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Caring for cloth nappies

So you've got your cloth bottoms, but how do you keep them clean and looking and working well?

Posted: 24 November 2006
by Kimberley Smith

First wash

Nappies’ absorbency often increases after a few washes so you may prefer to wash them before their first use. Check the back of the packet for how yours may be affected by washing.


Soaking in a nappy soak or water and tea tree oil isn’t always necessary. Again, check with your brand. For many it’s a personal choice either to ensure the nappy smells totally fresh and is disinfected. But many mums feel a washing machine cycle is plenty.

Pre wash?

Again, this is a personal choice. If the nappy is heavily soiled you may want to rinse it first but modern washing machines should do the job.


Check your brand first but it’s fairly safe to assume that lower temperatures are fine. Modern nappies don’t need to be washed at 90°C as in the past and many clean just fine on a 40°C cycle. Every few washes you may want to give them a really good go at 60°C but check that this won’t affect the material or absorbency first.

Detergent and fabric conditioner

Many real nappy brands also make nappy detergents but any detergent will do. If you notice any irritation on your baby’s skin you may wish to change. Fabric conditioner is a no-no as it reduces the nappy absorbancy.


Dry according to manufacturers instructions. Usually, line drying is recommended but if this isn’t possible you should be bale to tumble your nappies on a low heat. Liners should not be tumbled, however as this can damage them.

Nappy problems

If you find your nappies are too hard, a little white vinegar in the conditioner drawer can soften them up and occasionally giving them a rinse with no detergent will help clean out any residual cleaning products. You can also stick them in the tumble dryer for a few minutes which should soften them up.

If you’re concerned about staining, you can soak in a stain remover or try hanging them in the sun as this may help to bleach out the marks.

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