Washing Guide


One of the biggest barriers to cloth nappies is the washing. Most of us loathe the chore whilst others enjoy it. Our aim is to always share how easy it is to wash your nappies, it isn't as overwhelming as it sounds. If you've washed your own clothes, you already know how.

Cloth nappies are reusable but aren't indestructible. Treating them with a little TLC will go a long way! We are not the nappy police, these guidelines are so you get the longest life possible out of your nappies. If you choose to wash in cold or use an eco detergent that is completely up to you, we just like to make sure your expectations are in line with your washing practices. If you have any questions at all you are welcome to reach out via our contact us page and our friendly customer service team will help you tweak a washing routine that is right for you

As an accredited member of the Australian Nappy Association, we support and recommend the Association's washing guidelines.


Step 1 - Dry Pail

Removing solids, rinsing and dry pailing

Not the most glamorous of subjects but let's face it parenting isn't very glamorous. People often get scared about dealing with poo, the first secret is that whether you use single-use nappies or reusable nappies you will have to deal with poo as a parent. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news! The second secret is even when using cloth nappies, it's not a big deal! 

  • Use a dry pail with holes for aeration. This may seem counterintuitive but anaerobic environments (a closed bucket for example) encourage ammonia production which is what creates a smell and can damage your nappies. It sounds crazy but an open, airy dry pail will have the least smells.
  • Pee nappies can be placed straight into your dry pail.
  • Remove poo solids by either just plopping it in the toilet, scraping, using a nappy sprayer. What works best will depend on your child’s age and diet. Rinse under hot water. You can pretreat stains if desired. Then dry pail.
  • Night nappies (or nappies that have been in use for longer than 5 hours) contain a greater quantity and concentration of urine. A separate, thorough hand-rinse in hot water with detergent, in the morning, is recommended. Then dry pail as normal.

We wanted to give you an idea of what poo removal looks like with a cloth nappy and some different ideas. No real poo was used in the making of this video!

Night nappies are hard workers! They can often hold 12-13 hours worth of urine and so giving them a separate hand rinse can really help decrease the amount of urine in your wash and help prevent ammonia build up. It's as simple as rinsing them in hot water with a teaspoon of detergent, then rinse with clean water 1-2 times until the water looks clear after that wring out and hang over the edge of your dry pail.

Step 2 - Washing

Choosing a Wash Cycle

Washing cloth nappies can be overwhelming and confusing when you first look into it. But it needn't be. It's just laundry.... really dirty laundry. So, apply the rules you would to normal dirty laundry: agitation, heat, and good detergent. These are the same key factors are what will get your nappies sparkling clean. The first thing you need to do before washing your nappies (even before baby comes if you're a planner) is to choose your wash cycles. This may take a little reading and playing around with your machine, but it's a one-off chore. And after that, you know what to do every time!

  • We recommend a two-step wash system using good-quality mainstream detergent.
  • Prewash: Use a short cycle with half the recommended dose of detergent for a heavily soiled load.
  • Main Wash: Use the longest cycle on your machine with the full dose of detergent for a heavily soiled load, up to 60°C.
  • A pre-wash cycle removes the bulk of the soiling so that the main wash is done in clean water.
  • Washing nappies every other day helps to prevent smells, ammonia and mould from developing and deteriorating fabrics. 
  • A daily prewash can be helpful in certain situations to ensure fabrics remain in good condition. To do a daily prewash simply prewash that day’s nappies, then return them to the dry pail. The next day, do the same with that day’s nappies followed by the main wash with all the prewashed nappies.
  • Do not spin over 800rpm as that can cause undue stress on the elastics. This is most likely only an issue with top loaders that contain agitators but elastics can be a bit of a mystery so to play it safe we recommend a maximum 800rpm spin speed.


  • The absorbency of the boosters increases over the first 5 to 10 washes. You also notice that the boosters will shrink by about 10%. They are milled and made this way. That’s why the inserts are bigger when you get them. You will also notice the absorbance increase at the same time.
  • The use of chlorine bleach will void your warranty if used. Please contact the Bubblebubs for more information.
  • Don’t use fabric softener or vinegar on your nappies. Fabric softener coats the fibres of the fabric, causing them to repel. Vinegar may cause breakdown of the components of your nappy.
  • Napisan/Vanish type products can be used in the wash or as stain treatments prior, follow the instructions on the packaging.


Sometimes seeing all the steps and information about washing your cloth nappies written down can feel a bit overwhelming so we thought a video might help explain it better. So here you go! This is just one mother, her wash set up and how she washes. This doesn't need to be how you do it but just to give you an example.



Drying The Nappies

This is the easy bit. If you can line dry it’s best for the environment and your electricity bill, not to mention your nappies. Hang inserts out in the sun to soak up those rays. Your covers you may want to be more careful with. You can either hang them outside for a short period of time or just hang inside. I hang mine over the edge of my washing basket inside and they’re dry in less than a day. Harsh sun can damage your PUL or fade your beautiful designs so it’s best to take care with covers. If it’s raining, or just if you prefer, you can dry your inserts in the dryer. This can take a while as they’re super absorbent! 

