Wash Routine Basics

How to wash cloth nappies


Wash routine overview

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

  1. Detergent choice
  2. Remove and rinse soiling
  3. Prewash cycle
  4. Main wash cycle
  5. Dry

1. Detergent choice

Choose a quality detergent, using suggested quantities, as recommended in our Detergent Indexes, AU/NZ and UK.

2. Remove and rinse soiling

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.

You can remove soiling all at once the end of the day.

If you don’t pre wash 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.

Nappies only need one pre wash. Loading does not matter for pre wash.

If non absorbent covers (eg those made of PUL fabric without absorbency) are clean, smell and stain free after this cycle, they don’t need to go into the main wash. If they are not clean, smell and stain free, put them into the main wash.

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.

See the Front Loader Wash Routine, Top Loader (Traditional) Wash Routine and Top Loader (High Efficiency) Wash Routine pages for more information about cycles and loading.

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.

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 pre wash

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

Run a daily pre wash cycle on subsequent days and complete a main wash when there is enough nappies/laundry to fill a main load.

Nappies only need one pre wash. Loading does not matter for pre wash.

If non absorbent covers (eg those made of PUL fabric without absorbency) are clean, smell and stain free after this daily pre wash cycle, they don’t need to go into the main wash. If they are not clean, smell and stain free, put them into the main wash. Alternatively you can put them into main wash only.

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 pre wash 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 pre wash cycle needed?

A separate pre wash cycle with detergent, removes excess soiling from nappies, so that the main wash is done in clean water which produces 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.

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Machine Index
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References

  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>.