Wash routine basics (UK)

How to wash cloth nappies

Creating a great wash routine is easy. We are the experts and have optimised and simplified the process!

1. Detergent choice
Choose a quality detergent, using suggested quantities, as recommended in our UK Detergent Index, for larger machines add a little extra.
Calculate the correct amount for your prewash cycle and main wash cycle.
See the UK Detergent Dosing Information page.

2. Remove and rinse soiling
This can be done all at once the end of the day. Wipe excess poo off with toilet paper, dunk and flush in the toilet, ensuring you don’t let go of the nappy! Or rinse in a bucket in the laundry sink. A very useful alternative to this is using a hand held bidet attachments, they make this process easier.
If you don’t want to pre washing daily, ensure you spin out the water, and pail. Or hand wring out excess water and leave the absorbent parts of the nappy over the side of the pail. Spinning out water prevents ammonia formation.

3. Pre wash cycle with detergent, within 1-2 days in 40-60°C water
It is best to pre wash multi layered inserts daily, in particular bamboo, using 60°C water is more effective at removing soiling.

4. Main wash cycle with detergent, within 2-3 days in 40-60°C water
Pre wash daily if main wash is on day 3+using 60°C water is more effective at removing soiling.

5. Dry
Outdoors on the line, avoid hanging PUL (polyurethane laminate) in the sun. Indoors on an airer, or in the dryer, ensuring there is adequate ventilation to prevent condensation.

See the Front Loader Wash Routine page for more information about cycles and loading.

These recommendations should be adapted to consider your washing machine type and size, detergent choice, water hardness and individual user requirements.

For more information on what is in detergents and the function of the raw materials see our information on Mainstream Detergents, Fragrance in Detergent, Enzymes, Optical Brighteners and Plant based, Sensitive & “Eco” Detergents, and the WashWise information sheet on Laundry Detergent Ingredients.

Wash Routine Template

Download, fill out and customise your wash routine using our wash routine template!

Daily Prewash

A daily prewash cycle with detergent, reduces the likelihood of ammonia development and reduces smells in the laundry significantly.

Run a daily prewash cycle on subsequent days and complete a main wash when there is enough nappies/laundry to fill a main load. Each nappy only needs to be pre washed once.

There is no need to dry nappies between pre wash, before main, just dry pail damp. If mould is or becomes an issue, hang over the side of the dry pail to dry out, then pail.

A daily prewash is particularly useful for:

  • Multi layered bamboo inserts
    Night nappies (either in addition to a separate night nappy hand rinse, or can be put straight into a pre wash cycle in the morning, see Washing Night Nappies for more info)
  • Nappies used for older children who have concentrated urine
  • Anyone that is sensitive to smells in general, or where the laundry is near living areas
  • For larger machines
  • Hot or humid climates

Why is a separate prewash cycle needed?

A separate prewash cycle with detergent removes excess soiling from nappies. This means the main wash is done in clean water and produces the best results. Loading does not matter for the pre wash cycle, only for the main wash cycle.

Choose a short cycle, approximately 30-45mins that agitates, rinses and spins, include detergent (see the Detergent Index for quantities) and dry pail as normal.

Most ‘prewash’ functions on the washing machine don’t do a rinse and spin following the agitation part of the cycle, or remove the dirty water before the main wash.  If the machine has a separate detergent compartment for prewash, agitates, removes the prewash water, rinses and spins, then try this function in addition to the main wash cycle, instead of a separate prewash cycle. If smells, stains or other issues occur, revert to a separate pre wash cycle.


  1. H. Sinner, Sinner's Circle: Thermochemical washing (1960) Über das Waschen mit Haushaltwaschmaschinen: in welchem Umfange erleichtern Haushaltwaschmaschinen und -geräte das Wäschehaben im Haushalt? In.: Haus und Heim-Verlag, Hamburg; 1960.
  2. D.P. Bockmühl, Laundry hygiene- how to get more than clean <https://sfamjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jam.13402>.
  3. M. Honisch, R. Stamminger, D.P. Bockmühl, Impact of wash cycle time, temperature and detergent formulation on the hygiene effectiveness of domestic laundering <https://sfamjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jam.12647>.