5 steps to clean cloth nappies ... every time!

This week’s guest blog comes from ANA Founding Member, Eva Van Strijp of Seedling Baby.


When it comes to cloth nappy care, there are the need-to-knows… the 5 step simple routine that will keep you out of trouble and your nappies doing the job.

ANA Cloth Nappy Care Instructions

But there are also some nice-to-knows… things that add that bit of extra information that shed light on the need-to-knows and that help everything make sense.

Nappy care can seem like rocket science. So many dos and don’ts.

There are, it is true, a number of factors that will impact on how clean your nappies come out of the machine, so that is what I want to cover today. I’m going to take you through the ANAs 5-step wash routine but will take you beyond the basic outline and look at the reasons WHY these steps are recommended.

Like many things in life, washing your cloth nappies will become an easy habit once you’ve been at it for a few weeks, so persevere. You’ll probably find yourself teaching a friend one day!


1. Flush those solids!

Seems pretty straightforward, right? Poo goes in the loo.

Simple when we’re talking solids. Not so easy if it’s newborn breastfed poo.

If it’s breastfed newborn poo, it’s water soluble, so there’s no need to flush (that would be almost impossible!) or to rinse by hand. You just need to run your nappies through a rinse cycle in the machine prior to washing them. This will create a “poo soup”, but it will get rid of excess soiling prior to a thorough wash.

It’s a similar concept to rinsing dirty dishes in a sink full of water, prior to running a sink full of fresh water to properly clean them.

Once your baby shifts to solid foods, their poo will be begin to solidify and you’ll start to find nuggets in the nappy. The joys!

To simplify this task, you can:

  1. Use a fleece liner – solid poo will roll off into the toilet.
  2. If the poo is somewhat less than solid, you’ll need to rinse the nappy, which can be done easily with a nappy sprayer. A nappy sprayer is a hose that connects to your toilet via the compression water valve behind the toilet.
  3. Use a biodegradable liner, which may be flushed under certain conditions. Please check with your liner manufacturer for specific conditions on flushing.

If your baby is sick, flushing poo can seem quite impossible. Diarrhoea is messy, smelly and sticky. For such occasions, a liner can be a real boon, as can the nappy sprayer.

Human faeces contain bacteria so it is crucial to deal appropriately with poo. Never throw it in the compost and always wash your hands immediately after changing a nappy or dealing with dirty nappies.

 Cloth Nappy Care 101: Solids should be flushed regardless of the type of nappy used.

Please remember: Solids should be flushed regardless of the type of nappy used.


2. Store

After flushing or spraying any solids into the toilet, give your nappy a quick rinse under the laundry tap prior to storing in a dry nappy bucket or a wet bag. This will help to minimise staining and cut down on smell. It is also a really important step towards preventing fabric deterioration.

There is no need to soak your nappies, and having a tub or bucket full of water can create a hazard for children, so it is better to store them in a dry nappy bucket or wet bag.

If the smell is causing an issue, you can use a few drops of any essential oil in the bottom of the bucket. If you live in a humid climate, be sure to leave the nappy bucket lid ajar (or the wet bag open) to prevent mould from growing.

Try not to store your nappies unwashed for more than two days.

NOTE: If you have nappies with Velcro closure, don’t forget to fasten the Velcro onto the laundering tabs prior to storing or washing!



3.  Pre-rinse

Once you have enough nappies for a wash (usually every 1-2 days), put your nappies through a warm pre-wash (rinse cycle) in the machine. This gets rid of any excess urine and poo.

Cold water may be used for this process, but warm water is recommended by the Real Diaper Association because “soil is most easily removed at the temperature it was added at.” Body fluids are approximately the same temperature as warm water in a washing machine, so it is considered the optimal setting to remove those fluids.

Avoid hot water, as this will contribute to setting of stains.



4. Wash

Cloth Nappy Care 101: learn the 5 simple steps to care for your nappiesAfter the pre-wash (rinse cycle) has finished, your nappies should remain in the machine and be put through a normal/long wash cycle up to 60°C. You should use the amount of detergent recommended by the detergent manufacturer for your load size and water level.

Your washing machine should finish the wash cycle with a rinse, which will rid the nappies of any excess detergent.

It is important to wash your nappies on a long cycle as prolonged exposure to water, heat, detergent and agitation is the best method for getting your nappies thoroughly cleaned. A quick, cold wash won’t cut it!

A note about detergents:

Steer clear of detergents with additives designed to stay in the fabric after the wash, like softeners (which can reduce absorbency) and brighteners or fragrances (which might cause issues for a baby’s sensitive skin).




5. Dry

Nappies can be line dried, or tumble dried at a temperature not exceeding the manufacturer’s recommendations.

For best results, nappies should be line dried. Apart from saving power, this has the added benefit of exposing the nappies to UV, which acts as a natural sanitiser and bleacher, whitening your nappies and killing off germs. It also rids nappies of any musty smells.

Cloth Nappy Care 101: tips for drying your cloth nappies

A note about drying your nappies in hot weather:

Extreme temperatures can have a detrimental effect on almost anything. Plants die, animals suffer and material fades. Your nappies, swim nappies, wet bags and training pants contain components which are more susceptible to heat than most items of clothing.

Prolonged exposure to heat (whether from the sun, a heater or a tumble dryer) will damage the waterproofing, elastics and natural fibres of your products, so it’s important that during the long, hot months of our Australian summers, these items are protected from the scorching temperatures.

During periods of high heat, we recommend drying your nappies in the shade, by a window, or under a verandah.


A note about drying your nappies in wet weather:

When the weather is wet, it can be difficult to get nappies dry without resorting to the dryer.

For prolonged periods of wet weather, we recommend using more flat and prefold cloth nappies as these dry quicker than modern cloth nappies that have many layers.

It can also be helpful to hang nappies on a rack next to the fire, over the heating vent or under the fan. Pegging your nappies against the line rather than over it is a great way to reduce drying time.

If you get really stuck, try one of our emergency options and turn any t-shirt or hand towel into a nappy!

Eva Van Strijp is a mother of six, founding member of the Australian Nappy Association and creator of Seedling Baby. When Eva isn’t hanging out with her family or running a business, she’s eating chocolate, listening to podcasts or tending her veggie patch.

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