Would you like to level up on laundry? Are you keen to get clever with cloth cleaning? Positively primed to go professional on poo removal?
About to abscond from additional awful ablutions alliterations? I’ll stop now.
Anyway, does Nappy Science Gang give you an urge to perfect your nappy washing routine? If so you could go a long way by digging into That Drawer With The Keys And Stamps And Sellotape and retrieving the manual for your washing machine.
In our series of live chats, the experts in washing technology and water science that we spoke to seemed a bit surprised by things that are commonly believed in the cloth nappy community, eg. The idea that detergent builds up because it doesn’t rinse out properly, that the dosage on the box is too high and nappies should be washed in half that amount, that liquid/powder (depending on who you ask) doesn’t dissolve properly, etc. Their standpoint was more that washing machines and detergents are carefully designed to wash out dirt and carry it away in the rinse, and that all of that should probably work just fine if you follow the instructions.
So let’s think again about those instructions and what we might gain from them.
The amount of laundry in the drum is important because your machine relies heavily on agitation, the rubbing of clothes together, to get things clean. Too full or too empty and you won’t get the optimum agitation. It’s often described in the manual as a number of garments, eg. 5 large bath towels or 15 shirts, but rarely in numbers of cloth nappies. In group discussion we thought a useful way to convert might be to put the dry number of towels in the drum and see how full it is, then fill it similarly with dry nappies and count how many it took.
The Service Wash
To keep your foaming friend in tip top condition and free of any residues of detergent or dirt, there will be instructions for how and when to do a regular service wash. It’s usually something along the lines of a 90° wash cycle with detergent. If your machine is harbouring bacteria that should sort it out. Sadly, it probably won’t dissolve sweetcorn, stickers or pieces of Lego.
Where To Put The Detergent
Your machine is designed to properly dissolve the detergent but may have different requirements for liquid and powder. Check you’re slipping it in the right slot.
There’s a world of information about how each setting works that might be useful to you. For nappies you probably don’t want a short wash or one which uses less water. Cottons settings tend to be longer and use more water than synthetics settings. Some modern machines try to save water but allow you to switch that function off. Some allow you to select a cycle and specify your own temperature which could be useful if you want to wash cooler but still long. Your machine probably has a prewash setting: that’s one thing the experts said was a good way to get a head start on breaking down all that nappy dirt.
This is on the side of the box rather than in your machine manual, but the manual will tell you what the normal full load weight is. That indicates the volume of water used, which in turn informs the detergent dose. As well as cleaning stuff, good detergents contain water treatment chemicals to optimise your water for washing. You need to use enough detergent for your water hardness (check with your water supplier) to get that benefit.
So, off you pop and read the manual. Go on. What do you mean you can’t read it because it’s caked in Weetabix/the 4 year old drew unicorns on it/you cried into it too many tears of mourning for your distantly remembered social life? You can probably download it here.
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