Are you having problems with washing real nappies?

Below are our most frequently asked questions from parents who are having trouble washing their real nappies.  If you have an alternative issue, please call the RNfL helpline: 020 7324 4709.  The majority of real nappy advisors and suppliers list washing tips on their websites.

You can also read further information about washing real nappies from The Real Diaper Association in the USA.

My real nappies are hard
Most of London has hard water which can make nappies and towels stiff.  Try putting some white vinegar in the last rinse.  Detergent residue can also make nappies hard – try using less detergent or an alternative such as soap nuts or wash balls.

My real nappies do not smell clean
Eco wash cycles tend to use less water.  Try putting the nappies through a rinse cycle before putting them through a wash cycle. Alternatively, wet the nappies before putting them in the machine.  This tricks the machine into using more water which is essential for getting nappies clean.

My real nappies smell of detergent
You may be using too much detergent or perhaps they are not rinsed thoroughly.  Try reducing the amount of detergent.

My real nappies are stained
Try putting the nappies through a rinse cycle before putting them through a wash cycle.  Or spray soiled nappies before storing them in the bucket.  You could make up a spray yourself with water and a few drops of Lavender or Tea Tree oil which also act as an antiseptic.  You may find you need a heavier liner, especially in the first few months to prevent staining.   If you can dry nappies in direct sunlight you will find this bleaches out stains naturally.

My wraps leak
Never use fabric conditioner – this stops the wraps from being waterproof. Don’t soak the wraps for long periods. Alternatively you may have a detergent residue problem.  The cure is to wash the wraps with no detergent at all.  To prevent build-up happening again use less detergent or an alternative such as wash balls or soap nuts. Never dry the wraps directly on the radiator – it can damage the waterproof surface.  Hold the wrap up to the light and you will be able to see if the waterproof surface has cracked.  The wrap may have been permanently damaged however you could try to ‘mend the cracks’ by washing the wraps in hot water and putting them in a hot tumble dryer for a few minutes.

My real nappies are not absorbent
New nappies should be washed a couple of times before use as this improves absorbency.  Never use fabric conditioner – this stops the nappies from being absorbent.  The cure is to wash the nappies with no detergent at all.   To prevent build-up happening again use less detergent.

My washing machine smells
If you often use low temperature wash programmes and gentle products such as Soap Nuts your washing machine will need a good clean from time to time.  (You will know when it’s needed because your washing won’t smell as fresh as it should).  Just put your machine on the hottest wash with a tiny amount of detergent or bicarbonate of soda.  This will sort out the problem.

My real nappies are causing nappy rash
Use the minimum amount of detergent and make sure your nappies are thoroughly rinsed – detergent residue can cause nappy rash.   Nappies should not smell strongly of detergent.  Nappy rash has several causes so please also see ‘help with nappy rash’.

My real nappies smell clean when dry, but smell bad as soon as baby wets them
Your real nappies may smell clean but they are not.  You are using too much detergent which is masking the fact they are not clean.  This can cause residue build up, to solve this wash thoroughly in hot water without detergent.

Real nappies are hard
Most of London has hard water which can make nappies and towels stiff.  Try putting some white vinegar in the last rinse.  Detergent residue can also make nappies hard – try using less detergent or an alternative such as soap nuts or wash balls.

 

 

Real nappies do not smell clean
Eco wash cycles tend to use less water.  Try putting the nappies through a rinse cycle before putting them through a wash cycle. Alternatively, wet the nappies before putting them in the machine.  This tricks the machine into using more water which is essential for getting nappies clean.

 

 

Real nappies smell of detergent
You may be using too much detergent or perhaps they are not rinsed thoroughly.  Try reducing the amount of detergent.

 

 

Stained real nappies
Try putting the nappies through a rinse cycle before putting them through a wash cycle.  Or spray soiled nappies before storing them in the bucket.  You could make up a spray yourself with water and a few drops of Lavender or Tea Tree oil which also act as an antiseptic.  You may find you need a heavier liner, especially in the first few months to prevent staining.   If you can dry nappies in direct sunlight you will find this bleaches out stains naturally.

 

 

Leaking wraps
Never use fabric conditioner – this stops the wraps from being waterproof. Don’t soak the wraps for long periods. Alternatively you may have a detergent residue problem.  The cure is to wash the wraps with no detergent at all.  To prevent build-up happening again use less detergent or an alternative such as wash balls or soap nuts. Never dry the wraps directly on the radiator – it can damage the waterproof surface.  Hold the wrap up to the light and you will be able to see if the waterproof surface has cracked.  The wrap may have been permanently damaged however you could try to ‘mend the cracks’ by washing the wraps in hot water and putting them in a hot tumble dryer for a few minutes.

 

 

Real nappies not absorbent
New nappies should be washed a couple of times before use as this improves absorbency.  Never use fabric conditioner – this stops the nappies from being absorbent.  The cure is to wash the nappies with no detergent at all.   To prevent build-up happening again use less detergent.

 

 

Smelly Washing Machine
If you often use low temperature wash programmes and gentle products such as Soap Nuts your washing machine will need a good clean from time to time.  (You will know when it’s needed because your washing won’t smell as fresh as it should).  Just put your machine on the hottest wash with a tiny amount of detergent or bicarbonate of soda.  This will sort out the problem.
Real nappies causing nappy rash
Use the minimum amount of detergent and make sure your nappies are thoroughly rinsed – detergent residue can cause nappy rash.   Nappies should not smell strongly of detergent.  Nappy rash has several causes so please also see ‘help with nappy rash’.

 

 

Nappies smell clean when dry, but smell bad as soon as baby wets them
Your real nappies may smell clean but they are not.  You are using too much detergent which is masking the fact they are not clean.  This can cause residue build up, to solve this wash thoroughly in hot water without detergent.