Nappies, toilet training and bathing

Babies will need nappies until some time into their second or third year.
 
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  • Updated:2 Sep 2009
 

01 .Nappies

Father and baby

It isn’t until some time in their second or third year that babies get to the toilet training stage — and until they do, they need to wear nappies. This makes choosing and using nappies a major part of their life, and yours.

Cloth vs disposable

Disposables are more convenient than cloth nappies, especially when away from home, but they produce a lot of waste. Disposables have to be bought regularly and are much more expensive than cloth nappies washed at home. They are more absorbent and tend to keep your baby drier.

As far as nappy rash is concerned, some medical evidence suggests that high-quality disposable nappies with absorbent polymers may reduce the incidence of more severe nappy rash. Other studies suggest that it’s more important how clean the nappy is rather than what it’s made from. To prevent nappy rash as much as possible, all types of nappy should be changed regularly.

One of the most important advantages of cloth nappies is that their most significant environmental impact occurs during the use (rather than the production) stage of their lives — so you can minimise that impact by changing the way you wash them. For example, if you use a nappy treatment and wash them, use cold or warm water rather than hot and dry them on the line when possible.

Cloth nappies are available as terry towelling, flannelette or muslin squares or fitted, panty-shaped nappies.

Please note: this information was current as of September 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market..


 
 

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Disposable nappies

Disposable nappies have taken over from cloth: according to 2001 industry data, 89 percent of all nappies changed in Australia are disposables, up from 40 percent in 1993.

The perfect disposable nappy should:

  • absorb moisture quickly to prevent leaks and ‘lock it in’ to keep your baby’s bottom relatively dry
  • be easy and quick to fasten
  • stay closed during use
  • fit various shapes and sizes
  • contain absorbent material that doesn’t shift or disintegrate during use.

Some brands have a wetness indicator — a picture that disappears when the nappy is wet — which may come in handy if you’re unfamiliar with changing nappies and are unsure when a change is due.

Disposable nappies vary in price and quality. You can expect to pay around 30 to 80 cents per nappy, depending on the brand and packet size you choose. Bulk packs are usually most economical.

Cloth nappies

The most commonly available cloth nappy is a simple terry towelling square or rectangle, quick to dry when hung out unfolded and very absorbent when folded into several layers. White towelling nappies are what most of us think of when we think of cloth nappies, but you can also get flannelette, brushed cotton or cotton muslin nappies, even bright colours. Whatever you choose, you’ll need at least two or three dozen if you’re only using cloth nappies.

You can also buy fitted cloth nappies, which are shaped much like a disposable, with elastic at the legs and waist and, usually, Velcro tabs for fastening. They generally feature some form of absorbent padding, may be adjustable in size and available in several choices of exterior fabric and colour. There’s a range of brands on the market — sold through some pharmacies, baby shops, department stores and by mail order — offering variations on the theme.

At their best they are easy to get on and off, provide good containment and are a neater, less bulky fit than the standard square nappy. They’re more expensive than the basic squares, and take longer to dry, but for people who don’t want or can’t afford to use disposables yet like the convenience they offer, the advantages of fitted nappies could be worth paying for.

Accessories likely to be found useful in conjunction with ordinary cloth nappies include:

  • Nappy liners: Made of disposable paper or fabric, these are used inside cloth nappies to catch poo and are then discarded or cleaned after use. One-way nappy liners help keep your baby’s skin dry is by drawing moisture away from the body. They can be helpful in preventing nappy rash and can be used with disposables as well as cloth nappies.
  • Plastic pants and pilchers: These are needed with the standard cloth nappy, to keep clothes and bedding dry. As well as those available through supermarkets, department stores and specialty baby care shops, several brands are sold through mail order outlets. According to some experts, it’s worth considering that the more efficiently these outer pants do their job of keeping bedding and clothes dry, the more efficiently they’ll be keeping baby’s bottom wet — so to minimise the risk of nappy rash, you should look for a brand that works a little less than perfectly, permitting some air to circulate and moisture to evaporate.
  • Fasteners: Using a nappy doesn’t necessarily mean safety pins in the thumb any more. Some converts swear by nappy clamps or fasteners: plastic, claw-like fastening devices.
    The other point to remember when using cloth nappies is that careful laundering is essential. For instance, without thorough rinsing, residue from the washing powder can remain embedded in the nappy, irritating baby’s skin and ultimately causing nappy rash.

