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How to wash cloth nappies

Want to know more about how to wash cloth nappies? Read our top tips:

  • When the nappy is dirty put it into a nappy bucket.
  • You can soak your washable nappies if you want to, but most people find it easier just to dry pail their cloth nappies.
  • If your bucket gets a bit smelly then a drop of lavender, tea tree or similar oil on a sanitary towel stuck to the lid. Or on a piece of cloth in the top of the bucket, works wonders.
  • You don’t need to buy a specific nappy bucket. Any large plastic container with a lid will do the job, and will probably be a bit cheaper than a bucket sold as a nappy bucket.
  • Try to wash cloth nappies at least every other day, so that they are not sitting dirty for a long time.
  • Check out our Guarantee page for what not to do.
How to wash cloth nappies. Photo of washing machine with washing in it .

How to wash cloth nappies

  • It’s not necessary to boil wash cloth nappies. A warm wash should be enough. If you use a nappy sanitiser, you can even wash them on cold.
  • Don’t use fabric conditioner, as this will make your nappies less absorbent, and build up in the fibres.
  • The water in New Zealand is generally fairly soft, so stiff nappies aren’t usually a problem. If you are finding that they dry a bit stiff then give them a bit of a rub before and after you dry them.
  • Use a full scoop of powder to wash cloth nappies.
  • The key thing is to check that all suds are rinsed out when you wash them.
  • In some cases, people find that they need to use a little more powder. Don’t be afraid to experiment and get the right amount for you and your water type.
  • You do not need to buy a special type of washing powder. Avoid those with softeners in them, as these can cause build-ups and smelly nappies.

Dealing with stains

  • If you have any stains on them, particularly the yellow, newborn poo stains, which generally won’t come out in the wash, the best way to clear them is to hang them in the sunshine, it really works!!
  • You shouldn’t need to rub or scrub your nappies in order to get them nice and clean.
  • If you rinse your nappies either before putting them in your nappy bucket, or in the machine before washing, it can help to remove stains and stop smells from building up.
  • Some stains may take a little longer to come out, but after a few washes, they should look nice and clean again.
Is washing cloth nappies hard?

No, once you start using cloth, it’s easy to get a routine. It doesn’t need to be hard work and most people find that it’s fairly easy. You don’t need to do anything complicated or special to make sure that your washable nappies are at their best.

33 thoughts on “How to wash cloth nappies”

  1. A lot of nappy websites recommend a daily “pre-rinse” cycle and then a long wash every 2-3 days. Is this really necessary?
    With our first, we used cotton prefolds (plus cover) and just washed with all our usual clothes and it was fine. That was 12 years ago. This time, we’ve been handed down a lot of bamboo fitted nappies – since they’re thicker, does this mean we need to do a daily “pre-rinse” in the machine? I hope not!
    Also, how do you recommend washing second-hand nappies before use?

    1. Hi Kim,
      Some people find that this works well for them, it’s not essential however. If the way that you are washing your nappies is working fine for you, then I would stick with what works. You may find that if you’re not washing every day, you need to give them that extra prewash, particularly if they are thicker fitted nappies.
      I would give second hand nappies a good soak, you can use a small amount of bleach, which shouldn’t hurt them and will remove any build up. It would usually invalidate most companies guarentees, but as they are second hand anyway, this shouldn’t be a problem. Rinse well and you’re ready for use!

  2. Hi, I know breast milk poos are water soluble but what about formula? My little one has all of a sudden refused boob so now we are getting different poops, just wondering if I should start using liners to catch the poo, or is formula poo water soluble too? Everywebsite states different opinions!

  3. Two years ago as a new parent we was so confused as to what diaper brand or to use a cloth, it’s true that experience is the greatest teacher and learn from there. Disposable diapers and cloth has their own pros and cons that each parent can learn along their parenthood journey.

    1. Personally, I would go for something quick drying and easy to wash. Flat nappies or prefolds with a osfm cover would be my choice. They dry quickly, so you shouldn’t need too many. You can also manage with just two covers as you can reuse these at each change. Flat nappies are the slightly faster drying option.

