Following on from the success of our previous Live Podcast, we decided to do another one! We have a very special guest this week, Amy White from Clean Cloth Nappy Hire. She is a nappy cleaning guru and Andrew has a few questions for her! He asks where do you start with cleaning your nappies? What the biggest challenge Amy has in running her business? She also gives us her top tips to get your nappies extra clean as well as the low down on bleach and how to handle mould.
This Nappy Leaks episode is recorded in front of a live studio audience… and by “live studio audience” we mean in the Bubblebubs warehouse with an audience that was 50% babies! But we all had a great time and it was good to be able to pick Vashti and Vicki’s brains in person.
Vicki Simpson is the outgoing President of the Australian Nappy Association and has been advocating for and selling cloth nappies in Australia for over 15 years. She is the owner, creator and Chief Nappy Nerd here at Bubblebubs. Vashti Wadwell is the outgoing Member Secretary of the Australian Nappy Association and is the owner of Australia’s first bricks and mortar nappy store, Nest Nappies, in Brisbane, Australia. Both Vicki and Vashti have used cloth nappies for more than a decade each over three children and turned their passion into a business.
Transcription: Nappy Leaks Live March 2020
Andrew: How are you doing Vicki?
Vicki: I’m well, Andrew. How are you?
Andrew: Excellent, how are you doing Vashti?
Vashti: Great thanks Andrew, how are you today?
Andrew: Did you hear it that time?
Vashti: I did.
Andrew: And still doing our live shows, we have Amy, hiya Amy.
Amy: G’day Andrew, how are you doing?
Andrew: Weren’t you here before?
Amy: I was here before.
Andrew: Answering washing questions.
Amy: Washing questions, yeah.
Andrew: Washing is your jam.
Amy: It seems to be my forte.
Andrew: Jam sounds better. You have a business?
Amy: I do, I’ve got a cloth nappy hire business.
Vicki: Are the nappies clean?
Vicki: I tell you what, if you want to hire clean nappies…
Vashti: Go to Clean Cloth Nappy Hire.
Amy: They are, they’re beautiful.
Andrew: Is this one of the reasons why you’re so good at knowing how to wash nappies, because you have a business that washes nappies?
Amy: I think it happened the other way first. I was the laundry helper lady, and then I started the business. But I really enjoy washing nappies.
Amy: So yeah, one of my secret hobbies is getting really, really clean nappies out of the washing machines. And it happens to be me a lot.
Andrew: Actually I was just about to say, I probably will never meet another person like that. But now I think of it, I think Jenna’s like that too.
Amy: Yeah, well she was a Clean Cloth Nappy lady as well.
Andrew: I did a whole…
Amy: Peas in a pod, hey?
Andrew: I did a whole video series with Jenna on cleaning nappies.
Amy: Yeah, I saw, she was very good.
Andrew: The good thing about those videos is when she’s doing videos, she doesn’t actually give you the content in order. She mixes it up. This bit goes here.
Amy: Just like the podcast, really.
Andrew: That’s it.
Vashti: Pretty much.
Vicki: Go with the flow.
Amy: So yeah, Andrew’s the man to sort out all of our faux pas.
Andrew: So you’ve got a couple of questions. Actually, let me ask you a couple of questions. Where do you start with your wash routine? Like you’ve got your nappies, just arrived in a box. Probably from someone who ships in boxes.
Vashti: They could be all wrapped up in brown paper.
Andrew: Or wrapped up in brown paper, yeah. Or you actually went to the shop and bought them. Where do you start? You unpack the box. There will be instructions in there, obviously, mostly, but some of them don’t give instructions. Where would you start?
Amy: So before you use the nappies, just give them a wash. Just send them through the washing machine with a bit of detergent and warm water, just to give them…
Andrew: You know, we never did that.
Andrew: No, because we have a nappy business…
Andrew: …and you haven’t washed the nappies, there’s no way in the world you’re going to prewash and nappy before you put it on the baby, because you’re not prepared. So many times…
Vicki: This is how stashes get out of control.
Amy: Do you know what? I’ve got a confession. I do the same thing. Sometimes I get a new nappy and I really want to use it. So I just use it.
Andrew: Stick it straight on.
Amy: But don’t do what I do, and don’t do what they do, hey? Wash your nappies.
Andrew: Don’t do what we do, do what we say.
Vashti: I still remember when Kylan was coming to the shop with me, if I left the nappy bag at home, nappies came straight off the shelf and onto his bum.
