Friday, 31 July 2015

Modern Cloth Nappies - Washing and Care

Over the 18 months that I have been using modern cloth nappies (MCN) I have continued to improve my washing methods through a bit of trial and error, as well as some online research. As a result I feel like I spend much less time on physically standing at the sink now. I think either myself, or Mr Fix It, would spend roughly 5mins rinsing nappies daily and 10mins to load the wash every second day. I can't say for sure but I think we used to spend roughly 30mins diddling around doing stuff or fussing over rewashing loads every day at first. What follows is a summary of the main lessons I have learnt.

Turtle rocking cloth at the Great Cloth Diaper Change in 2014

1. Use environmentally friendly laundry powder at half strength or soap nuts. I have used both and they both clean the nappies well. I did find, however, the nappies seemed to be stiffer when I used the soap nuts. The soap nuts are great because they are a natural chemical-free product with barely any packaging. They also last for a few washes each time so they are great value for money.

2. Sunlight helps to remove all the stains from the nappies so dry them with the top layer facing the sun. This seems rather obvious but I (of course!) didn't figure it out for a few months and hung them with the top booster facing away from the sun, or out of direct sunlight.

3. Don't use any barrier creams if you are not using disposable liners between babies skin and the nappy. If you do use a cream then make sure it is water soluble (Brauer paw paw, curash or coconut oil). I learned this the hard way (of course!) by firstly using a petrochemical based paw paw cream (Lucas) which is a big no no. Then I used the water-based barriers but still found that they were building up in the nappy. This was probably due to both using a barrier cream without a liner and my washing methods weren't up to scratch either (note that I stopped using barrier creams a few months ago with no problems. On the odd occasion Turtle has a slightly red bottom I might put a small amount of moisturiser or paw paw on before she goes to bed in a disposable). These mistakes lead on to points 4 and 5.

4. The washing process for nappies will vary slightly depending on your machine. Here is a link to the official advice from Australian Nappy Association. If I had seen that prior to my journey I'm sure I wouldn't have messed around so much.

Storing Used Nappies

We use a bucket with a lid to store used nappies. Wees go straight into the bucket. Poos are scraped into toilet. The liner (and remaining poo on it) is removed and put into the outside bin. Then the nappy goes into the bucket (with the lid firmly in place!). The liners are supposed to be flushable but I want to do a bit of research on this before we decide if we will flush them or not. We use 2 buckets to store used nappies over 2 days. Having 2 buckets helps when rinsing nappies too. Our buckets cost about $4 each from the local hardware store.

At the end of each day we rinse and scrub (using a nail brush for stubborn bits!) used nappies in running water.

Washing MCN Nappies

Every 2 days we do a load of nappies as follows:
  • rinse in cold water (no detergent but I add a sprinkle of bicarbonate soda) for 23mins (my washing machines rinse cycle) with 2 pre-soaked towels,
  • wash with detergent at 40 degrees for 1hr and 40mins, leaving towels in,
  • rinse again for 23mins in cold water (no detergent), leaving towels in, &
  • hang out to dry in the sun (weather permitting, which is most of the time in Perth).
The towels add weight to the load, which is necessary to trick my front loader machine into using enough water to cover the nappies. I wasn't doing this at first and I wasn't getting very good results. Quite a few nappies had stains that wouldn't move and the washing machine itself became dirty (gross I know!). Front loaders are great for saving water but if you need nappies cleaned then you need enough water to do it properly. I used the advice from The Healthy Honey's blog (follow this link) about front loaders and experimented a little to find out what worked best for us.

5. You might need to strip wash your nappies if you are concerned that they have become hydro-phobic or they are repelling water. This might be because you have used too much detergent and it has built up in the nappy. Or it might be because you have been using a petrochemical based cream (like me!) and it has not been washed out of the nappy. 

Strip Washing

Use 10-20ml of dish washing liquid in a hot wash. Make sure it's a long cycle (I use 40 degrees for 1hr and 40mins). Then I usually do the shortest wash cycle afterward (cold for 30mins in my machine) with no detergent to make sure the soap is removed before hanging them out to dry. 

6. Using disposable liners in the nappies helps to stop the poo from sticking to it and thus you don't have to scrub them so much! I started using disposable liners recently and I wish I had started earlier. I was given some when I bought my first lot of secondhand nappies but they were really rigid and crinkly so it turned me off using them. The ones I am using are soft against babies skin so I'm not worried at all about them being uncomfortable. They have really reduced the amount of time I spend scrubbing nappies at the end of the day. 

I think that covers all of the important things that might go wrong when learning to care for your MCN. I would love to hear any other tips that you might have come across too.

Does this all sound too hard or are you feeling more confident about tackling the cloth?

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