My Green Nappy Discovering Modern Cloth Nappies and Eco-Friendly Disposable Nappies

April 16, 2011

Mould or Not? Dealing With Nappy Staining – More Suggestions.

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Mould or Not? Dealing With Nappy Staining – More Suggestions.

Do you have staining of your nappies that is difficult to deal with?

Perhaps this mum’s situation matches yours, or you have a suggestion to add…

A previous article, Do You Have Mould or Mildew On Your Cloth Nappies? Had an array of suggestions and tips to remove and prevent mould from being a problem with your washable nappies. We now have the next question, and hope our nappy experts can shed some light with more information…

Hi Charndra,

I would like to say thank you to the nappy experts for their advice and suggestions. I found it really interesting what Annette from iish fly said about gas heating and stoves, I do keep my nappies in the lounge room and I use a gas stove in the kitchen, I have a small house, although I haven’t noticed mould growing on the walls. I do use an airconditioner everyday but I thought they kept the moisture out of the air?

I have been extra careful with getting the inserts dry and have been finishing them off in the dryer. I only wash in cold water as there is not hot plumbing at my washing machine, I haven’t done a strip wash yet was planning on doing it in the next couple of days, as it involves carrying buckets of hot water to the washing machine. When I was talking about mould it is not spots or dark green in colour but more of a brown colour.

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Bad news is that it is back. I washed the nappies last night and noticed when I went to hang them out quite a few of the inserts had the brown all over them, it’s like they have been washed with dirt. I don’t think it is dirty water This morning I took some photos which I will attach, can you please ask the nappy experts as to what they think it is, maybe its not mould? In the photos I have included a white clean insert and the badly discoloured one. My bub has been having panadol and is now on antibiotics but neither contain sorbitol (which I had read caused stains), but she was not on these previously when the stains occurred.

Hopefully you can help.

Thanks again,


The photo shows both a bright and clean insert, and a clean yet discoloured one:

Misty from Fluffy Buns:

The colour on those inserts is not mould, it is from the ammonia in bubs pee.. Happens from time to time, teething – etc.. The best way to get rid or prevent that from happening is to rinse the inserts before putting them in the nappy bucket. Try not to leave the nappies too long between washes while you have this problem.

An overnight soak will help, followed by a double rinse, full wash and another rinse. Water is the best thing to prevent ammonia build up. If you haven’t already, try eco sprout laundry powder, it will pull out those stains and keep your nappies fresh. My daughters night nappies get like that from time to time, it always washed out.


FluffyBuns. xx

Nyssa from Snow Pea Nappies:

Wow! those stains are terrible. It looks as if the boosters have been sitting in a damp bucket for months to look like that! Knowing everything that you’re doing to look after your nappies I have no idea what could be causing this. It may be due to a build up over time because you haven’t been able to strip wash, or it could still be because of your water.

A few months ago we stayed with the in-laws who live on the coast. Every night after my son’s bath time we’d drain the water and every morning there would be an awful ring and marks in the bottom of the bath that looked like algae from the water, even though the water looked beautiful and clear. My sons face washers and anything else that was in the water for a little while ended up slimy and stained a horrible brown colour, just like your boosters. Even now the stains haven’t come out despite numerous washes back home. So chances are your water is the culprit, because even when it looks clean it doesn’t mean it is. Maybe it would be worth getting someone to come check the water for you.

Good luck!


Snow Pea Nappies

Michelle from Cloth N Craft:

It could be mould but a way of testing it out is that I’ve heard “oil of clove” (which my mother in law tells me you can buy at a standard chemist/pharmacy) actually KILLS mould where as bleach only turns it white. You could get some and put it on part of it and see.

Good Luck,


Cloth N Craft

Rebecca from Bean Sprout Bubba:

How long do you dry pail for, Danielle? Sometimes the nitrogenous compounds in urea can change colour to brownish red (in fact, some red azo dyes are derived from these same compounds). It could be ‘rusty’ stains, from dissolved iron salts reacting with any residual urine/urea in the booster.

I would love to know what comes out of this 🙂


Bean Sprout Bubba


Our Nappy Experts are invited to contribute to these questions so that you get a range of informative and experienced responses about the topic. Enjoy and discover something new, and share with us in the comment box below.

