Nappies should smell completely clean and fresh when they come out of the washing machine. If they smell like poo or wee out of the machine, or have stains, it’s time to troubleshoot.
With adequate agitation/loading, a decent detergent and warm-hot water (40-60⁰C), nappies should come out of the machine stain free.
Here are some troubleshooting questions to review…
- Are you doing a separate pre wash cycle? (see Washing Guidelines)
- Are poo nappies being rinsed within 24 hours? (see Washing Guidelines)
- Is the machine loaded correctly? (see Front Loader Wash Routine, Traditional Top Loader Wash Routine, High-Efficiency Top Loader Wash Routine)
- Are there excess suds in the front loader? (see Front Loader Wash Routine, Why am I getting excess suds in my Front Loader?)
- Is enough detergent being used in both pre and main wash? (see the Detergent Index)
- Is the detergent strong enough to remove poo? (see the Detergent Index, Mainstream Detergents, Plant Based, Sensitive & ‘Eco’ Detergents, Detergents That Contain No Surfactants)
- Is the water temperature at least warm (40⁰) for pre and main wash if using mainstream detergents? (see the Detergent Index, Hot Water Vs Cold Water, Mainstream Detergents)
- Is the water temperature 60⁰ for pre and main wash if using eco/plant based/sensitive detergents? (see the Detergent Index, Hot Water Vs Cold, Water Plant Based, Sensitive & ‘Eco’ Detergents)
- Are night nappies being rinsed in hot water after use? (see Washing Night Nappies)
- Is the pail open with air flow? (see Soiled Nappy Storage)
If needed, pre treat the stain after hand rinsing, before dry pailing
EBF poo, poo nappies that have sat in the pail for more than 24 hours without being rinsed, and foods like blueberries/carrot/tomato can stain. If correct loading, a decent detergent and warm water, isn’t enough, even after rinsing the soiled nappy in hot water and detergent. Try the following…
💡 Apply Sunlight/Sard soap as per directions on the packaging, prior to pre wash.
💡 Add approx 1/4 lid of Vanish powder/Sard powder/Earth Choice Laundry soaker/ White King Laundry soaker ranges to pre wash (in addition to detergent), washing in 60⁰C water.
💡 A spray stain remover product such as Sard/Vanish, use as directed, prior to pre wash.
Heavy duty stain removal
💡 Soak inserts/AIO in a laundry booster product (eg. Vanish/Sard powder) as per directions on the packaging, for a short time prior to washing.
💡 Try a more concentrated bleach soak, for inserts only, as per instructions on the Heavy Duty Stain Removal or Serious Ammonia page.
Why is loading important?
Sufficient surface area and friction, along with detergent and water are the factors that remove soiling. Correct machine loading for the main wash is important because the surface area influences the amount of friction that occurs. Too little in the machine results in inadequate surface area and excess suds which means the surfaces of the items don’t hit each other, therefore not enough friction occurs to remove soiling. Too much in the machine and the items don’t move around freely, again the surfaces don’t hit each other, therefore soiling isn’t removed.
Can’t I just put it out in the sun?
You shouldn’t need to rely on the sun to remove stains, that’s the job of the washing machine and detergent.
Sunning has been a popular method of stain removal for nappies, and many believe that sunning is also antibacterial. Poo stains mean that poo has not been removed effectively. With a good detergent and adequate agitation, stains are removed by the washing machine.
UV from the sun has a short wavelength, it is only capable of penetrating the very top layer of fabrics. It also works via ‘line of sight’, meaning that it can’t reach areas that are shadowed. Nappy inserts and fabrics are typically multi-layered and have many shadows due to their textured surface, so it is impossible for UV light to reach most of the surface area of the fabric. Any bleaching effect from the sun is effective at the surface layer only.
UV from the sun is UVA, UVB and UVC wavelengths. When UV light is used to sanitise (in a method called Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation), UVC wavelengths are used . However, the majority of UVC is blocked by ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere (as a side note, this is also why sunscreens contain only UVA and UVB filters). The lack of UVC at ground level, coupled with the multi-layered, shadowed nature of nappy inserts mean that the sun is not an effective method of sanitisation for cloth nappies.
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