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The ultimate guide to washing reusable cloth nappies

Learn how to use and care for environmentally friendly nappies with this guide on how to clean cloth nappies.


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Choosing cloth nappies vs disposable versions can be beneficial to both your wallet and the planet – but it’s not the right option for every parent. If you decide to give them a try then learning how to use, clean, and care for washable nappies is very important. Just follow our top tips to learn how to clean reusable nappies and get started.

Give your washable nappies a sniff when they come out of the machine. If they don’t come out smelling fresh just repeat the washing cycle.

How to use cloth nappies

When it comes to using reusable cloth nappies there are a number of basic rules to follow:

  • Change them regularly: every couple of hours or sooner if heavily soiled.

  • Learn to fold if using traditional flat nappies: take the time to familiarise yourself with the best way to put them on. Otherwise, there is a wide selection of modern cloth nappies from which to choose that do not require folding.

  • Use nappy covers: they will help them stay on and add a waterproof layer.

  • Wash often: store dirty nappies in a pail and wash every (or every other) day.

  • Follow care label instructions: when washing and drying.

  • Wash reusable cloth nappies separately: keep them apart from your main laundry.

How to wash cloth nappies

A great benefit of cloth nappies vs disposable nappies is that they can be re-used. Once you learn how to clean cloth nappies you can reduce the number of disposable nappies you buy or cut them out altogether – making reusable, environmentally friendly nappies good for the planet and your wallet!

Here’s how to begin washing cloth nappies:

  1. Remove any bulky matter in the nappy and flush it away. If you’re using washable nappies on newborns you may be able to rinse away their poo. Rinse nappies with water and then store in a dry bucket until you are ready to wash.

  2. If nappies or covers have Velcro, make sure you fasten it to prevent the velcro from catching and tangling in the wash.

  3. Run a pre-wash cycle with the nappies before running them on a full wash cycle.

  4. Wash with a detergent free from potential irritants – bleach, heavily fragranced detergents and fabric conditioner can shorten the lifespan of your nappies and irritate baby’s delicate skin. OMO Sensitive is a great choice. Always choose a long wash cycle. This is not the time to use a quick wash.

  5. Line dry nappies. The UV in sunlight is a natural sanitiser, so take advantage of it. Just be mindful in summer months when temperatures and UV are high. Too much UV can have a detrimental effect, so limit the time in direct sun.

  6. Give the nappies a sniff when they are dry – they should smell fresh. If not, repeat the washing process.

Looking for more tips on caring for your baby? Try our article on washing baby clothes to make sure all your baby’s outfits are soft and clean.

Make washable nappies last longer

In addition to learning how to clean reusable nappies you can also follow these tips to make them last longer:

  • Never use fabric softeners or chlorine bleach – they may damage the fibres.

  • Use lemon to whiten the material naturally. It’s gentle on washable nappies and smells great too!

  • Add a little vinegar and baking soda to the wash to tackle heavy stains and odours.

  • Hang nappies to dry overnight. If you use a tumble dryer, keep it on a low heat.

Once you know how to use cloth nappies and clean them effectively you can make them last for a long time. Follow our top tips and see if reusable nappies are the right choice for you and your little one.

Key steps

Remember these tips when you’re cleaning washable nappies:

  1. Remove and rinse away excess waste before washing and storing.

  2. Wash reusable nappies every 1-2 days.

  3. Always follow washing instructions and use a detergent free from potential irritants like OMO Sensitive.

  4. Wash nappies separately from other laundry.

  5. Check for freshness and wash again if necessary.

Originally published