If you have bought your nappies new wash them, with any boosters or inserts,  2 or 3 times before you use them  This will remove residues from the manufacturing process and increase absorbency by fluffing up the fibres.   Wash brand new nappies on as low a temperature as you can and do not use any powder or detergent for this pre-wash and definitely NO SOFTENER!   Wash any bright  or dark colours separately for the first few washes as although colour fast they may run for the first few washes.  You do not need to dry them in between washes.   

New PUL nappy wraps can be washed just once before use and should NEVER be soaked. 

Please remember we cannot refund or exchange washed products.  So if you purchased a large number of nappies wash and try just a few in the first instance, particularly if you are unsure.  

YOUR DIRTY NAPPY – to soak or not to soak? 

Not soaking – You do not have to soak your nappies.  When you take off a wet nappy take out any inserts and fold down any Velcro onto the laundry tabs or do the velcro up on itself and turn it inside out, and the put the whole nappy inside the storage bag or bucket. (Mesh bags can be used to line the bucket, this makes putting the dirty nappies into the washing machine easy and quick and means you don’t have to handle dirty nappies again.)  When you take off a soiled nappy either remove and flush away the disposable liner or shake any solids off the nappy down the toilet (if the nappy itself is very dirty hold it under the flush so it gets wet or rinse it quickly by hand as this does help keep stains down) and then place your soiled nappy inside the bucket or storage bag. Leave until you have enough nappies for a wash (normally between 15 to 18 but this varies depending on the size of your nappies and the size of your washing machine drum).  Do not over fill your machine drum,  or the nappies will not get a good wash, ideally the drum should be 3/4 full of washing and you should have a small space above the load inside the drum.   If you are not soaking your nappies then your bucket will not smell, sometimes there is a smell of ammonia when you lift the lid, but you can put a couple of drops of tea tree or lavender oil on a paper liner at the bottom of your bucket if you are worried about smells, tea tree oil is a powerful natural antiseptic and does helps avoid nasty smells! 

Soaking – We DO NOT recommend soaking nappies,  but if you would prefer to soak your nappies occasionally,  you would, as above, place soiled and wet nappies into the mesh bag inside the bucket.  The bucket should be filled with only plain water.  Never soak with harsh stain removers, bleach, napisan, vinegar or bicarbonate of soda as these can damage the nappy’s fabric, bamboo in particular.  You should not leave the water in the bucket for more than 1 day, you should never leave PUL wraps in to soak at all, and this includes nappies with PUL shells attached to them, like Bumgenius Freetime, Totsbots Easyfit Star or other all in one or pocket nappies.  Soaking will not really get your nappies any cleaner, is quite a bit of extra work as you have to get rid of the dirty water each day and the bucket gets quite smelly,  so in my opinion you are always better to dry pail.  And please be aware that if you soak with any harsh chemicals the nappy manufacturers guarantee will be invalid.


When you are ready to wash put your dirty nappies etc into the washing machine (do not overfill, it is best to fill 3/4)  If you are using a mesh bag to line your bucket leave the bag open (so that all the nappies tumble out in the wash).  Start off with either a cold rinse cycle or quick wash cycle with NO detergent (do not use a pre-wash). This means that the first lot of heavily soiled water will be washed away and the main wash will then be run with fresh water.  Washing machines are super efficient these days and will re-use the water from a prewash cycle in the main wash, so it is much better to have that first rinse water completely drained away with all the remaining urine and solids and to start the main cycle with clean water.  This also means that if you do not have enough dirty cloth nappies you can at this point add other items (bedding, towels, babygrows etc). 

After this first rinse cycle move on to a  40° – 60° main cycle, use the longest cotton wash available with your machine,  lasting around 2 hours.  If your machine has the option to ‘water plus’ definitely use this, nappies need lots of water to clean them effectively (don’t use an ECO cycle).   To make sure your nappies are completely sanitized you should wash at 60° (washing at  60° will kill of any microbes that may be lurking there) You can wash at 40° once your baby is a bit older, if you are only washing wet rather than soiled nappies (not sure that will happen very often if at all!) or are using one of the special nappy detergents like Rockin Green, Bambino Mio or Totsbots Potion Powder which are all designed to clean nappies  at lower temperatures. Wash at 60° for newborns under 3 months, when you are washing nappies from more than one child or if your baby has very sensitive skin or anyone in your family is unwell. 


