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.
I use a Laundry Egg, add a dash of lemon essential oil (also great for stains) and wash first on a rinse cycle (this gets rid of the poop) and then at 60’ with clean water. 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.
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.
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?
*based on experience – nothing more, nothing less