Cleaning Cloth Nappies

January 28, 2022
Cleaning Cloth Nappies
Published on  Updated on  

Let’s Talk MCN: Cleaning Cloth Nappies - Wash Basics

Get our Wash and Prep Routine HERE.

When starting Modern Cloth Nappies (MCN), you’ll often get conflicting advice on how to wash them. How do you make sense of everything when you can’t even make sense of the advice? Using our rough guide, we hope to take away some of the confusion.

Your Grandma will tell you that you need buckets of water and Napisan, and while she’s correct on the use of Napisan, you won’t need buckets upon buckets lining your laundry walls to wash cloth nappies. All you’ll need is a large holey basket (or two), a washing machine, a good mainstream detergent, and cloth nappies. That’s it.

Now some of you might be saying: “I’ve seen ‘dry pailing’ mentioned in my reading; what is dry pailing and why do I need to do it?”

Dry pailing is a method of storing used modern cloth nappies until they’re ready to be washed. It was formed alongside the development of MCN (modern cloth nappies), in opposition to the old method of ‘wet pailing’ that requires buckets of water for soaking. Dry pailing requires a basket made of more holes than basket, to promote airflow and prevent ammonia build up. Ammonia is a chemical found in urine, and the excess build up of it in your cloth  nappy inserts and elastics can cause a sunburn like rash in the genital area and fabric degradation. The buckets from wet pailing pose a drowning risk and may cause premature wear on your cloth nappy shells resulting in delamination. The formulation of Napisan has also changed in recent years to remove chlorine bleach, substituting for oxygen bleach instead and now soaking nappies in a water/Napisan solution isn’t sterile, due to the amount of Napisan needed for bacteria removal.

Nappy washing for MCN (modern cloth nappies) is broken up into 4 steps. Plop, short wash, long wash, dry. Let’s elaborate;

  1. Plop the solids into the toilet, or lightly rinse the bulk of less solid waste and place into a large holey basket for dry pailing. We highly recomend Strucket - bucket&strainer all in one - as a great help for soaking cloth nappies.
  2. Short Wash all nappies from the day prior, and the night nappy if using, in 60°c water with 1/2 a lid/scoop of detergent and Napisan if needed, for roughly 1 hour. Place into a separate dry pail until long wash
  3. Long Wash all cloth nappies when front loader drum is lightly packed, or top loader has roughly 3 days worth of nappies, which is approximately 15-18 nappies for older babies, 20+ for young babies. Use 1-1.5 scoops/lids of detergent, with 40°c water for 3-4 hours in a front loader and around 2 hours in a top loader.
  4. Dry in the sun (except shells), clothes airer, or in a dryer on low heat 

Sun drying cloth nappy shell in direct light is not recommended, as UV exposure can crack the waterproof PUL lining in your shells, making them no longer waterproof. Sunlight as a method of stain removal also proves ineffective, as this will only bleach the stain. The stain will still be present in your inserts, you just won’t be able to see it.

We aren’t saying this is how you need to wash your cloth nappies to transition successfully, as everyone will always wash differently. This guide simply provides a rough outline of simple Wash Basics, to allow you to have all the information you need make the best choice for your family.

Get our Wash and Prep Routine HERE.

Learn all about cloth nappies in our modern cloth nappies guide or shop cloth nappies from our extensive range of styles from 16+ brands.

written by Morgan of @morganaveril.mcn

Special thanks to @mumma2link, @engineermumma, and @bundlebums for sharing your laundry’s with us all! 

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