March 10, 2011

The Science of Washing Nappies – Amanda McCracken from Mandy Mac Nappies

The Science of Washing Nappies

by Amanda McCracken, with Jacqui Parncutt and Kirsten Randle.

With the advent of modern cloth nappies a new regime of eco-friendly laundering has come into being.

No soaking, no bleach, no boiling water.

Modern nappies don’t require all those things of the past!

All sounds very well, but in many parts this has been taken to an extreme – gentle washing, cold water and minimal detergent.

The result: smelly nappies that are deteriorating before they should.

As much as we want to believe that we can get away without chemicals or hot water, it goes against the laws of science and nature. Going against the laws of science in the laundry is like standing naked in the rain and expecting to get as clean as you would by scrubbing yourself with a soapy washcloth in a warm shower.

We must always remember that nappies are essentially our babies’ toilets for the first two years of their lives. We are not washing clothing which may have a bit of dirt or food marks, we are washing little toilets and trying to get them clean enough that our babies can wear their toilets, right next to their skin, over and over again.

Using science in the laundry.

There are four main factors to consider when trying to get your nappies clean:

1.Thermal Energy (water temperature)
2. Water Softness (mineral content of the water)
3. Mechanical Energy (agitation)
4. Chemical Energy (detergent)

These four factors work together to help reduce the surface tension of water which in turn allows it to get into the fibres of the nappies an clean them. If you decrease one factor other factors will need to increase to compensate for that loss.

This explains why people in Adelaide with hard water will require more detergent than people in Melbourne, and why they have to scrub harder with a cake of soap in order to make bubbles.

Now here’s the kicker.

Urine has a lower surface tension than water which means that urine will soak into the fibres of the nappy more easily than water. Urine is made up of water, dissolved salts and urea and although sterile when in the bladder it begins to break down as soon as it comes into contact with bacteria; even the good bacteria that live on baby’s skin. If you don’t get it out as soon as possible it will start to break down the fibres of the nappies – creating smells and holes.

In order to get nappies clean we need to wash out the urea and salts from the nappies. To do this we need to dilute the urine many times over using water with a lowered surface tension so that it will remove the urea and salt particles from the nappies.

The other half of the dirty nappy equation is soiled nappies! If you don’t use flushable liners you’ll be squirting or flushing the solids down the toilet. Whatever method you use, you will still have very dirty nappies that contain enormous amounts of bacteria. Thus a thorough cleaning regime is essential.

How to wash nappies?

Wash early, wash often. Like any laundering; nappies will be cleaner if they are washed soon after they become dirty. The urine has less chance to eat away at the fabric, the bacteria has less chance to breed, and any stains that may arise from soiling have less time to set. Most importantly, this is not the time to skimp on water as nothing else you wash in the laundry will ever be as unclean or as bacteria ridden as your nappies – remember they are your little one’s toilet until they are toilet trained.


This is still a good idea from a practicality and safety point of view.

A) No Heavy Lifting involved and

B) No Drowning Risks to young infants. You’ll get a better result if you give your nappies a quick rinse under the tap before popping in the bucket.


This step should be done with cold water and no detergent. The aim of this step is to try to remove much of the urine and bacteria from the nappy – so we need less detergent to get the nappies clean in the next step. It also helps to prevent build up of detergent and the cold water will help to stop stains from setting.

The wash.

This is where you need to contrate on getting the combination of water temperature, softness v hardness, mechanical energy and detergent right. Now while you might not have a lot of control over your water softness or hardness, you can control the three other factors. You don’t always need hot water, and it may damage other parts of your modern cloth nappies such as the elastic or plastic components, but you may need to hot wash occassionally. If you use cold water, you will need to compensate by using more detergent. So a balance is best. Warm water with an appropriate amount of detergent and a wash on the longest cycle.

So which detergent is best?

We recommend a non-purfumed, enzyme free, optical whitening free, phosphate free concentrate or an ultra-concentrate. You want the best bang for your buck – the most bubbles for your scoop. As many babies can show reactions to detergents, you want the least amount of fillers – as small traces may remain on the fabric, even after a final rinse.

Final rinse.

This is to remove as much of the detergent residue as possible – so as to reduce the risk of skin irritation of your little one’s behind.

Line Dry.

