The wash routine for your reusable nappies may seem daunting at first, but it's really rather simple. I promise!
Your wash routine will depend somewhat on what kind of washing machine you have. You want to wash your nappies TWICE: a daily prewash, and a main wash (usually every 2-3 days, depending on how many nappies you have and how big your washing machine is).
Think of it like this: the prewash gets a large part of all the nasties out and just preps your nappies and inserts so that they can comfortably hang around for another couple of days waiting for the main wash. The main wash does the hard yards and cleans everything REAL GOOD. The main wash is also full enough to effectively clean everything.
Everybody finds a routine that works for them, but in the interest of keeping it simple, here’s one example for both front and top loader washing machines.
Prewash daily (at the end of the day, once the last nappy comes off the bum - or if you’re using cloth over night it’s a good idea to do your daily prewash in the morning, with the previous day’s day nappies and the night nappy. This is so the probably very soaked night nappy doesn’t lie around all day gathering dust and bacteria). 40-60 degrees, just a short wash of 30-60mins is totally fine, half a scoop of Persil Ultimate. Doesn't matter how empty the machine is - most modern machines adjust their water level to whatever they sense is inside. Done. Return washed nappies to dry pail. (They will be wet/damp. That is fine.)
Main wash (every second or third day, depending on when you need to!): this needs to be a nice, hot, long wash. I’m talking ideally 60 degrees and 2-3 hours long. The cotton setting is a safe bet for most machines. One to one and a half scoops of Persil Ultimate (or in my case, just under one! My machine is not a fan of too much detergent…). Done!
For the MAIN WASH, there is one extra thing to consider: how you load your machine is quite important (not the pre wash, meh). It’s all about achieving the magical perfect balance of agitation - too full and your naps can’t move around enough to clean each other, too little and there’s not enough friction. Not good! Ideally you want to have your machine about 3/4 full when wet, or loosely full when dry. If you don’t have enough nappy stuff to wash, add some small items like face cloths, socks, undies - whatever isn’t big enough to wrap around your inserts and nappies and prevent them from being cleaned properly.
Hang nappies out to dry in the sun. Turn them so the nappy shell's inside is facing the sun. PUL (the nappy shell’s outside fabric) doesn’t like too much UV, so keep it out of direct sunlight. You can put the inserts in the dryer if you need to, but it can shorten their life span somewhat. I get it, sometimes it just rains for six days straight and your washing simply will not dry - that’s cool. Just use the sun whenever you can. Many people line dry for as long as their patience and nappy needs allow, then finish everything off in the dryer. NOT the nappy shells though please! Keep those out of the dryer. Heat can damage the waterproof coating on their inside. They dry super quick anyways though, so no problem.
A fantastic resource and a go to for every cloth user is Clean Cloth Nappies. They have done SO - MUCH - WORK and RESEARCH for your benefit! A small donation of $5 a month (or $30 a year) gives you access to ALL of their knowledge. One of many super useful things on their website is the detergent index - you can look up specific detergents, how well they perform, and what quantities to use. I used Persil Ultimate in the example above just because it is a great all rounder BUT there are many, many fantastic detergents that will do the trick.
They also have a Facebook group in case you run into any troubles - there’s always lots of experienced members happy to help you out. All the support you could possibly need!
Well, this ended up being quite word heavy. Here it is in short:
DAILY PREWASH: 40-60 DEGREES, 30-60 MINS, HALF A SCOOP OF PERSIL ULTIMATE
MAIN WASH EVERY 2-3 DAYS: 60 DEGREES, 2-3 HOURS, FULL SCOOP OF PERSIL ULTIMATE
LINE DRY PREFERRED - DRYER OK FOR INSERTS (BUT NOT SHELLS)