WARNING: This post contains talk about poo. Consider yourself warned.
A long, long time ago, in a kingdom not so far away, a blogger wrote a post about cloth nappies and promised to do a follow up piece on washing and storing of soiled nappies. It never happened. Thanks to a bit of prodding, I am finally getting around to that follow up post. Thanks Anna.
So, you have decided to take the plunge in to reusable nappies. You’ve picked out a system that will suit your family’s needs or better still got a mix to try out before committing. You’ve studied the videos about how to put the reusable nappies on correctly (it is different to a disposable). You are ready to rock and roll. The first nappy goes on. it’s so cute, you have to take a picture and blog it or Instagram it or something. You’ve got this.
Then baby’s face starts to go red and that look of total concentration appears. Uh oh.
A small word to the wise at this point. Invariably, five minutes after you get a gorgeous nappy on to baby’s butt, they will poop in it. It’s a known natural law. Total fact.
Now what do you do?
Well, if you have a newborn, breastfed baby, their poo is water soluble, so pull out any inserts and dump in to your dirty nappy storage container. For formula fed babies or toddlers, the poo often is more solid and can just tip off of the nappy and in to the toilet. If it’s a fairly colossal mess (no point beating around the bush folks – parents have to deal with these things) then I used to hold the nappy by a corner and hang in the toilet and flush. Hold tight, as the force of the flush is stronger than you might think. But this usually shifts the worst of it. Your washing machine deals with the rest. There is no need for a poo knife or spatula or any other such implement. In this house, we are all for keeping it simple.
But what’s your storage container? In reality you have two choices: lidded bucket/pail or a wet bag. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
A wet bag depends on the finish of its seal and zipper to keep the smells contained. We have smaller ones for being out and about. One has a zipper on it to close and I find that it hasn’t stood the test of time. The other has a buckle system not unlike the dry bags we would have brought kayaking with us. You can even get them with two compartments – one for dry and one for wet. So far, so good. The other problem with a wet bag, is where do you keep it? Most people seem to use a hook on the back of the door. But I think where they really come in to their own, is on wash days. You open the wet bag. Put the mouth of it in to the drum of the washing machine. Place your other hand on base of wet bag and push all the contents in to the washing machine, shoving the wet bag in on top of them. Everything in the machine without risking contact with dirt nappies. As the meerkat would say; simples.
Here we use a bucket. It seemed like the best option at the time. We have two mesh liners with draw strings on them. one lines the bucket to hold the nappies while the other is in the wash. I like a bucket because the lid keeps smells in more securely however, the plastic of the bucket does tend to get a bit smelly and so requires a bit of scrubbing out every so often as opposed to a regular clean. Also, maybe because the smell is better contained, sometimes, opening the bucket can be fairly whiffy. If it’s too much, I suggest soaking a muslin in water and a few drops of essential oil and placing this on top of the nappies but inside the bucket. Alternatively, stick a reusable breast pad or panty liner on to the underside of lid and place a couple of drops of essential oil on to the pad. Again, the mesh bag is lifted out on wash day and untied before being shoved in to the washing machine. The agitation of the drum during the wash should empty the mesh bag out as it’s quite loose. I found wet bags occasionally had nappies or wipes left inside them. But that may just be my machine.
There is no need to soak modern cloth nappies before washing. In fact, repeated soaking can damage the elastics after a while. Flushing in the toilet to remove excess poo is different to soaking them. keeping a bucket of filthy water around is also dangerous with mobile babies or inquisitive toddlers. So store the nappies dry till wash day. Once you have them in the washing machine, I would put them on for a cool pre-rinse. My machine does it in twenty minutes. This means that when the wash cycle proper is on, the nappies aren’t just being washed in diluted pee. (Yuck!)
For the main wash cycle, use a full dose of your ordinary washing powder. Just make sure that there are no optical brighteners or fabric softener. Some people find a non-bio powder can cause problems and prefer to stick to a biological powder but non-bio powder seems to be a Irish speciality. That’s it. But a full dose. It’s poo we are dealing with. If you were using disposables and there had been a poonami and you had your baby’s clothes to wash, you would lash it in I am sure. Same here. Temperature wise, the cycle you choose depends on the manufacturer’s instructions that come with your nappy. Some say 40, some say 60. I would occasionally wash all my nappies at 60 just to give them an extra clean and clean any bugs. If your baby has been sick or has thrush, then add a bit of nappy sanitizer in to the main wash and run a 60 degree wash and hang outside. Inserts could be put in to a dryer to kill off any spores but I wouldn’t risk the PUL of covers or pockets in the dryer.
Whether you do a last rinse at the end, really depends on your water. For hard water areas, I wouldn’t as you are just depositing minerals back on to the nappies. For soft water areas, some people opt to do an extra rinse just to make sure all the detergent is removed.
It can take a while to find the washing routine that works for you and your family. Washing machines are not all created equal and often don’t get up to the temperature that they say they should. Or sometimes an eco machine uses less water than you might need. A good tip here is to stick a wet towel in with the wash load. The machine thinks there is a bigger wash on and adds more water to deal with that. If your nappy start to smell ammonia like, it may be because baby is teething and their wee gets more acidic during this time. Or it could mean that there is a bit of a build up. A good wash at 60 degrees with a little nappy sanitizer like bio-D or Miofresh works wonders. Or do a rain strip – leave out in the pouring rain for a day or two. Sounds nuts but works. And always, always do a maintenance wash. Even if you aren’t washing nappies. I never knew about them before we started washing nappies but I’ll be continuing them after we are finished with nappies.
After that, hang out to dry. Inserts and flats like terries or prefolds can be tumble dried but covers and pockets can melt and crack in the heat and then start to leak. However, a good tip is if for some reason you have a little bit of leaking through the PUL, a short blast in a dryer on low can help reseal it. We use those sock air driers to hang our nappies in the hot press (aka airing cupboard) to dry on wet days. Don’t hang too close to an actual heat source – don’t put them directly on to radiators. If you find nappies are getting a little stained, hang out in the sun. Now, we don’t necessarily get the blazing sunshine of other countries, but even daylight will do. If it’s wet and miserable hang them up in a window. You can spray a little lemon juice on to the stain to help.