Vicki: Oh, but of course you paid full retail for them, and paid your fair share of tax and did not write them off as sample adjustments.
Vashti: No, this was before I owned Nest, so I had to pay for them.
Vicki: Sorry. Not that you would ever do that as a business owner anyway, no, no, no. Samples.
Andrew: That’s why Vicki and I don’t own a lolly shop. Never make any money. Actually we’re flat out putting the lollies into the packets that we send out.
Amy: I’m always pretty happy when the Bubblebubs box arrives. I hide them on top of the microwave. Don’t tell my kids.
Vashti: Do you still get lollies?
Amy: Oh yeah.
Vashti: I don’t. I don’t even get chocolate with my pre-orders.
Vashti: I did not get a chocolate box…
Amy: My four year old asked me, he didn’t know that I’d opened them and eaten them already, and he asked me every day for about a week. Please, open the present. Open the present. Eventually he forgot about it, thankfully.
Andrew: A week. That’s a long time, though.
Amy: They were good, they were good.
Vashti: You should have just kept the box and let him open it to nothing.
Amy: Probably, I’ll wrap it up again. Get it out of the recycling, he’ll be very excited.
Vicki: Maybe put some stickies or something in them.
Amy: I’ll just put a chocolate in there. He’ll be over the moon.
Vashti: What about a matchbox car?
Amy: We’ve got enough of them. Actually I could probably just get one out of the box.
Vashti: Yeah, exactly.
Amy: I think it’s the thrill of the present, not necessarily what the present is.
Vashti: Yeah, it’s the opening.
Andrew: So back to the question. When you get your box of nappies and you open them up, you’re not supposed to put them straight on your baby.
Amy: No, don’t put them straight on your baby.
Andrew: So just an ordinary wash? Anything special?
Amy: Yeah, just a normal type wash, like an everyday type wash.
Andrew: You obviously don’t have to prewash them, do you you.
Amy: No, giving them a wash will get off any dust and manufacturing residue, spinning oil and those kind of things that happen from fabric production and nappy production, just to ensure they’re nice and clean and ready to go.
Andrew: They always look clean don’t they?
Amy: Yeah, I think they always look the same going into the wash as they do coming out on that first wash, which is much better than what they’re like a bit down the track.
Andrew: So in your business, what’s the biggest problem you’ve got?
Amy: I think communicating information really. So I actually produce a step by step wash routine for all of my customers. So I’ve got a form that they fill in, and they tell me all about their washing machine, and what detergent they like to use for their family. And then I write them some step by step instructions, so they can sort of get a good start.
Andrew: You write that for every customer?
Amy: For every customer, yeah.
Andrew: Wow. You don’t just copy and paste it?
Amy: I’ve got wash routine Wednesday.
Andrew: Wash routine Wednesday.
Amy: Yeah, yeah. Every Wednesday I do my wash routines. No, I don’t copy and paste it because everyone’s wash routine is a little bit different, and I think it really helps to give people some personalised instructions rather than general instructions. It’s good for them, and it’s also good for me, because my nappies get taken care of and then they learn how to wash really effectively for when they get their own nappies.
Andrew: And if there’s something going wrong, is it the wash routine? You haven’t been following the wash routine, like if they’re having trouble getting them washed?
Amy: Well you know, you can follow the instructions and it doesn’t always turn out perfectly. And sometimes you might need to tweak things. Like for example, we were talking about pre-treating, and pre-washing and things in the earlier episode. There’s a lot of little things that you can do to adjust your wash routine if things aren’t coming out perfectly. Vicki mentioned Sard Soap, so Sard Soap has always worked really well for me, and I send that out, a bar of Sard Soap out with every hire package, because I think that’s a great place to start with newborns. But Sard Soap isn’t the best product for everybody, and some people get better results from Vanish in the wash or Sard or one of the Napisan type products.
Andrew: That’s a bar of soap.
Amy: Yeah, a bar of laundry soap.
Andrew: How do you put a bar of laundry soap in through the wash?
Amy: So you just rub it into the nappies when you rinse them. So you rinse the poos off, rub it in and then send them through the wash. And it’s a fantastic product, it always worked really, really well for me. But like I said, nothing is perfect for everyone, and so if that’s not working, I can suggest something else, or you might need to do a longer pre-wash, or use a different water temperature and these kind of things. So as far as washing goes, there’s really endless combinations that can result in a really good outcome.
Andrew: Do you have people who want to use just cold water?
