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How to wash cloth nappies

With the proper steps, cleaning cloth nappies can be incredibly easy. Use this complete guide to learn how to wash cloth nappies, store soiled nappies, and keep your baby safe and dry.

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Baby wearing reusable cloth nappy next to washed cloth nappies

If you choose to use cloth nappies for your baby, you'll want to learn the best ways to clean them.

3 golden rules of washing reusable nappies

There are a few special rules to follow when learning how to clean cloth nappies:

  1. Wash reusable nappies on a cold cycle before putting them in a normal hot wash.
  2. Wash cloth nappies regularly; every 1-3 days.
  3. Wash nappies separately from the rest of your laundry.

These rules are easy to add to your routine but what about some of the other common queries about using cloth nappies, such as: “how do you store nappies once they’ve been soiled” or “how do you clean reusable diapers before storing them”? Just scroll to find out! 

Has your lifestyle during the Covid-19 lockdown affected the type of stains you get on your clothes?

Step 1: How to wash cloth nappies

Washing reusable nappies is a thousand times easier now than before we had washing machines (when parents had to boil nappies on the hob!)

Here's how to wash cloth nappies safely in the washing machine:

  1. Use a cold cycle to remove stains when washing reusable nappies. Heat could set the stains further into the fabric.
  2. Follow immediately with a normal (warm) or hot wash cycle to kill bacteria and germs.
  3. Use a mild or sensitive non-bio detergent, like Persil, to wash cloth diapers. Follow the instructions on the packet to make sure you don't use too much detergent as it may irritate baby's skin.
  4. You can add a little lemon juice to your wash if you want to help preserve the whiteness of your cloth nappies.

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Step 2: How to dry cloth nappies

After washing reusable nappies, you can dry them in much the same way you would any other laundry.

  • Some types of cloth nappy are not suitable for tumble-drying so always check the label first. 
  • Drying reusable nappies in the sun can have a bleaching effect if they're white.
  • If you added lemon juice to your wash, try to dry them gently and slowly. Drying them too quickly could make the cloth diapers stiff.

Step 3: How to make a nappy washing timetable (and stick to it!)

As with most aspects of raising a child, a routine is essential when using cloth nappies. With a newborn, it’s likely that you’ll need to clean your cloth nappies every 1-2 days but the amount of nappies you use will lessen as your little one grows older.

  1. Decide which days of the week will be convenient for you to wash your cloth nappies.
  2. Adapt this timetable every month to suit your baby’s development.
  3. Stick to your timetable as rigidly as possible - try not to leave more than 3 days between nappy washes to prevent nasty odours or getting caught without clean nappies.
  4. You may want to keep a small supply of disposable nappies for emergencies but it's important to do what's right for you.

With a little organisation, you will find that your nappy washing routine soon becomes second nature.

Step 4: How to store dirty nappies before you clean them

It makes sense to wash dirty nappies together rather than one at a time but that means needing to store them up before you clean them.

  1. Remove as much baby poo from reusable nappies before you store them. Hold the nappie over the toilet and wipe off as much as you can with toilet roll. This step applies more for older babies than newborns. Newborn poo is much softer and will usually come out easily in the wash.
  2. Some cloth nappies have a flushable or disposable liner that needs be removed and disposed of.
  3. Separate the different parts of the cloth nappy as required before placing them in your chosen storage option.

There are two main options for storing used cloth nappies before you wash them: using a nappy bin or using waterproof bags.

  • Nappy bin. Many parents put soiled nappies into a bin half-filled with water and either a little white vinegar or a commercial nappy soak. If you choose this method, it is advisable to have a large net bag inside the nappy bin to make removing them easier. Always empty the water straight into the toilet and check your reusable nappies are suitable for soaking - not all are.
  • Waterproof bags. Place each soiled nappy inside a waterproof bag and seal it securely. You may still want to have a bin or container to store all the soiled nappies before you wash them. If using disposable bags, you'll need to dispose of them after use.

Should you wash reusable nappies before their first use?

Whether you’re waiting for your little one to arrive or making the switch from disposable to reusable nappies, you will need to allow time to prewash newly bought cloth nappies to maximise their capacity for absorption. The number of washing cycles required before you can use the nappies will vary depending on the type of nappy and material – so check the label of your nappies.

All types of cloth diaper will need at least one wash before use; not only to ensure they’re clean enough for your baby but also to avoid leaks when the nappy is first soiled.

And there you have it! We know caring for your baby can be an interesting journey, so why not look at our baby laundry tips for new parents as well as washing baby bedding now that you've learned how to clean cloth nappies.

Originally published