There's a lot of confusion about what bleach to use, whether US bleach is different to UK bleach etc... I figured the only way to find out, was to try it! So, I armed myself with some toilet bleach - yes, toilet bleach - and went for it. After a lot of searching, it seems that the bleach Cotton Babies is referring to is exactly the same as what goes down your toilet bowl.
The brand I used was Daisy Original Thick Bleach - ingredients listed were : Less than 5% Non-Ionic Surfactant,Anionic Surfactant Also contains: Disinfectant ,Perfume and Limonene.
I should also point out that my son does not have particularly sensitive skin. Although, of course, he is a baby and has been wearing these bleached nappies for the last couple of months against his most intimate area. In fact, he was suffering from a mild red bottom before the bleach wash, and spending just one day in bleached nappies cleared it up.
The first thing I did was rinse out all the things I wanted to be soaked. I did a couple of quick rinses and a super fast spin in the machine to get rid of as much water as possible. I soaked microfibre inserts, terry cloth wipes and jersey/cotton wipes. (NOTE - I did not soak anything with PUL, elastic, bamboo or hemp)
Safety first - open the extractor fan in the bathroom and put on rubber gloves. I filled the bathtub with 20 litres of cold water. It was boring, measuring it out, but it must be done. I then added 100ml of Daisy's bleach to the water, and swirled it around to mix it up. I then immersed all the inserts and wipes, made sure they were fully under the water and left them to soak. Occasionally I went it and prodded them again to make sure they were all getting some lovely bleach solution. They were left overnight (around 10 hours). I don't think they really need 10 hours, but it's easier to do it overnight when no one is needing the bath! In the morning, I drained the bath and used a bucket to transfer them to the machine, where I added 50ml of bleach (in the drawer) to 60 degree wash, then rinsed three times, then hung to dry.
Before - old MF insert on the left, used once insert on the right.
After - old, newly bleached, MF on the left, used once insert on the right.
Granted, these aren't the best pictures. But, trust me, there was a BIG difference. The old was almost, almost as white as the new one. It felt much better too, and no old musty smell like it had before. I wish I had taken snaps of the terry wipes, the difference was amazing.
I would totally do this again for microfibre inserts and wipes.
While my inserts were soaking in the bath, I washed out my Bumgenius pocket shells. I washed them at 40 degrees with nothing (as some had already been used, but not soiled). Then I ran a 60 degree wash with 50ml of bleach added to the drawer, rinse twice and hung to dry.
Before - stained nappy on the left, used once nappy on the right
After- stained nappy on the left, used once nappy on the right
The white inners did go whiter, and they smelt better. It didn't appear to have any big effect on one particular stain, but the fact that the musty smell had gone was enough for me.
So...would I do it again? YES - the smell of the musty old nappies was vastly improved, they did whiten, stains on the terry wipes disappeared completely after the soaking, and it made my son's red bottom much better. He hasn't had a nappy rash since I bleached them (even through teething!) about two months ago. It appears to have had no ill effect on the nappies either.