So let’s start here: Nothing about this is going to be “best case scenario” or “optimal washing” this post is all about making do! And making cloth nappies work for you in an awkward situation so you don’t have to switch to single-use nappies; whether that is due to allergies, deeply held beliefs or just not wanting to learn something else. It’s all valid! That said there’s no shame in switching for travelling really, you do you. But if you’re like me and a total nutbag and it doesn’t even occur to you to use single-use even when caravanning around the South Island of New Zealand with your in-laws join me for a lesson in making the best of a tough laundry situation.

Modern cloth nappy shells hanging to dry on a ladder in a campervan.

What reusable nappies do I take?

Now let’s be honest, I took my Candies, which are an all-in-two modern cloth nappy. They’re easy to use, they’re my favourites and they’re what I was comfortable with. Retrospectively, though, I wish I’d taken cotton prefolds. They’re nearly as easy to use, I could have even pad-folded them into my Candies shells and they’re more durable because they don’t have bamboo in them. They can take a beating and can be washed on a 95º cycle when you get home if you want. Another great option is flats, they’re even easier to clean than a prefold because they’re a single layer, so they would have been much more forgiving to the poor washing situation and again they can be washed on a 95º cycle when you get home. If you are interested in travelling with flats check out this blog by Keryn, she is one of our fabulous brand reps and she travelled recently with flats and is a total convert.

Mother washing cloth nappies in a sink at campsite.

How do I wash them?

Firstly, when travelling I always recommend calling ahead to check the wash situation is accurate to the website because sometimes the internet lies! Shock horror I know! They are usually coin operated so it’s worth working out what change you will need and getting it at the start of the trip. I will add that all the laundry facilities I used were quite clean and well kept. Now my experience was that most campsites only have cold water as an option which quite frankly for nappy washing sucks.  To wash, I just used the longest cycle twice, figuring they need all the help they could get in the cold water. But I do have some ideas to help improve the situation.

Firstly, no laundry detergent work particularly better in cold water, it’s all marketing. Buy the best detergent you can afford because you’ll need all the help you can get in cold water washing. Try some Sard or Sunlight Soap for stains, after some extensive testing over at Clean Cloth Nappies Down Under these seem to be the best for stain removal. Another option, if you can be bothered is most of the campsites have hot water in the laundry basins. You could (in a bucket or basin) do a hot water prewash by hand. But realistically unless you are travelling for quite a length of time or are particularly concerned, I wouldn’t bother with this step.

Another idea but a bit more drastic and I’d really only recommend it after asking the campsite managers if it’s ok. And only if you’re using cloth for an extended period of time while travelling would I think this necessary. Rinse your nappies in warm water first, then soak in 1 cup bleach to 5L of water for 30 minutes prior to washing. Rinsing all nappies before this is a MUST.  Or you will be in danger of creating chloramine gas from combining bleach and ammonia (from urine). I mention this option in case people are really stuck but I would be very careful and wouldn’t think it necessary in most situations.

Drying?

This really depends on your travel plans. Some campsites have laundry lines, you can obviously make your own easily if you’re not moving around much. If you are moving obviously a dryer will make life easier and most campsites have them. To avoid drying your shells in the dryer get creative and hang them around your campsite/caravan. Check out how we dried ours inside the campervan.

Modern cloth nappy shells hanging to dry on a ladder in a campervan.

Disposable or reusable liners?

Using a sub-optimal wash routine I’d say a liner would be a great idea. Up to you if you want to go reusable or disposable liners. There are pros and cons for each. Reusable microfleece liners are a stay dry layer for bub but obviously, you have to remove any poo and rinse it off. Disposable liners you can just dispose of but that might be easier said than done while travelling. Also, they can hold wetness against bub’s skin.

How to store cloth nappies?

A couple of good options here. You could use an XL Wetbag. Pros being that it will keep smells in excellently and cons being that the nappies won’t breathe so they will smell worse in the bag. Another idea would be a large net bag, your nappies would breath better so they wouldn’t smell as much. The choice would largely depend on where you’re staying, if you’re moving around a lot and your general camping set up.

When you get home…

When you arrive home you’re going to want to “reset” your nappies a bit. Depending on how long you were away and what state they’re in you might want to do a dilute bleach soak (see under “Sanitise” instructions here). Please note when followed correctly this will not damage your nappies but follow the quantities and concentration very closely. If you don’t think they’re that bad I would do two back-to-back long, hot (60º) washes on already clean nappies. (Not dirty ones. Wash then with a normal pre- and main wash first.) If you have any stains after the two long, hot washes soak the offending inserts in Napisan or use a Sard or Sunlight bar on them

Now, remember we’re not talking about ideals here. And how long you’re camping for makes a HUGE difference. If you’re going for a week or two don’t stress. Wash them, they’ll live and when you get home follow the procedures we discussed to “reset” them. Now, if you’re touring around Australia for a year my suggestions would definitely be flats or prefolds that you don’t care about. Ones that if they got holes in them wouldn’t make you cry. Maybe do the above chlorine soak where possible. Look up “ammonia burn” and just keep an eye out for that with bub. If you’re getting them “clean enough” there won’t be a problem. If you start to notice what you think might be ammonia burn talk to a doctor and obviously re-adjust and re-assess your plans. But flats will be your friend here, they’re much thinner so they’re easier to clean.

I hope this leaves you feeling empowered and not scared! It really is very doable, especially in short trips. If you’d like to read any more of our blogs about travelling with cloth nappies you can find the links below:

Travelling with Cloth
Travelling with Cloth – Short Flights
Travelling with Cloth – Embrace the flat
Travelling with Cloth – The Nappy Leaks Podcast

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