The reason why we updated our sanitisation method and removed ‘stripping’

Over the last 18 months, we have reviewed our advice. We looked at the basics of chemistry and microbiology. We dived into studies on sanitisation and chlorine bleach. During this review, we realised that what we were advising wasn’t effective for a lot of problems people were having, and it started to make sense as to why.

After reviewing everything we are changing our advice.

Say goodbye to strip-washing

Stripping, strip washes, and strip soaks – no matter what you call them – are not effective cleaning methods. All said and done a ‘strip wash’ is either just washing or soaking. You can get the same, or better, results using a long warm/ hot wash with detergent and laundry booster in your washing machine.

We no longer recommend strip washing prior to sanitising nappies. Instead, we recommend a short wash to remove soiling (poo, wee, blood, food). If you are sanitising your own nappies, wash them first. A prewash cycle is fine.

If you are sanitising second-hand nappies and they are not visibly physically soiled there is no need to wash them first.

Our updated sanitisation methods

Chlorine bleach both sanitises and removes stains. The concentration of chlorine bleach is the key factor in removing minor stains, major stains, oxidising ammonia and sanitising against certain pathogens.

The level of chlorine bleach we were advising for Small Scale and Top Loader it was enough for applications that needed small concentrations of bleach. However, this level was not effective for all applications.  The Front Loader method did solve some problems, but not all. Now each application has the amount of chlorine which will solve that problem.

There isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach to sanitisation. More chlorine bleach is required to kill a significant amount of mould than a small amount of mould. More chlorine bleach is required to oxidise a signification amount of ammonia than a small amount of ammonia. Our revised chlorine bleach calculator provides different amounts of chlorine for different problems. There are 23, 26 now 31 different options to choose from!

Why sanitise cloth nappies

Life happens, and it might not be possible to wash your nappies well. They get stinky, get stains, and mould spots or your child develops a nappy rash, redness or gets sick. Maybe you’ve purchased them second-hand, or you’ve used a less-than-great detergent. Sanitisation oxidises (removes) ammonia and kills off any problematic microbes.

How to sanitise cloth nappies

Heat and chlorine bleach are the only two methods to oxidise ammonia. The most effective, economical and readily available sanitise options are using chlorine bleach or a 90/95°C sanitise cycle.

Our methods are robust and thoroughly tested. Our chlorine bleach calculator calculates the quantity of chlorine bleach you need to sanitise for a variety of applications and problems. You can use chlorine bleach in a bucket, Front Loader or Top Loader washing machine.

Note: PUL and items with elastics cannot be washed in a 90/95°C sanitise cycle as they can delaminate or become damaged. We recommend using the PUL safe options listed on the chlorine bleach table for these items.

Introducing our website subscription

We have started a website subscription service. Until now (October 2020) the Clean Cloth Nappies Facebook group and website have been provided free of charge. This is made possible by our dedicated volunteer admin team. However, to stay viable we need income to cover costs. This includes website updates and behind-the-scenes work that keeps the group running (like this new sanitisation advice).

For full instructions for the sanitise pages please signup to become a Clean Cloth Nappies website subscriber. Update: in February 2023 we moved our membership payment platform to Patreon.

Troubleshooting and advice in our Facebook Group will always be free and we’ll keep answering posts on a daily basis. If you’ve benefited from our help in the past and would like to contribute to our future, we hope you’ll consider becoming a patron.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Additional information to support our advice. Think of this as an “extra for experts” section.

How do I use the chlorine bleach table?
  • Choose what you need to sanitise for.
  • Input the % concentration of your chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite).
  • Choose your preferred sanitise method (either in a bucket or your washing machine)

The result is the amount of chlorine bleach (mLs) you need, it has been calculated for you!

What applications or problems are included in the chlorine bleach table?

There are 23, 26 over 30 different options to choose from including ammonia (mild, moderate, significant), cold water washes, mould (minor and significant), single cycle washes, second-hand nappies, minor stains, major stains, bacterial infections (Staphylococcus, Impetigo, Salmonella, Listeria), fungal infections and more!

How do I get rid of persistent stains that don’t come out in the wash

Choose the Stains option, either mild, moderate or significant.

I still have stains after sanitising, what do I do?

You can use the next level for the stains option. For example, if you initially treated for mild stains, try the moderate stain option for the next treatment.

If stains remain after the moderate and extreme options, then the staining you have is probably not oxidisable (oxidisable stains include food, poo, blueberries, wine) and can’t be removed by chlorine bleach.

Why do I need to use so much bleach for certain applications/problems?

Different problems and applications require different concentrations of bleach. More chlorine bleach is required to kill a significant amount of mould than a small amount of mould. More chlorine bleach is required to oxidise a signification amount of ammonia than a small amount of ammonia.

Could I use less bleach or sanitise twice?

Yes, if you wish to sanitise twice at a lower concentration or less, you can. The levels of chlorine bleach are based on research and studies on what is effective for those applications and pathogens. However, for certain problems such as significant black mould, you will need to use the amount listed for it to be effective.

Will there be any bleach left over on the fabrics after sanitising?

We recommend a post sanitise wash to remove any remaining bleach.

How do I get rid of the smell of bleach after?

Wash the items as suggested, and air dry them outside for 24 hours. The smell of chlorine will dissipate and disappear.

Will sanitising damage/fade the fabrics?

If you have non-colourfast items or coloured bamboo/cotton, use the option for non-colourfast fabrics. Using a higher concentration than what is listed under this option may result in those fabrics fading. If in doubt, use the non-colourfast option.

If I used the old instructions yesterday, will something bad happen to my nappies?

No. If it solved your problem that’s great. However, the updated methods are far better (and easier)!

What is more effective: soaking or in-wash sanitising?

Soaking and in-wash sanitising are both effective, as they have the same chlorine bleach concentration. Chose the sanitisation method that is easiest for you.

For stain and soiling removal, washing is more effective because of the agitation. This is similar to how washing dishes is more effective than simply soaking them.

If we no longer need to strip, should I at least wash items before the sanitise?

Yes, definitely. The instructions list starting with clean nappies. If you are sanitising your own nappies, wash them first (prewash is fine). If you are sanitising second-hand nappies and they are not visibly physically soiled, there is no need to wash them first.