How To Wash Your Cloth Nappies

reusable cloth nappies

This is the bit you’ve been worried about, isn’t it? Go on, you can tell us… 

You’re on board with the reduction in waste, the positive impact on the planet, fewer chemicals near to your baby’s delicate bottom, the huge amounts of money you’ll save, and the gorgeous prints you can collect. But you’re a little concerned about the whole washing thing.

It’s ok, we understand. It can all seem a little daunting. 

But don’t worry - we’re going to break it down for you, and show you how caring for your cloth nappies isn’t rocket science - you can even manage it on a week of broken sleep while feeding a wriggling baby with the other hand (possibly...well, we did it once and nobody got dropped…).

Dealing with a dirty nappy

Once you have watched your tiny cherub rolling/crawling/staring up at the ceiling in their adorable nappy for a couple of hours, then you are going to need to change them. If the nappy is just wet (yay!) then you can simply separate the inner from the outer bit, and dispose of the nappy liner, or rinse and recycle it as a wipe (genius waste-saving idea for you, free of charge!).

If we have a Code Brown, then you’re going to have to remove the solids (no, there isn’t a less gross way of saying that.). You can use a variety of tools for this: a rubber brush, a knife (sometimes affectionately called a poo knife amongst cloth nappy veterans), or the hose attachment to your shower if it’s a bit stubborn. Whatever you use, the solids can be flushed straight down the toilet. Removing the solids means your washing machine is happier (and no-one with children wants an unhappy washing machine) and your nappies will get a better clean.

If you’re still wading through the fog of the newborn stage and your baby is exclusively breastfed, then congrats - you’ve hit the poo jackpot! Breastfed poo is water-soluble, so no scraping needed, you can just chuck it straight in with the wet nappies. But you do have all the scraping to look forward to from 6 months, sorry.

Until you have a full load

Once you’ve dealt with that then the best idea is to have some dirty nappy storage near to your changing station. Any basket, bag, or bucket will do. There’s no need to soak your nappies, just pop them in the bucket, making sure it’s ventilated, until the end of the day. 

If you have room, then you could keep two baskets next to your station: one to put the day’s used nappies in, and one to put the prewashed nappies in ready for the main load. 

“A prewash, you say? And that would mean what, exactly?”

We’re glad you asked:

The prewash

Nappies are dirty, unsurprisingly. And a thorough wash routine is really important to make sure that they stay clean and absorbent. Cloth nappies need a prewash at between 40 and 60 degrees with a half dose of your detergent. This gets rid of the wee, and traces of poo that you haven’t managed to get rid of with your chosen “poo tool” (although we’re pretty sure you can come up with a better name for it than that). You can do this every day or two, pop them in a basket in the meantime, and then when you have a full load put them all in for their main wash.

The main wash

When you have enough for a full load (this depends on your washing machine, but also on how quickly you get through your nappies, or how quickly your little cherub poos their way through their nappies!), you’re ready to do the main wash. 

This should be with a full dose of detergent (check the guidelines on the back of the box), at 40-60 degrees, for around 2-3 hours. Usually, you can do this by choosing the cotton wash on your machine. 

There’s no need to use nappy softener or bleach, and they’re actually not good for your nappies. The bleach can damage the fibers, and the softener affects the absorbency of the inserts. Best to stick to just stick to a biological powder detergent.

A tip from a veteran:

The reason why we wait until we have a full load before washing nappies is that washing machines use agitation to clean - items rubbing up against each other (in a PG kind of way, obviously) is what helps the water and detergent get rid of all the nasties. So, if you don’t have enough nappies in a wash, not enough material is rubbing against each other - ergo: you get a sub-standard clean.

But, you might not have enough nappies to wait until there’s a full load. Our tip? You can put all sorts of other things in with your nappies, as long as they can handle 60-degree cycles. Towels, flannels, reusable baby wipes, dishcloths, these can all help you bulk up your load and ensure everything gets the best clean!



Once you’ve run both the prewash and the main wash on your nappies give yourself a round of applause (Seriously, being a parent is hard and you deserve all the encouragement you can get...and maybe a biscuit.). The best way to dry your nappies is to hang them out in the sun. Sunshine not only makes us feel all shiny and fabulous no matter what sort of a day we’ve had, but it is also a natural disinfectant (and great at removing any stains). Our favorite sight, on a sunny day, is a line-full of beautiful cloth nappies blowing in the makes us feel all tingly inside…

Anyway, we know that sometimes, rather selfishly, the weather doesn’t cooperate with our nappy care schedule. The next best thing is to hang your nappies up inside to dry, and then finish the inserts off in a warm clothes dryer. NEVER put the waterproof outers in the dryer, as it will ruin the PUL. Dryers also break up cloth fibers (the homewreckers!), so using them every time isn’t a great idea for the long term life of your nappies.


To summarise...

See: not a complex equation in sight! 

Once you’ve gone through the process a couple of times it’ll become second nature, and you’ll even be able to do it through bleary eyes before you’ve had your coffee. The best thing is to have a system, that everyone in the house (or at least everyone who has the gross motor skills needed to load the washing machine) is aware of, so that everything is in the right place at the right time, and you’re not left with 1 nappy to last you until the morning. Alternatively, you could just add to your stash, we won’t mind!