Nappy treatments

Concentrations of urine, which release ammonia and cause nappy rash, can be a problem with disposable and cloth nappies, if they’re not changed often enough. And just as plastic pants worn over cloth nappies can make nappy rash worse by preventing the nappy from ‘breathing’, this can be a problem with some disposables too.

Any harmful germs should be eliminated if your washing machine’s cycle uses water at a temperature of 65 °C or hotter and the nappies are hung in the sun to dry (ultraviolet light from the sun has some sterilising effect and bleaches the nappy as well). But if you want to save energy and reduce the enviromental impact by using cold water, you can use a nappy treatment.

The Australian standard for nappy sanitisers (AS 2351) requires that when used under conditions of normal use and according to manufacturers’ instructions, products should control the number of micro-organisms at a hygienic level. As well, it sets out detailed product labelling requirements including details about the recommended concentration, the number of nappies that can be treated in any one mix of solution, the minimum effective soaking time and how long the solution will remain effective, together with instructions to rinse off poo before soaking nappies.

Superabsorbent materials

The average disposable nappy weighs around 40g. The bulk of it (about 60%) is wood pulp. Some of the other materials it contains are polypropylene, polyethylene or bonded carded web for the top and back sheets, and other materials for fasteners, elastic and adhesives.

Many brands also contain polyacrylate, a superabsorbent material in powder form, which can absorb many times its weight in liquid. In contact with moisture, it solidifies into a gel and traps the liquid inside. Nappies without superabsorbent material generally contain more wood pulp to increase their absorbency.

You may have heard claims that the chemicals sodium polyacrylate and dioxin in disposable nappies pose a significant health risk to babies and toddlers. We’ve seen these claims too but couldn’t find them substantiated in the scientific literature.

As far as we could establish, there have been no long-term studies of the effects of superabsorbent materials on infants. However, two studies in the early 1990s found that polyacrylate polymers (superabsorbent material) had no toxic effect on the genetic material of laboratory animals, and didn’t cause birth defects in them.

There’s some disagreement about the benefits of nappies containing superabsorbent materials. Some studies found that the type of nappy made no difference to nappy rash, but many others have confirmed that disposables with superabsorbent materials have led to drier skin and hence, fewer incidences and reduced severity of nappy rash.

As far as dioxins are concerned, they’re a family of organochlorines that includes one of the most toxic chemicals yet made. In the past, dioxin traces were found in chlorine-bleached white paper and pulp products, including disposable nappies. However, nowadays nappies are usually oxygen-bleached (using hydrogen peroxide), which forms no dioxin.

Environmental impact

For years there’s been an ongoing debate over which type of nappy has the least impact on the environment. While it might seem clear cut that reusable cloth nappies would be a more environmentally friendly option than disposables, in fact there are environmental costs associated with using both.

It takes more raw materials to make disposables than cloth nappies. They also have an obvious impact on waste disposal and landfill — in 1999 it was estimated that using an average of six nappies a day over two and a half years produces about 734kg of solid waste. Multiply that by the number of disposable-wearing babies born in Australia each year and that’s a lot of disposable nappies taking up space in landfill.

For just one baby you’re talking about roughly 8000 nappies. And while it’s possible the weight of the disposables themselves may have decreased, the number of people using them has increased.

Parts of a disposable nappy are potentially biodegradable, but whether they do biodegrade and how long it takes will depend on the type of landfill, and whether bacteria needed for decomposition have access to air, water and light.

Cloth nappies also have an environmental cost. Growing cotton requires the use of pesticides and water, although new strains of genetically modified cotton claim to reduce the use of chemicals.

However, the most significant environmental impact of cloth nappies occurs during their use, rather than production or disposal. Washing and cleaning them requires water and energy that you don’t use with disposable. Irf you use a nappyt treatment you can minimise this by using cold or warm instead of hot water to wash and by drying on the line instead of using a clothes dryer.

