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How To Wash Cloth Nappies in 4 Easy Steps

Washing Cloth Nappies

Washing modern cloth nappies can seem like a daunting task when you are first starting out. However, caring for cloth nappies is a pretty simple process and you will find over time that you develop a routine that works for you.

Here are some handy tips to get you started.

First Time Use

Before using your cloth nappies for the first time, always wash them 3-4 times to boost the absorbency of the inserts.  Hang the nappies and inserts in the sun to dry. The fabrics used in the nappy and inserts will continue to become absorbent for up to 6 washes.

The Wash Routine

1. Remove Soiling

Drop any solids into the toilet and put the dirty cloth nappy in a dry pail. A dry pail is an open ventilated storage container used to hold nappies until they are washed. We recommend the Strucket – it’s the perfect dry pail nappy solution.


Strucket Laundry Bucket

2. Pre Wash Cycle

Run a daily pre-wash cycle (around 30-40 minutes) at 30-40 degrees with detergent. This pre-wash cycle removes excess soiling and prepares the nappies for the main wash.

Check your washing machine, as most programmed pre-wash cycles don’t include a rinse or spin, which isn’t suitable for washing cloth nappies. Be sure that your pre-wash is done with a cycle that washes, rinses, spins and empties the water at the end of the cycle.

It is not recommended to add other household laundry into the pre wash cycle. This should be for nappies only.

Once nappies have been through the pre wash, there is no need to dry them. They can be placed in a dry pail, ready for the main wash.

3. Main Wash Cycle

Run a long 30-40 degrees main wash cycle with detergent within 1-2 days. Check the nappy care label for the recommended wash temperature, as each brand can vary slightly.

Use a good quality detergent (no soap flakes) and follow the instructions on your detergent. For a list of recommended detergents, please refer to the Detergent Index on the Clean Cloth Nappies website.

This wash cycle can be bulked out with other household washing to fill a main load.

4. Hang to Dry

It is preferable to dry your cloth nappies on the clothes line. Try to avoid tumble drying as it can damage the nappy lining and elastics.

However, if tumble drying can’t be avoided, you can put the inserts into the dryer. But do not place the nappy shells in the drier as the heat will damage them.

Washing Only a Few Nappies

If you only have a small number of soiled nappies to wash, they can be hand washed in warm water with a small amount of laundry detergent. Rinse the nappy and place it in the washing machine on a spin cycle.  It can then be dry pailed and added with other laundry for the main wash.

 My Little Gumnut Cloth Nappies

Trouble Shooting

When washing your cloth nappies, they should come out of the main wash cycle looking fresh and clean. There should be no smells or staining, after every wash.

If you find your nappies do not look or smell clean, your wash routine needs to be modified. We suggest to look at:

  • Trying a different brand of detergent,
  • Checking that you are using the recommended amount of detergent,
  • Ensure you use warm water for your wash cycle,
  • Try using a longer wash cycle,
  • Ensure your nappies are thoroughly rinsed.

We do not recommend the use of bleach, fabric softeners or soaking for your cloth nappies.

By following these steps, you can get the most out of your cloth nappies and they should last your little one from birth through to toilet training. 

For more washing tips you can visit the Australian Nappy Association or Clean Cloth Nappies


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