Single-cycle routine (daycare protocol) for cloth nappies

Our cloth nappy single-cyle routine is a long hot wash with detergent and chlorine bleach. The chlorine bleach works with detergent to oxidise stains, break down ammonia and remove the fungal load from nappies. No prewash is required using this method.

We sometimes refer to this method as our ‘daycare protocol’. It is suitable for washing cloth nappies and diapers that are shared between non-siblings in a childcare setting, such as early childhood education or family daycare centres. This can also be used in households with limited water resources.

I developed this method after a childcare centre asked me for help. They needed a method that was as water, energy and time efficient as possible. 

~ Anastasia, Environmental Scientist and founding Facebook group admin

In Australia and New Zealand, hygiene items such as nappies shared between children/people outside of a family setting must be sanitised to the AS/NZS 4146:2000 laundry practice standard.

Bleach safe items

This concentration is not suitable for non-colourfast items due to the risk of fading and localised bleaching. Non-colourfast items are natural fibers (cotton, hemp, bamboo) that have been dyed or coloured.
This concentration is suitable for nappy covers and other items containing PUL and elastics.
This concentration is suitable for white and colourfast items.

Prepare the nappies

Nappies should be washed at the end of each day or within a maximum of 48 hours. Do not leave dirty nappies over the weekend or public holidays.

Keep nappies as dry as possible until it is time to wash them. Do not soak them.

Remove soiling

Remove soiling as soon as practical, this is generally at the end of the day. Hand rinse any remaining soiling before putting nappies into the washing machine.

Choose a detergent

Add quality detergent, dosing for heavily soiled laundry and your machine size.

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Front and top loaders have different cycle lengths and loading requirements. Machine specific information is detailed on the Front Loader Wash Routine, Traditional Top Loader Wash Routine or High-Efficiency Top Loader Wash Routine pages.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

More information about our single-wash method.

Why did Clean Cloth Nappies develop this protocol?

This method was developed for early childhood education and family daycare centres that provide children with cloth nappies and launder them onsite.

In this setting, nappies from non-siblings are washed together and must be sanitised every use to meet the AS/NZS 4146:2000 laundry practice standard.

My child attends childcare. Should I use this method?

If you provide your own nappies for your child to use at childcare and then take them home to wash, you do not need to follow this protocol.

My children share nappies. Should I use this method?

No, you do not need to sanitise nappies between siblings. The cloth nappies can all be washed together.

My family includes stepchildren and/or foster children. Should I use this method?

No, if children are living together in the same house they are considered siblings. Therefore you do not need to sanitise their cloth nappies every wash.

Is machine loading important when following this protocol?

Loading is not as important when using this method. The chlorine bleach oxidises stains and thus helps to remove them. However, a properly loaded wash means the detergent dose will better match the soiling level.

In regular laundry, adequate loading is important as the agitation provides the friction for physically removing stains on fabric. Heat and chemicals (such as laundry booster or chlorine bleach) also help in stain removal.

Is a prewash still needed using this method?

No, this method does not require a pre wash. This protocol was developed for a childcare centre that did not have the capacity to run two washes.

It is extremely important that soiling (poo) is removed from each nappy before washing.

A prewash is required if main wash will not be run within 48 hours.

Will using hot water deactivate the chlorine bleach?

Not immediately. The chlorine bleach, as well as any enzymes in the detergent, will be effective while the water is heating. The rate of degradation is not significant enough to render it immediately ineffective.

Hot (60°C) water washes items much better than a cold wash. The heat helps remove stains and the bleach smell. Washing with both heat and bleach provides the benefits of both.

How much water is needed to dilute the chlorine bleach?

The sanitise calculator will specify how much water to use for diluting the chlorine bleach. If the bleach concentration is ≤ 3%, dilution is not required.

Diluting the chlorine bleach reduces the risk of PUL being exposed to concentrated or neat bleach.

Can I add dark or coloured clothing to this wash?

There is a risk of the dark and/or coloured items fading from chlorine bleach oxidisation. We do not recommend adding dark and coloured items when using this method.

Will mixing chlorine bleach and dirty nappies create a toxic gas?

No, the ammonia from urea isn’t enough to cause fumes. Using the washing machine method then further reduces the impact as any reaction is contained within the machine.

Please note that mixing liquid ammonia and chlorine bleach creates toxic gases called chloramines.

References and further reading

  1. Standards Australia, AS/NZS 4146:2000 Laundry practice (January 28, 2022) <>.