Unfortunately the expensive option of nappy services is probably the best from an environmental perspective, due to economies of scale. As a cheaper alternative and environmental compromise, you might consider using cloth nappies at home and disposables when you’re out.

Nappy services

Nappy services provide the advantages of cloth nappies but with a substantial additional benefit: you don’t have to wash them yourself. What’s more, front door delivery and collection means that transporting the nappies isn’t your worry either.

Subscription to a nappy service buys you a fresh supply of towelling or flannelette nappies delivered each week (or twice a week with some). A nappy bin with liner bag is supplied (sometimes at extra cost); you drop the soiled nappies into this, put the liner bag outside the door on the appointed day and it gets collected when the clean nappies are delivered.

The cost of a nappy service can be comparable to that of a week’s worth of disposables. The nature of the commitment is different, however: whereas you can take or leave disposables as you feel like it, some nappy services require you to sign on for a minimum period.

The main problem with nappy services is availability as they’re not offered in all areas. You may wish to phone around to several companies, both to compare prices and to check on the washing process used — one that avoids the use of harsh detergents is preferable.

Nappy buckets

  • You can buy special nappy buckets. They’re generally a bit larger than a normal bucket (about 20 litres) and have a lid.
  • You could use any bucket with a secure lid. It doesn’t have to be particularly large, either, if you’re not using cloth nappies.
  • The main concern is the lid—it’s an important safety consideration, so make sure it’s difficult for you to open. It helps prevent toddlers from drinking the water, and from drowning – although, as always, it doesn’t replace adult supervision.

Toilet training aids

There’s no precise age at which your child will be ready to start training. Some children will start showing signs of wanting to use a potty or the toilet at around 18 months, others won’t be emotionally or physically ready until they are three.

  • Babies can’t learn that they should carry out their elimination processes on a toilet or potty until they’re physiologically capable of recognising the signals from bladder and bowels and are ready to cooperate with their caregivers in managing this major developmental advance.
  • It’s best to allow the child to dictate the rate of progress as much as possible, and put up with the inevitable accidents as calmly as possible.
  • Gaining control over the bowels is often the first step, and staying dry through the night usually the last achievement.
  • The most basic aid to toilet training is a potty. There are standard potties and those with a lid. Prices start at under $10.
  • When your child starts showing more confidence you may prefer to use a child toilet seat that fits over your toilet; these also come in basic styles or with steps and handles.

Babies need their nappies changed several times a day, and a good change table can make the job much easier. A stable, level surface at the right height – plus shelves or drawers for storing nappies, wipes and other odds and ends – saves time and effort (and your back).

Three main types of change table are available:

  • Wooden tables with two or three tiers or drawers
  • Portable folding tables with a metal frame and fabric body
  • Tables that include a baby bath under the change surface

What to buy

CHOICE tested 10 change tables in April 2009. We looked at stability, strength of construction and safety, including checking for sharp edges, potential finger and limb traps, and how good they are at preventing a baby rolling or sliding from the change surface. We also had a panel of parents assess the tables for ease of use.

The models below passed all our safety tests. Their side barriers are at least 100mm high, as recommended by the ACCC.

Bertini Renaissance

Bertini RenaissancePrice: $299

Good points

  • Two shelves.
  • Castor wheels with brakes.

Bad points

  • Mattress needs to be purchased separately.

Boori Three Tier

Boori Three TierPrice: $400

Good points

  • Two shelves.
  • Has castor wheels with brakes.

Bad points

  • Mattress needs to be purchased separately.

Childcare Deluxe

Childcare DeluxePrice: $75

Good points

  • One shelf and one storage tray.
  • No mattress needed as the fabric surface is soft.
  • Includes a restraint strap.
  • Foldable.

Bad points

  • An adult folding the table could catch their fingers between rotating or closing parts (between the tray frame and its supports on the table frame).

Valco Baby Pax Plus

Valco Baby Pax PlusPrice: $90

Good points

  • One shelf and one storage tray.
  • No mattress needed as the fabric surface is soft.
  • Includes a restraint strap.
  • Foldable.

