Modern cloth nappies are being used more often nowadays as more people work towards reducing their disposable waste. However, using nappies requires learning to use them properly and taking care of them while washing to ensure that they last for as long as possible.
The use of bleach for cleaning modern cloth nappies has been controversial for decades now. While some people advocate that bleach is harmless to nappies, the majority maintains its stance and believes that bleach isn’t the most ideal cleaning material you can use.
In reality, it all depends on a lot of factors like the kind of bleach you are using, the number of times you bleach nappies, the length of time you let nappies soak into bleach, and the type of nappies you are using. However, the general consensus is that using bleach isn’t good for cloth nappies, in particular MODERN cloth nappies (as opposed to terry flats).
The major reason why people actually use bleach is because it is a sterilising agent and it whitens quickly. When facing issues with the smell and stains on nappies, they resort to using bleach to clean them properly. While bleach does sterilise nappies effectively, the fact remains that it also harms them since it’s extremely rough on the ‘fluffy stash’. The same cleaning power that allows bleach to kill bacteria also allows it to wear down the fibres of cloth nappies.
Sodium Hydrochlorite (chlorine bleach) actually eats away at a finer layer of outer fibres of fabric, which is how stains are removed and fabrics are whitened. It is literally EATING the fabric fibres! Chlorine bleach can even completely dissolve wool or bamboo and slowly breaks down cotton fibres if nappies are left soaked in it for some time. This is why hospitals rotate their linen and have so much new linen coming through their facilities – the bleach used destroys the fabric.
Moreover, continuous use of bleach will most certainly affect the waterproofing (PUL) and the absorbency of cloth nappies, eventually rendering them totally ineffective for their purpose.
All in all, bleach isn’t the most recommended cleaning item to use on cloth nappies and you should definitely stay away from it where possible. There are several alternatives to bleach you can use to clean your child’s cloth nappies equally well. These options are listed in order of gentleness AND effectiveness:
- Sodium Percarbonate based products (NappySan and OxyAction type soakers)
- Hydrogen Peroxide soak (in hot water works best)
- Lemon Juice (spot stain removal only)
- Vinger and sodium bicarbonate soaks
- Eucalyptus oil (for spot stain removal only)
- Sunlight (for whitening and mild post-wash protein based or yellow based stain removal)
Many nappy manufacturers will not honour a warranty on nappies that have been bleached because of how damaging the process is to the products themselves.
Why not try out some of the alternatives listed above and see how they fair? Check with your manufacturer about the warranty on your nappies.
Here at Lavenderia NappyCare, we use Sdium Percarbonate and Hydrogen Peroxide based products on a commercial level with great results and have found our nappies withstand these treatments well. We also wash ONLY in cold water to protect the life of our nappy products!
Happy Cloth Nappy-ing!
The Team at Lavenderia