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Do I need to pre-wash cloth nappies?

Do I need to prewash cloth nappies?

You may have been told that you need to pre-wash cloth nappies, but how important is it? I’m going to take a look at what happens when you wash your nappies for the first time and why it’s important. We’ll also look at the best way to prepare your reusable nappies for their first use.

Why pre-wash cloth nappies?

There are two main reasons to wash new nappies before you use them for the first time. Firstly, you want to remove anything that they may have picked up during manufacture or when on their way to you. Lots of nappies will have oils from the machinery used to make them which will affect their performance. When it comes to natural fibres such as cotton, starch is often used on the fabric to make stitching easier. Although it’s unlikely to harm your baby in any way, it’s best to remove anything like this that might be on the nappies.

The second reason for this prewash is to activate the absorbency of the reusable nappies. In some cases, such as when using hemp fibres, it will take a number of washes to reach full absorbency. This is because there are natural oils that take a while to wash away. In some cases hemp can take up to twenty washes to reach full absorbency. With other natural fibres, such as cotton or bamboo, it won’t take as long. This is because there aren’t any natural oils to wash away. The pre-wash still does something important. It thickens and slightly shrinks the fibres. This ‘activates’ the absorbent properties of the fabric making them ready for use. The photo below shows the difference between a brand new prefold and one that has been washed.

The difference between a new and prewashed cloth nappy. Why prewash cloth nappies?

How to prepare new cloth nappies

  • Wash in warm water with your usual detergent, dry fully before first use.
  • The hotter the water, the more natural fibres will shrink.
  • You can soak overnight in cold water. This uses less energy but takes longer.
  • Alternatively, run through three cycles of your washing machine with cold water and no detergent.
  • Make sure that you wash nappy outers or synthetic fibres. This won’t effect their absorbency, but will remove any build up from manufacturing.

What’s your favourite way to prepare cloth nappies? Let us know in the comments.

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