How to wash cloth nappies
Laundry

How to wash cloth nappies

If you choose to use cloth diapers for your baby, you'll want to learn the best ways to clean them! Here are great tips on washing reusable nappies.

Washing reusable nappies is easier than you’d imagine with this complete guide to cleaning cloth diapers.

Many of us are put off using reusable nappies because we’re not sure how to wash cloth diapers properly; we worry that we won’t be able to achieve the high standard of hygiene we all want for our children. But with the proper methods and products, you’ll find that cleaning cloth nappies safely and effectively is incredibly easy.

How Do You Wash Cloth Diapers?

The major differences between general laundry and cleaning cloth diapers are:

  • Nappies should be washed on a cold cycle before undergoing a normal hot or warm wash.
  • Nappy washing must be done very regularly, every one to three days.
  • Nappies should only be washed with other nappies.

These are simple enough to incorporate into your routine. Other common queries about using cloth nappies, such as “How do you store nappies once they’ve been soiled?” and “How do you clean reusable diapers before storing them?” are simple to answer. Everything you need to know is right here in this complete guide to washing cloth nappies – and once you know these tips, cleaning reusable nappies really is simple and easy.

1. How to make a nappy washing timetable and stick to it

As with most aspects of raising a child, routine is essential when using cloth nappies. With a newborn, it’s likely that you’ll need to do a nappy wash every one and a half to two days, but the amount of nappies you use will lessen as your little one grows older. Decide which days of the week will be convenient for you to wash your cloth diapers, and adapt this timetable every month or so to suit your baby’s development.

It’s best to stick to your timetable, and to never leave more than three days between washes. This ensures you’re not caught short without any clean reusable nappies to hand, and prevents odour issues caused by older dirty diapers. With a little organisation, you will find that your diaper washing routine soon becomes second nature.

2. How to wash reusable diapers before their first use

Whether you’re waiting for your little one to arrive, or making the switch from disposable to reusable, 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 care recommendations when buying reusable nappies. However, 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.

3. How to clean cloth diapers and store them before washing

There are two main options for storing used cloth nappies before you wash them: using a nappy bin or using waterproof bags. Many parents put soiled nappies into a bin half-filled with water, with either vinegar or a commercial nappy soak to target odour and to aid in removing dirt. If you choose this method, it is advisable to put all the nappies into a large net bag inside the nappy bin, so that removing them is easy, and to empty the water straight into the toilet. Some reusable nappies are not suitable for soaking, so do check the manufacturers instructions.

Whether using a nappy bin or individual waterproof bags, you should remove as much baby poo as possible before storing. Some reusable nappies include a flushable disposable liner, while others need to be held over the toilet while you use toilet paper to remove the worst of it. This step is often unnecessary with new born babies, as anything with a thin consistency will come out easily in the wash, but anyone who’s had the pleasure of changing a toddler’s nappy will understand how important knowing how to clean reusable diapers before storing them is.

4. How to wash reusable nappies

Washing machines have made cleaning cloth nappies a thousand times easier than the days when parents had to boil them on the hob. Be careful, however, not to overload your machine, as space and movement will be necessary to clean nappies effectively – and never put other clothing items in a nappy wash.

To wash reusable nappies, you will need to use a cold cycle to remove stains, followed immediately by a normal warm or hot wash cycle. This is because initially heat will make stains set in, but ultimately it’s necessary to eliminate any germs.

Use a mild or sensitive non-bio detergent, like Persil, to wash cloth diapers, as you would with any of your baby’s clothes. It’s also important not to use too much – some reusable nappy brands even recommend using half the normal amount of detergent than a normal wash.

5. Drying 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 – check the label when you buy the nappies to find out. Drying reusable nappies in the sun can help to keep them a brighter white, especially if you add a little lemon juice to your wash. This can make cloth diapers stiff if they dry too fast, however, so drying inside or in the tumble dryer may be preferable.

For more information on the ingredients in products mentioned in this tip, visit What’s in Unilever Products here.

Top Tip


Reusable nappies come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s essential to check the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure that you wash your chosen cloth safely. Important information includes how often the nappies will need to be washed before their first use; their suggested wash temperature; and whether they can be tumble dried.