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Washing Cloth Nappies: How to wash them and wash routines explained

Updated: Feb 12

Washing cloth nappies can seem daunting, not least because there is SO much information out there about it, it can seem really overwhelming. But let's not panic, let's remember it really is just laundry!

Washing Cloth Nappies - A Easy To Follow Guide

Generally speaking, washing cloth nappies can be broken down into a few simple steps;

  1. Remove the poo (and the inserts, if relevant)

  2. Store the nappy/inserts in a dry bucket until wash day (no more than 2-3 days)

  3. On wash day put them all through a rinse cycle

  4. Then a long, cotton wash with the recommended dose of detergent for 2 hours minimum at 40 degrees

  5. Hang to dry (or tumble dry inserts on low if essential)

  6. Golden rule – Do not use any bleach or fabric softeners

Is it really that simple?

Usually, yes!

But what about all those complicated wash routines I read about?

To be honest, there's not much point in reading other people's wash routines. Why? Because your wash routine will depend on many different factors.

For example;

The nappy itself

There are different types of nappy, all made of different materials, different amounts of layers, different elastics etc. For example, an insert with 4 layers soaked with pee is going to take a lot more water to flush out than one with 2 layers. Microfibre, by its nature does not absorb liquid but “holds it” which means rinsing it out requires less work than other absorbent materials. I could go on, but you get the idea…

The water in your area (i.e. whether it’s hard or soft)

Hard water is not as effective at cleaning as soft water. This is because hard water contains minerals that makes cleaning any fabric more difficult. That’s why when you read the back of your laundry detergent packet, it recommends different amounts of detergent depending on the water hardness in your area

The level of soiling

My wash routine for pre-weaning nappies was very different to the elephant poo nappies I deal with today! So my wash routine had to change to deal with this. It can also depend on what baby eats, how much the nappy might stain, whether you use liners, how much baby pees etc etc!

Your washing machine

If you have a 10 year old, second-hand machine vs a brand spanking new, top of the range washing machine, it’s probably unsurprising that your wash routines will differ significantly. We bought a new washing machine not long after starting cloth nappies and the length of time required to wash my nappies effectively was cut in half! That’s not to say an older washing machine can’t do a good job, it might just need more time to do so.

What detergent you use

Like all products in life, some are better than others, and this is no different when it comes to laundry detergents. Some will be more effective than others, and how well they wash your nappies will depend on how good they are. It will also depend on whether you use bio vs non-bio, powder or liquid etc

So, there are quite a few things that can affect how you wash your nappies, and what works for some may not work for others. Start with a basic wash routine and if you're having issues then tweak! It can take a few tweaks to get a wash routine that works for you, but you definitely don’t need a degree in laundry to be able to use cloth nappies!

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