  4. Hi I am currently using the cloth nappies with my 5 week old. The microfiber inserts have a lot of yellow stains on them as he poos a lot. Can we use nappy sand to soak as well as sunshine and wash often methods?

    1. Hi Katrina
      You ‘can’ soak them in nappy san, but I don’t think that it’s necessary. The bright yellow stains will come out with sun and soaking the inserts in nappy san can reduce the life of the fabrics. If you are really bothered, then you can spot-treat the stains, but again, I don’t think that you need to.

  5. Hi there,

    Can I please ask do I need to squeeze out the urine from the insert before soaking it?

    Thank you very much.

    Kind regards,

  6. Hi, is it OK to use nappy rash creams when using cloth nappies? I had heard that it can affect the absorbancy of the inserts but definitely need to use some kind of cream on my wee ones bum.not sure if the creams build up in the nappies or whether the wash routine should remove any residue

    1. Hi Courtney
      Using a rash cream can cause problems with the nappy as it can build-up in the fibres. To get around this you can use nappy liners while using the cream. If you do use the cream with nappies, then you may find that you have to do more to get rid of it. You can do this by scrubbing the inner of the nappy using something that will remove grease such as laundry soap or even washing up liquid. Hope that helps

  7. Hello I’m wanting to make the switch to cloth nappies but I’m unsure on how many nappies I will need to start out with?

    1. Hi Holly
      If you are planning to use them day and night then around 20 is a good place to start. If you just want a few to begin with and make the switch slowly, then four or five will be enough to get you started. Thanks

      1. Hello, I have been sun drying prefold covers that get slightly wet on the material and reusing before washing in cold or warm water with detergent (it seemed they were losing there waterproofing, I wondered if hot washing had been doing this so I stopped) however my baby has been getting red angry rash lines where the material sits. So I think I need to sanitize them and change wash routine, would a warm – hot handwash be sufficient? Also, do you have any ratio guidelines or tips for sanitizing with bleach? Thanks

        1. Hi I think that the problem is drying the covers between use, rather than washing them. If you are actually letting them dry this might be giving bacteria chance to multiply. Reusing covers from one change to the next is usually fine and then washing them at the end of the day, but actually drying them might be causing a problem.

          Can I ask what made you think that they were losing their waterproof coating as this shouldn’t happen when you are washing them with hot water and normal detergent. Warm water is generally enough though. I wouldn’t recommend using bleach at all as this can cause the lining to fail. A warm hand wash would be enough to clean then, but it’s fine to machine wash them.

          Hope this helps

  8. Heya! What is your recommendation on prepping inserts? I have just purchased and received your pull up cloth nappies and just want to know what you recommend for prepping prior to their first use? Thanks!=)

  9. I dont buy washing powder i make my own it had baking soda in it.. is this not okay to wash my bamboo nappies with?

    1. Hi, no we don’t recommend using lux flakes. You don’t actually need to use anything to soak the nappies in, but a few drops of tea tree oil can work well if you want to use something. Lux flakes can build up in the fibres and will make them less absorbent. Thanks

    1. Hi,
      I would suggest using your usual powder or liquid. Just make sure that everything is well rinsed out. I don’t have a particular brand that I recommend as different ones work best for different babies. As long as there is not a fabric softener in it, then your usual brand should be fine.

    1. Hi Lily
      When babies are newborn, their poo isn’t really like poo and can be washed away in the machine. It is water-soluble. It may leave some yellow stains, but these are easily removed with a bit of sunshine. As your child gets older and starts to eat solid foods, poo changes. When your child reaches this stage then you will want to flush any solids away, you can do this by stretching the nappy over the toilet. Some people prefer to use our biodegradable liners, Flush any solid waste away and then throw away the linrs. Another option is to use a nappy sprayer that attaches to the cold water supply for your toilet. You use it to spray the nappy and spray away any poo into the toilet bowl before washing.

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