Friday, September 28, 2012

Really stinky nappies...

We've had a few enquiries of late about stinky nappies.. and having just moved house, we have learnt first hand how just the smallest change to the eco-system of your washing routine can throw things out... So here is something we have chucked together as we work towards a more in-depth troubleshooting manual for dealing with all sorts of stinks and stains. This will then become a part of the instruction manual that goes out with all our new nappies and will be available for download on the website!

There is 2 main stinks that emanate from newly clean nappies over time. The nasty poo type smell (Which we will cover in another post) and the ammonium smell of wee!
This post we will just look at the ammonium issue because it is big enough in itself to sort through!

The smell is caused by a build up of ammonium crystals in the nappy. The strip wash instructions that we give on our website should have gotten rid of them, but if the inserts and/or pockets weren't washed perfectly clear of the detergent, you just create a magnet for them to re-enter your wash routine... and you probably won't notice much of a difference. To review our strip wash guide please see HERE.

There are some determining factors to how successful a strip wash will be...
-Doing a cold pre-rinse first. You need to make sure that your nappies are "soil free" before you start a strip wash. Otherwise you are trying to get rid of what is on the nappies as well as what has built up inside them, and you won't have the time in the strip washing process to effectively do both. You don't have to use detergent, you are just trying to shift the majority of any soiled stuff off the nappies to make your scrubbing job easier!

-How hot your water is and how long it stays hot for. You need to soak those inserts in the hottest water you can for as long as you can. I am mega lazy, so I just refill my washing machine and let it do the work for me. I set it to fill, turn it off when it is full of hot water and then leave it till it cools and run the water out again. Do this BEFORE you do your scrubbing steps. We will be updating our instructions to reflect this step.

-How much water you can get into your washer. If you have a super efficient front loader, a strip washing in the machine, even at the high temps they can achieve, won't solve the issue of ridding the inserts of the ammonium crystals. If your only option is a front loader or a machine that weighs the clothes (Like a Fisher and Paykel Top loader) and therefore uses less water, then use a couple of cheap buckets (or your baby bath) and empty them 2-3 times as they get cold (Because being in a plastic bucket will cause the water to cool at a faster rate than the machine cools the water at).

-How many nappies you are attempting the strip wash at once. You need to be aware that the power of a rinse is only as good as the concentration of things you are trying to put through it. If you are soaking 20+ nappies in one small washer, chances are you will need to refill more times because the water will become more highly concentrated with the contaminants you are trying to remove, meaning that more of them will be left of the nappy fibres every time you empty that water. Try only filling half your washer and using the highest water setting, or empty your buckets more regularly to give yourself fresher water. It is the water after all that is carrying away the contaminants for you! This goes for both the soaking and the scrubbing steps in the stripping process...

-How clean your machine is. According to, long term cold water washing of all your clothes and stuff you put in your machine actually causes a waxxy build up in the machine itself. It is worth running a hot water clean through your machine before attempting a strip soak or washing in it. Check out Choice's website for how they recommend doing it. We are pure cold washing people so we need to do this!

If you've tried all these things and it still isn't working for you, I have a few suggestions to add to your strip wash arsenal as well as your regular wash cycle methods...
1. You can use the water soluble eucalyptus oil or Tea Tree Oil (MUST be water soluble for this to work). Eureka brand is pretty reliable and affordable and you can get them at Woolworths and Coles. Put 1 tablespoon in a load, make sure there is only about a half load of nappies and full water level. Leave to soak for 1-2 hours at least. Do this in your soaking step, after the prewash. 

This will help draw some of the ammonia out of the inserts and will help break down the residue of the detergents that are in the nappies.The water soluble version of these oils will ensure that the oil won't waterproof your nappies further and will aid in disinfecting them (Also dealing with the poo smell!) and getting rid of stubborn stains.

After you've done the soaking step, do the scrubbing and rinsing step This works best with a top loader machine because of the volume of water that is able to be used in each step to help effectively wash the "oil" and the detergents out... At the end of this process you shouldn't have any more ammonium smells in your nappies.

2. We have heard good things about Rockin Green's Funk version of their detergent. This is to do your strip washes in, though you can buy versions to do every wash with every type of water (And we are testing them at the moment so we can give a more thorough review of it's properties). It is a detergent that actually helps break away all that crap. They have fantastic info on their website too. We don't sell it, but our buddies at Bear Bums do and they are actually our local stockist here in WA.

If you go this route, I would strongly suggest following the Rockin Green info to the letter. The only bad things I have heard about Rockin Green are to do with when it isn't fully washed out of the nappies. Here is a great place to begin: and then follow that up with:

3. As the Rockin Green articles suggest... sometimes you need to make allowances for your water and your washer. Allowances include pre-washing you regular washes (Not just when you are strip washing) with no detergent and possibly doing an extra rinse at the end to ensure that the water runs clear. The other thing is the combination of washing powder amount used (We recommend starting at 1/4 of the recommended dosage and working up from there till you find what works. For us, this is a full cap of the cheapest and crappiest washing powder from Woolies. Home Brand! Not the "Own" version they also sell. We recommend this for the absence of perfumes, Enzymes and other nasties).

Experimentation will help you work out what combination will work in your everyday washes for you. Look at how many nappies you are adding to the wash and how often you are washing... in dry pailing are you inviting the nappies to dry out before you have a chance to wash them properly? If so you may need to work out a different wash routine. Maybe soaking night nappies that already start to dry in the night while they are on and then emptying the lot into the washing machine come wash time, or washing every 2 days rather than 3? All these things will help prolong the space between strip washes needed...

Hopefully something from all of this speaks to you and gives you some more tools to try and rectify the issue. It is solvable! Please let us know if you have any issues and we will work hard to help!

More to come soon!!! :D