Bad points

  • An adult folding the table could catch their fingers between rotating or closing parts (between the table cross-frames, and between the tray frame and its brackets on the table frame).

Choosing a change table

  • Change tables need some form of roll-off protection such as raised sides. Ideally these should be at least 100mm high, though several models in this test had sides lower than this and still passed our test.
  • Choose one that suits your height, so you won’t have to bend or reach too far while changing nappies.
  • The changing surface should be easy to wipe down when messes happen (and they will). The mattress or padding should also be easy to wash.
  • It should have plenty of storage space for nappies, wipes, lotion and other baby necessities. Multiple shelves and side trays give the most storage, but a table with just one shelf is still useful.
  • A restraint strap can help secure your baby, but is no substitute for proper adult attention.
  • Consider a towel or change mat on the floor or in the middle of a double bed as an alternative (although this may not be as comfortable for you).

Changing baby safely

  • Ensure collapsible frames are locked securely in place before use.
  • Keep everything needed to change your baby close at hand but out of their reach.
  • Ensure the change table is free from small objects that can cause choking.
  • Try to keep one hand on your baby at all times while changing them. Never leave your baby unattended on a change table, even just to grab something across the room – always take them with you.
  • Also, be aware of older siblings climbing on change tables.

04.Bathtime and clothing

 

Bathtime

For bathing small babies you can use a large plastic bowl, the bathroom basin or kitchen sink (provided you can shield the taps adequately) or invest in a baby bath.

  • Choose a sturdy thick-sided model. Baby baths become very heavy when filled with even the small amount of water required to bathe your baby, so decide where you’re going to bath your baby with an eye to filling and emptying the tub.
  • Aim to minimise the amount of bending you have to do by positioning the bath at a suitable height.
  • The most convenient option is a bath with a plug and draining pipe on a fold-up stand with wheels. You can then wheel the bath up to a suitable tap for filling (attach a hose if the tap doesn’t already have one), wheel it elsewhere for bathing, and then wheel it over to the bath, into the garden or simply put a bucket under it for emptying.
  • Another option is to buy a combined bath and change table.

Bath safety

  • Not all bath safety products are useful: a ‘bath safety ring’ with suction feet and no restraining belt could actually increase the chance of the baby slipping into the water.
  • Products available include bath mats, moulded bath seats and wire-framed towelling bath but beware as they may also provide a false sense of security.
  • Hot water taps can scald even after the bath has been filled, you can reduce these risks by lowering the thermostat on your hot water heater and/or by using an inflatable tap or water nozzle cover, or by wrapping the taps.
  • Always check the water temperature before you put the baby into the bath—use your wrist or another sensitive part.
  • Run the cold tap first, adding hot water afterwards and do the reverse when turning the taps off. Running cold water last through a mixer tap prevents burns both by cooling the metal spout (itself a potential hazard) and preventing a rush of instant hot water when the tap is next turned on.
  • Close adult supervision is especially important at bathtime.

Lotions, wipes and other baby-care accessories

A visit to the baby care section of your local supermarket may have you convinced that you need far more in the way of baby cosmetics than the combined needs of the rest of the family. Most of them aren’t necessary, and some (such as talcum powder, or cotton buds for cleaning ear canals) are not recommended.

What you need for a newborn:

  • A mild soap (or some mild bathing lotion, if you prefer). A special shampoo isn’t necessary at this stage.
  • Sorbolene and glycerine mixture.
  • Tissues, which can be used with water or sorbolene to clean up after dirty nappies, instead of or as well as nappy wipes.
  • Cotton wool balls for cleaning around eyes, and for cleaning and drying the umbilical cord.
  • Soft hairbrush, to help prevent cradle cap.
  • Nail scissors with rounded ends. Babies’ nails grow pretty fast and can inflict plenty of damage to self and others. Baby nail clippers are also available. Some people recommend you simply bite the baby’s nails, but it has to be done carefully so it doesn’t tear too quick.
  • Thermometer.

