The ultimate guide to washing reusable nappies

Washing cloth nappies can seem a little daunting to start off with but once you get into the groove it will become a lot clearer. With a good wash routine your nappies will stay sparkling clean and last through multiple children.

If you are finding problems or having trouble with your wash routine please reach out to us, we would love to help!

Prepping new nappies

Before using new nappies on your baby we recommend giving them a warm wash on a normal cycle at 40°- 60° with a little detergent.
Line dry nappy covers/shells and wetbags. Inserts can be either line or tumble dried.

There is no need to soak or wash nappies multiple times before using them, our nappies are absorbent from the get go and will get even better wash after wash. 

Washing basics

There are 4 main steps to washing cloth nappies:

  1. Store dirty nappies
    Remove poo into the toilet and store dirty nappy/wipe in a basket with good air flow, no need to rinse wee. No need to rinse poo if baby is on a milk only diet.
    DO NOT soak nappies.

  2. Prewash/rinse
    At the end of each day, wash dirty nappies/wipes on a short cycle 30 - 60 mins using half the recommended dose of mainstream detergent at 40° - 60° then store in a clean basket, no need to dry. Repeat this step for 2-3 days.

  3. Mainwash/longwash
    Place all previous 2-3 days prewashed nappies into the machine and run the longest cycle 2.5 - 3 hours - usually Cotton/Heavy Duty on 40°- 60° using a full dose of good quality detergent.

  4. Dry
    Line dry nappy covers/shells and wetbags. Line or tumble dry inserts/wipes, fitted nappies.
    Once dry your nappies are ready to use again.

Download washing quick guide

Wash routine examples

Once you get started you will start to develop your own routine, if it seems a little overwhelming, don't worry, as soon as you start it will become a lot easier!
Here are some examples of washing routines:

Daily Prewash
Each morning, after the night nappy comes off prewash the previous days nappies along with the night nappy. Repeat each day for 2-3 days then mainwash all nappies. This is a good routine to get into if you are using night nappies, it is best practise for night nappies to be prewashed daily.

Back to Back Prewash and Mainwash
Every 2-3 days prewash all nappies and then mainwash straight after. This is a common routine especially when you are starting out or just have a few nappies. We do recommend a daily prewash as we have found better results, especially if you are using night nappies.

Washing tips and tricks

Here’s a little more detail about washing nappies plus some of our favourite washing tips and tricks.

Dry Pail (aka Diaper Pail / Nappy Bin)
Gone are the days where you need to soak nappies! Nowadays we store dirty nappies in a 'dry pail' which is simply an airy basket. The airflow prevents build-up of humidity and bacteria which helps to keep ammonia build up and smells at bay.
Tip - Many people have two dry pails/baskets, one for dirty nappies, and one for nappies that have been pre-washed and waiting for the mainwash.

Dealing with poo
It’s important to remove the majority of poo prior to your pre-rinse cycle if your baby is now predominately on solid food. This ensures that both the cycle and the detergent can be as effective as possible. Mess-free bamboo liners are a great option as they act as a barrier between the poo and the nappy. Alternatively, if the poo doesn't plop right off into the toilet then use a bidet, toilet sprayer, or dedicated rubber brush to remove the poo. You don't need to get every last bit off, just the majority.

Time saving tip - you don't have to remove poo straight away, you can leave soiled nappies in the dry pail up until its time to prewash, then deal with any poo nappies together and pop straight into the machine, saving extra time and hassle.

Rubber Brush
Keeping a rubber brush near the toilet or in the laundry sink is a good idea to help remove poo poo. Rubber is easy to rinse and disinfect. This affordable brush from Kmart is popular with many cloth parents.

What to avoid
We don't recommend the use of home made detergents, soap nuts, vinegar, sanitisers or softeners. 

Detergent Type
Nappies are likely to be the dirtiest laundry you will be washing and detergent type is one of the most important components of maintaining clean nappies.  There are plenty of resources online comparing detergents like this independent report by Choice which compares detergent based on effectiveness as well as the brand’s ethical standards. 
We have found that mainstream detergents offer a better clean at the recommended dosage and like to use Persil. We have found most plant-based detergents need to be used at 60° cycles and at least 1.5-2x the recommended dosage to effectively clean nappies.

Second-hand or Pre-Loved Nappies
We highly recommend that you strip and/or sanitise pre-loved nappies prior to using them on your baby. Check out these great resources or to find detailed instructions for dealing with second hand nappies. 

Night Nappies
When you start using reusable nappies for longer periods of time for example overnight or nappies with a lot of absorbent layers than you may need to tweak your washing routine to ensure they are sufficiently cleaned. 

  • Prewash daily with either the previous days nappies or in the evening.
  • Use good quality mainstream detergent such as Persil
  • If using plant-based detergent consider using 1.5 or 2x the recommended dose.
  • Ensure you are washing on 40° - 60° cycles.

Detergent Volume
We recommend using a half serve of detergent for your pre-wash cycle (too much detergent will lead to over-sudsing and an extra bubbly load which inhibits the cleaning action). We recommend a full serve of detergent for your main wash to help clean heavily soiled items thoroughly. Follow the instructions on the detergent according to your washing machine size to see what a full serve is. 
You may need to use 1.5-2x the recommended dosage for plant-based detergents.

Wash Cycle Length
For best results, we recommend ensuring your prewash cycle is around 30-60mins and the mainwash cycle is at least 2.5 hours.

Water Temperature: For best results, set both your pre-wash and main wash water temperature between 40-60 degrees. Cloth nappies can be washed in cold water if necessary, however detergents are more effective when used in warm water. Ensure your wash temperature does not exceed 60 degrees as the PUL lining of your cloth nappy covers are heat sensitive, and exposing them to high heats could cause de-lamination. 

Washing only a few nappies
Can you wash cloth nappies with other regular items (like clothes and towels)? Yes you can! This is particularly relevant to families who use fewer nappies and only have a handful to wash at a time (perhaps you use cloth nappies part-time or your child is toilet-training). We recommend hand-washing them first or running them through a pre-wash cycle before adding to a larger load of washing. Be sure to follow our water temperature and wash cycle length guidelines. 

Clothes/Tumble Dryer
You can use a tumble dryer to dry your cloth nappies. Always separate the inserts and covers first. Nappy covers/shells and wetbags are heat-sensitive so dry on a cold/low temperature until dry (they don’t need long) or simply hang. Inserts can be dried on a medium/hot temperature until fully dry.

Drying without a tumble dryer
Tushie is home to some of the most absorbent nappies on the market, the downside of having really absorbent inserts is that they can take longer to dry. 

Here are some insert drying tips:

  • Use a peg hanger to hang inserts. At the end of the day if they’re not quite dry, simply carry them inside for them to dry overnight without having to rehang everything. Put them in the hot water cupboard overnight to finish them or hang close to the ceiling.
  • If your inserts take longer than 1 day to dry, consider adding an additional set of inserts to your stash. This is an economical way to build your cloth nappy supply and take the pressure off your washing turnaround time.
  • To enhance the longevity of the fabric, it’s important to make sure your inserts are 100% dry before putting them away. 


If you are finding problems or having trouble with your wash routine please reach out to us, we would love to help!


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