How do I wash and sanitize my cotton, bamboo, hemp and other natural
fibre nappies & my wraps?
Information and tips on how to care
for your natural fibre shaped nappies & wraps.
It is easier than I make
People develop preferences about how to care for their nappies
and it can all seem a bit complicated. It needn't be though. All you
need to do is get them clean and sanitized (i.e. kill off any microbes
that might be lurking there). Boiling on the stove won't be necessary
- let your washing machine do the work for you! You can sanitize chemically
or with temperature. Chemical methods involve using something such as
a specifically designed eco-friendly nappy sanitiser such as Nappy Fresh,
or you can use a gentler option such as Tea Tree oil (a powerful natural
antiseptic). Washing at 60ºC will also sanitize your nappies -
(this is the temperature that hospitals wash soiled linen etc. at).
If you choose to sanitize by washing at 60ºC you can simply store
your nappies in a dry bucket (dry pailing). Watch
your eco-footprint! However for home laundering
40ºC will be sufficient for everyday washing, with maybe occasional
use of the 60ºC cycle if baby has diarrhoea or is ill or the nappies
need a really good wash.
What is the best storing and washing method for
We are often asked, which is best - soaking or dry pailing nappies?
People develop their own preferences about which
way to to care for their nappies, and you will undoubtedly find your
own way, so it is hard to say that there is a best way. However,
in our experience, dry-pailing nappies is easier, less messy and seems
to be the most popular method in recent years. It is also greener, using
less water and no chemicals.
Some feel nappies may stain a little more with this method, though
some would argue with this and there are ways to deal with staing (see
below) . Many people seem to start off soaking their nappies and end
up dry pailing, so perhaps this is an indication of what works best
or is most convenient?
Remember to wash your natural fibre nappies (cotton,
bamboo, hemp) nappies 2-3 times before the first use to boost absorbency
and remove residues from the fibre treatment and manufacture process
(there is no need to dry between washes). For hemp the nappies will
be useable after three washes but won't reach full absorbency for another
This is not necessary for
synthetic fabrics (microterry, fleece, PUL) which will only require
one prewash to remove any manufacturing residues.
Watch your eco-footprint! There
is no need to do a special wash to pre-wash your nappies - just pop
them in with your next few suitable naturally-occurring washes, unless
you have a full load of new nappies to prewash. Alternatively use them
after only one wash but as they will not have reached maximum absorbency
change more frequently until they have had several washes.
1. When you take off a wet nappy simply place it in the nappy
bucket (fastening any velcro).
2. When you take off a dirty nappy either remove
and dispose of the paper liner down the loo, or stretch the fleece liner
and gently shake until the solids drop into the loo. If there is a lot
of soiling of the nappy and/or fleece liner you may wish to rinse them,
not in a handwash sink for hygiene reasons, but down the loo (hold corner
firmly and flush) or use a nappy bucket with water to sluice. Put the
nappy in the bucket- it really doesn't need to perfectly clean.
3. On wash day put all nappies, wraps etc. into
the washing machine. A nappy mesh can make this a little easier. Use
the nappy mesh to line the bucket, and when the bucket is full transfer
the mesh and contents to the machine, leaving the top of the mesh open.
the nappies will work their way out during the wash and still get a
good wash. It is a good idea to do a rinse cycle to remove any excess
soiling and urine. Watch your eco-footprint!
Wait until you have a full load of nappies
before doing a nappies-only wash. If you do not have a full load of
nappies you could rinse the nappies first and then wash them with other
colour-fast laundry items.
4. Wash at 40ºC or 60ºC with 1/2 - 2/3
of the recommended amount of non-biological detergent for heavy soiling.
Use your usual non-biological detergent but check it doesn't have chlorine
bleach or whitener. 60ºC is hot enough to sanitise your nappies,
though we find 40ºC is usually sufficient for everyday washing.
You can add a dessertspoon full of Nappy Fresh or similar sanitizer
if you wish.
5. Every so often, when you have time, you could
do an extra final rinse to remove more detergent from the nappies.
6. Dry your nappies by 'unscrunching' them and hang
them dry somewhere warm with decent air circulation e.g. near your boiler
or near a radiator. Drying directly on a radiator tends to make nappies
stiff and could destroy the elastic, so we suggest you use an airer
in front of or above a radiator or boiler etc. Watch
your eco-footprint! Most nappies can be tumble-dried
if you are in a rush, but if you can hang them to dry then it is much
With soaking you do exactly the same as with dry pailing, except
that you store your nappies in a bucket of nappy soak instead of in
a dry bucket. People use a few drops of Tea
Tree oil, Lavender oil
or a dessertspoon full Nappy
Fresh to help sanitise the nappies.
Make up a bucket of nappy soak solution according
to the instructions and put your nappies in. If using Tea Tree or Lavender
oil you only need a few drops for a normal household bucket or nappy
bucket so one bottle tends to last for ages. Take the bucket to the
washing machine and to avoid drips when transferring to the machine
with a nappy mesh, put a dirty towel just inside the machine, hanging
down onto the floor and then wash the towel with the nappies.