What you may need, and some handy extras:

  • Zinc-based nappy rash cream – not all babies get nappy rash, so wait and see if you need it.
  • Petroleum jelly – to soften cradle cap crusts, which not all babies get. If you wouldn’t normally use it yourself, wait and see.
  • Baby wipes.
  • Cotton wool squares or rounds with non-fluffing covers – useful for cleaning neck folds, for instance.
  • Olive oil can be used in the bath or after it to moisturise skin, and can be used for baby massage.

Baby clothing

Choose natural fibres wherever possible. Wool and cotton breathe and have very good insulating properties while allowing perspiration to evaporate, making them more comfortable next to the skin. Natural and synthetic mixes are also okay for most babies. Some babies’ skins tend to redden after contact with synthetic fabrics.

  • Buy plain cotton singlets for summer. You can buy a wool/cotton mix for winter if you like, but it’s not necessary.
  • Access to the nappy is important, and zips and pop fasteners are much easier than buttons. Nighties are easiest in terms of changing the nappy when you’re half asleep.
  • Clothes that button all the way up the front (and down both legs if there are legs) are the easiest option for new parents. You don’t have to pull it over your baby’s head and the nappy can be easily accessed.
  • All-in-ones (jumpsuits) keep the baby warm and stop nappy and singlet from drifting apart. You can also buy them with cuffs that can be closed over the hands and feet for warmth, or left open.
  • Boat-neck or envelope-neck pullovers or sweatshirts are easier to put on than ones with a crew neck. Jackets with press-studs or buttons at the front are another option.
  • Babies lose a tremendous amount of heat from their large heads and aren’t equipped with very efficient thermostats at first, so get at least one hat for winter outings.
  • Use a sunhat if the baby is in a carrier.
  • Socks shouldn’t be tight or you might damage small feet, and avoid patterned socks; toes can get caught on the looped threads inside.
  • Children don’t need shoes until they’re walking.
  • Bibs: in general the larger, terry-towelling ones with a velcro closure are better. Plastic-backed ones keep babies’ clothes dry, but may not be as absorbent. Bibs with a close-fitting crew neck aren’t as easy to get on but help prevent gunge collecting in neck folds. If you use a bib with strings, remove it before you put your baby down to sleep.

05.Washing machines and washing tips

 

Before baby, you might have been able to get away with one or two loads of not-very-dirty washing per week. This could increase to a load or more every day, especially if you’re using cloth nappies. Now might be the time to look at replacing your washing machine.

Top loaders vs front loaders

Top Loaders

Pros
  • Slightly fewer breakdowns and repairs compared to front loaders.
  • Faster normal program wash cycles.
  • Generally cheaper to buy.
  • Lighter and so easier to move.
  • Easy to add clothes once a cycle has started.
  • Tend to have better rinse performance.
Cons
  • Generally harsher on clothes.
  • Use up to three times as much water as front loaders.
  • Use more energy when washing in warm to hot water.
  • Use more detergent.
  • Cost more to run.

Front loaders

Pros
  • They’re gentler on clothes.
  • Most use less water.
  • Most use less energy when washing in warm to hot water.
  • Use less detergent.
  • More programs, and higher temperature wash options.
  • Cheaper to run.
  • Higher spin speeds, which means they get more water out – convenient however you dry clothes, and money-saving if you use a dryer.
  • Best for small spaces – you can fit most models under a bench or put a dryer on or above it.
Cons
  • Longer wash cycles – up to two hours in some cases (but many have ‘fast-wash’ options for lightly soiled clothes).
  • Generally more expensive to buy.
  • Higher spin speeds and less water can mean more creases – so more ironing. Some models have ‘anti-crease’ cycles to avoid this.
  • With some models you can’t easily add to the wash load after the cycle has started.
  • Heavy to move.
  • Some models need special brackets if placed on a wooden floor.
  • Tend to have louder spin cycles .
  • Some may rinse poorly due to their very low water usage.

What to look for

Space savers

  • If space is limited consider a front loader or a top loader with a lid that folds back leaving space to put a dryer or shelves above it.
  • If width is a problem, consider a top-loading drum type (they’re narrower than most machines).

