How I Wash Our Cloth Nappies

I’m on a mission to normalise cloth nappies and make ditching disposable nappies simple and affordable which means systematically breaking down the myths out there to encourage more and more parents to make the switch. 8 million nappies are sent to landfill every day in the UK alone, with each nappy estimated to take a whopping 500 years to decompose, so it really is time to address the issues stopping parents using cloth nappies.

One recurring issue that comes up a lot is the UGH factor; the concept of touching poo when changing your little one and of poo itself going in the washing machine. So I thought in today’s post I would share how I wash our nappies because honestly it’s pretty simple once you get your head around it and you make it work for you – which is key for all elements of a low waste lifestyle. You need to work out your system depending on your situation from the layout of your home to your day to day lifestyle (Do you work from home? Is your little one in childcare? How often do you want to do a wash? How much space do you have for hanging nappies?)

First up, the most important thing to say about washing cloth nappies is that the poo (well, 95%* of it) goes in the toilet, where it belongs and where it goes on to be treated in the sewage system like adult poo (as opposed to sitting in bins and going to landfill, which I personally find quite gross). Did you know that, technically, you’re supposed to put the poo down the toilet with disposable nappies too, so that fecal matter doesn’t go into landfill, and spread diseases? Indeed, most nappy packets state this though I’m confident most people definitely don’t dispose of the poop before they dispose of the nappy.

So you don’t touch the poo? Really?
Nope! I shake as much poo as I can (most) off into the toilet, occasionally putting the nappy under the flush for extra force to get rid of any tougher elements (I hope no one is reading this over breakfast…). Liners can help to catch the poo but I ditched them to keep things simpler and because I didn’t truly believe they were flushable. Also, there’s gadgets (there’s always gadgets) to help along the way like a splatter (yes, really!) shield or a sprayer. All the soiled nappies go in a net lined laundry bin with a lid until I’m ready to do a wash.

Detergent 
I use a Laundry Egg, add a dash of lemon essential oil (also great for stains) and wash at 60’. Every few months, I do what’s called a strip wash and deep clean my nappies at 60’ three times in a row and might also add in a small cap of Ecover dish soap. This also helps get rid of the ‘ammonia’ smell that might occur. I don’t soak, boil, or scrub them. The Eco Egg is a bit controversial; many parents prefer to use a biological powder or a detergent specially marketed for cloth nappies and washing at a lower temperature but I’m happy with the Egg and washing at a high temperature. Leaving nappies out in the rain and giving them a good soak is also a great trick for a thorough clean and definitely. Finally, don’t use fabric softener as this coats the fabric and repels water.

OK, so how does it actually work
When Sonny has a wet or soiled nappy, I remove it and put it in our lidded nappy bin (it could be any bin so long as it has a lid) which is lined with a laundry net. When I’m ready to do a wash, I just grab the net from the bin (we keep the bin in the toilet which happens to be next door to the washing machine) and I place it directly in the washing machine with all the nappies still in it. There’s no need to touch any nappies – they come out the net in the wash with the motion of the machine. I also have a spare net bag when one is in the wash.

Then what?
I spend a few (enjoyable – it’s kinda meditative) moments hanging them out either on the line in the garden or otherwise indoors on my little wooden rack / drape them over anything I can find. Microfibre dries much faster (overnight) whilst bamboo takes a little longer (approx 36 hours). I don’t tumble dry anything, to keep energy usage down, and also because it can damage the nappy, especially if yours have velcro tabs.

Yes, but is it hassle?
Genuinely, the time I save not having to dash out to the shop to buy disposable nappies because I’ve run out or constantly having to empty stinky nappy bins, I spend hanging out my nappies. Plus, I’ll get the kids involved and it turns into a nice way to while away some time.

How often?
Sonny only wears nappies during daytime naps and overnight; otherwise he’s dry, so the amount of nappies he gets through has radically reduced. I have a mental note of how many nappies he’s gone through and when I need to do a wash which tends to be around once every 2-3 days.