The sun will provide you with lots of lovely UV rays that will kill bacteria and assist in sterilising your nappies. Great news for Queenslanders! Not such great news for southerners in winter, although many of us can make do. As most nappies have PUL in them we advise drying your nappies inside out so that the UV rays get to the part of the nappy that will come in contact with your baby’s skin. Drying on a clothes airer inside is fine, but longer drying times can be associated with bacterial growth and smells. Placing your airer near a window will expose your nappies to UV rays even when it’s overcast and raining.

If your nappies smell it is likely you have a cleanliness problem, that is, you are not washing the urine and bacteria out of all the layers of your nappy. In this situation you need to work on lowering your surface tension of the water so that it will clean your nappies properly, by changing your thermal and/or chemical energies.

The extras:

Hot water – This has a lower surface tension than cold or warm water meaning that it gets into the fibres of the nappies and cleans them more easily as well as killing many bacteria. Hot water may decrease the lifespan of PUL and elastic but it does have the advantage over chemicals that it won’t leave a residue that could cause irritation to baby’s skin.

Anti-bacterial rinses – These will help to sterilise the nappies and once more will help to lower the water surface tension – resulting in cleaner nappies. They are recommended after gastro, thrush, live vaccinations and a bad case of nappy rash. Also handy in winter if you aren’t getting enough UV rays from the sun to sterilise your nappies.

Nappy Sanitisers – Like the anti-bacterial rinses – these use chemical energy to both kill bacteria and to lower water surfact tension. The active ingredient breaks down in water to a water softener and hydrogen peroxide – which will further break down to water and oxygen. Often cotain optical whiteners and enzymes which may cause rash. Rinse well.

Vinegar – can be used to lower the pH of the nappies caused by detergent residue. In theory if the rinse is thorough enough it shouldn’t be necessary, but it won’t hurt your nappies – as the concentration of the acid in vinegar (roughly 4%) is not strong enough to eat away at elastic as some people claim. You should always rinse with water after a vinegar rinse to wash away any residue.

Dryer – isn’t such a great idea because it deteriorates elastic and PUL in your modern nappies as well as using enormous amounts of electricity. If you do use it you will need to use it on a hot enough setting to prevent bacterial growth, since you are omitting the sterilising step that the sun performs.

Most of us who use modern cloth nappies do so because we want to reduce our footprint. We want to live eco-conscious lives, lower our impact on our environment. But this does not mean we can wish science away. Warm and hot water, detergent and chemical solutions need not be the enemies. They can help us get longer wear out of our nappies and make those years that we have little ones in nappies a pleasant, satisfying experience.

Amanda McCracken B.Com.
Amanda is a mother of four children six and under, all of whom have been cloth nappied. In 2007 she established Mandy Mac, a successful modern cloth nappy business which she runs from her home in Melbourne.

Jacqui Parncutt B.Sc. (Hons)
Jacqui is a Melbourne based medical scientist. She is a keen modern cloth user with a soft spot for microbiology. She wanted to share her knowledge of bacterial management in the laundry, especially with regard to cloth nappies.

Kirsten Randle B.Sc., M.F.Sc.
Kirsten is a very busy RAAF wife and mother. She has a Bachelor of Science, Master of Forensic Science (Firearm Chemistry) and almost completed her PhD in Applied Chemistry (Forensic Science/Counter-terrorism) as well as being an avid fan of modern cloth.

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February 1, 2011

Insights into Leaking PUL Nappies: Tips From Our Nappy Experts

My PUL Nappies are LEAKING, What Can I do?

PUL is short for Polyurethane Laminate, a thin plastic film applied to fabric in order to make it waterproof. This is a great boon to the modern cloth nappy industry of today – waterproof cloth nappies that do not leak. But, what do you do when they DO leak? Find out below…

In the comment responses to the article: “The Modern Cloth Nappy: How to Destroy Your PUL Lined Nappies – 3 Strategies to Avoid Doing This!” a mum posed this tricky question, which I then asked of Our Nappy Experts, their responses are below, giving both Kari and you more helpful insights into caring for your green nappies. I had never heard of ‘repulsion’, so it’s a learning day for me too.

We have helpful tips and insights on leaking PUL from Lara of  Extremely Nappies (closed) Mandy of Cuddle Bumz, Kyra of Bubbalooba, Nyssa of Snow Pea Nappies, Janine of Ninky Bear, Amy of WeePantz, and Amanda of Mamma’s Lil JellyBean

Has leaking PUL Nappies happened to you? Share your advice in the comment section below too

“I have a problem still with PUL nappies just randomly becoming not water-proof. It happens overnight and I wondered if it happens to anyone else, or if you have any other suggestions?

