How To Wash Cloth Nappies

how to wash cloth nappies written by a washing machine with cloth nappies going in

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One of the biggest worries when thinking about making the switch from single-use nappies to reusable nappies is the washing. Most parents gasp at the thought of more loads each day, a lot of people imagine that I must be scrubbing my cloth nappies to get the stains out or that they need soaking in a bath for days prior to going into the machine. Now let me tell you this much, none of this is true. There is nothing difficult about using and washing cloth nappies, they are no different from clothes and you will not need to be tackling it every day either.

Feeling happier?

Ok, so on to what you will need to wash cloth nappies:

  • Non-bio washing powder
  • A washing machine

That. Is. It.

We use non-bio in order to protect the bamboo and cotton fabrics as biological powder contains an enzyme that can be damaging to these fibres. We don’t use a conditioner because this affects the absorbency of the nappies.

The only part that you may want to tweak will be what wash you do your nappies on. Every machine is different and you may need to work out which cycle is your best wash, which brings your nappies up the cleanest and which is most effective for you both in performance and for your routine.


How I Wash My Cloth Nappies

I do a wash 2 or 3 times a week. When we have a dirty nappy it is simply placed inside my nappy bin until it is full enough for a load.

I use Persil non-bio detergent but I have also previously used Bambino Mio Miocare Washing Powder which is specifically designed for cloth nappies. I follow the amounts stated on the box (I am in a very hard water area which has horrible effects on my clothes etc)

I start with a cold rinse, no detergent. This is 22 minutes long on my machine. This rinse will remove the bulk of the waste and this is taken away from the washing machine. It is essential that you do this otherwise you will be washing your nappies in dirt as during a wash the water isn’t fully removed.

I then use my best 40° wash on my machine. Mine runs for 2 hours 42 minutes and this is my longest wash cycle that my machine has. This may sound like a long time but I have now got into the habit of doing the rinse then putting the wash on before I go off and do something or before I go out.

That is all I do. This personally works well for us, I am never bogged down with nappy washes, my nappies come out perfectly clean and doing this a couple of times a week doesn’t impact on my life with 2 kids, a dog and a busy household.

pile of cloth nappies a wetbag and wipes


How Others Wash Their Cloth Nappies

Of course, not everyone will do theirs the same and as I said above this may depend on the type of washing machine and it may also depend on how often they wash etc.

Those who don’t use a 40° usually use a 60° as their standard wash and this is generally just their preference. (update: since purchasing the eco-bubble washing machine I now have to use a 60 wash)

You will want/need to do this wash if:

  • Your baby is under 3 months
  • Your baby has sensitive skin/prone to rashes
  • You live in communal areas
  • You have more than one baby using the same nappies
  • You are using an eco-ball/egg
  • Your baby is unwell
  • The brand states that you need to

Some people just prefer the 60 ° wash and that is fine as long as your nappies aren’t coming out damaged. The main areas you need to check for wear and tear are the fastenings and the elastic on the legs. If these begin to wear or lose their shape you will begin to get leaks which is precisely why you shouldn’t ever be tempted to go in at a really high wash. Needing to boil wash or going for 90° is a myth and your nappies will not thank you for it!

I have also heard that some people like to do an extra rinse cycle at the end in order to remove any residual detergent. If you have time this is a sensible thing to do as detergent build-up will reduce the absorbency of your nappies and can also cause nappy rash. Which goes on nicely to my next point…


Strip Washing Nappies

What is strip washing? Strip washing nappies is removing that build-up or detergent or perhaps of bacteria, fungal spores and so on. You may find that you’ll need to do this more often in a hard water area due to the build-up it brings (damn you hard water!) or if your little one keeps getting ill, if they are teething (the saliva can make the urine really stink) or if they are continually getting a rash– most cloth nappy children do not suffer from nappy rash so if they start to get rashes it is usually an indication that something is wrong.

The process:

  • Rinse cycle.
  • Wash on 60° with a full dose of detergent on your best wash. If you have super rinse choose this option also.
  • Wash on 60° with no detergent.
  • Rinse cycle again. If you continue to see bubbles of detergent give it another rinse to fully remove this build-up.


Drying Your Cloth Nappies

The best way to dry your nappies would ideally be out on a washing line. They dry quickly this way and they also get aired at the same time. I usually dry mine in our spare bedroom though because let’s face it, we can’t ever guarantee the British weather! I use clothes airers and allow them to dry in their own time. I have used a radiator in the past and as long as the heat is quite low, you should be ok. I have also used tumble driers on holiday and even though it isn’t recommended as a common practice I personally didn’t see any issues over the two weeks in Florida and my TotsBots Bamboozles (night time nappies) came out really soft and fluffy. Also, not everyone has the option of drying in their rooms and a tumble drier is the only solution. The only thing I can say is that over time you will most probably see wear and possibly increased leaks due to the heat damaging the fibres and PUL.

Other options are to dry over a bath, in an airing cupboard, over an AGA, installing a ceiling airer or terry towels and pre-folds can be ironed dry (no other makes can be though).

cloth nappies on washing line


Cleaning Your Machine

You should ideally be washing your washing machine once a month– even if you aren’t a cloth nappy user! Yep, your machine needs a wash too, you know?

A simple method is:

  • Wipe the door inside and the rubber seals with warm soapy water to remove any stubborn residue, limescale or detergent.
  • Wash out the drawer using warm soapy water.
  • Clean the filter.
  • Add 1 cup of white vinegar in the drawer.
  • Sprinkle bicarbonate of soda inside the drum.
  • Put your machine on a hot wash.

Voila, one sparkling clean machine.

If you have limescale issues as I do, then simply do a wash using citric acid. This is a natural de-scaler and is gentle on your appliances.


I hope that has made things a lot clearer and helped you to decide on how to wash your cloth nappies? Maybe you have other tricks or tips for me? Let me know because I am constantly learning too.

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