put them back on the baby and they poo again and the stain is instantly back. DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE STAINS - They are on the inside of the nappy!!
Also nappies are a fabric garment so eventually they will wear out - they will not last forever! Over time the elastic will wear out through general use. They are not made to last forever, just like your own underwear, they will wear out.