I store up a load, rinse poop off in cold water, do a cold machine rinse then cold or 30 degree (coolest warm wash on my machine) wash in the machine.

I use Ecostore wool wash liquid but only a fraction of what they say to use. Same issues happened when I used fractions of ecostore front loader powder.

Nappies work great then one day BANG, the leak like a sieve. Usually when I’m out somewhere.
– Any advice?

Thanks, Kari”

Hi Kari,
The suddenness of your leaks suggests it is repulsion. Happens to me if I do too many cold washes. Try a strip wash then stick to cold rinse, warm wash.


What is a strip wash?

Sometimes the nappies might aquire a build up of detergent (or creams) that can repel fluid, causing  leaks, or make them smelly when wet.  Make sure you’re not using barrier creams directly on your nappies.  You can remove a buildup by doing a strip wash.  This means you strip the oils and buildup out of the fabric.  It’s done by washing the clean nappies in hot water with a squirt of dishwashing liquid, then ensuring they are rinsed until all the bubbles are gone. (from the Extremely Nappies FAQ page)

Lara of Extremely Nappies

Hi Kari,

Here is my advice on your suddenly leaking cloth nappy problem. Cloth Nappies will eventually come across this problem approx. every 3-6 months depending on how often you wash. Even if you have been following the cloth nappies care instructions down to the letter. The cause of the problem is the washing powder/liquid build up that can accumulate over the nappy over time.

Firstly test to see if the washing powder/liquid build up is the problem by performing a warm full cycle wash WITHOUT any washing powder/liquid.

If you see the water start to have soapy bubbles appear then you may need to wash the nappy/nappies a few more times till the water no longer has bubbles.

Try out the nappy and see if this has rectified the problem. (If you use boosters/inserts then these should also be included in the wash.)

After testing the nappy if it still seems to be leaking then you will need to strip wash the nappy by giving it a Deep Clean.

In your nappy pail or laundry sink fill it up with hot water and add about a tablespoon of regular household dish-washing liquid (a cheap detergent without moisturisers or conditioners is the best). Yep! The dish-washing detergent is the exact stuff you use on your dirty dishes the aim of using this is to try and dissolve the Oil Build Up & Residue in your Fabrics so a degreasing detergent is exactly what is needed here)!

Now massage the soap into the nappy especially the inner nappy liner (if you have boosters/inserts that you use then these should also be deep cleaned).

Leave to soak in the soapy water over night.

PLEASE REMEMBER if you are using your nappy pail or other form of bucket to PLEASE KEEP IT UP HIGH & OUT OF REACH OF ANY YOUNG CHILDREN. Young children drowning in buckets is tragically way too common yet so simple to avoid!

Do a warm full wash cycle WITHOUT powders/liquids. **If you feel that too much dish-washing liquid was added previously then it’s best to do a pre-rinse cycle before the full wash.**

This should do the trick and turn your nappies back to the super absorbent machine they used to be!!!

A deep clean every couple of months will maintain absorbency and will strip residue & oil build up on your Modern Cloth Nappies.

I hope this information has been helpful.

Kind Regards,

Mandy Murdica, Cuddle Bumz

Hi Kari

I have experienced your problem in the past too – I find having some extra boosters in there helps (I think it’s an absorbency problem more than a PUL problem?). It also generally only happens with nappies that have a cotton outer – for night time (or other times when your bub will be in the nappy for a while, ie. outings, car trips) try usually nappies with a polyester outer, like minkee or polar fleece.

Hope that helps,

Kyra from Bubbalooba

Hi Kari,
Even without using a lot of detergent you may still be getting a build up of product on your nappy lining and inserts, which means the liquid isn’t absorbed and they leak. If you use any sort of nappy rash cream they can cause a waterproof barrier on the lining of the nappy, other issues could be washing too many nappies at once meaning they aren’t getting a good wash, and using cold water can also cause problems, especially when using very little washing powder as it won’t dissolve any oily stuff on the nappies.
The best thing you can try out is a strip wash of all your nappies.
Instructions for doing this are:
1. Take all your clean dry nappies and put them in the machine, with NO detergents and put them through a hot wash
2. Wash nappies a second time, again with hot water, adding ½ cup of bicarb this time
3. Dry as usual
You can also try soaking nappies overnight in ECOstore pure oxygen whitener, which is perfectly safe for PUL nappies.
Hope that helps!
Nyssa from Snow Pea Nappies

Hi Kari,

For one, I recommend using a dedicted night nappy. They are far more absorbant, and built to handle all that wee. They are also more breathable.