  • Line drying is economical and environmentally friendly. 
  • For nappies that contain elastics (especially all-in-ones or fitted nappies) be conscious of how they are hung, so the elastics are not being stretched while drying. Hang them lengthways across the line can prevent additional wear and tear.
  • Hang covers/shells in the shade, or indoors. 
  • If line drying isn’t possible, use the dryer on the lowest setting for shells, waiting until they are cold before stretching elastics. 
  • Avoid putting the PUL covers and Candie shells in the dryer, as this shortens the life of the elastic. It’s ok if you must but the Candie and PUL covers can and will last multiple children, so if you are careful, you can cloth nappy all your children spending no more money. Three is the record. Let me know if you break that.
  • Extensive dryer use will make the nappies a little thinner over time in the same way it does your clothing so use your best judgement, if there have been days of rain and you just can't get your nappies dry then a trip through the dryer won't hurt. If possible just put the inserts in the dryer rather than covers and shells to help extend their life. 



    Before First Use

    Let’s start at the very beginning. You’ve received your new nappies, hugged them, taken a photo for your partner, squealed a little bit. What do you do next? Prep them! You can prep them a couple of different ways. You can wash them 6-8 times before use which is a bit laborious and you have to be very patient, which I am not. Or you can just soak them overnight in plain water, wash them once and use straight away. They won’t be at full absorbency straight away but you can just change baby a little more frequently until they’ve been washed a few times and you’ll be fine. And best of all you get to start using them straight away! As a note, you only need to prep nappies like this if they’re made of natural fibres (hemp, bamboo, cotton). Microfibre just needs one wash to make sure any production chemicals are removed. Covers also only need to be washed one to make sure they’re clean.

    We have also found some places charge for washing instructions. Do not pay for cloth nappy washing instructions. We, as the manufacture, are happy to help if you need extra help.

    • Soak your new nappies overnight to increase absorbency (only absorbent material needs to be soaked). It will take 6-8 washes for your nappies to reach maximum absorbency. You can use them after one wash simply change more frequently until they reach maximum absorbency.
    • Wash all parts of your nappy once before use in warm water.


    Storing and Care

    Storing dirty nappies couldn’t be simpler. These days we don’t recommend storing them in a bucket of water. It’s cumbersome, breeds bacteria, is a drowning hazard and can be damaging to the PUL and elastics in modern cloth nappies. These days we dry pail. When looking for a dry pail you’ll want something with lots of holes, we want airflow. The more air the better. It seems counterintuitive but if you have good airflow you won’t have smells.

    Pee nappies can just be thrown in the dry pail until wash day. Poo nappies should be rinsed before dry pailing. You’ve got a few poo removal choices. You can use a nappy sprayer like a Little Squirt one attached to your toilet or a home-made one rigged up in your laundry tub. You can also use all manner of everyday items to remove poo. Some of the popular options are a spatula, butter knives, and hair brushes. Try whatever takes your fancy. Just label that knife for goodness sakes! Once the poo is removed you can just pop it in the dry pail or give it quick spray with a stain spray (if you do this be sure to check it’s not one with a time limit on it).

    Night nappies can benefit from a quick hand rinse before dry pailing. They contain large amounts of quite concentrated urine so it’s a good idea to rinse them in hot water with a tiny bit of detergent. Just rinse a couple of times until the water runs clear, then dry pail with the rest of the nappies.

    As our nappies can be used for multiple children, it is important to store your nappies correctly in order to keep them in their best condition.

    Listen to our Podcast

    Our Nappy Leaks Podcast is an informative unbranded discussion making cloth nappies look as easy as they really are. By two experienced cloth nappy industry insiders along with special guests.

    Here are some episodes that specifically discuss wash routines. We even had previous owner from the Amy White from Clean Cloth Nappy Hire (CCN) on a couple of times to discuss her expertise on the subject.

    Washing Cloth Nappies 
    Washing your cloth nappies is easy. You have been washing for years with your current washing machine. Washing cloth nappies just needs a few tweaks to your current washing routine. There is a few different angles on the subject and Vicki, Vashti and Jenna go down every rabbit hole.

    What Detergents to Use 
    You've done your research and purchased cloth nappies and now you are ready to wash them. As you walk into the supermarket a whole aisle of boxes and bottles of laundry detergent close in around you, "Which is the most economical, what will clean the best, where are the environmentally friendly ones, how much do I use"? To help guide you to finding the best detergent to tick all of your needs, Vashti and Vicki discuss exactly what to look for and be aware of with Amy White. Amy is an environmental scientist who loves laundry and researching the science of how we clean.

    How to Strip and Sanitize Nappies
    One of the most useful tools you that you can have in your cloth nappy skill toolbox is how to strip and santitise or S&S for short (and no, it’s got nothing to do with a stretch and sweep!). A strip and sanitise is a straightforward process of deep cleaning nappies that you can use on secondhand nappies or to resolve a prior insufficient wash routine that was causing issues with your nappies. This big, deep clean resets nappies to being spotless and fresh again.

    Nappy Leaks Live March 2020
    Following on from the success of our previous Live Podcast, we decided to do another one! We have a very special guest this week, Amy White from Clean Cloth Nappy Hire. She is a nappy cleaning guru and Andrew has a few questions for her! He asks where do you start with cleaning your nappies? What the biggest challenge Amy has in running her business? She also gives us her top tips to get your nappies extra clean as well as the low down on bleach and how to handle mould.