Accidentally Put A Nappy In The Washing Machine? (here’s what to do)

Picture the scene, your washing machine finishes its cycle and you open the door to remove your clean laundry. Only to find what looks like a snow storm has erupted inside the drum.

If you’ve ever accidentally put a disposable nappy in with a wash load of clothes, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s easy done, what with running around after a toddler as well as trying to do the other 1001 things that need doing, it’s no wonder there are some mistakes made.

If you have accidentally put a disposable nappy in your washing machine, keep reading. 

What Happens To The Disposable Nappy In The Washing Machine?

confused person in front of washing machine

To understand what happens to that disposable nappy in the washing machine we need to know what disposable nappies are made from and how they work.

Disposable nappies consist of three layers; a plastic outer layer, an absorbent core layer composed of absorbent cellulose fibre and a water absorbent polymer (which turns to gel when wet) and an inner layer made from a form of plastic which feels comfortable against the skin.

It’s that absorbent polymer that soaks up moisture and turns it into a gel that prevents the nappy from leaking and keeps the baby dry and comfortable. Now, that polymer can only absorb so much before it becomes overwhelmed and literally explodes inside the drum of your washing machine.

This leaves the inside of the washer’s drum and all of the clothes covered in a gel type fluff. At this point you’re probably close to despair because it looks like a pretty serious mess and you’re imagining all sorts of damage to the washing machine as well as facing a huge clean up operation.

How To Clear The Mess

The first thing to realise is that although it looks like a serious mess, it’s not that much of a problem and won’t cause any serious damage to your washing machine. Plus as long as it’s dealt with straight away, the clean up won’t be that bad either.

Removing The Gel Like Fluff From Your Laundry

To clear the gel like fluff from your still damp clothes there are two approaches you can take. Firstly you can try shaking the clothes to free all of the gel like fluff which can easily be vacuumed from the floor afterwards.

After shaking the clothes to remove as much of the mess as possible, you should then put all of the clothes in your bath. Rinse each individual item under a running tap. Don’t forget to turn each item inside out to ensure as much of the gel has been removed as possible.

Then leave the clothes sitting in the bath while you deal with the washing machine clean up.

Removing The Gel From The Washing Machine

You will need to get your hands dirty for this part as this is the most effective way to remove all of the mess left by the exploding nappy. 

  1. Run your hands around the drum and along the drum blades and remove as much gel as you can.
  2. Get a clean cloth and run this over the drum to remove any last remaining pieces of exploded nappy.
  3. Then run your fingers all around the door seal, don’t forget to get under the rubber flaps to ensure you remove as much gel as possible. 
  4. Then go over the same area using a clean cloth. 
  5. Wipe the door glass over as well to remove any signs of the exploding nappy.
  6. You should now clean the washing machine filter because there will inevitably be some gel caught in the filter. Locate your washing machine filter (consult your handbook for specific instructions).
  7. Place a towel or cloth on the floor to absorb any water left in the filter before opening the filter. 
  8. Remove the filter and wash it under a fast running tap. You can use a soft bristled brush to free any stubborn bits.
  9. Then replace the filter properly, and select the hottest wash cycle available on your washer (60o C or 90o C) Use either a commercial washing machine cleaner and follow the instructions on the packaging, or pour 1 to 2 cups of distilled white vinegar into the dispenser drawer and run the hot wash with no clothes inside the drum.

While this cycle is running you can concentrate on removing all of the gel like fluff from the clothes in the bath. After the hot service wash has finished, you should clean the filter once again to ensure all of the gel has been removed.

What Would Happen If You Put A Cloth Nappy In The Washer?

If you use terry or cloth nappies instead of disposable nappies, will they also explode and make a huge mess in your washing machine? No, because cloth or terry nappies or to give them another name, reusable nappies are designed for washing and reusing.

As they don’t contain any of that absorbent gel, and are made from a completely different material to disposable nappies, cloth nappies won’t cause any mess inside the washer or leak on to the rest of the laundry.

There are still a few points to remember when cleaning reusable nappies in a washing machine which are;

  • Always be sure to remove the nappy liner and discard it before washing the cloth nappy in the washing machine
  • Check the wash care label before washing the cloth nappies because they’re not all made from the same materials
  • Cloth nappies should be washed at a high temperature
  • You should wash cloth nappies in a separate wash from your clothes or your toddlers clothes
  • Don’t use fabric softener (it leaves a residue on the cloth)
  • Don’t use liquid detergent (it leaves a residue on the cloth)
  • Always use non-biological detergents (softer on baby’s skin)

How To Prevent Putting Disposable Nappies In The Washing Machine

open washing machine door

The best way to prevent disposable nappies ending up in the washing machine is to always carefully sort your wash pile out before putting anything in the machine.

I know, this seems like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted, but taking that extra few minutes at the start of the washday can really save you a lot of time and effort afterwards.

SEE ALSO: How To Get Rid Of Smells In A Washing Machine (UK remedies)

Frequently Asked Questions

What to do if you accidentally wash a disposable nappy in the washing machine?

If you accidentally wash a disposable nappy in the washing machine you should shake all of the clothes to remove as much of the gelatinous mess as possible then run each item under the bathroom cold tap. Make sure to turn each item inside out to remove all traces of the gel like fluff. You will then need to clean the washing machine out and remove as much mess as possible. Don’t forget the filter, door glass and rubber seal. Then run a hot service wash to thoroughly clean your machine.

Why do disposable nappies explode in the washing machine?

The reason disposable nappies explode in the washing machine is because they contain a polymer layer that absorbs moisture by turning it into a gel. The polymer absorbent layer can only cope with so much water before it overfills and explodes.

Will an exploding disposable nappy damage my washing machine?

If you accidentally put a disposable nappy in a washing machine and it explodes, it shouldn’t cause any serious damage as long as you deal with it straight away. Make sure to remove as much of the gel like fluff as you can using your hands followed by a cloth. Get into the folds of the door seal, the inside of the drum and the door glass. Then clean the filter before running a hot service wash with no clothes in the drum. 

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