How to deal with poo in reusable cloth nappies

It’s not a pleasant topic, is it? But, as lovely as the idea of cloth nappies is, there’s always this worry, lurking at the back of my mind. What if they won’t come clean one day?

So there I was, standing in the kitchen, holding a nappy covered in poo and with no idea at all how to clean it. I vaguely remembered my grandma showing me how to do this with those godawful terry towelling squares back when I was about 7, and I know I thought it was disgusting, and swore to myself that my twenty babies would all wear disposable nappies. But then, I also knew I was going to grow up to live in a castle and that I was never, ever getting married (I was going to adopt the babies. This was the early 90’s so Angelina stole the idea from ME not the other way around). And I was going to be the most famous singer in the world and Whigfield would be queueing behind Ace of Bass for my autograph.

Sadly, we didn’t know about plastic the way we do now. Honestly, I didn’t fully appreciate just how much waste disposable nappies create. And in good conscience, I can’t continue to use disposables. Also, they won’t fit in our wheelie bin with all our regular rubbish because we have one of those tiny bins and if the lid’s open, the council won’t collect it.

I have a breastfed baby (11 months next week… amethyst boobies, here I come!) which is great in almost every way, except for one. You see, breastfed babies have the most sloppiest, liquidy, aromatic poo. And when they have allergies, their poo is even worse. We have allergies.

What can you do?

The thing is, breastfeeding and cloth nappies go hand-in-hand for a lot of people. I for one am absolutely not going to stop breastfeeding my baby just because his poo isn’t pretty enough. Apparently people do this. Crazy people.

There are several ways to deal with poo in a cloth nappy, and one of them is my favourite. Let’s look at them all:

  1. So the baby has pooed in your cloth nappy, now how do you clean it?
    – Scrape off as much of the poo as you can with tissue, a wet wipe, or something else disposable like an empty crisp packet, and dispose of as much of the solid poo as you can.
    – If it’s all mushed into the nappy, dangle it down your (clean) toilet and flush. Get the pooey bit under one of the main streams of water. If you’ve got good water pressure, this should rinse it nicely.
    – If there’s still a stubborn stain, soak for a couple of hours in a bucket, using non-bio detergent.
    – I’ve heard of people soaking their nappies in Napisan (bleach powder) in the bottom of the toilet, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that (and bleach powder apparently degrades the elastic and PU outers of reusable nappies) so I would use a bucket.
    – When the nappy has been soaked, fish it out, and run it through the washing machine on a cold wash.
    – After the cold wash, it should be ready to wash with the rest of your nappies.
  2. Should you use disposables during the day and cloth nappies at night time?
    This is one possibility, because it’s well-known (IDK if that makes it true) that babies can’t poo when they’re asleep. If it is true it has to be one of the coolest facts about the human body. So using the reusable cloth nappies at night time and using disposables during the day might work for you. However, since my baby uses more nappies during the day, and since cloth nappies can be very bulky, especially the two-part nappies with velcro fastenings, and since my baby insists on rolling onto his front during every nap, he isn’t comfortable in cloth nappies all night, so we use them during the day instead. Your mileage may vary.
  3. Nappy liners. The best thing since bamboo triple-layer inserts.
    These are my favourite long-term solution to the whole how to get rid of poo out of a reusable nappy issue. Basically, a company called Little Lamb (you may have heard of them) do these thin disposable nappy liners which come in a roll of 100. You put them between the baby and the cloth nappy, and… voila! No more poo! The nappy liner catches the poo and lets the urine soak into the nappy, so you don’t have to scrub out any more mashed chocolate mousse from your cloth nappies.
    These have completely changed our nappy situation and made my husband more confident about using the cloth nappies (he doesn’t like mess).
    Since we’ve started using these, a reusable nappy with poo in it is as easy to change as any other nappy. You simply pull out the liner, with the poo on top, and throw it in the bin (they’ve recently changed the description to say they’re not flushable), then put a new nappy on the baby.
    The liner itself is so thin, it’s like a tumble dryer sheet (but unscented, of course), so you can rest easy that you’re not contributing to the landfill problem in any meaningful way. Certainly not compared to disposables.
    I can see these being especially useful after lockdown ends, when we can go out again, because I wouldn’t want to be carrying around a dirty, poo-stained reusable nappy all day, waiting to take it home and wash. With these liners, that’s not a problem.

So that’s how to deal with poo in reusable nappies. Do you have any other tips for cleaning poo in a cloth nappy or avoiding poo in reusable nappies? Let me know in the comments.

 

Should I change to reusable nappies?

