Washing cloth nappies
How to wash cloth nappies:
1. Run a cold rinse in machine without detergent (removes and breaks up solids, loosens stains)
2. Use your usual non-bio detergent powder (the enzymes in biological detergents can damage bamboo and liquid can coat the fibres)
3. Add the recommended dose of detergent (if you are finding you get less than 3cm of bubbles during the main part of the wash increase the dosage, if you are finding you have excess bubbles left towards the end or the nappies come out smelling of detergent reduce the amount)
* Do not use any fabric conditioner (coats fibres and prevents proper absorption)
4. Wash at 60 degrees, use an intensive wash cycle, not a quick wash or an "eco" setting (nappies need a lot of jiggling around to ensure they are clean AND properly rinsed, the cycle should last at least 2.5 hours)
5. Run an extra cold rinse if you are unsure whether all detergent has been removed (if there are any bubbles left after the final rinse you or you can smell detergent you will need to rinse again until they are gone to prevent detergent build up)
6. Line dry (only tumble dry if your dryer has an option to change the heat setting to low, high heat will damage the nappies, nappies can be placed in front of a radiator but not touching)
How to do a strip wash:
Start with a clean washing machine, follow the washing routine above.
Once this is completed run another long 60 degree cycle with NO detergent, if at the end of this you can still see bubbles in the drum or smell any detergent then keep running additional rinse cycles until there are no bubbles and no scent of detergent remaining.
It is not necessary to add a sanitiser to a strip wash, however if you do wish to do so, the following ones are cloth nappy safe: Violets Earth Friendly Bleach, Mio Fresh, Bio-D Laundry Bleach or Bio-D Nappy Fresh
Which detergent to use:
You can use pretty much any non-bio and some biological detergent to wash cloth nappies, although always check the individual manufacturuers guidelines as some have specific guidelines.
It is recommended that you use a powder detergent rather than liquid because liquid is harder to rinse out and could build up in your nappies over time causing absorbency issues. That being said, the odd wash with a liquid detergent isn't going to do any damage to your nappies, we would just recommend adding extra rinse cycles at the end to ensure all of the detergent is washed away.
There are a few things you should not be using with cloth nappies for risk of damaging them and voiding any warranty.
Detergents with "cellulase" in the ingredients (many biological detergents include cellulase without listing it, so check with the manufacturer before use)
Any fabric conditioner
Bleach (apart from where listed as safe)
"Vanish" and other harsh stain removers
Oxy-action stain removers
It is not necessary to add a sanitiser to your wash, however, if you wish to do so the following ones are cloth nappy safe: Violets Earth Friendly Bleach, Mio Fresh, Bio-D Laundry Bleach or Bio-D Nappy Fresh
How do I get rid of stains?
Firstly there is no need to panic if your nappies come out of the wash with stains, unless you can see bits of, or smell, poo it is just pigment and your nappy is clean.
The easiest and safest way to get rid of pigment stains is using sunlight, even in Winter, the sun's UV rays will bleach the stain. Hang your nappies outside whenever possible, even if it's cold. If it isn't possible to hang your nappies outside, hang them in a window with any stained nappies pointing out.
If you are consistently getting stains with every wash or you can see or smell poo then please refer to our wash guidance as the first port of call and make sure you are adequately loading the machine and using the correct amount of detergent for your machine (this may need to be upped).
Certain medications such as Calpol can cause staining (Calpol is a particular culprit which can leave a purple-brown stain), these will come out with time and again does not mean your nappy is dirty.
Nappy creams can cause staining as well, we would always recommend use of a liner if you are using nappy cream, even if using the cloth safe ones.
Why do my nappies smell?
If your nappies are coming out of the machine with an unpleasant smell it is most often for one of two reasons. Either a build up of detergent or a build up of ammonia.
For either circumstance we would recommend performing a "strip wash" to do this, start with a clean washing machine, using a full dose of detergent wash the nappies on a long 60 degree cycle. Once this is completed run another long 60 degree cycle with NO detergent, if at the end of this you can still see bubbles in the drum or smell any detergent then keep running additional rinse cycles until there are no bubbles and no scent of detergent remaining.
Moving forward, if you suspect that the cause of the smell was an ammonia build-up then increase the amount of detergent in your regular washes. If you believe it was a detergent build up (this will generally be identifiable by a farm-like smell to the nappies or getting unexpected leaks) reduce the amount of detergent in your wash.
Please be wary of recommendations to use strip & sanitise routines with household bleach for combating smells. While it will occasionally be necessary to use bleach, this should always be a last resort. Using bleach on a regular basis can cause irreversible damage to your nappies and may void your manufacturers warranty in some cases.
If you do wish to use a sanitiser then we would recommend a cloth nappy safe one such as Violets Natural Bleach, Mio Fresh, or BioD (although do check your individual nappy brand washing guidelines first as these products cannot be used with some, such as Motherease)
Why am I getting leaks?
