Washing and drying cloth nappies

matty washing


  1. Take the nappy off the baby!

  2. Put the wet/dirty nappy, wrap and any inserts and liner in the mesh laundry bag in the nappy bucket. If your baby is entirely milk-fed (breast or formula) the nappy can be stored as it comes off the baby, in a bucket or wet bag, until you're reading to do a wash in the machine.  You don't need to rinse off the poo at this age, though some people prefer to do so.  If your baby is older and eating solid food, so the poo is no longer entirely water-soluble, it is advisable to get the worst off before putting the nappy in the bucket.  You can hold it under the flush of the toilet, or just scrape the worst off with loo paper or some sort of scraper.  Disposable biodegradable liners really come into their own when babies are weaned.  Most people like to dismantle the nappy at this stage if necessary, taking inserts out of pockets, for example, and some just wash it as it is.  I think it will wash more effectively if dismantled before washing.
  3. If you're using a disposable liner, take it out of the nappy, drop any solid waste down the loo (if possible!) and put the liner in the bin. It is not recommended to put even "flushable" liners down the loo because they may block your drains and they cause mayhem at the sewage works (as do all sorts of wet wipes, dental floss and tampons).  You can wash disposable liners that are just wet and use them twice.

  4. If your nappy has velcro-type tabs, close the laundry tabs to stop the nappies all joing up in the wash and to prevent the velcro from gathering fluff. For wraps with no laundry tabs do up the wrap and turn inside-out for washing.

  5.  Don't add any water or anything like bleach or nappy sanitising powder to your nappies because it isn't necessary, and soaking will damage the waterproof covers on the nappies.  Never use chlorine bleach on your nappies - it will ruin the colour of the outside, turn the fleece linings yellowish and rot the fabrics and elastics

  6. When your bucket is full - or you're running short of nappies - put the mesh bag of nappies in the washing machine. Don't do the mesh bag up.  If you leave it open, the nappies will come out of the bag and get washed more effectively.  Give the nappies a cold pre-rinse to get rid of the worst of the pee and poo.  This needs to be proper rinse programme that spins the dirty water out at the end.  Then do a long wash at 40oC or 60oC on a cotton wash with a fast spin, using the amount of washing powder recommended by the manufacturer - remember that you will need less detergent if you are only washing a small load.  A long wash programme gives more time for the powder to dissolve and disperse completely through the wash. If the nappies are particularly niffy, do a 60oC wash - but no hotter! Use whatever detergent you like but no fabric conditioner - fabric conditioner makes the nappies less absorbent.  Washing powder works better than liquids or gels and mainstream supermarket detergents work better than the eco versions. Use any extra water and extra rinse options that your machine offers.  An extra final rinse is advisable as many modern washing machines are so economical with water that they may not rinse the nappies adequately. 

  7. Take your clean nappies out of the machine, separate out all the different bits of the nappy - boosters/inserts and covers/pockets - and hang them up to dry.  Hang them next to radiators but not on the radiator as the excess heat may make the nappies hard and can damage bamboo fabric.  Regular tumble drying is not really recommended and should be done on low, but can help keep nappies fluffy.  If you are using a 2-part nappy system, it is not necessary to tumble dry the wraps.

  8. Stains can be bleached by hanging nappies outside or on a window sill on a sunny day.

  9. If you live in an area with really hard water, hanging nappies out in the rain will soften the fabric!


Drying nappies indoorsdrying cloth nappies on airer


Washing powders that are intended for washing whites and light coloured clothing are best for nappies as they contain "oxygen-based bleaching agents" that disinfect and brighten whites.  These bleaching agents (mostly sodium percarbonate) are not present in detergent intended for washing coloured clothes and, since they are activated by getting wet, they aren't included in washing liquids or gels. Expensive specialist nappy washing powders contain lots of "oxygen-based bleaching agents" plus detergent so are really much the same as products like Fairy Non-Bio and supermarket equivalents.  Washing powders that contain little or no soap rinse out of the fabric more completely - soap can accumulate in the fabric causing nasty niffs and reduced absorbency.  Eco products often contain a lot of soap.

Here's a useful tip from Littlelambs nappies: Each time you remove the nappies from the washer give them a quick flick. This will separate the individual fibres and it will give you a nappy that not only feels softer but dries quicker too.