Frequently asked questions
How many nappies will I need?
This is the question I get asked the most! And the answer is always "It depends...!".
Factors to consider are: which nappies you want to buy (eg flat terries dry quicker than super-absorbent, elasticated, shaped nappies), how often you want to wash (eg every day, in with the rest of your washing? or do you want to do a separate nappy wash every 2 or 3 days?), how you are going to get the nappies dry (eg a tumble drier allows a faster turnaround than hang-drying), what time if day you do your washing (eg if you wash in the evening when your baby has his/her nighttime nappy on, you will not need as many).
Somewhere between 15 and 25 will be about right! Newborns tend to get through more nappies a day than older babies, so perhaps get a few extra of the small size.
Is it a hassle to wash nappies?
Not really - at least, not if you have an automatic washine machine! Depending on how many nappies you have, you might end up doing another 3 washloads a week, involving an extra few minutes to load up the machine and maybe 10 minutes or so to peg out the nappies or put them on an airer or in the tumbledrier. With a small baby you will be doing several loads a week anyway, so it really doesn't seem that much more. And there's no need to iron nappies!
If you use a mesh bag it makes the washing process quicker as you can simply lift the bag out of the bucket and put the whole lot into the machine, rather than having to pick all the nappies out one by one (if you leave the bag open, the contents will fall out and get a good wash).
How should I wash my nappies?
I like to do a cold rinse cycle before starting the main wash, especially if the nappies have not been rinsed by hand before storing (which I don't normally bother with unless really mucky!)
A 60°C wash will adequately sanitise your nappies. However, a 40°C wash will often be fine and there are now specially formulated washing powders that can be used at 30°C (eg Tots Bots Potion). If stubborn orange stains remain, this is just a discoloration and will disappear if left in the sunshine for a while.
Eco-friendly, non-bio powders are recommended. Use only half the normal amount of detergent when washing your nappies. An extra rinse cycle now & again can also help to reduce detergent build-up.
It is not recommended that you use fabric conditioner because this coats the fibres and reduces absorbency. You could try a tablespoon of white vinegar in the conditioner drawer instead (however, please see below).
What should I soak my nappies in?
Personally, I wouldn't bother soaking them, just put the nappy in a dry, lidded bucket, or large waterproof bag, when you take it off (knock off any solid poo into the toilet first!). As long as you wash reasonably frequently (don't leave them hanging around for more than 3 days), you can then just put them straight in the machine and run a cold rinse cycle before you add washing powder. If you like, you could put a drop or two of tea tree oil (naturally antibacterial) or lavender, etc, onto a cloth and pop it in the bucket to make it smell nicer.
If you want to soak your nappies, you could use a tablespoon of white vinegar added to a bucket full of water, or a few drops of tea tree oil, or a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda. Please note, though, that some companies, for example Bumgenius and Tots Bots, do not recommend using these products at all when washing their nappies and it would invalidate any guarantee. Bicarbonate of soda and any acid (ie. Vinegar), when heated in solution, corrodes cotton and bamboo fibres and so they will drastically shorten their lifespan.
I would not recommend the use of chemical nappy sanitisers for the same reason.
Please do NOT soak wraps or the outer shells of the pocket nappies (the PUL coating might quickly lose its waterproof quality).
Can I tumble dry everything?
All the nappies and most wraps can be tumble dried, although some suggest low heat only - please check the care label. Most wraps and pocket nappy outers will dry very quickly anyway, so there is usually no need to tumble them.
Be especially careful with bamboo nappies, as the fabric can be scorched if tumble dried too much - it is best to finish them off on an airer or in an airing cupboard if you have one.
Some of my nappies have gone stiff from being line-dried in the sun, is there anything I can do?
Firstly, give them a good shake before hanging them out. Then shake them and/or rub them together when they are dry. If you have a tumble drier, a 10 minute spell before you hang them out, or on a low heat to finish them off, will soften them (if they are very dry, try putting a slightly damp cloth in with them).
Do clothes still fit over cloth nappies?
Most do yes, particularly two-piece outfits. Some clothes are cut very slim, eg trendy jeans from Gap or Next, so you might have problems with them. Often clothes from cheaper places such as Tescos and Asda provide the best fit!
A very useful (cheap) little accessory is a vest extender, which you can popper on and off when required if you are switching between slimmer nappies and more bulky ones.
One piece of clothing that might provide more problems is a babygro/sleepsuit/playsuit. You need a bit of extra length in the body but if you move up a size earlier than you would have done normally, the legs and arms might be too long. A company that makes lovely clothes specifically cut for cloth-bottomed babies is Frugi.