Amy: Generally not, because I write them the instructions, and so I suggest a wash temperature for them. And with the hire nappies, I always suggest they wash at 60, in hot water. I like to wash my own nappies at 60 because it’s the most foolproof way of getting them really, really lovely. So that works for me, so that’s what I suggest to everyone else. You can wash them in warm water and they’ll be fine. But I think for most people, cold doesn’t generally work in the long term.
Vicki: So, do you use, I suppose you’re using the same nappies on two different children?
Amy: At home? Yeah, so my big one, he’s in night nappies, so he’s like an extra large pocket nappy, and just stuff it with a couple of pre-folds for him. And then for this little guy, who’s currently sleeping on me, he wears all sorts of nappies, depending on what I feel like putting him in at the time, and I wash them both together. You can wash all of your kids’ nappies together, along with any other laundry that gets a hot wash, like your socks and your tea towels and kitchen cloths, and whatever else you put in for a heavy duty wash, can all go in to your nappy main wash as well.
Vicki: OK, and what about if you’re buying nappies second hand, that’s a separate process of how, that’s a bit different with sharing nappies with siblings?
Amy: Yeah of course, because another baby and you don’t necessarily know. You hope for the best, but you don’t know what kind of history they’ve had, or what they might be like. I’ve seen a few.
Vicki: I’ve seen some.
Amy: I’ve seen a few. So sometimes you get them and they’re as new and they’re beautiful, and to be honest, you could probably just give them a wash and use them, and they’d be pristine. And sometimes you get them and they’re really stained and they smell like wee, and they’re a bit more disgusting, and they need a bit more love, care and work. And so in that case, you might want to treat the inserts. So you might want to give the inserts a soak in hot water, some Napisan, some laundry detergent, something like that, to get them nice and clean. And then the shells, you generally, you don’t need to soak the shells, it’s not very good for them to soak the shells. And they don’t really, even if they’re stained, a bit of Sard soap or pre-treater spray will generally get that out. So you don’t need to do anything special to the shells, per se. But definitely I treat the inserts, and then give them a wash. And a lot of people like to sanitise them, s they might use a bit of bleach or Canesten laundry soap sanitiser, or one of the other proprietary products, just to ensure that they’re free from bacteria and yeast, that could cause infections in children.
Vicki: And just on the chlorine bleach, now 100% never on a shell, but on inserts, it’s about following the right dilutions and time. Because chlorine bleach can absolutely make a nappy fall apart.
Amy: Absolutely it’s a very, yeah, yeah. So chlorine is a very strong base. Really high Ph, which can cause, especially in something like bamboo viscose, which is sort of a…
Amy: …a delicate fabric, it can cause the bonds between the fibres to come undone. If you use it for too long, too strong, too often. These kind of things. So definitely tread carefully, follow the instructions.
Vicki: Yeah, it’s not like Napisan where if you accidentally leave something soaking, it’s not so bad. If you accidentally leave it soaking, it’s like melted.
Amy: It’s exactly the same as melting. So definitely follow the instructions, and generally bleach doesn’t need to be left for very long, it’s generally only a few minutes in bleach. In an industrial laundry, I was just reading about this yesterday actually, the bleach cycle is only three to five minutes long. So it’s really short to actually get those really effective results, it works really quickly.
Vicki: Hence it’s what’s making stuff fall apart.
Amy: It’s super effective, exactly, it works really quickly. And of course…
Vashti: It’s the same as high temperatures as well. So if you’re using extreme temperatures, you only need to do it for a very short period of time, because it is so effective, showing all that bacteria.
Vicki: What about the other big one, mould?
Amy: Yeah, mould. It’s a pain, isn’t it?
Vicki: It’s really hard to manage. Can you explain the difference between actually getting rid of mould spores and then the stains?
Amy: So everybody wants to get rid of the mould spores. But the reality is that mould spores are everywhere. Like they’re all in the air, they’re in the environment. And they just like somewhere to go. So in terms of eradicating mould spores, it’s just impossible. But when you get mould, you can treat it. And bleach does kill mould. That’s the other thing that people say on the internet, bleach doesn’t kill mould. But that’s not true. If you get mould in something like your bathroom silicon or in gyprock or something where it permeates in…
Vashti: It’s porous.
Amy: …doing a surface treatment won’t get rid of the mould. But when you’re doing the laundry, it’s diluted in water and you’re immersing the item, so it goes right through. And it’s quite an effective treatment.
Vashti: We get quite bad mould in our bathroom, because our house has been renovated…
Amy: Yeah, our house too.
