Loving low-residue laundering !

Posted by paula on Aug 31, 2009 in Product Recommendation, Sustainable Parenting |

I was always the first to laugh at the idea of being “addicted to cloth nappying.” No way! No matter how many times I heard that said, I always assumed it was some kind of… …evidence of being a little unhinged? Well, here I am, five months down the track, writing a serious post about laundry. The uninitiated should find this a useful primer, and there might even be something in here for the experienced nappier too.

Top 10 things that cloth-nappying has taught me about laundry

10. It’s really not that difficult to run the washing machine daily, in order to keep yourself in fresh nappies. I rarely find myself “behind” in the laundry these days.

9. Breastfed babies’ nappies don’t smell nearly as bad as formula-fed or solids-feeding babies. I pop my wet and soiled cloth nappies in a dry bucket — no lid — and empty it into the wash daily. Frankly, the open nappy bucket smells a lot less than the covered bin that my older child’s disposable nappies go into.

8. Ordinary washing detergents, soakers and fabric softeners are full of chemicals which are designed to stay in and coat your fabrics. These chemicals include optical brighteners (to get that whiter-than-white look) and perfumes (for that clean, fresh smell). Those lovely expensive modern cloth nappies come with suggestion to optimise absorbency by using washing detergents which do not coat the fabrics. It’s really, really hard to find such a laundry powder.

7. When you start using a non-coating laundry powder, it’s a bit confronting at first when your clothes come out a slightly different colour, and you realize that what you thought was a soap smell is in fact an unnecessary perfume. But when you realize that your standard washing powder coats clothes and nappies with chemicals, and you are putting over a dozen freshly laundered items against baby’s skin each day, you can find yourself quickly becoming more interested in low-residue laundering than you ever thought possible.

6. Bi-carb soda is very effective at reducing your laundry detergent needs. I use half detergent and half bi-carb for a very effective wash.

5. Sunshine is the best bleacher and anti-bacterial agent known to woman. Line drying your clothes in the sunshine removes stains without resorting to chemical bleach, and removes that slight smell that indoor-dried clothing can acquire. If you have to dry nappies indoors, popping them on a rack in front of a heater means you get to use that heat to both dry your clothes and heat your house.

4. That damp “spoiled laundry” smell that you get when you leave wet washing in the machine too long (shock, horror!) is caused by bacteria. Bacteria needs more than just water to feed on — in fact, it feeds on the residues left by your laundry detergent.

3. Different bacteria need different pH levels. If you are using a standard detergent, you can remove a persistent laundry smell by adding bi-carb soda to the wash to raise the pH, and kill all the resident bacteria. If you routinely use bi-carb and find a smell developing again, do a wash with vinegar-only to lower the pH and kill off your crop of high-pH bacteria. But be warned that vinegar damages elastic. I only put very hardy items in a vinegar wash, and rely on sunlight to remove the bacteria from elasticized items. The other favorite bacteria killer is heat – a wash at 60 degrees Celsius will get many strains.

2. When choosing a cloth nappy system, please, please make “drying time” a key criterion. Those delightfully soft and absorbent luxury bamboo all-in-ones are not only expensive to buy, but they are even more expensive if you need to buy 4 days’ worth in order to allow the requisite two days drying time! Hemp is almost as absorbent and a lot quicker to dry. And those simple cloth squares dry in no time at all.

and finally…

1. I’ve had to overcome both a deeply ingrained caution about the dangers of using vinegar and bi-carb soda, while simultaneously overcoming a skepticism that such products could ever be effective. My generation is programmed to believe in the “safety and effectiveness of standard laundry products.”

[One final note from your friendly editor: check that the laundry detergent you buy isn’t made by one of the big nasties — you can easily find out which brands are owned by which companies and how ethical they are at the Ethical Shopping Guide]

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Kate Devitt
Sep 3, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Fantastic post. Thank you. Which brand/type of cloth nappies do you use?

Sep 4, 2009 at 3:41 am

Thanks. I use Eenee Pouch Pants with Bio Bums bamboo/hemp inserts. Yes, I’ve gone for the super-nice ones 🙂 . I use/wash about 6 or 7 (but up to 12) of the inserts per day, and 1 or 2 (but up to 6) of the pouch pants per day. You can use standard cloth squares (flannelet or toweling) in the pouch pants, but I just prefer the thicker pads. My total stash is about 10 pants and two dozen inserts. As long as you alternate two of the water-proof pouches (and let them dry out between nappies) you can use the same two pouch pants until they get wet on the outside (leakage), soiled, or smelly.

Drying bamboo nappies in winter is a problem. On a windy day, they will dry same day – even in Melbourne winter – but I typically take any semi-dry inserts inside before night time, to let them finish drying in front of the heater (which is on anyway) over night. If I could get all-hemp inserts, I would. They are much quicker than bamboo to dry, and are not that much less absorbent. But there’s a perception that bamboo is softer and nicer on baby. Yes, hemp comes off the line feeling a bit stiff, but once against the body, hemp products quickly become soft and flexible. I use hemp fleece pads myself, and find their comfort and performance to be spectacular!



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