Nappy washing guide
The following information is a collaboration between nappy libraries, retailers, manufacturers, distributors and nappy organisations. These are general guidelines only; they apply to most brands and types of nappies. However, you must check the labels/instructions on your own nappies to ensure that they can be washed like this - some may be especially delicate. The UK Nappy Network accepts no responsibility for your results!
Everyone has different ways of washing nappies as they adapt their washing routine to their own machine and water type. People in a hard water area will probably need to use more detergent than in a soft water area. Those with more modern machines may need to select the wash cycle that uses the most water. Sometimes this is called an allergy setting or a super wash, but do check the washing machine instructions to make sure that the temperature will be suitable for nappies. Another option is to pour a jug of water in on top of the nappies before starting the wash. Do not be tempted to add extra water through the drawer during the cycle as this can unbalance and possibly damage the machine.
A basic washing routine
A guideline for a basic washing routine is generally agreed to be as follows:
Always wash at 60 if:
To find your correct detergent dose
If there are any bubbles in the final rinse of the cycle, you will need to rinse again until they are gone, then reduce the detergent dose next time to prevent detergent build up. If you have less than 3cm of suds in the main wash, increase the detergent dose slightly next time. This way, you will find the right amount for your water type and machine.
Hints and trouble shooting
Using too much detergent on a regular basis can cause a build up in the nappies which can lead to nappy rashes, smelly nappies or nappies that leak. Ensure your washing machine is also cleaned regularly.
You do not need to use a specific powder for your nappies, your usual detergent should be fine. Start with a full dose and reduce if needed.
Do not use bicarbonate of soda, bleach, vinegar or Napisan as over time they can damage the PUL and elastic in the nappies.
It is not necessary to wash nappies at a higher temperature than 60 and doing so could shorten the life of the nappies.
Line dry nappies where possible. It is more hygienic and better for the longevity of the nappies. If you must tumble them check that your nappies are safe to tumble before you do so and never tumble on hot.
Do not dry bamboo on a radiator that is too hot to touch. This will damage the fibres and eventually they will start to fall out (this damage usually looks like a slug has been munching your nappy/booster!) It is best to use an airer near a radiator.
If nappies are still smelly after washing then initially it may be caused by using too LITTLE detergent or could be caused by a build up of detergent. For either though the solution (a "strip wash") is the same: in a CLEAN washing machine, use a FULL dose of detergent in a 60 wash and then rinse until ALL bubbles have gone.
If this does not solve the problem, soak the nappies in icy cold water for 24 hours and then repeat. Once nappies are stripped, you will need to ensure that you are rinsing all the detergent out every time you wash to prevent the problem reoccurring, and if they then start to smell again then you may need to switch detergents.
If nappies smell strongly of wee when in use, it could be down to "teething wee" which also often causes nappy rash. Charcoal impregnated microfleece reduces acidity and helps with the smell and the rash. You can buy "charcoal bamboo boosters/inserts" which are microfibre wrapped in charcoal impregnated microfleece, or you can buy/make charcoal impregnated microfleece liners.
It is worth noting that hemp nappies can have a strange smell to them and that some detergents leave clothing and nappies unscented which can be odd when first using them as we are so used to detergent scenting our laundry.
DO NOT USE:
This list of things to avoid with cloth nappies is taken from manufacturers' and retailers' websites.
Ideally, 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.
We would always recommend using a liner with creams regardless 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. Disposable liners can cause nappy rash because they stay damp against the skin, so trying fleece liners is a good start. Silk liners and silver liners are also said to be better for rashes (silver is well known to have healing properties).
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:
If you use a cream and find that your nappies are stained from it (usually grey stains that look like oil residue) Olive Oil Soap is excellent for removing it or soak the nappies in milk then rinse thoroughly by hand until the water runs totally clear, then a rinse cycle in the washing machine, and then a 40 degree wash as usual to ensure all traces of milk are removed from the nappy.
Tea Tree is actually a very harsh oil for skin and should NOT be used on children under 12 years old. Many people use it to sanitise nappies but actually the quantity needed to effectively fully cleanse is way more than anyone would ever use. Quite a bit of skin redness issues can be put down to the use of Tea Tree in the nappy bucket or wash.
Logic also tells us that using small quantities of any anti-microbial regularly could eventually result in resistant microbes. Tea Tree should only be used under guidance from a qualified aromatherapist.
Lavender can be used neat on skin and is considered to be safe for babies and young children (a VERY small percentage of people are sensitive to it though so it should always be patch tested) but it does sting a lot on broken skin, so a few drops in water is fine for wipes. It can be added to the wash as an antimicrobial additive. There is a common misconception that lavender is relaxing. It is, but only in very small quantities. In larger quantities, it is stimulating so if you use lavender and find that your baby stops sleeping, that is probably why!
Chamomile is added to nearly every baby product these days as it is generally very gentle and safe to use with children.
However, in the last 10 years there has been a huge increase in the number of children with eczema, which does correlate to the increased use of chamomile. Aromatherapists would generally recommend avoiding chamomile oil unless under supervision for a specific problem. Chamomile tea is not the same as the essential oils and can be a lovely alternative.
Rose is extremely expensive so not often used, but is considered to be safe for use with babies.
Mandarin is not expensive and, diluted in a base oil, is generally safe for use with babies. Combined with lavender, it enhances the antimicrobial and healing properties, and it also said to be good for digestive health when a few drops in a base oil such as olive oil or grapeseed oil are massaged (clockwise) into the abdomen, but mandarin can stain so use with caution in that respect.