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Caring for Cloth Nappies

It is important to take good care of your cloth nappies given the amount of use they go through in their lifetime!


When you get a new nappy you can soak the inserts in the tub or a bucket of water for 24hrs to build up the absorbency in bamboo, hemp or other natural fibres.  OR just wash once but know that the nappy will take 6-8 washes to reach full absorbency so just change more frequently the first few times.  Nappies made of microfibre only need to be washed once with detergent to remove manufacturing residues and you're good to go!

Smart Bottoms nappies have a particular process that needs to be followed to ensure the best performance of their nappies.  See detailed information here -


Firstly, there is no need to soak modern cloth nappies.  Once the nappy is soiled, remove the solids to the toilet and place the nappy, liner and used cloth wipes in either a wetbag or plastic bucket until washing day.

In the early days, if your baby is exclusively breastfed, the nappy can be placed straight into the wetbag/bucket as the poo is water soluble and will be rinsed away in the machine.

Reusable and disposable nappy liners make the removal of solids much easier and keep your nappies cleaner.  You may find that sometimes poo sticks to the liner – I usually hold it in the flush of the toilet and then give it a shake and most of it comes off.  Others use nappy sprayers, old brushes etc.  Find a method that works for you.

On washing day, empty all nappies into the machine taking care to unsnap any inserts from their shells and remove inserts from pockets.  This helps to ensure everything gets clean.  It is also important to ensure that you’re not trying to wash too many nappies at once.  A good rule of thumb is to wash at least every 2 days, a maximum of about 15-18 nappies.  This also helps to prevent stains and damage to the nappy fabrics, particularly night nappies that absorb a lot of urine over a long period and have high levels of ammonia present. Rinsing a night nappy when it is taken off in the morning is a good measure to prevent smells.

My personal routine usually starts with an initial rinse with lots of cold water and a spin in the machine.  This removes any breastfed baby poo, lingering solids and urine from the nappies.  Then add laundry detergent.  Rockin’ Green is an amazing detergent for nappies.  It is safe for all nappy fabrics, doesn’t build-up and is effective at removing stains and smells from your nappies.You don’t have to use Rockin’ Green though, your normal laundry detergent is ok as long as it does not contain enzymes or optical brighteners.  Use the amount recommended on the detergent you're using.  The theory used to be that by reducing the amount of detergent used, it would prevent detergent building up in the nappy fibres and causing smells etc, but it had the opposite effect in that is wasn't effectively cleaning the nappies. So use the recommended amount of detergent for the particular one you're using and make sure that the nappies are well rinsed at the end of the cycle.  This may mean adding an additional rinse to your nappy wash.

My favourite washing cycle is a long warm cycle.  There is no need to wash your nappies in hot water every time and in fact doing so could reduce the lifespan of the nappies, particularly any containing PUL.  The occasional hot wash (less than 60C) however is not a problem and a good idea following tummy bugs, nappy rash/thrush or vaccinations.  Dettol or Canestan can also be used in the final rinse cycle to kill off any nasties in cold or hot water; just put it in your fabric softener dispenser.

Ideally, modern cloth nappies are line dried in the sun.  The sun is a natural antibacterial, antifungal and stain remover!!  It really is amazing what a few hours in the sun can do for your nappies so where possible get them outside.

Drying them in the dryer is also ok – use only the lowest heat setting and don’t overdry them.

Strip Washing:

Over time, detergent and creams can build up in nappy fibres causing then to become a bit smelly!  This generally means it’s time for a strip wash. However, if you have a good washing routine, using a cloth nappy friendly detergent you may find that you never need to strip wash. Rockin’ Green can be used to do a strip wash, just follow the instructions on the pack.  Sample packs of Rockin' Green can be purchased for this purpose.

GroVia Mighty Bubbles is also a great product for strip washing and the method is nice and easy. You may need to follow the process a couple of times, but it is straightforward and very effective.

Always do a strip wash with clean nappies.

Another option to strip wash uses cheap dishwashing liquid with no moisturisers.  Put them in the machine with a squirt of dishwashing liquid.  Do a warm or hot wash and then as many rinse cycles as you need until there are no bubbles remaining.  This method can be harsh on delicate fibres and as above, the Rockin' Green or GroVia Mighty Bubbles methods are preferred and most effective.

It’s not always necessary to strip wash covers or shells containing PUL, the inserts are where the build-up is.

You may see recommendations on Facebook and other websites about using baking soda and vinegar to wash/strip wash your nappies.  This is not recommended, particularly with natural fibres such as bamboo and hemp.  These methods can damage the fibres in the inserts causing them to breakdown and reducing their lifespan. Baking soda and vinegar are also not great for the elastics used in nappies.

Before doing any strip washes you are best to contact either the manufacturer or place of purchase to find out their preferred method of strip washing to ensure you don’t void any warranty.


Important Points to Remember:

o         Always use a nappy liner to protect the nappy if using creams or ointments.

o         Wash every 2 days, a maximum of 15-18 nappies at a time – too many nappies in the machine and they won’t get cleaned properly.

o         Do not use laundry detergent that contains enzymes or optical brighteners.

o         Do not use fabric softeners as these coat the fabric fibres reducing their ability to absorb.

o         Do not use vinegar or baking soda on nappies made of natural fibres.  Not only will it damage the fibres over time, it will also void any manufacturers’ warranty.

o         Use the recommended amount of detergent to wash your nappies or use a nappy-safe detergent such as Rockin’ Green.

o         Unsnap inserts from shells – leaving them attached could damage the nappies and this would not be covered under warranty.

o         Only do hot washes occasionally, it is not necessary every time and will shorten the life of your nappies.

o         Use the sun whenever possible, it’s a cloth nappy user’s best friend!



o         Bamboo fibres don’t like to be spun fast – this can make them hard when they dry.  Turn down the spin cycle on the machine to ‘medium’ or 800rpm.  5-10mins in the dryer on a low heat can also soften them back up, or a good shake once they’re dry.

o         Hang nappies on a portable clothes horse so you can bring them in from outside easily in changeable weather.

o         You can do larger strip washes in the bath – soaking overnight in Rockin’ Green!

Are you using wool covers?  Check out how to care for them here!