Ease of use

  • Is the labelling on the controls clear and the program selection straightforward?
  • Access to a front loader drum is easier when the door opening is large, and the door opens through 180°.
  • Is the lint filter easy to clean, and are the detergent and fabric dispensers easy to use and to remove for cleaning?

Water matters

A limited water supply:

  • A front loader is more water-efficient.
  • Look for auto-sensing water level options.
  • Reduced load functions can help save water when washing smaller loads.
  • A suds or rinse water-save feature reuses sudsy and/or rinse water.

Hot and/or cold water connections:

  • Some machines need both to operate correctly, or a special connector or a sealing cap for the hot-water inlet, if you want to connect it to cold water only.
  • Check the maximum temperature recommended for the hot-water inlet. Many manufacturers recommend a lower temperature than most hot-water systems deliver—particularly solar hot-water systems. You may need a tempering or thermostatic valve to reduce the temperature. It can also help prevent major burns—important if you have babies and children in the house.

A limited hot-water supply or potentially very low cold-water temperature and you only have a cold-water tap:

  • Look for a washing machine with a heater. (Some machines offer a ‘controlled cold’ option, which brings the temperature up to around 20°C, either by adding hot water, or heating the cold water.)

Energy matters

  • Front loaders are generally more energy efficient.
  • If you use a dryer, look for a washing machine with a high spin speed (at least 1000 rpm) that extracts more water from the clothes.
  • Switch the machine off and unplug it from the power point when it’s not being used. It could also save your machine from damage if there happens to be a power surge.

Other useful features

  • An extra rinse option or an allergy program—good for sensitive skins.
  • Pre-wash and/or soak programs for really grubby children’s clothes or soiled nappies. Particularly good with the use of enzyme-based detergents which break down biological stains.
  • Wash temperature options 60°C and higher to get whites really clean without as much bleaching and for hygiene reasons.
  • A separate rinse function—useful for rinsing nappies after soaking.
  • Delicate/gentle and/or woollens programs for very delicate baby clothes.

What to buy

CHOICE currently has 48 washing machines on its database, below are the top and front loaders we recommend sorted by size.

Up to 5.5kg

Fisher & Paykel MW512

F&P MW512Price: $749
Size: 5.5kg
Type: Top loader / agitator

Good points

  • A good overall performer.
  • Excellent rinse performance.
  • Extra features include a gentle/delicates wash, fast wash, woollens wash, out-of-balance correction, water-saver option and selectable spin speed.

Bad points

  • It’s not gentle on clothes.
  • Has a low water-efficiency score.

Fisher & Paykel GW512

F&P GW512Price: $859
Size: 5.5kg
Type: Top loader / agitator

Good points

  • Excellent rinse performance.
  • Extra features include gentle/delicates wash, fast wash, favourite wash, auto-sensing water level, woollens wash, out-of-balance correction, water-saver option and selectable spin speed.

Bad points

  • It has a low water-efficiency score.
  • Not gentle on clothes.

6 to 7kg

Fisher & Paykel WH70F60W2

F&P WH70F60W2Price: $1139
Size: 7kg
Type: Front loader

Good points

  • Very good water efficiency
  • Extra features include: selectable spin speed (max 1200rpm), time remaining display, woollens wash, gentle/delicate wash, fast/quick wash (2.5kg load only), extra rinse option, out-of-balance correction.

Bad points

  • Lowest wash temperature for cottons is 30°C.

Asko W6362 Quattro 1600rpm

Asko W6362 Quattro 1600rpmPrice: $2199
Size: 6kg
Type: Front loader

Good points

  • Very good spin efficiency and good water efficiency.
  • Good rinse performance and gentleness.
  • Relatively short ‘normal’ cycle time for a front loader.
  • Extra features include: gentle/delicates wash, out-of-balance correction, fast wash for smaller loads, variable spin speed (max. 1600 rpm), time-remaining display, auto-sensor wash, woollens wash, extra rinse option and delay start.
  • Outer fold-down door.
  • Door automatically opens at the end of the wash (can be deactivated).

Bad points

  • If the program time runs longer than a previous wash with the same program, ‘1’ will be displayed until the program is finished (annoying if you’re waiting for it and think there’s only a minute to go).
  • Loud during spin cycle.

