Friendly, independent advice with 20 years of real nappy experience

Washing nappies

There is, sadly, still the belief that washing real nappies is a major chore. For past generations washing cloth nappies tended to mean soaking in bleach, boiling on the hob and lines of nappies on the line.

How do I wash my cloth nappies?

  • When you are ready to wash (generally when the nappy bucket is full or after a maximum of 3 days), take the nappies from the bucket and place them in the washing machine. A mesh bag contained within the bucket will make transferring the nappies easier - but make sure that the bag is left open so that the nappies can be released into the wash!
  • Washing instructions can differ for different nappies, and people often follow their own system, but as a rule it's good practice to prewash the nappies on a cold cycle and then do a proper wash.
  • Generally a 40-60 degree wash is recommended (see instructions on the label for more detail) but most people do a 40 degree wash with just the occasional 60.
  • Use non-biological washing powder. You will only need a small amount of washing powder (around half of the recommended dose). Using too much detergent can lead to a build-up which will affect the absorbency of the nappies, can damage elastication and waterproofing and can lead to smelly nappies (as the detergent will hold on to smells).
  •  We suggest that you avoid short 'eco'-washes. The nappies are best pre-rinsed and then put on a long cycle. It's important to ensure that the nappies get a good number of rinses and spins in order to remove all urine and detergent by the end of the cycle.
  • If you can see soap suds in the machine during the final rinse, or if, when you remove them from the machine, they smell strongly of washing powder,  then you have used too much powder and need to cut down on the amount of detergent you use.
  • Don't over-fill your machine as this will also limit the rinsing.
  • You should avoid fabric conditioner when washing real nappies, as this can affect the absorbency of the nappies and may lead to skin irritations.
  • You can place other washing in with the nappies to avoid operating the machine on a half load. Include sheets, babygros etc in the wash.
  • If your real nappies have aplix (velcro), it is important to fold the tabs back on themselves, otherwise the nappies will stick to each other and to other garments in the wash.
  • Always wash according to manufacturer washing instructions.

How do I clean my waterproof wraps / covers?

Some nappies ('2-part nappies') are used with a seperate waterproof cover. These do not have to be washed after every use. Unless a nappy has become very wet, or the wrap has become soiled, it should only need changing after every 2-3 uses. Most wraps can be washed in the machine at a maximum of 60°C, although wherever possible it is best to wash on a cooler temperature or by hand as continued machine washing will accelerate deterioration of the fabric.

Wraps dry quickly and are best dried naturally. To avoid damaging the waterproof coating, avoid hanging them directly on radiators and do not wring them.

See manufacturers instructions.

See 'drying nappies' for advice on the next step...

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