How to wash cloth nappies

The way modern cloth nappies are washed today has changed for the better since the days of soaking in large heavy buckets or using harsh chemicals, not quite the way things used to be done!  Modern cloth nappies are treated differently due to the built in nature of covers and elastics.  Here is all you need to know about washing your modern cloth nappies and to make them last. 

Before you start

Preparing brand new cloth nappies:

Just like new towels or kitchen cloths, brand new nappies will need to be prepped to ‘wake up the fibres’.  Absorbency of new fibres and materials will increase with every wash. You can put your nappies through 3-5 regular washes or if you are short for time (cause who doesn’t want to get their new prints on the bum asap!) soak new inserts and boosters in fresh water overnight prior to one initial wash.  

Second hand nappies:

If you have been given pre-loved cloth nappies or are buying second hand, it is best to do a Strip and Sanitise procedure to ensure that they perform well and are entirely clean and free from any build up. Build up occurs when the nappies haven’t been stored or washed correctly or there has been high use of a nappy barrier cream.  Details of this wash process can be found at


Standard Wash Routine 

A standard wash routine can be done in the following 5 steps. 

1. Flush  

Tip any solids into the toilet. A note on poo…

Newborn poo: (breastfed or bottle fed) is generally not practicably flushable. Rinse with water under the laundry tap or using a nappy sprayer into the toilet, and place in a dry pail.

Solid poo: Tip solids from the nappy and into the toilet. A microfleece washable liner can also make easy removal of solids.  Rinse with water under the laundry tap or use a nappy sprayer into the toilet and place in a dry pail.

2. Store in dry pail  

A dry pail is a ventilated basket or non-porous laundry basket. Good air flow to the dry pail will prevent smells. Air flow prevents ammonia build up which leads to unwanted smells.

3. Pre-wash  

Once you have enough nappies for a wash (machine two thirds full when dry) run your load through a warm (30° C) quick cycle (30+ minutes) with half a scoop of detergent. This gets rid of any excess urine or soiling before the main wash cycle.

4. Main wash  

Wash nappies through a normal/long wash cycle (1 – 1.5 hours, max 60°C), with a full scoop of detergent. Add in any small, colourfast items to make up a load.  Avoid large items such as towels as this will prevent agitation for cleaning. 

5. Dry

Line dry for best results or tumble dry inserts. Do not tumble dry covers/outer shells or leave for extended periods in direct sunlight. 

To ensure that everyone in your house is on-board with washing nappies correctly, a handy ‘How to Wash’ poster will communicate this information to all.  This poster is laminated to withstand laundry conditions and has space for notes and extra details.

For variations with washing machines (top and front loaders) or trouble shooting, the website Clean Cloth Nappies is super helpful and resourceful for modern cloth nappy washing.  

Night Nappies

Using Cloth Nappies at night Night nappies are approached differently as you may not be changing your baby as frequently as during the day.  Night nappies will need to be rinsed first thing in the morning as ammonia will break down the materials and elastics. If the nappy is heavily soiled, you can soak the nappy for an hour with detergent and warm water, then ring out and dry pail.

Using just a few nappies

If you are getting into the swing of cloth nappies, perhaps starting out using one to two a day or trialling different brands, you can add the nappy to a regular load of wash. 

After use, empty any solids into the toilet. Rinse the nappy well under the laundry tap and simply add it to the next load of clothes you are washing. If the nappy is particularly soiled, use a warm wash cycle.  Do not soak the nappy as this will deteriorate the elastics.  


Your standard washing detergent that you wash your baby’s clothes in will work as long as the detergent doesn’t contain any brighteners or softeners.  If you use an eco/plant based detergent, you may need to use twice as much. The top 5 detergent brands recommended by Clean Cloth Nappies are: OMO, Cold Power, Trimat Advanced, Biozet Attack Powder, Dynamo Max.  


At first, having to wash nappies may seem like an extra chore.  In fact, most parents report that they are washing regardless (yes babies can get messy!) any extra loads of washing from nappies become just another load of wash.  Once you and your household are in a good wash routine, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t go to cloth sooner! It is easy and you can do it!