Miele W3725 Honeycomb Care

Miele W3725 Honeycomb CarePrice: $1999
Size: 6.5kg
Type: Front loader

Good points

  • Very good dirt removal and water efficiency.
  • Good gentleness and spin efficiency.
  • Extra features include: gentle/delicates wash, out-of-balance correction, fast wash for small loads, variable spin speed (max. 1300 rpm), time-remaining display, auto-sensor wash, woollens wash and extra-rinse option.

Bad points

  • Rinse performance only OK.

Electrolux EWF1074 Time manager

lectrolux EWF1074 Time ManagerPrice: $899
Size: 7kg
Type: Front loader

Good points

  • Very good water efficiency.
  • Extra features include: selectable spin speed (max 1000rpm), time remaining display, gentle/delicate program, quick wash (as an option, not program), extra rinse option, out-of-balance correction.

Bad points

  • Only OK spin score.
  • Lowest wash temperature for cottons is 30°C.

Fisher & Paykel GW612

F&P GW612Price: $969
Size: 6.5kg
Type: Top loader / agitator

Good points

  • Equal best overall top loader in its size range.
  • Excellent rinse performance.
  • Very good dirt removal.
  • Extra features include gentle/delicates wash, fast wash, favourites wash, woollens wash, out-of-balance correction and selectable spin speed.

Bad points

  • Low water-efficiency score.
  • Particularly low score for gentleness.

7.5kg or larger

Electrolux EWF1083 Time manager

Electrolux EWF1083 Time ManagerPrice: $1059
Size: 8kg
Type: Front loader

Good points

  • Very good water efficiency.
  • Extra features include: selectable spin speed (max 1000rpm), time remaining display, woollens wash, gentle/delicate wash, fast/quick wash (3kg load only), out-of-balance correction.

Bad points

  • Scored only 63% for rinse performance.

Fisher & Paykel Aquasmart WL80T65CW1 / WL80T65DW1

F&P Aquasmart WL80T65CW1Price: $1249 / $1199
Size: 8kg
Type: Top loader / low profile agitator

Good points

  • The best top loader in this size range, using front-loader-like quantities of water and yet still achieving very good dirt removal.
  • Extra features include a gentle/delicates wash, favourite wash, auto-sensing wash, woollens wash, out-of-balance correction, selectable spin speed and time-to-go display.

Bad points

  • Some consumer complaints about detergent residue and linting, see Downsides of water efficiency for details.

Bosch Logixx 8 WAS28440AU

Price: $1949
Size: 8kg
Type: Front loader

Good points

  • Very good rinse effectiveness.
  • Spin and water efficient, and gentle on clothes.
  • Has a relatively short “normal” cycle time for a front loader.
  • Extra features include: gentle/delicates wash, out-of-balance correction, fast wash for smaller loads, variable spin speed (max. 1400rpm), time-remaining display, woollens and hand-wash programs, an extra rinse option and delay start.

Bad points

  • Scored only 67% for dirt removal. The manufacturer recommends using the “Intensive” button for a full or very dirty load. This is likely to improve the wash performance, but will also significantly increase the time.

Tips for stain removal

  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for application, dosage, fabric type, soak or wait time prior to laundering, and safety.
  • Check both product and garment washing instructions—some products aren’t suitable for fabrics such as silk, wool and some synthetics.
  • Treat stains immediately if possible, as the longer they’re left, the harder they’ll be to remove. Soaking can loosen heavy soiling.
  • Identify the stain before treatment, as some stains (such as blood) can be ‘set’ by a high water temperature, ironing and direct sunlight. When in doubt, remove any excess, then rinse or soak the soiled items in cold water before laundering or applying a stain remover.
  • Check whether the soiled item is colourfast—if you’re not sure, test the stain remover on an inconspicuous part or a clipping from a seam.
  • When applying a stain remover directly to the stain, work from the outside of the stain inwards, to prevent it spreading.
  • Mix powder soakers in water at the correct temperature before adding the soiled items.
  • Don’t use powder soakers on metal buttons. Don’t use aerosol sprays on wet fabric.

