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Washing and taking care of your reusable nappies

It's important to take care of your cloth nappies and follow the manufacturer's instructions. 

The basic steps should be:

Step 1. Rinse any soiled nappies, knocking any solids into the loo
Step 2. Toss used nappies into a dry bucket/pail/wetbag
Step 3. On washing day (ideally every 2 days), throw all of the nappies/inserts/wipes into the machine and do your washing cycles
Step 4. Dry the nappies (outside on the line if possible)

Let's break down these steps.

Step 1. Rinse any soiled nappies, knocking any solids into the loo

If you are exclusively breastfeeding, you do not need to rinse off soiled nappies. This is because breastfed poop is water soluble. Some people still rinse it off, it's up to you and what you feel comfy with.

If you are not exclusively breastfeeding, if you are breastfeeding but baby has started weaning onto solids, I'm afraid you need to rinse soiled nappies.

The rinsing situation depends on what type of liner you use.

If you use a disposable liner, shake off the solids into the loo and throw away the liner. If any solids remain on the nappy itself, either swish it away in the water of the toilet or spray it off.

If you use washable liners, it's the same steps as above but instead of disposing of the liner you would spray it too.

You can spray by reaching the shower head over to the loo or people sometimes install special diaper sprayers.

Personally I have another small nappy bin in the bathroom which I line with a wetbag, then it's easy to just pop rinsed nappies in there until laundry day. Alternatively place them in wetbag and put in your main nappy bin.

Step 2. Toss used nappies into a dry bucket/pail/wetbag

Simple really. Get yourself a large wetbag, or a bucket with a lid (at least 17 litre capacity I'd say) and place your used nappies in there until washing day. Some people like to line their bucket/pail with a wet bag or mesh bag. It makes it easier to tip everything in to the washing machine.

Step 3. On washing day (ideally every 2 days), throw all of the nappies/inserts/wipes/wetbags into the machine and do your washing cycles

A basic wash routine is considered to be:

1. A cold rinse or cold short wash cycle with no detergent
2. A long, hot wash cycle (use the longest setting on your machine, personally mine is a cotton wash and never above 60 degrees) with powder detergent
3. An optional cold rinse cycle

(Please follow the nappy manufacturer's guidance on how to care for your nappies, the above are the most common steps).

If you have the option on your machine, reduce the spin speed on the wash cycles to 800-1000.

If you want to wash your nappies say every 3-4 days, (ideal if you're part-time cloth), you can always give them a cold rinse cycle every day or every couple of days until you are ready to do your main wash cycle.

You may need to experiment and find what temperature (40 or 60 degrees) works best for your main hot wash to get your nappies nice and clean.

You might find that a small amount of powder detergent in your initial cold rinse improves the cleanliness of your nappies.

You might find that a normal dose of powder detergent in your main hot wash serves your nappies better than the dose and a half the powder box suggests for extremely soiled items (usually less is more in terms of washing powder and cloth nappies).

You might find that you dont need an extra rinse cycle after the hot wash.

Our machines and our nappies are all different. As long as you are giving the nappies a cold rinse/pre-wash and not immediately putting a soiled or wet nappy on a hot wash (basically cooking pee and poop, ew!) then there are not a lot of ways you can go wrong.

There are also a lot of opinions on washing powders and liquid detergents. The general consensus is that a good non bio washing powder is best for nappies.

You may wish to add a nappy cleanser, such as Miofresh, to your main hot wash to boost cleanliness.

I would also recommend a mesh bag or two to place your used cloth wipes in, otherwise you may find they get stuck in the door of your washing machine.

Step 4. Dry the nappies (outside on the line if possible)

Every cloth bum parent's dream: 25 degree sun outside every day so that they can line dry their nappies because the sun is a natural bleach.

Since this is unlikely every day of the year, we need to be prepared with alternative drying options:

Tumble dry

It's very important to read the instructions on your nappy. Rule of thumb is if there is PUL (the waterproof outer layer) involved, then dont tumble dry it. Any inserts, fitteds, flats, feel free. Just remember do it on a low heat.

Drying on an airer

My favourite socktapus will tell you: socktapuses are amazing:


Please note other amazing socktapuses are available and are just as weird looking.

If it's a cold day, I'll hang my inserts, liners, wraps and pocket shells on this bad boy and hang it close to a radiator. It's amazing. It saves space and is a great conversation piece at dinner parties (hey, I saw your weird airer thing hanging in the bathroom. Cue 20 minutes of me talking about the versatility of a socktapus)

Alternatively stick to a good old fashioned pop up laundry airer. If you are stuck for space my tip would be shove it in the bath, then that clears floor space. Always crack a window a little bit to generate some air.

When you first start to cloth nappy, it may seem daunting; storing, washing and drying everything correctly but soon enough you will get your routine down and know what works for you and your stash.