I also wouldn’t use wool wash, use something like Rockin’ Green, Purity or Amolin.

If they are not leaking during the day, then the PUL is probably not damaged.

Try a strip wash (tiny amount of dishwashing detergent and wash them in warm to hot water, then rinse til water is clear) to get out all the gunk and help with repelling issues.

Warm regards,

Janine Garvey

Ninky Bear

Hi Kari,

There are 2 main reasons why PUL nappies randomly start doing this and that I can see might apply here.

Firstly, because the nappies are washed in wool wash, there will most likely be a build up of detergent in the nappies causing them to become less absorbent. I recommend doing a strip wash

** Step 1: Start by washing your nappies as usual, its best to do a strip wash on clean nappies. A cold wash with a very small amount of detergent is best.

Step 2: Run your nappies through a HOT wash with NO DETERGENT. Note that with PUL nappies it is recommended that you do not wash above 60 degrees, so set your machine on about this. (you can use a small amount of cheap dishwashing liquid in this wash if you wish, make sure there is no moisturiser in this liquid. You could also use some Bicarb instead)

Step 3: Run your nappies through an extra rinse with a little vinegar (the vinegar removes the odours and detergent residue)

Step 4: KEEP RINSING! do as many rinses as it takes for the suds in the washing machine to be completely gone and the water to become clear. (this will probably take about 3 or 4 rinses)

Step 5: Put your nappies out in the sun to dry. (if its not a sunny day then its okay to hang them elsewhere) **

The strip wash will help your nappies to become more absorbent, which will help with your random daytime wee leakages. I recommend either strip washing once a fortnight or using a detergent free nappy wash such as rockin green or soapnuts (I have tried both of these and they are both great options) There are other detergents strictly for nappy washing that I haven’t tried also.

The other thing that might be causing the PUL to leak, especially in overnight instances, would be that the nappy is simply not containing the wee. A brief description of what I mean…

PUL is a micro-porous fabric, this means that while the fabric is waterproof, it is breathable (which is why we use it on our little ones’ precious bottoms instead of PVC pilchers). Because it is breathable, when your bub has filled their nappy to capacity and is wearing something on the outside (such as cotton shorts) you will have “wicking” problems, this is when the polyester fabric that is your PUL is against an absorbent fabric such as cotton and the absorbent fabric pulls the wetness through causing damp or sometimes just plain old wet pants. Another thing your nappy might do is “pressure leak” so when they sit it might leak on their bottom, or if they are in the car seat it might leak where the strap goes through their legs.

So the way you can fix this, is (as per the other cause) do a strip wash on your nappies as it will improve the absorbency or add more absorbency to your nappy. Overnight, I’d recommend getting a wool cover (this will act as a second layer of waterproofing for the nappy) and maybe adding another booster to their nappy to add absorbency.

Either way, Id recommend the first course of action would be a strip wash.

If this doesn’t work, perhaps look at some more absorbent nappies, extra boosters etc.

If you have any more questions about anything I’ve said, please email me to

– Amy Grant

WeePantz Cloth Nappies


It sounds like you care for your nappies very well.

Unfortunately PUL nappies are not the most durable nappies on the market. After much of my own research before the birth of my son, I decided that a cover separate to the nappy was the most durable and economical.

You see PUL covers (and material) do not have as long a life span as the nappy itself. It is the least durable part of the nappy and once it wears out the AIO or pocket nappy is unusable.

So Kari, this problem is very common when it comes to AIO’s (nappies with PUL covers all together). It has nothing to do with the way you care for them – they are just not designed for full time use. Especially over night a two cover system is more reliable as it has 2 layers of containment rather then one.

Having said that, AIO’s are good to have for the occasional wear, especially on outings or when someone who is not as experienced with nappies is caring for the baby. I myself have a few that I take as spears when we go out for the day.

Hope that is helpful.


Mamma’s Lil Jellybean

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