Vashti: …and our bathroom is smack, bang in the centre with no external ventilation or anything. So there’s plans on renovating, but it’s been delayed. Babies will do that.
Vashti: But we get really, really bad mould in there, and like every mould killer treatment on the market is bleached based.
Amy: Of course, yeah, because that’s what works.
Vashti: It does, it honestly does. And if I give it a really, really good going over, we won’t get mould for a good three or four months.
Amy: And I’ve noticed the same. You know what it’s like living in a post war house that gets mouldy ceilings in winter and these kind of things.
Vicki: Welcome to Queensland. And the tropics.
Vashti: That’s the other thing, we’ve just found out after going through a nearly two year battle with our insurance company, is the people who originally put the roof on our house didn’t do it properly. So where you’re supposed to have something like a 20 mil gap between roofing sheets at the caps, and then the sheets get turned up at the end and the cap goes on, in some sections on our roof cap, none of the sheets were turned up and you can actually fit a full man’s, a grown man’s fist in between the roofing sheets. So we’re getting so much water in our ceiling cavity…
Amy: Oh no, what a disaster.
Vashti: …which is then actually causing way more mould issues.
Amy: I can imagine, yeah.
Vashti: And we’ve gotten one section which was actually causing problems fixed. But the rest of it, we’ve actually got to rip up all the solar hot water and the solar panels and everything. So it’s a huge job. I just wish I could get the contact for the guy.
Amy: Mould loves moisture.
Vashti: I want the contact for the guy who did the roofing in the first place, that’s all.
Amy: But definitely, back to laundry, as far as…
Amy: That’s alright, I’m going to completely to off topic. I’m going to tell you how I treat my ceilings in a minute because it works really well. But back to the laundry…
Vicki: You probably just stand there, because Amy is super tall. It’s going to work for you. Unlike me. Stand on a stool.
Amy: My ladder actually, but yeah.
Vashti: I did actually buy an extendable scrubby brush thing that works really well, so a put the treatment in the bucket and you can dip the scrubby brush in.
Amy: Oh yeah, I thought about doing that with a sponge mop or something, but I just get up on the ladder and use a cloth and a bucket. It works alright. We’ll help you fix your house. But as far as preventing mould in your laundry, so a nice airy open pail is good, because if your laundry is allowed to get good airflow and dry out a bit, it won’t be so likely to grow mould. Keeping mould out of your bathroom as Vashti has mentioned, can be a bit of a challenge, depending on the conditions. It’s important because if you’ve got active mould in your bathroom, it’s going to be sending out spores which are going to land on your laundry and start growing. And then treating the mould that’s maybe already in your laundry. I’ve always had, you can use high temperatures or bleach to kill it. Obviously high temperatures, something like a 95 degree cycle in a front loader, you can’t use that with your PUL or your elastics. You need to be really sensible about what you use that on. But sending through the inserts on a high temperature cycle certainly, probably not an issue if you do that to them once. And then I like to soak in Napisan or any of the laundry soaker products. And I mix it up double strength. I find it more effective to immerse the things, rather than use the paste. But I just soak them in a bucket for a day or so, like the inserts, in a nice, strong Napisan solution, and that always gets rid of the black marks, and then they’re good. I found that that doesn’t come back after doing that. So that’s what’s worked for me.
Vashti: Awesome. Excellent.
Vicki: That’s not Andrew snoring by the way.
Vashti: Amy’s got Thomas on her chest.
Amy: Someone’s got the sniffles I think. Have you got the sniffles?
Andrew: He’s certainly a good sleeper. Makes me tired, I want to go sleep to. Thank you, Vashti.
Vashti: Thanks, Andrew.
Andrew: Thank you, Vicki.
Vicki: Thanks, Andrew.
Andrew: Thank you, Amy.
Amy: No problem.
Andrew: Bye everybody. Vicki Simpson is wife and mother to three children, and owner and founder of Bubblebubs. Vicki has been making and selling cloth nappies through her website for 16 years. Bubblebubs is now one of the most recognised and awarded cloth nappy brands in Australia, and is currently expanding to other countries. You can find out more and contact her through her website, bubblebubs.com.au. Vashti Wadwell is mother to three children and has been using cloth nappies for 14 years. She is the owner of Australia’s first cloth nappy store, Nest Nappies, located in Brisbane, Australia. Vashti can be contacted through her website, nestnappies.com. If are finding the podcast helpful, and would like to make it easier for other parents to find, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. I am your host, Andrew Simpson.