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Washing & Drying Nappies

Washing nappies really is easy! The main washing rules to stick to are:

  • Never use fabric softener (inhibits nappy absorbency)
  • Put a full load in the machine (maximises agitation)
  • Put nappies on the very longest wash cycle

But of course this all starts with the nappy change. Each section below will walk you through the steps.

Pre-washing your nappies

Much like bath towels, nappies need to be washed several times before they reach full absorbency. Your new nappies will need up to 10 washes before you use them. You needn't dry them between washes. The nappies can be worn after one wash but remember that they may not hold as much liquid so be patient.

Changing baby

When you change baby simply take off the nappy and lift out the liner if you have chosen to use one (put it in the bin or flush down the loo). If your nappy has velcro fastenings then now is the moment to remember to fold down the laundry tabs to protect the velcro in the wash. Place the nappy in your nappy bucket or wet bag.

We recommend you line your nappy storage bucket with a pail liner, which is like a very big wet bag. When it's time to do the laundry you can simply lift the bag out of the bucket and place it in the washing machine - no need to touch the nappies. (Just remember to leave the bag open so the nappies can be released in the wash.)


Modern reusable nappies do not need to be soaked. In fact, soaking will damage bamboo fibres and the waterproofing on covers. Cloth nappies can be stored for up to three days in a dry bucket until wash day. Any longer and the ammonia in urine will destroy bamboo fibres. If a nappy is soiled you may want to rinse it before you place it in the bucket.

Please remember that soaking your nappies in bleach, vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, Nappisan or any other harsh stain removers is never ever recommended. These will damage your nappies and will invalidate any product guarantee given by the manufacturer. Bamboo is an especially delicate fabric and is particularly susceptible to harsh chemicals.


Put a full load of nappies in the washing machine. It is important that the load is full so that the nappies are sufficiently agitated in the wash (you are aiming for 3/4 full when the load is wet so that there is still enough room for everything to swish about and get rinsed). If you don’t have a full load of nappies to wash add a towel or anything else that could do with a good long wash to make up the load.

Run a cold rinse cycle, so that any leftover solids and urine are flushed away.

Set your machine on the longest cycle setting - at least two hours. Normally the cotton cycle uses more water than the synthetics cycle. If you have an extra water option on your machine choose that too. Bear in mind that you're filling the drum with items that can hold a large amount of liquid, so it needs plenty of water going through to clean and rinse them properly.

Add your detergent. Powder is generally thought to give a better clean, but this is not essential. What is essential is that you never use fabric softener because it leaves a coating on the nappies which inhibits their absorbency. With this in mind watch out for detergents with ‘built in’ softener, sometimes called "2 in 1".

When dosing your detergent remember that less is always more. At the end of the wash there should be no foam and your nappies should come out of the machine smelling of nothing. If you can still smell detergent it's a sign you've used too much. It's important to be aware of this because when detergent starts to build up in your nappies this can cause skin reactions, fabric damage and a strong smell. If on the other hand your nappies don't smell clean then it will be down to either: needing a longer wash cycle, the drum being over full, wrong detergent dose, or your machine might need a maintenance cycle running.

Wash the nappies at 40 to 60 degrees - but always double check the manufacturer's wash label on your particular nappies.


Drying on the line is perfect - the sun naturally bleaches out stains - but a clothes airer is a great alternative too.

You can tumble dry inserts/boosters on a low heat, but remember that covers cannot go in the drier because this will damage the waterproofing. Many people like to give their inserts/booster a short tumble on a low heat because they find it helps soften them up, but do remember that regular tumble drying will shorten their lifespan.

Depending on how hard the water is in your area, all nappies will gradually become stiffer than they were when you first got them. If you don't have a tumble drier you can rub the fabric together in your hands and this will help soften them up. If you feel the nappies are still too stiff then use a fleece liner which creates a super soft layer on baby's bottom.


Sunshine has a wonderful knack for removing stains so dry your nappies outside on the line as often as possible. Just make sure not to leave covers in direct sunlight as this will damage the waterproofing. In fact, covers dry incredibly quickly so there is no need to leave them in the sun.

To prevent staining your nappies in the first place avoid using nappy creams that contain zinc, an ingredient which can blacken the inside of the nappy. Always use a cloth safe nappy cream in combination with a liner to prevent the cream from clogging up the nappy and inhibiting absorbency. Nappy liners in themselves are great at minimising staining. Both disposable paper liners and washable fleece liners help stop poos from coming into direct contact with the nappy.