Disposable nappies are very convenient for a busy mother (or father) but they are an environmental nightmare! They aren’t reusable or recyclable, so the only thing you can do with them is to throw them into the landfill – where they create nasty leachates and take centuries to break down again. Cloth nappies are by far the greener option – and, ultimately, the cheaper option.
However, cloth nappies do have their own problems, mostly to do with washing. In some centres, you can find nappy washing services, where someone will take away the dirty nappies and give you back clean ones. If you don’t live near a nappy cleaning service or if you can’t afford their services (or don’t’ want to pay for them), you will have to wash them yourself.
To wash cloth nappies, you will need a disinfecting/bleaching solution or powder, and a very large bucket with a lid. Nappies should be soaked in a bleaching solution for an hour or more before washing so excess bacteria can be killed, and any stains can be dealt with. Change the solution daily – one handy hint is to wash one load with nappies every day and to change the solution after putting the nappies in the machine. The lid is to prevent things falling into the solution – particularly alarming if the thing is a toddler or an over-curious kitten.
Dirty (as opposed to just wet) nappies will have to have the solids removed before going into the solution. This waste can, of course, be flushed down the toilet like any other solid body waste. Use a flushable liner to catch waste – you peel this off the main part of the nappy and flush it down. Alternatively, scrape the mess off with a spatula reserved for the purpose. Keep this in a container of dilute disinfectant in between uses.
Washing the nappies after they have been in the solution is easy – just put them in the machine and wash as normal. Nappies can stand a hot wash without any difficulties, if you want to do this, but a cold wash is also good. You can use fabric softener, but this is optional. According to some people, adding natural cleaning product like vinegar to the final rinse helps to prevent nappy rash.
Drying the nappies is also straightforward. Line drying in the sunshine is a cheap method, as is drying on a rack or in front of a radiator. Line drying especially is good for freshening and softening the nappies and the sunlight acts as a final germ-killer and bleach. But most of us will resort to the dryer at some time while our children are in nappies.
After the nappies have dried, you will need to fold them ready for re-use. Don’t bother ironing nappies – ever! It’s a waste of time, effort and electricity. A few creases and crinkles on a nappy won’t matter at all. If the idea of ironing nappies makes you laugh, I have heard of one person who did…honest! A number of different methods can be used for folding nappies and everyone has their own favourite. It’s quite like doing origami, but don’t panic if you’re new to it. If you can fold a paper plane, you can fold a nappy without any problems!
Some new styles of cloth nappies have been shaped so they don’t need folding. Good for you if you can get hold of these!