You can use your wraps several times until they become soiled,
and you may find that a hand wash and hang dry will be sufficient to
clean them some of the time, especially if not heavily soiled.
You can generally include your wraps in the same
washing procedures as your nappies, but do
not soak wraps, it is not necessary and may
damage them. Wraps will have the details of the manufacturer's recommended
washing temperatures on their labels, so please check these before washing.
Most wraps (with the exception of fleece wraps) are fine to be washed
at 60ºC, though 40ºC is fine and will be greener and maintain
their condition better.
When you wash your wraps make sure that you do the
velcro up to prevent them sticking to other items in the wash. Some
wraps can be tumble-dried and some can't (check the label), but they
usually hang dry very quickly, and this preserves their performance
for longer than tumble-drying. However, the occasional
drying of PUL wraps is unlikely to harm them and may even help to maintain
Some tips and FAQ
***SAFETY - keep any buckets
of water away from mobile babies and toddlers because of the risk of
drowning. A small risk, but a risk nevertheless. If you soak your nappies,
putting the bucket in the bath will keep them inaccessible, assuming
your child cannot climb into the bath.***
How do I get rid of stubborn stains or smells?
There are a number of ways to deal with this. For staining, drying
your nappies in sunshine is a great way to 'bleach' out stains and it
can also help with smells too. This is obviously the most 'green' way
to do it and it even works with indoors sun (i.e. leave on a window
sill). In the absence of sunshine (what in the UK?!) you could try using
soda crystals, either a cup in the pre-wash rinse or in the wash with
your detergent, or rubbed neat into the wetted stain before washing.
Soda Crystals are very eco-friendly and effective, cheap and widely
available. Alternatively occasionally soaking with soda crystals, an
oxygen-based bleach (not chlorine bleach) or nappy soak (such as Nappy
Fresh) usually sorts out the more stubborn staining and any lingering
When I take the
nappy off in the morning it smells of ammonia. What can I do?
Ammonia (you know it's there because it has a distinctive smell and
makes your eyes water) is a natural breakdown product of urine. However,
it should not form on a nappy in such a short time as overnight. If
it does it is likely to be because there is something in the nappy fibres
causing the urine to break down quickly i.e. washing powder residue
or traces of stale urine, faeces or bacteria. Some babies seem to be
more sensitive to the presence of ammonia than others and it may burn
the skin, giving the appearance of sunburn in the morning. To combat
this problem you need to get your nappies really clean and well rinsed.
There are several ways to do this:
To make sure your nappies
are bacteria free you could use one the following procdures to get your
nappies extra clean:
- wash with the recommended amount of detergent
for a heavily soiled wash (i.e. not a reduced amount as usual)
- soak in an eco-friendly
nappy sanitizer like Nappy Fresh (according to directions)
- wash on very hot (60ºC
or 90ºC) if your nappies will take
it (check the label)
Following these run a warm wash cycle without any
detergent. Then rinse the load until there are no suds in the water
coming off the nappies to ensure excess detergent is removed.
These steps should get your nappies really clean
and prevent ammonia forming too quickly in the nappies. Using an extra
large fleece liner to cover the whole of the nappy area will help protect
baby's skin too.
To prevent the problems developing again check that
you are not overloading your machine and that it is rinsing properly,
and that you are using the correct amount of detergent, as these problems
can compromise cleaning and rinsing efficiency. Maybe do an extra rinse
cycle every few washes to prevent excessive detergent build up.
What do I do if my nappies
In hard water areas some natual fibre nappies can become a little hard
and "crunchy". Nappies made from 100% cotton terry towelling
or hemp tend to be most susceptible to this. If your nappies
get 'hard' here are a few things that will soften them:
- rub the fabric together
to fluff them up again
- if you normally hang dry, tumble dry for the
first 10 minutes before hang drying
- most effective and eco-friendly of all, catch
some rain water and soak your nappies in it before spinning and drying
- add soda crystals to your washing routine - these soften the water
- use a commercially available water softener to soften your water
- Don't use chlorine bleach.
- Don't use fabric conditioner (it coats the fibres
of the fabric, reducing their absorbency and causes leaks).
- Don't regularly use chemical sanitizer, it is
- Don't soak, use nappy sanitizer or high temperature
washing/drying with your wraps.
- Don't stretch the elastic whilst nappies and wraps are still warm
after tumble-drying, as this can lead to elastic failure.
If your child has persistent
nappy rash or thrush
Whatever nappies you use, babies will likely get nappy rash at
some time during their time in nappies. It is a good idea to wash your
nappies (but not wraps) on a hotter cycle if your child has persistent
nappy rash or thrush until a few days after it has cleared up. Alternatively
use the method described above under the question
about ammonia to make sure that no microbes or excess detergent
can survive on your nappies and maintain the problem.
If you have any queries or
problems please feel free to contact us.
Back to top