*Some of the links below may contain affiliate links. I may receive a small commission, but this is at no cost to you if you make a purchase through a link. Please read the disclosure for more info.
Wash Day! So, you are now the proud owner of the modern cloth nappy (MCN). I was overly excited when my big box of nappies came! (Think kid at Christmas excited.) I don’t think my husband really understood what all the excitement was about, but I know other cloth mums know what I’m talking about! The promise of never running out of nappies again, the soft natural cloth, the beautiful prints and colours they come in, and you’re doing the environment a solid! However, the downside to all this wonderfulness is that most of us do tend to despise cleaning them. Surprisingly though, washing the cloth nappy doesn’t have to be difficult. Nor is it overly time consuming or gross. (It does have its moments, I won’t lie, but overall it’s pretty easy). There are a few different ways you can wash your cloths.
The Australian Nappy Association Quick Guide to a cloth nappy wash routine is here, but I personally prefer to do mine with a slight twist.
To start with, there are two different ways of storing cloth nappies before running them through the washing machine.
Dry pailing is storing dirty nappies for washing in a bucket with no water. (Poopy nappies needs to have the solids flushed down the toilet before storing.)
Dry pailing is less messy, safer for curious toddlers, and most people find less stinky. However, if your child has acidic urine, it can ruin the fabric of a MCN if left sitting for too long.
Wet pailing is storing dirty nappies for washing in a bucket with water. (Poopy nappies need to have the solids flushed down the toilet before storing.)
Wet pailing can be messy, hazardous if within reach of young children, and can smell. However, wet pailing dilutes any acidic urine.
There is no right or wrong way to store nappies, just whatever works best for you. I’ve tried both methods with different soaking or dry storing tweaks, and it took me a while to find the perfect system for me. I wash my nappies at least every second day, and to start with I was using Napisan to soak my nappies, with a few drops of eucalyptus oil to keep the smell down. This worked fine until I actually researched the best way to wash cloth nappies, and Napisan was to be avoided as it was a harsh chemical that could ruin my nappies! I wondered what the heck I was supposed to do about stains?! There is a lot of different information out there, but I found a common trend among many of the articles, and I use a combination of those to do my nappy wash.
First thing’s first, if you have a serious aversion to poo, it’s probably best to invest in some flushable liners. This makes cleaning the poopy nappies a cinch! You can find flushable liners here. Either that or good old rubber gloves.
My Cloth Nappies Wash Routine
Despite what all the articles say about dry pailing being less stinky, I found it to be worse. My little man has very healthy bowels, by healthy I mean frequent. And he loves his food, so there is a lot of healthy movement. Anyway, my laundry (room) is small and the smell is big. So I had to make a few adjustments to the general wash guide that worked for me;
The wet nappies are by far the simplest. I give the nappies a good rinse and throw them in the bucket with clean water.
For the nappies with solids, you need to remove as much of the solid waste as you can down the toilet, and then add it to the bucket. I give mine a good rinse first to get rid of the nasty stuff remaining, and then throw it in the wet pail.
Come wash time, I fill up my bucket with warm water and add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the mix. I stir all the nappies around with a long stirring rod (piece of dowel from bunnings) to rinse them all out. For me, this is quicker than the machine pre-rinse. I don’t want other clothes in the machine while I’m pre-rinsing dirty nappies. So on the whole, I find it easier to give them a quick soak in the bucket before tipping the lot into the machine with the other clothes.
Pour the water down the laundry sink and tip the nappies into the washing machine. I usually use a cold wash, because it’s more energy efficient. I find the nappies still come out smelling fresh and clean, but I do have the odd problem with staining. Every now and then I run them through the warm cycle.
I don’t own a dryer so I always hang my nappies on the line inside out so the colours don’t fade. Mine are AI2’s (all in 2) so they don’t weigh much and dry really quickly, therefore it doesn’t really matter how I hang them. If you have AI1’s (all in one) or pocket nappies though, it’s best to dry them by the wings. My nappy covers dry super fast, but the inserts can sometimes take a day or two if I have to dry them inside on the clothes airer.
Generally Recommended Wash Routine
Rinse wet nappies and place in a bucket with the lid askew. You can also store soiled nappies in a wetbag or basket. However you store the nappies, make sure they still allow airflow. Airflow will decrease the smell accumulation and prevent mould from developing. Add a few drops of eucalyptus or tea tree oil to the bottom of the bucket to assist with any smells.
If your nappies covers are PUL (polyeurathane) you only need to wash them once. For natural materials like bamboo or cotton you can either pre-soak them, or put them through a warm machine pre rinse (up to 60̊C) in the machine.
You can wash on a normal cycle with other laundry with your normal detergent. You can use a cold wash, but it’s recommended that a warm wash is used to achieve the best clean and stain removal.
The best way to dry your nappies is outside on the line. Hang your nappy covers by the front and back wings of the nappy (to prevent strain on the elastics), and inside out (so the colours and patterns don’t fade in the sun). If you need to use the tumble dryer, check you nappy manufacturer’s directions before you do so. Try to avoid it if possible as the dryer can ruin the waterproofing on the covers and the integrity of the elastics.