Front loaders are great because they use ½ the energy of a standard top loader and ½ the water! But front loaders can also be a challenge for washing heavily soiled or synthetic items BECAUSE they use only ½ the water…..
Water is a key factor in a successful cloth nappy wash routine. Other factors include detergent, length of wash cycle, temperature and agitation. When you are washing nappies that are full of pee that needs to be rinsed out thoroughly, water is crucial and is unfortunately in limited supply when using a front loader.
If you have not already purchased nappies, you may want to consider the ease of washing various fabrics when making your choice on which nappies to buy for washing in your washing machine.
Fabrics that are oil-based such as polyester are hydrophobic, meaning they do not like water. Fabrics made from polyester include many fleeces, suedecloths and stay dry knits. In order to get these fabrics clean you need to be sure to use enough detergent to “encourage” the water to enter the fiber. In a front loader, you don’t have much water so you want to make sure it gets into the fibers and the surfactants in detergents are key for this to happen.
Fabrics such as microfiber are not only petroleum based but they also have tiny channels within the fibers which trap urine. This makes them excellent for capturing pee, but because they are petroleum based and also have these tiny channels, they don’t want to release that pee in the wash cycle. It is a double whammy! Thus a good amount of detergent and water are necessary to keep microfiber from getting stinky and if you have a front loader that does not offer you the option of adding significantly more water – microfiber might not be the best choice for you!
Natural fibers are mostly hydrophilic (water loving) - especially cotton. This means that water will naturally and easily enter the fibers of the fabric even without the help of detergent, so it washes out easily, even without tons of water. Cotton absorbs lots of pee by “puffing” up the whole fiber and because the fibers are full fibers of a good size, the pee rinses out of cotton quite effectively.
So if you have a front loader and are looking for the EASIEST cloth nappy to wash, then a cotton-based nappy is an excellent choice.
If you have a fantastic machine and can adjust the water level so that you can use a lot of water for wash and rinsing, then you will be able to wash synthetic nappy successfully!