How to Wash Reusable Nappies
Our how-to guide to washing reusable nappies
If you are new to cloth nappies then the washing and drying process can seem daunting. The good news is that modern washing machines are generally excellent and do the majority of the work for you, so all you really need to do is find a system that works for you.
Getting started with nappy washing
Below are a few of the most common questions and queries we get when it comes to washing nappies.
Do I need to pre-wash my nappies
Yes at least twice. This will dramatically improve the absorbency, especially if you are using bamboo nappies.
Do I need to wash every day?
No not if you don't want to every other day is fine, even up to every third day if you have enough nappies. However, the leaving nappies dirty for too long will degrade the fabric.
Should I soak nappies between washes?
Soaking is certainly not essential, and if you do soak it matters which part of the nappy you are soaking. Any waterproof part of the nappy won't like being soaked and this will cause the fabric to degrade at a faster rate. However, the absorbent parts of the nappy can benefit from soaking as this dilutes the urine. If you do soak just use water and again don't leave for more than a couple of days.
The basics to washing your nappies
Step 1. Load the machine (up to ¾ full as the nappies need room to move) and do a rinse without detergent.
Step 2. Add washing powder (yes powder, not liquid or tablets and definitely not fabric conditioner) and wash on a long 40-60 degree wash with plenty of water.
Rinsing nappies first helps as your machine will likely add water according to the weight of the load. If you didn't have enough nappies add a towel or anything else that would benefit from a long hot wash at this point.
When it comes to detergent have a look at what the manufacturers recommend for your nappies. You don't want to use too much as this can lead to build-up on the nappies.
Step 3. Dry your nappies. Outside in the sunshine is best, otherwise, hang inside. Some nappies can be tumble dried so check the labels and make sure you select the correct heat setting.
Nappies can be dried near a radiator or other heat source like an aga but should not be dried directly on a heat source as this can damage the fabric.
What is a strip wash?
It is possible, due to the efficiency of modern washing machines, that detergent can build up on your nappies and stop them working effectively.
If you think this might be a problem you can check by soaking a clean nappy in a bowl of clean water and ringing it out. If the water is clear there probably isn't a build-up, but if it's not clear then a strip wash could be the answer.
To strip the nappies first make sure your machine is clean by running a maintenance wash. Then run a cold rinse to get the nappies nice and wet. Next, add a full dose of powder and run a long 60-degree wash. Repeat without any powder. And finally, run a rinse cycle checking that there are no bubbles. If there are no bubbles you should be good to dry the nappies. If there are still bubbles, keep rinsing until they are gone.
Next up: How long do reusable nappies last?