Our advice for dealing with flooded textiles

What to do with nappies and clothes that have become wet with water from floods.

Clothing and nappies that have become wet from floodwater can cause a huge backlog of sodden laundry.

Long warm (40°C) to hot (60°C) washes with quality detergent and oxygen bleach is enough to make laundry safe from viruses, and from all but the most stubborn bacteria.

How to wash nappies and clothes after exposure to flood water

Remove excess soiling

The first step is to get rid of excess mud and filth. Hosing off muddy piles of laundry might be your best bet.


All heavily soiled laundry can do with a prewash. Use a short wash cycle with half the recommended amount of detergent.

Main wash

Use a long wash (the longest your machine does) and use plenty of detergent, up to twice the amount you might normally use if the items are very dirty. Use the hottest water temperature you think the laundry will take.

Full loads (front loader) and half to 2/3 full loads (top loader) will wash best.

If there are no suds 30 min into the wash, add more detergent.


Open the door of the washer. If it smells clean, dry it. This may be straight into the dryer if there is nowhere to dry laundry outside.

If the load smells dirty, it’s not clean and needs to be rewashed.

Treating mouldy nappies and clothing

Mouldy clothing, nappies, prams can all be saved. Heat or bleach is required to sanitise, and you may need additional stain treatment.

We have a new subscription option that provides chlorine bleach advice for mould removal.

Remove mould from textiles with our chlorine bleach sanitise information.

For prams, you might be able to use a hot water spray (for example, a Bissell spot cleaner) to do heat sanitising. If you need to submerge the pram for a small-scale sanitise, a wheelie bin is a great idea.


Items that have rust stains can be fixed using citric acid plus salt, although this isn’t a priority.

What about vinegar?

Vinegar has only a very limited place in the laundry. Bleach is almost always better. We suggest you don’t bother using vinegar in your laundry.

Other tips

If you have clothing full of floodwater but no access to clean water, try and let the laundry dry out as much as you can, and then deal with it later.

Don’t mix flood-soiled clothes and uncontaminated clothes. Sort, process and shake contaminated clothes in an area away from uncontaminated clothes. This includes mixing laundry baskets (wipe these down between batches eg with soapy water).

No time for prewashes? Consider bleach in the load. There’s an option for this in the Sanitise instructions.

Not at home and wondering how you’ll manage the laundry? See our Holiday Cloth Use Guide.

If items are dry clean only or are sentimental items, take them to a professional dry cleaner for advice.

Sunshine is great for drying clothes; however, sunlight does not sanitise.

Additional resources

Members of our Clean Cloth Nappies Facebook group have access to in-depth posts about:

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