How to sanitise modern cloth nappies

How to remove stains, smells and Sanitise™ cloth nappies and diapers

We want it to be easy to use cloth nappies, so we have developed the Clean Cloth Nappies Sanitise™ methods to help you remove stains and smells from cloth nappies and diapers using minimal effort, resources and money.

The Clean Cloth Nappies Sanitise™ information was developed and tested by qualified Chemists.

Why do I need to Sanitise™ my cloth nappies and diapers?

Ammonia and urine go hand in hand, you can’t avoid it occurring, but you can prevent it from causing problems by washing your nappies well to begin with. But even with the best wash routine and washing machine, cloth nappies and diapers can smell and get stained, because after all, their job is to catch poo and urine.

Maybe you have bought them second hand, only have access to cold water or have been using a less than great detergent. Have they started smelling, or become stained or mouldy? Does your child have a nappy rash, redness or is sick? The good news is it is easy to fix and get them back to stain-free, and smelling great.

Sanitisation removes ammonia and any microbes which can cause problems like redness, rashes and fabric degradation.

Sanitising within an early childhood education centre

You may also need to sanitise cloth nappies and diapers shared among non-siblings, such as in an early childhood education centre or family daycare setting. Learn more.

How do I remove stains, smells and Sanitise™ my cloth nappies and diapers?

The two most effective, economical and accessible options to remove stains, smells and to Sanitise™ are chlorine bleach or a high heat cycle. These are the only methods that will oxidise ammonia. See our chlorine bleach and ammonia information to learn more.

PUL and items with elastics cannot be washed in a 90/95°C sanitise cycle because they can delaminate or become damaged, For this reason, we recommend using the PUL / All in One (AIO) option listed on the chlorine bleach table.

Clean Cloth Nappies Chlorine Bleach Sanitise™

Remove stains and smells from cloth nappies, diapers, clothes and general laundry.

The Chlorine Bleach Sanitise™ table and information provide you with the correct quantities to use to remove certain stains and smells easily. It reduces the risk of user error and it is easy! Why do you need the correct quantities? So that the process actually works and you don’t damage your cloth nappies, diapers, clothes and laundry. Don’t guess, it can result in disaster!

Before and after of a white t-shirt with a fruit stain. The stain was removed using the Clean Cloth Nappies Chlorine Bleach Sanitise® method
Stains removed from a cloth nappy insert using Clean Cloth Nappies Chlorine Bleach Sanitise® method

Remove mould from textiles

Before and after of a Jamie Kay dress which was covered in mould by a Clean Cloth Nappies Facebook group member using the Clean Cloth Nappies Chlorine bleach Sanitise® method

How do I use the Chlorine Bleach Sanitise™ table?

We have created a chlorine bleach table that calculates the quantity of chlorine bleach you need to sanitise for a variety of applications and problems. It is easy to use and follow.

There are three ways to sanitise using chlorine bleach: using a bucket, in a Front Loader washing machine or in a Top Loader washing machine.

  • Choose what you need to sanitise for (for example minor stains, smells or mould).
  • Choose how you want to sanitise and the concentration of your chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite).
  • The result is the amount of chlorine bleach (in mls) you need, all calculated for you!

What options and problems are included in the chlorine bleach table?

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

Sanitise application and problem glossary

All in One nappies (AIOs)

Nappies with a PUL outer shell and sewn in absorbency. These nappies require a lower concentration of chlorine bleach to prevent potential damage to the PUL.

Safe for:
  • PUL
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise

Ammonia (mild)

Nappies that smell mildly of ammonia (stronger than normal urine), similar to a toilet which hasn’t been flushed all day.

Safe for:
  • PUL
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Ammonia (moderate)

Nappies that smell moderately of ammonia (stronger than normal urine), similar to a toilet which hasn’t been flushed all day.

Safe for:
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Ammonia (extreme)

Nappies that smell very unpleasant, like a public urinal or cat litter box which hasn’t been cleaned.

Safe for:
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Bacterial infection: Impetigo

Nappies which have been exposed to Impetigo and require sanitisation.

Safe for:
  • PUL
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Bacterial infection: Listeria

Nappies which have been exposed to Listeria and require sanitisation.

Safe for:
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Bacterial infection: Salmonella

Nappies which have been exposed to Salmonella and require sanitisation.

Safe for:
  • PUL
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Bacterial infection: Staphylococcus

Nappies which have been exposed to Staphylococcus and require sanitisation.

Safe for:
  • PUL
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Coloured/ non colourfast fabrics

Fabrics such as bamboo or cotton which have been dyed or are coloured.

Safe for:
  • Non-colourfast
  • PUL
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Cloth Sanitary Pads with PUL backing

Cloth Sanitary Pads often have a water-resistant PUL layer. They require a lower concentration of chlorine bleach to prevent potential damage to the PUL.

Safe for:
  • PUL
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise

Cold wash only

You only have access to cold water, or want to wash in cold water.

Safe for:
  • PUL
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise

Fungal infections: Candida species

Nappies which have been exposed to Candida species and require sanitisation.

Safe for:
  • PUL
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Fungal infection: Tinea/ Ringworm

Nappies which have been exposed to Tinea/ Ringworm and require sanitisation.

