Washing 101: Fabric Softeners and Reusable Nappies

Reusable nappies have gained significant popularity in recent years due to their eco-friendly nature and long-term cost savings. However, proper care and maintenance are crucial to ensure their optimal performance and longevity so you can use them with subsequent children or keep them in tip top form to sell them after you're little one has potty trained. Unfortunately, certain laundry products like fabric softeners and gel detergents can inadvertently cause more harm than good. 

What Does Fabric Softener Do?

Fabric softeners are designed to leave a residue on fabrics, providing a soft and smooth feel. While this may be welcomed and beneficial for regular clothing, this can create issues with the absorbency and performance of reusable nappies.

What Happens to the Nappies and How Does it Affect the Absorbency?

Fabric softeners often contain oils and waxes that coat fabric fibres. While this may seem harmless, the coating can create a hydrophobic barrier that repels liquid, reducing the nappy's ability to absorb urine effectively. The buildup of fabric softener residue on reusable nappies can cause them to feel less absorbent over time and may lead to leaks and discomfort for the baby.

I Used Fabric Softener When Washing My Nappies. What Can Happen?

  1. Coating of the fibres
    Fabric softeners leave a residue on cloth nappies, which can coat the fibres and create a hydrophobic barrier. This barrier prevents the nappies from effectively absorbing liquid and reduces performance.

  2. Reduced absorbency
    The coating prevents the nappy from absorbing liquid efficiently, leading to leaks and discomfort for the baby.

  3. Odor retention
    The residue from fabric softeners can trap odours, making it challenging to remove the smell from the nappies, even after your deep cleaning wash routine.

  4. Decreased lifespan
    The buildup of residue can cause the nappies to deteriorate faster, leading to premature wear and tear, reducing their overall lifespan.

  5. Buildup and residue
    Continued use of fabric softeners can lead to a buildup of residue on the cloth nappies. This buildup can be difficult to remove and may require additional steps to restore the nappy's absorbency.

  6. Skin irritation
    Some babies may develop skin sensitivities or allergies to the chemicals found in fabric softeners. The prolonged contact between the coated nappies and the baby's skin may lead to irritation or rashes.

What is Recommended for Washing Reusable Nappies?

We always recommend steering clear from using any fabric softeners. If you find that your absorbency, especially cotton and hemp, become stiff or hard after they've been washed and dried, you can either warm them in a low cycle in your dryer or gently bend them by hand to reduce stiffness.