There is a lot of very confusing information out there regarding what is the best detergent to use and how much of it to use when washing cloth nappies.   Most nappy manufacturers will recommend using non bio detergent as biological detergent has strong enzymes which can quickly damage and deteriorate the bamboo and cotton fibres in your nappies.  Also babies have sensitive skin and biological detergent is more likely to cause skin irritation.  So please be aware that in most cases if you use biological your warranty will be void.  Do not use too much detergent.  It is very easy to overdose on detergent thinking that the nappies are heavily soiled  and therefore need more !  Find the recommended dose on your detergent pack for the size of drum and for heavily soiled items, remember that you are filling your drum only to 3/4 load.  I would suggest you use a bit less rather than a bit more because using too much can cause the detergent to build up in the nappies which causes them to leak, smell and can cause skin problems.   Powder is considered better than liquid for a couple of reasons;  it cleans better on a long cycle and it contains higher concentrates of water softeners which is better for nappies.  Eco balls are not recommended for washable nappies; they do not get the nappies clean enough and can damage the nappy fibres because of the agitation.  I had a customer with threadbare bamboo nappies after 6 months of using eco balls.  

NEVER USE SOFTENER as this coats the nappy fabric and gradually reduces absorbency

NEVER USE ECOVER as it builds up in the nappies very quickly and causes problems with the elastic, natural fibres and skin sensitivity.  

(One of the main causes of nappy rash in babies using real nappies is a build up of washing powder residue in the fibres of the nappy – occasionally (every 6 months or so) put your nappies through an extra rinse at the end of the washing cycle without powder) Your nappies should not smell of anything once they have been washed.  If they smell of washing powder you are using too much. If they smell of urine then you could be using too  little or putting too many in your machine.  It is recommended you run a washing machine maintenance cycle every 6 months*.  If you want to add lavender oil or tea tree oil to the final rinse water you can do, but just a few drops.

At the bottom of each nappy page I will put the manufacturers washing instructions/links at the bottom of this page, please read carefully as some are very strict with their warranties if the wrong detergent is used – Motherease particularly! 


The best option is to line dry outside.  However it is not always sunny and not everyone has access to a garden.  A drying rack works very well. If you dry nappies over a radiator please bear in mind that they may get quite stiff, although you can shake them out a bit to soften them up.  Never dry wraps, outer shells of nappies like bumgenius freetime or totsbots easyfit on a radiator.  Tumble drying on a low heat is another option, environmentally not so great – but fantastic in an emergency.   Tumble-drying will make your nappies feel nice and soft but can shorten their life slightly.  You can tumble dry for the first 10 or last 10 minutes of drying time if you want to soften your nappies a bit.


  • Don’t use fabric conditioner, it reduces absorbency by coating the fabric and therefore increases leaks
  • Don’t soak your nappies in anything other than plain water
  • Don’t use a nappy sanitizer when washing your wraps.
  • Don’t wash or dry your wraps at high temperatures. Nothing over 60° 
  • Do not dry your wraps on a radiator
  • Don’t stretch the elastic on your nappies and wraps after tumble drying, until they have cooled down as this can lead to the elastic breaking or becoming lax
  • Don’t use a barrier/nappy rash cream unless you place a paper liner between your baby’s bottom and the nappy.  These creams can affect the absorbency of the nappy by coating it with a waterproof film.


Strip washing means washing all your nappies at a low temperatures with no powder/detergent and running the cycle 2 to 4 times until the water is completely clear and you can see no detergent bubbles in the machine during the wash. You should strip wash your nappies about once a year.  Due to a chemical reaction between the ammonia, detergents and the heat with which the nappies are washed some parents find that their baby’s nappies begin to smell strongly of ammonia when wet!  Strip washing your nappies usually sorts out the smell in the short term but going forward you should think about reducing the amount of detergent you use on each wash and even run a rinse cycle water only no detergent at the end of each wash too.

Spin cycle is best kept at 1000 revs as too high a rev speed can damage the material.

FINALLY – All this information  may seem rather complex and complicated but once you start it is pretty simple and you quickly get used to it.   You are going to use/wash your nappies multiple times every week over at least a 2 year period so to get the best out of them sticking to a few simple wash practices can really help keep them in tip top condition and working.  The washing part of your cloth nappy routine is usually about 15 minutes, in total per load, including hanging out and puttng away.


Apple Cheeks washing & care

Bambino Mio washing & care

Bumgenius washing & care

Close Parent wash and care

Little Lambs washing & care

Motherease washing & care

Thirsties wash and care

Totsbots wash and care