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Washing Information

One of the most commonly seen questions in cloth nappy community forums seems to be around wash routines. 
Being big consideration when choosing cloth or wanting to make the switch from disposable nappies to cloth nappies - we get why it is.
Information is available in abundance on the internet, groups, websites, forums etc. It can all become a bit overwhelming. So hopefully the below is basic enough not to frighten you off the idea :) 

Nappy prepping

So you've bought your gorgeous new cloth nappies... what next?

A bit of prep work is needed...

Wash your nappy covers aka shells and inserts (boosters) prior to use. This will help soften the fabrics, enhance absorbency, and remove residues left from manufacturing. 

We recommend a warm wash (<60 degrees) for this first wash. 

Inserts (in particular those made with natural fibres) become more absorbent after a number of washes. So you may soak (just the) inserts in water for 24 hours before washing them (as above).
This is usually the only time you will soak inserts. 

Basic wash routine

So you've successfully used your amazing cloth nappy... what next?

  1. If it's just a wet nappy go to step 3.
  2. Remove all solids from the nappy. Flush down the toilet before washing. Using liners can help make this task a little easier but aren't essential. TIP: using a dedicated knife can be very helpful cleaning any stubborn solids off the nappy/liner. (This isn't necessary for breastfed babies. Their poo is soluble and can be washed out during the wash routine.) 
  3. Pull inserts out of the pocket of the nappy. 
  4. If it's an overnight nappy give any absorbent part of the nappy a really good handwash to rinse out as much urine as possible.
  5. Put the nappy shell/cover, nappy inserts and liners plus reusable wipes (if using) into a laundry basket that has plenty of ventilation. (A basket with holes is perfect.) Don't worry, it doesn't smell
  6. Do a pre-wash/short cycle warm wash with a small amount of detergent. This helps remove any excess soiling and if done at the end of each day can prevent additional wear on your nappies if left in urine for longer. It also helps reduce ammonia build up. This can be done every second day if you have enough nappies in your stash.
  7. If you're not washing immediately, put the nappies back in a well ventilated laundry basket.
  8. Wash on a normal cycle (or longer cycle if you find it works better for you)  (<60 degrees). It is best to have the washing machine about 2/3rds full. Adding smaller items is best (e.g. children's clothing, dishtowels etc.).
  9. Hand to dry or if weather dictates you can pop the inserts (shells/covers not usually recommended) into the dryer on a low heat setting.

That's it... you're ready to prep your nappies for their next round on the bum. 


  • If you find excess washing detergent build up in your nappies try a double rinse at the end of the wash cycle. 
  • Fabric softeners are not recommended to be used when washing cloth nappies as they will affect the absorbency of the nappy.
  • Line dry where possible, or dry inserts on low in the dryer. Try using a sock/delicates peg hanger that you can move between indoors and out if necessary.
  • NEVER iron or dry clean nappies

What makes nappies smell bad?

Usually the cause of ‘stinky nappies’ is simple – too much washing powder (or possibly an unsuitable brand), not doing a pre-wash, insufficient wash routine. Clean Cloth Nappies is a fantastic website with a wealth of knowledge focused on the washing of cloth nappies. They also have super helpful admins on their Facebook Page to help you troubleshoot.

More information about strip washing can be found on our Strip Washing & other Trips/Tricks page.