When I talk to new grandparents about cloth nappies I get two reactions – “ooh I remember washing my nappies, it was lovely to see them all white fluttering on the line!” and “Gosh, I hated washing my nappies, all that soaking and steeping and if they didn’t come white enough in the twin tub then I had to boil them in the kettle!”
I reassure new mums that washing of nappies is really nothing you need to worry about. Modern fabrics and modern washing machines makes it a doddle. No need to soak, no need to boil. I know plenty of cloth bum mums that manage with just chucking them in the machine and running it at 30!
I must admit my wash routine is a little more complicated. Nappies in the machine and run a cold rinse and spin. This stops stains from setting and removes the worst of the soiling. After this, if the machine isn’t full, I throw in towels or white tshirts to fill the load. Then I wash at 60 (60 will kill most bacteria/fungus etc – after a baby who had recurrent thrush, I don’t chance a lower temperature!).
Yet, despite this ease, the washing of nappies is a whole topic of conversation and worse, a whole industry of products.
A quick trawl of cloth nappy forums will show you that different people add different things to their wash ranging from nappy sanitiser to vinegar. Then there is the camp that believe that using anything other than pure water to wash your nappies will ruin them (really?!) – my favourite blog post in that camp claimed that using soda crystals, bicarb or vinegar in your wash would reduce bamboo to its natural state (I still can’t get the image of putting nappies in the washing machine and pulling a bamboo cane out out of my head!)
Finally you have the very expensive”special” washing powders/liquids, usually imported from the USA (so not very “eco” in terms of airmiles!).
The best well know 2 are Rockin’ Green and Ecosprout. The links I have included take you to their ingredients list. So what makes these so special? Good marketing! All they are is a basic detergent, soda crystals and a sanitising agent called sodium percarbonate (Eco sprout give it its long chemical name of sodium carbonate peroxihydrate, but its the same stuff!). That’s it. That’s their “special nappy cleanser”
When customers come to me with problems of ammonia build up in their nappies, I tell them how to “make” their own nappy cleanser – take one tablespoon of biodegradable non-bio washing powder (Bio D, Ecover, Violets, Simply etc…), one tablespoon of soda crystals (widely available at around £1.30 a bag) and one of nappy sanitiser (I recommend Bio D Nappy Fresh or Violets Laundry Sanitiser – but this could be left out if washing at 60). There you go.
And before anyone wants to tell me that sodium carbonate or nappy fresh will ruin my nappies – I’ve been washing this way for 8 years without a break and my cheap terry fitteds are just about starting to fray around the leg elastic!
*please note that some manufacturers will void on their warranty if you use sanitiser ingredients in your wash, so you may want to check and make an informed choice.