Safe use of cleaning products

  • Keep all your cleaning products out of reach of children, especially sprays without a childproof trigger.
  • If swallowed, check the packet for instructions before doing anything. Most of them say not to induce vomiting but to rinse the mouth, drink plenty of water and call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26, plus contact your doctor immediately (and take the package along).
  • Ensure adequate ventilation with any of the sprays and aerosols.
  • Aerosols are highly flammable and should be stored in a cool place. Don’t puncture or incinerate the cans, even when empty. Some also recommend not spraying on washing machines, dryers, painted or plastic surfaces.
  • Some ingredients can irritate eyes or skin. If you get some in your eyes, flush them with water and contact your doctor.
  • Avoid contact with skin: don’t treat clothes while you’re wearing them and always use rubber gloves or wash your hands thoroughly after use.

If you’re planning to use and home-launder cloth nappies, there can be rainy times when you despair of ever getting them dry. At these times, a clothes dryer may seem more important than the most expensive stroller or highchair.

What to buy

In February 2009 CHOICE tested 17 dryers and recommended the following ones:

Less than 5kg

Simpson 39P400M

Simpson 39P400MPrice: $389

Good points

  • Excellent for ease of use.
  • Can be wall-mounted or stacked.
  • Cheapest model to buy.

Bad points

  • None to mention.

5 to 7kg

Simpson 39S600M

Simpson 39S600MPrice: $569

Good points

  • Excellent for ease of use.
  • Can be wall-mounted or stacked.
  • Equal best overall performer in any size range.

Bad points

  • None to mention.

Simpson 39S500M

Simpson 39S500MPrice: $499

Good points

  • Excellent for ease of use.
  • Can be wall-mounted or stacked.

Bad points

  • None to mention.
  • Discontinued, but may still be available in some shops.

Rinnai Dry-Soft 6

Rinnai Dry-Soft 6Price: $1799

Good points

  • Low CO² contribution.
  • Sensor and timer drying.
  • Fast drying.
  • Can be wall mounted or stacked.

Bad points

  • The controls and filter are badly positioned if the dryer is floor-mounted.
  • Needs a gas outlet in your laundry.
  • No reverse tumble.

What to look for

  • Filter position: Some dryers have their filter on the inside or the outside of the door, others inside at the back of the dryer. While a filter at the back may be only mildly inconvenient if your dryer is on the floor, if you install it over your washing machine the filter could become too hard to reach—and not cleaning the filter regularly could be a fire risk.
  • Limited space? Look for one that can be turned upside-down (for access to the controls) and wall-mounted (check whether the kit is supplied or if it needs to be purchased separately). All the wall-mountable dryers we tested can be inverted, so the controls are easier to access. Some dryers can also be stacked on a front-loading washing machine with a stacking kit.
  • Selectable temperature settings: Allow you to choose hot, warm or ‘no heat’ when drying your clothes. Dryers can have all three settings, or only one or two. Some auto-sensing dryers don’t have manual temperature selection.
  • Timer settings: These let you set the length of time you want the dryer to run.
  • Automatic dryness sensor: On auto-sensing dryers, the dryer is automatically switched off when a sensor detects the load has reached a preset dryness level.
  • Reverse tumbling: The drum reverses the direction of rotation at regular intervals to minimise tangling while evenly drying your clothes.
  • Crease protection: Lets you choose a special ‘no heat’ cycle at the end of drying that reduces wrinkling in your clothes.
  • Ducting: An exhaust pipe can be connected to the dryer to direct heated air outside, reducing condensation in the room. Most dryers that vent air through their door can’t be ducted.
  • Key lock: Prevents the dryer from being accidentally switched off, or the selections being altered while the dryer is running.
  • Overheat protection: Switches off the dryer when it overheats. A dryer can overheat if it’s been running for too long without a cooling cycle, or the filter is clogged.
  • Drying rack: An external rack in front of the dryer lets you dry extra items using the warm exhaust air (this isn’t possible with ducted models or those with their air exhaust at the back). An internal rack can be mounted inside some models and is useful for items that are best dried without tumbling (such as shoes and hats).