Do you wash cloth nappies separately to the rest of your washing?
Yes – anything soiled or wet gets separated and goes into the nappy bin (though worth noting that I chuck cloth wipes used on mucky faces and hands in with our normal washing)

What about the energy used to wash nappies? That’s not very eco-friendly is it?
Energy and water usage regarding reusable nappies is one of the biggest myths out there. People think they are saving energy by not washing nappies but this isn’t true. Manufacturing disposable nappies is an incredibly water intensive process; disposables are made of wood pulp and plastic and use a LOT of water to make. To give you an idea, washing three loads of nappies a week uses approx 200 litres of water; manufacturing enough single-use nappies for a week requires 1,550 litres (research by Baba and Boo)

Are you interested in cloth nappies? And if you already use them, how do you wash yours?

Emma xxx

P.S Fuss free potty training and My Cloth Nappy Routine

*based on experience – nothing more, nothing less

11 Comments

  1. Marta
    October 4, 2019 / 9:11 pm

    Hey-just a few thoughts I wanted to share.

    I wash the nappy liners with the nappies and reuse them several times and when they are not reusable anymore (or had poo on them) I throw them away.

    I read it’s better to hang diapers sideways- this way you don’t expand the elastics unnecessarily when the diapers are wet and heavy!

    When the PUL cover is lightly damaged, you can use a wool insert inside so you can keep on using the diaper for a longer period of time… (second layer of pul would make it airtight)

  2. Stephanie
    October 4, 2019 / 11:45 am

    Hello, I’ve been using cloth nappies with my third baby born 4 months ago. I really love them and am gutted I didn’t look into it more with my eldest 2 children. It’s so easy!
    Question… Do you have a ‘wet bag’ for when you’re out and about? What do you use to store the dirty ones if you’re out all day? Thanks!

    • Greta
      October 8, 2019 / 1:32 pm

      Hi there,

      I had two wet bags in my changing bag when out and about. They are great for storing soiled nappies. I use the bambino mio wet bag which folds to ensure no smell comes through. They are very handy. I’ve had no issues. Hope that helps 🤗

  3. Pippa
    February 21, 2019 / 4:19 pm

    Hi Emma
    Firstly, congratulations on the new baby news!
    I’m a Brit, but live in NYC, which in my case means I share a laundry room with 350 other apartments/families in my building. I am expecting baby #3 in early June and am determined to use cloth diapers/reusable nappies. In the early days I am contemplating using a Diaper Laundry service to get me through the emotional period where having to fight for a machine with fiesty New Yorkers would undoubtedly reduce me to tears. However, the diaper laundry service doesn’t come cheap – nothing in Manhattan does! So I’m also trying to way up whether it would be best to use prefolds or fitted diapers. I came across a couple of your youtube videos about how you use reusable nappies, and I think I heard you mention you would do the prefolds if you were starting from scratch. Can I ask why, to help me make an informed decision? Any pearls of wisdom much appreciated, thank you!

  4. December 13, 2018 / 10:15 am

    I am a first-time expecting mom and against some friend’s advice I really want to use the cloth nappies since the beginning, but I have no idea how to do it, this post was very helpful, can you give me info on how it works for newborns?
    Thanks! Love your site!! So in tune with it 🙂

  5. Passionfruitmum
    November 16, 2018 / 10:22 am

    We’ve used cloth nappies since birth for my son Zion. Unfortunately I didn’t know about cloth nappies when I had my eldest daughter Amour. Dealing with the poo side isn’t very glam but I have a poo knife that I use, which makes it easy and fuss free 🙂
    I have to confess, we go on quite a few short trips abroad, where we only take hand luggage. I buy eco natty disposables for these trips. If you have any travelling tips, I would love to hear them!

    • Anonymous
      November 20, 2018 / 10:02 pm

      We’ve got the Poo Spatula 🙂

  6. Tamsyn
    November 16, 2018 / 9:55 am

    I love our cloth nappies. Been using them since my daughter was about 2 months old. We did use disposables to start with but I couldn’t wait to start using the cloth ones, just needed her to grow into them.
    We do use the disposable liners and put it all in the bin, I didn’t realise you weren’t supposed to put the poo in the bin, I’ll look into changing it up. We dry our nappies using our dehumidifier when inside too, gets them dry so much quicker.
    I also chuck the face and hands wipes in with the nappy wash because of the no fabric softener.

  7. Adele
    November 15, 2018 / 4:26 pm

    I love Cloth nappies! Been using them since
    My lil one was 5months old and haven’t looked back. Our routine is very similar although our bathroom toilets have hoses attached to them (I live in Malaysia) which make getting the poo off nappies so much easier, especially when those pooo explosions happen!

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