This was the question I was asking myself two weeks ago. Also, how do you clean poo out of reusable nappies? Which reusable diapers are better, 1-part or 2-part? What is a booster? Are bamboo boosters better or microfibre boosters? No seriously, WHAT is a booster? How often do you change a reusable nappy? How do you even know when to change a reusable diaper? Are reusable diapers worth it? Which reusable diapers should I buy?

So. Many. Questions.

There was smoke coming from my Google Search box for a day or two.

But the first decision to make was the one I’m writing about in this article. Whether or not to make a change from disposable diapers to reusable nappies (or real nappies as they’re called in some groups).

You might have noticed it’s been hard to get nappies in the shops lately. That was basically what prompted me to go on this journey. It’s a sustainability mission, but it’s also a quest of necessity. Baby can’t use the toilet, yet, so he needs something to keep him dry.

The first thing I noticed about reusable diapers is how expensive they were. The second thing I noticed was how many brands of them were available. The choice was a little overwhelming. I’m pretty sure if I had 21 kids (and counting?) I wouldn’t have enough wet bums to try every available type of reusable nappy on the market. Like even Sue Radford couldn’t have enough kids to try them all out. Who are those Americans with a boatload of kids? The Duggets? Duggars? Duggens? Who knows. But I bet they haven’t tried all these reusable nappies either.

So anyway, let’s recap what I learned in the first few minutes of trying to find out about reusable diapers: They’re expensive and there’s a lot of choice.

Largely, they all seem to come down to two main types of nappy: There’s the two-part ones, with a white towel-looking inside part and a “wrap” that goes over it to keep baby dry, and then there’s the “all in one” types, which, against all probability, are not a one-piece nappy because they aren’t watertight so you have to put “boosters” inside them to line them. Sometimes “all in ones” are called “pocket nappies” or “pocket diapers” instead.

I was shocked at the price so I did some calculations before going any further. The average supermarket packet of size 4 nappies has 50 diapers in it. For the cheap ones, that’s about £2.99. For Pampers, it’s £9.

If you buy Pampers, for each pack of Pampers you buy, you could have bought a reusable “all in one” nappy. Two packs of Pampers is the equivalent of a two-part nappy and wrap combo.

If you buy supermarket own brand nappies, for every THREE packs you buy, you could have bought a reusable “all in one” nappy. Six packs of supermarket nappies is roughly one two-part nappy and wrap.

Then you need to consider the extra money you will spend washing them. A single wash cycle should cost between 16p and 30p in electricity. We don’t have metered water so I can’t comment on that. Laundry powder will add another 10p approximately. If you put the nappies in with a washload that was going to be cleaned anyway, you’re not really spending more money. They’re pretty small, and unless your baby has pooped, you probably don’t need to wash them separately.

I’m not going to lie. The ick factor with reusable nappies was definitely an issue. At some point I’m going to have to write an article about how I got over the ickiness of cloth diapers because it was a big deal for me and a (rare? lol) moment of growth.

But let’s look at the environmental aspect. 3 billion disposable diapers are thrown away every year. That’s 2-3% of all household waste. Like, if you put together all the old people,  childless singletons, middle-aged families with teenage kids AND parents with babies, and count ALL of their waste, diapers are 2-3% of it. And nappies are, of course, lined with plastic. Which takes gajillions of years to break down.

I never really thought about this before I had a baby. Even when I was pregnant it wasn’t something that crossed my mind. But as soon as I saw how much space those tiny plastic parcels take up in the trash, I was completely shocked.

Guys, the space those tiny plastic parcels take up… it leaves me feeling a little queasy to think about it. For several months we were fighting to fit everything in the bin. It still didn’t occur to me to use cloth nappies. Then I saw a friend’s baby photo with a beautiful cloth nappy. It looked nothing like those triangles of towel roughly pinned around my baby sister whose delicate skin was then suffocated with crinkly, noisy plastic panties.

It looked comfortable, and soft, and fresh, and… nothing at all like I imagined.

And I began to think maybe little Jellyfish might be comfortable in them. So I asked on Facebook, and was amazed at how many of my friends (literally everyone I know who has little ones) used cloth diapers. I ordered some the same day (a mix of one-part and two-parters) and they arrived a few days later.

That was two weeks ago. It has taken a bit of mental adjustment but I’ve started getting used to them now. It helped a lot that Jellyfish instantly adored his nappies and seems to find them more snuggly and comfortable than disposables. I’m not sure they would be great if we were travelling anywhere because we would have to take the cleaning bucket and find washing machines every couple of days, but for at-home use they are considerably reducing our waste. Our black bin (the trash can that takes all the non-recyclable items) is a lot less full now and that’s a really good feeling. I wish we’d bought reusables sooner.

Do you use reusable diapers? I’m going to write more about them in upcoming articles.