There are a few different reasons for leaks, here are a few of the most common and their fixes:
A compression leak is as the name suggests, a leak when the nappy is compressed, for example when strapped into a buggy, carrier or car seat or too tight clothing.
Always put a new nappy on just before a long journey. Make sure clothing isn't too tight around the nappy by either sizing up, buying clothes cut for cloth or investing in some vest extenders. Where possible choose hemp or bamboo nappies, these fibres are far less prone to compression leaks than microfibre.
Saturation leaks happen when the nappy is too full, they can often be mistaken for faulty PUL, however more often than not it's a too full nappy. Generally the leaks will happen around the legs and waist
Either change more frequently or use a more absorbent nappy.
Cloth nappies fit slightly differently to disposables, most fit around the hips rather than the waist, and some fit more like pants. When the fit isn't quite right you can get gaps which in turn will can leak.
Check the manufacturer guidelines whenever you have a new nappy to try and if in doubt reach out to the nappy librarians, we will always be happy to check your fit.
Flooding leaks happen once baby starts holding their wee and letting it all out in one go, and generally won't happen until 18 months or later. When baby relieves themselves some fibres absorb more slowly so the liquid spills out over the side before it can be fully absorbed.
Bamboo and hemp may be the most absorbent fibres bit they are the slowest to absorb, microfibre and and cotton are the opposite. In the event of flooding leaks use two inserts or add a booster, place a microfibre or cotton one nearest baby's bottom and hemp or bamboo furthest away. Note: microfibre shouldn't be placed directly against baby's bottom, either place it inside a pocket nappy or cover with a liner.
How often should I change a cloth nappy?
This may vary depending on the nappy, as some are more absorbent than others.
As a general rule for an under one-month old you should be changing every 2 hours during the day and during every night feed.
Under six months babies should be changed approximately every 3 three hours and with every night feed, once they reach six months you only need to change at night if required.
From one-year onward you should change your baby approximately every 4 hours during the day and overnight as required.
You will quickly learn which brands last longer and shorter amounts of time, as a general rule for longevity look for bamboo and hemp based fibres.
What should I do with the poo?
Pre-weaning whether your baby is breast or bottle fed their poo is water-soluble so it can be put straight into the wet bag or bucket and then the wash with no need to rinse.
After weaning it is important to knock all solids into the toilet to avoid them entering the machine and clogging up your filter (especially the small bits). We would recommend using either a fleece or disposable liner in your nappy which will catch the poo. When you are ready to rinse shake as much as possible into the bowl and any remaining can be removed with on of the following methods:
Sluicing, hold one end of the liner in the jet of water from the flush until all of the poo is gone
Poo knife, dedicate a silicon spatula or spoon to live in the bathroom with a sole purpose of scraping poo
Rinsing, if your shower head reaches your toilet you can rinse it straight down or put a bucket in your shower for rinsing liners which you then tip down the toilet
Please note, if you are using disposable liners, never flush these, even if they say you can, similar to "flushable" wet wipes, they may clear from your system but can cause blockages further up the pipes.
How should I store dirty nappies?
Once you have discarded or any poo as recommended, dirty nappies can be placed in a wet bag or dry bucket until wash day. Nappies do not need soaking, and All in Ones, Twos, Pockets and Wraps should not be soaked for risk of degrading the PUL.
You can buy a fit for purpose dry pail from most nappy retailers but equally any lidded bin will suffice, we would recommend lining your bucket with a mesh bag which can be lifted out to go in the washing machine to save you having to handle the dirty nappies on wash day.
If space is a challenge then you can buy hanging wet bags to go on the end of your changing station or the back of a door and serve the same purpose, again just open the bag and put the whole thing in your machine.
Which nappy creams can I use?
If the nappy is changed often enough and skin is allowed to air dry as much as possible, rashes will be reduced anyway. Any cream with paraffin or petroleum-based ingredients is generally a certain no.
If using creams with our nappies a liner must be used as there is no guarantee that a cream won't cause trouble for various reasons.
Always rub creams in well and use sparingly to reduce the likelihood of problems. This is a list of creams etc that are generally agreed to be okay for cloth, providing they are used sparingly and rubbed in well:
Angel Baby Botty Balm
Arbonne Baby range of products
Badger Balm (questionable)
Balmonds Baby Balm
Bio Baby Eco Spray
Burt Bees (questionable)
California Baby Diaper Rash Cream
Chamomile tea (NOT chamomile essential oils)
Cavilon (cream or spray)
CJ's BUTTer (all variants including tubs, tubes and spritz)
Coconut oil (solid or cold pressed)
Eco Sprout Bum Salve
Little Violet's Baby Balm
Neal's Yards Baby CREAM (NOT baby balm)
Purepotions Lav Salve
Sheepish Grins Bottom Balm
Thirsties Booty Love
Waitrose Bottom Butter