Reusable wipes are some of the best options for parents who want to become more eco-friendly. They’re typically more affordable than consistently buying and replacing single-use wipes. Most babies only require about 30-40 wipes as long as you wash them daily.
Here’s how to clean reusable wipes:
- Store soiled wipes separately.
- Soak used wipes in cold water.
- Rinse soiled wipes thoroughly.
- Wash your reusable wipes in a machine.
- Avoid using fabric softener on reusable wipes.
- Tumble reusable wipes dry and hang them in the sun.
In this article, I will explain how to clean reusable wipes in more detail so you can ensure that the wipes are perfectly clean and safe to use on your baby.
1. Store Soiled Wipes Separately
Soiled wipes need to be stored separately from clean wipes, of course, but they also need to be segregated from each other depending on what you wipe up.
The wipes you’re using for hands and mouths can easily be rinsed off and thrown into your regular wash directly, but wipes you use for your baby’s bottom need to be rinsed and soaked before they go into the wash.
If you’re out and about, you can just put them in your wet bag, with a separate bag for the bottom wipes. Having a tub for the dirty wipes keeps everything nice and separated at home. You can use the same tub for soiled reusable nappies.
It is also essential to keep your soiled wipes in a drawstring or mesh bag even when you throw them in the wash. These will ensure that you don’t lose your wipes in the washer.
Still, be careful not to use a bag that’s too big. A mesh bag that’s too large could potentially create a big ball of wipes. The ones in the middle may not get clean if they become a “snowball” in your washer.
2. Soak Used Wipes in Cold Water
While you don’t need to soak the wipes you use for your baby’s face and mouth since those will probably not have any debris that needs to be soaked off, you need to soak the wipes for the bottom.
If you’re using a tub for dirty reusable wipes and nappies, you can fill the tub up with water and soak the wipes directly in the tub unless there are quite a bit of feces on the wipe you’re using.
Use the nappy to clean up most of the feces before using your wipes. Scrape off whatever you can from your wipes and dispose of it, then put your wipes into the tub to soak.
Always use cold or lukewarm water to soak your reusable wipes because heat can set protein stains. Things like feces and food will stick to fabric more if you use hot water. If the mess becomes insoluble, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get them off unless you use harsh chemicals like bleach.
3. Rinse Soiled Wipes Thoroughly
After you’ve soaked your reusable wipes, rinse them thoroughly so that any of the feces or mess that’s loosened up after the soak won’t get into your sink or tub.
The process of soaking and rinsing your wipes ensures that you don’t have to run several washes and waste tons of water and electricity trying to get your reusable wipes clean.
By soaking and rinsing before washing, you’re able to get the worst of the stains off and loosen up the proteins so that they’ll come off quickly in the washer.
To rinse, use cold or lukewarm water and gently agitate the wipes in the water. Rub gently at the loosened stains to get the protein off, and rinse again. Then you can put your wipes in your mesh or drawstring bag.
4. Wash Your Reusable Wipes in a Machine
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the wipes you use for your baby’s hands and mouth don’t need soaking or rinsing. It would be best to put them in a mesh bag then throw them in with the regular wash.
However, you should wash wipes used for your baby’s bottom at a higher temperature to sanitize them thoroughly. If you’re using reusable nappies, then you can clean the wipes along with the nappies in a single load.
If you’re not and only using reusable wipes, then ensure that the load you’re throwing the wipes into uses hot water and is a long wash.
Hot water is necessary at this stage of the cleaning process for reusable wipes because hot water kills germs and sanitizes the cloth.
Long washes ensure that the wipes are completely clean. The pre-washing and soaking process will remove the worst of the staining proteins, so you don’t have to worry about your wipes being heavily stained because of the setting effect of the hot water.
If you have the time and the resources, you could do a pre-wash, followed by the main wash. Doing so is more feasible if you have enough reusable wipes and nappies to be washed that it takes up an entire load of its own.
For the pre-wash, put all your wipes and nappies in your washer for half an hour to an hour, with half the amount of detergent you usually use. Your water should be hot but not scalding.
Then you can rewash the load, this time for about 2 hours, or whatever the most extended cycle on your machine is. Set the water temperature to the highest it can go, and rerun the load. This time, use a whole cap full of detergent.
5. Avoid Using Fabric Softener on Reusable Wipes
It is tempting to use fabric softener for your reusable wipes, especially since you’ll be using them on your baby’s gentle skin. However, fabric softeners deposit a waxy film on cloth, which can build up over time.
This film is harmful because it can irritate the skin and is terrible for the wipes themselves. Over time, the film reduces the cloth’s ability to absorb anything, making it useless as a wipe.
Instead, you can pick up wool dryer balls, which work just as well, if not better, without destroying the absorbency of your reusable wipes. Another alternative to fabric softener is white vinegar.
You can add some white vinegar to your washer – about a quarter to half a cup diluted in water for a full load in your machine. The vinegar will make the wipes softer and remove any odors and sanitize the cloth.
6. Tumble Reusable Wipes Dry and Hang Them in the Sun
You might choose to store your reusable wipes while they’re still wet for convenience’s sake. You can skip this step unless you find that your wipes are stained if you do.
However, if you prefer to store your reusable wipes dry, then you can ensure that they’re spotless by drying them twice. Tumble dry them in your dryer, which will agitate and remove any lingering proteins. The dryer will also get the wipes mostly dry.
Finish off the process by line drying your reusable wipes in the sun. Sunlight is a final round of sanitization that will not only kill germs but any possible mildew spores that may be budding in the wet environment of a reusable wipe.
Cloth dried in sunlight also smells fresher and removes lingering stains, making it the perfect final step to cleaning reusable wipes.