Cloth Nappies Parenting

My Cloth Nappy Wash Routine

I’ve been asked by a few mates new to cloth nappies about my wash routine. That’s a funny thing to type, makes me feel like an influencer! *tosses hair* “I’ve been asked by my fans about my skincare routine!” Like that, but for baby poop.

Some of my cloth nappy stash, which is a much nicer picture to pair with this than grubby nappies!

Anyway, let’s talk shit:

My washing machine is a Bosch Series 4 8kg front loader. It heats it own water to the requested temperature. I got it in July and I love it. So the following routine is for a front loader. Read it any way if you have a top loader, but scroll to the bottom for a couple of tips that I used when I had my top loader.

Step One: after removing the nappy from baby, I stick it in what’s called a dry pail. This is just a basket with a ton of air holes. Mine is metal, but you can use plastic too – as long as it’s got lots of airflow. 

My setup. Here’s my lovely machine, and my two dry pails. Front one is for dirty nappies, back one is for nappies that have been prewashed and are waiting for main wash.

Step Two: Either immediately after removing the nappy or later on when you’ve got time, scrape any solid poops out of the nappy and into the toilet. (This doesn’t apply to exclusively breastfed babies – their poop is water soluble and can dissolve in the wash, so no scraping necessary!) Ideally the poop will be ‘ploppable’, which means it rolls off the nappy pretty easily, but there are plenty of poops that aren’t that easy. Teething poops and ‘just starting solids’ poops are super annoying like this, they have a peanut butter/straight kumara texture. To clean these off, I use a butter knife (clearly marked and NEVER brought into the kitchen, lest it be confused with the other knives!) and a silicon brush. Usually I will only need the knife, but occasionally the brush is warranted. I clean these with diluted bleach.

Step Three: Once I take off baby’s night nappy in the morning, I put it in the machine with all the previous day’s nappies. I do morning washes because ideally it’s good to wash a night nappy as soon as it’s off the bum, and because I benefit from a strict routine and doing nappies like this helps me to not forget. You can do night washes if you don’t use cloth at night though. When chucking nappies in the wash, take the inserts out of the pockets, so everything can swish around properly. 

This is called the prewash, but it’s actually a proper wash. Ideally you should do a hot wash between 30-60 minutes with half the usual amount of detergent. I wash at 60 degrees Celsius on a quick cottons cycle, which is 1 hour 6 minutes. The reason you only do half detergent is because it’s not a full load of laundry so you don’t want a manic amount of suds, and because you don’t want to add any other items to this one – just the nappies.

Step Four: Once the wash is done, stick the nappies into a second dry pail to wait until you do a main wash. My second dry pail is right next to the first one, as seem in the above pic.

Step Five: Once you’ve done a couple days’ worth of prewashes, it’s main wash time! I do mine every 3 days, sometimes every second day depending on my plans. I never leave it longer than 3 days – I think you can go up to four days but my pails aren’t big enough and personally I’d rather not leave it that long, as I don’t want to risk ammonia developing.

Anyway, for main wash I chuck the three days’ worth of nappies in, and do a 40 degree wash with full detergent dose. The wash needs to be full, so I bulk it up with baby clothes, flannels, handtowels etc if i need to. I use Persil on nappies, but there are a few options you can use. Eco detergents aren’t always as effective unless you do hot washes for both pre and main. You’ll soon get a vibe for what works though. I use persil for nappies and ecostore for my other stuff.

And that’s it! If you want to use your dryers, just use it for inserts. Shells dry super quick on a rack. Try to dry them out of direct sunlight so you don’t damage the PUL.


Okay, when I had my Fisher and Paykel top loader, I did stuff a bit differently. You can’t get precise temperatures in a top loader, because they fill up from your hot water cylinder and my thermometer indicated that my hot washes were about 55 degrees Celsius. So I did both pre and main washes on hot. I did a heavy duty cycle for both, and often paused the main wash to allow items to soak for half an hour. That’s pretty much the only difference.

Anyway, I hope this guide helps you developing your own wash routine! I’m happy to answer any questions you may have, and sites like Clean Cloth Nappies are a godsend! Their science-based strategies are what I used to develop this routine, and they can help with all sorts of issues.

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