nappy in washing machine

What Happens if You Accidentally Put a Nappy in the Washing Machine?

If you’ve accidentally put the wrong type of nappy into the washing machine, you’re going to be greeted by a dreadful mess when you go to pull out your laundry. 

While it may look like an epic snowfall has taken place inside your washing machine, you’ll be glad to hear that you can, in fact, deal with the problem very quickly and with ease. 

Find out what’ll happen if you accidentally put a nappy in the washing machine in more detail below, and more importantly, discover how to deal with the issue.

What Happens if You Put a Disposable Nappy in the Washing Machine?

disposable nappy in washing machine

If you’ve popped a disposable nappy into a washing machine, you’ll likely find that all of your laundry will be covered in a gel/fluff-like mess when the wash cycle has ended. 

What’s all the mess? This gel/fluff waste is actually the absorbent polymers that are typically found inside a nappy. These polymers are there to absorb all the fluid a baby releases, but when you pop a disposable nappy into a washing machine it takes on water, expands and explodes. Hence the gel-fluff spills out and covers your laundry.

This probably sounds, and looks, like a complete and utter disaster, and you’re likely thinking that it’ll take an age to clean up the debris. In reality, however, this minor problem is quite simple to deal with and shouldn’t take you too long to sort out. 

This is what you need to do to resolve the issue:

  1. When the washing cycle has ended and you go to remove your washed laundry you will be greeted with a mess.
  2. Close the washing machine door and make sure that your kids and pets are out of the room from this point on – little bits will drop onto the floor and you don’t want anybody to pick them up or to eat them.
  3. Grab a bin bag and open it up.
  4. Open the washing machine door and stretch inside your machine to retrieve the culprit – pull out the disposable nappy.
  5. Pop the nappy straight into the bin bag – don’t worry too much if little pieces fall onto the floor at this particular moment in time.
  6. Remove any large and obvious clusters of gel-fluff you see.
  7. If it’s possible you need to go outside and lay a sheet on the ground – this sheet will catch all the gel-fluff bits that are going to fall off your clothes. If this isn’t possible, lay some paper towels on your kitchen floor to catch the bits.
  8. Remove one item of clothing from your washing machine at a time.
  9. Shake the item of clothing over the sheet/paper towels, so that the little bits fall off and are caught – this is likely to be quite messy work, but keep going until the last item of clothing has been shaken.
  10. Pop all your clothes to one side.
  11. Get a microfibre cloth and wipe down the inside of your washing machine – you’re not likely to remove every single piece of gel-fluff, but you should be able to pick up a lot of debris, particularly the bigger clumps.
  12. Run an empty wash cycle to remove any leftover gel-fluff bits.
  13. Optional: Add half a cup of white vinegar to the detergent drawer to clean the washing machine out.
  14. Pop your clothes back into the washing machine and wash them again.
  15. When the clothes are being washed you can clean up the mess on the floor – gather the paper towels and pop them in the bin/hoover the floor.
  16. When the cycle has ended you can pop your clothes outside to dry or into the tumble dryer.
  17. If you use a tumble dryer you will need to clean and remove any lint that has built up inside the machine at the end of the cycle.
  18. If there is still some gel-fluff on your clothes once they have dried, you need to use a clothes brush to remove the waste that’s been left behind.


What Happens if You Put a Cloth Nappy in the Washing Machine?

If you use a cloth or reusable nappy instead, can you expect to see the same explosive results as the ones mentioned above, if you wash them in the washing machine?

Nope. As the name suggests, cloth or reusable nappies are designed to be used over and over again, which means that they need to be washed regularly. They can, therefore, be washed in a washing machine! Reusable nappies don’t contain the same ingredients, and are not made in the same way as the disposable nappies discussed above, so they can be cared for in a different way.

cloth nappy in washing machine

However, if you are going to use a washing machine to clean a reusable nappy there are a few points you need to remember:

  • You need to add a nappy liner to a cloth nappy before you use it. This liner catches the solid waste that comes out of a baby.
  • You should not wash a nappy liner’s solid contents because this is unhygienic. The liner must be emptied before any washing takes place – flush the waste down the toilet.
  • Cloth nappies should be washed at a high temperature.
  • Nappies come in different materials, so you should always read the clothing label to make sure you wash the garment correctly.
  • Separate ‘nappy washes’ is a good idea. This is when you wash all the reusable nappies together – some say this is more hygienic and better for the material.

If you follow the guidance given by the nappy’s manufacturer, you shouldn’t have any problems with washing cloth or reusable nappies in the washing machine.