Safe for:
  • PUL
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

I want to nuke everything I have no fear

As described, only suitable for white fabrics.

Safe for:
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise

Main wash only (no pre wash)

You can’t do a pre wash cycle and can only do one cycle (main wash). Required for cloth nappies and diapers shared among non-siblings, such as in an early childhood education centre or family daycare setting.

Safe for:
  • PUL
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise

Mould minor (non-colourfast fabrics)

A few small patches of mould (including black and pink mould) on non-colourfast fabrics.

Safe for:
  • Non-colourfast
  • PUL
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Mould minor (white fabrics only)

A few small patches of mould (including black and pink mould) on white fabrics.

Safe for:
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Mould black (significant)

A significant amount of mould (including black Stachybotrys Chartarum mould) on white fabrics.

Safe for:
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Prewash stain removal option (white fabrics only, PUL ok)

Safe for:
  • PUL
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise

PUL

Use this option to sanitise PUL covers.

Safe for:
  • PUL
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise

Second hand nappies (unstained/ don’t smell)

Second hand nappies which are not stained and don’t smell.

Safe for:
  • PUL
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Second hand nappies (moderately stained/smelly)

Second hand nappies which are moderately stained and smelly.

Safe for:
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Second hand nappies (extremely stained/ smelly)

Second hand nappies which are extremely stained and smelly.

Safe for:
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Stains (minor)

Nappies with minor oxidisable stains from food, poo, grass, blueberries, red wine, etc.

Safe for:
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Stains (moderate)

Nappies with moderate oxidisable stains from food, poo, grass, blueberries, red wine etc.

Safe for:
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • Top Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • Front Loader Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Stains (significant)

Nappies with significant oxidisable stains from food, poo, grass, blueberries, red wine etc

Safe for:
  • White fabric

Methods:
  • Small Scale Bleach Sanitise
  • 90/95°C Sanitise (heat tolerant items only)

Sanitise quick reference tables

Use these quick reference tables to determine which method (or methods) is suitable to sanitise your items.

Note: some options output the same bleach concentration. In this situation there is no need to run separate wash cycles. For example, the Second-hand nappies (unstained/ don’t smell) option is suitable for PUL covers, AIOs and inserts.

Suitability by fabric
Sanitise method Colours PUL Whites
90/95℃ sanitise cycle
Front loader chlorine bleach
Top loader chlorine bleach
Small scale chlorine bleach

*Fabric may fade or shrink, and prints and decals may crack or peel during a 90/95℃ sanitise cycle. If you are unsure how the item will react to heat use the Small Scale chlorine bleach method instead.


Suitability by application
Sanitise application Colours PUL Whites
All in One nappies (AIOs)
Ammonia (mild)
Ammonia (moderate)
Ammonia (extreme)
Bacterial infection: Impetigo
Bacterial infection: Listeria
Bacterial infection: Salmonella
Bacterial infection: Staphylococcus
Coloured/ non colourfast fabrics
Cloth Sanitary Pads with PUL backing
Cold wash only
Fungal infections: Candida species
Fungal infection: Tinea/ Ringworm
I want to nuke everything I have no fear
Main wash only (no pre wash)
Mould minor (non-colourfast fabrics)
Mould minor (white fabrics only)
Mould black (significant)
Prewash stain removal option (white fabrics only, PUL ok)
PUL
Second hand nappies (unstained/ don’t smell)
Second hand nappies (moderately stained/smelly)
Second hand nappies (extremely stained/ smelly)
Stains (minor)
Stains (moderate)
Stains (significant)

Use the Coloured/non colourfast option for fabrics that are coloured or dyed (for example cotton or bamboo). Other options use a higher concentration of chlorine bleach and may result in those fabrics fading.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chemical Disinfectants: Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, 2008.
  2. K Reynolds, S Boone, K Bright, C Gerba, Occurrence of Household Mold and Efficacy of Sodium Hypochlorite Disinfectant, 2012.
  3. S. Wilson, C Wu, L Andriychuk, J Martin, T Brasel, C Jumper, D Straus, Effect of Chlorine Dioxide Gas on Fungi and Mycotoxins Associated with Sick Building Syndrome, 2005.
  4. M Korukluoglu, Y Sahan, A Yigit, The fungicidal efficacy of various commercial disinfectants used in the food industry, 2006.
  5. Z Mohamad, Stachybotrys chartarum: its identification and response to antimicrobial treatment and prevention, 2018.
  6. Jennifer L. Cadnum, Aaron A. Shaikh, Christina T. Piedrahita, Thriveen Sankar, Annette L. Jencson, Emily L. Larkin, Mahmoud A. Ghannoum, Curtis J. Donskey, Effectiveness of Disinfectants Against Candida auris and Other Candida Species (June 8, 2022) <https://www.chicagohan.org/documents/14171/427345/Effectiveness+of+Disinfectants+against+C.+auris+ICHE+2017.pdf/18a53d4c-44e0-5087-1f2c-1c5da6400ae2?t=1611162107524#:~:text=There%20were%20no%20significant%20differences%20in%20efficacy%20against%20C.,0.5%20%C2%B1%200.4)%2C%20C.>.