How to Strip Wash Nappies: The Ultimate Guide




How to Strip Wash Nappies The Ultimate Guide

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Strip washing nappies is seen as a big job, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow this guide and you’ll soon find out how to strip wash nappies!

5 Steps to Strip Wash Reusable Nappies

  1. Do a maintenance wash on your machine before you start.
  2. Add all the nappies you need to do a wash on into the machine. Do a short wash at 40°C with no detergent.
  3. Do the longest wash your machine can do at 40°C using a full dose of detergent (normal bio). Yes, add detergent here.
  4. Repeat the long cycle with no detergent.
  5. Run a quick wash with no detergent to be sure there are no detergent bubbles in the machine. If you do see soap bubbles, repeat the process. Continue doing so until no more soap bubbles are visible.
5 Steps to Strip Wash Reusable Nappies

Do you need to strip wash your cloth nappies?

Do you need to strip wash your cloth nappies?

It’s uncommon to need to perform a strip wash if you have a good wash routine. It’s occasionally necessary, though.

Liquid detergent is often the cause and we don’t advise using it. Also ,not using an extra rinse cycle at the end can cause build up.

To get really clean cloth nappies we always recommend the cold rinse cycle before you take them out of the machine and this should stop your nappies from smelling. Getting your washing routine right is key- read our guide to cleaning nappies.

Also, detergent residue can be in your nappies, but also in your machine. So washing machine maintenance is also essential.

But, if you haven’t been washing your nappies well for a while, you may have detergent build-up, or if they are second-hand and haven’t been cared for correctly, you may need to do a strip wash for cloth nappies.

If your nappies are leaking, or if you’re experiencing ammonia burn then that means the pH balance of the water in which you wash them is incorrect and needs adjusting.

The most common reason for this to happen is too much detergent being used – either by accident (putting double amounts in) or on purpose (to try and get them extra clean).

You may also have too much ‘gunk’ in your nappies. This can happen when using non-cloth friendly creams, or if they’re being washed at too high a temperature for the fabric to cope with or using modern detergents like liquid detergent.

Detergent buildup traps bacteria in the fabric, producing stink and rashes. The problem is often notified when your baby is teething and their wee begins to smell a bit stronger. You siddenly find that nappies are coming out of the machine smelling bad. Sound familiar?

Strip washing can be difficult to work out on nappies and should only be applied if required.

Stripping cloth nappies: before you start

You should not clean PUL shells or covers except the absorber parts. If you keep your nappies permanently attached to your PUL you need a PUL-friendly way to attach them. Find out what your Nappy manufacturer’s website contains about the most effective methods for stripping your nappy.

Dishwashing liquid and dishwasher tablet stripping

Dishwashing liquid and dishwasher tablet stripping

Stop just stop with the dishwasher tablets. If you’ve read this advice, run a mile, a long long mile.

Do preloved nappies need to be strip washed?

It’s hard to know.

They could have been cared for perfectly, but you never know what laundry powder the previous owner has used, if they have used stain remover, if they have used fabric conditioner. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and strip wash 2nd hand nappies when you buy them.

Should I use less detergent?

Detergent amount is determined by your water (is it hard water or soft water area), machine size, machine type, load size, drum size etc.

Just use the recommended dose and then do a second wash or extra rinses with no detergent to ensure its fully rinsed out. Nappies have been on a baby’s bum and will have heavy soiling, so a good long wash for your cloth nappy on a cotton cycle is ideal. After the wash cycle, check for soap bubbles and do a second wash if needed.

Water hardness is a key reason for build up, and if you have very hard water you will probably be more prone to detergent build up.

If you are finding lots of soapy bubbles while rinsing the nappies after your main wash, too much powder may well be am issue. Run a second rinse but do not soak the nappies- if you soak PUL you can actually cause a lot of damage!

Do be sure to use a full dose of detergent- ammonia build up will also cause rash and bad smells, you need to make sure that each nappy is getting thoroughly clean!

Why do people strip nappies?

In principle, you really shouldn’t need to.

If you find that you need to strip wash your nappies, it is essential that you tweak your every day cleaning routine also- or the same issue will simply occur again and again.

If your nappy leaks, check that your child’s elastic is still tightly attached around their legs. You can also check absorbency immediately by holding a clean nappy under a dripping tap and see whether the water goes down in to the absorbent core (all okay) or beads and rolls off (time to consider a strip wash)

The most likely culprits when this happens would be barrier-based creams and fabric softeners that have reduced your nappy absorbency.

After stripping: avoid repeating!

Some cloth nappy sites recommend powder to be better than liquid, claiming that gel detergents leave more residue.

If you have used gel and are having issues with build up, you should try cleaning the machine with a maintenance wash and swapping to powder to see if this helps.

Some parents have a lot more success using a cloth nappy washing powder to wash nappies in.

Do you need to clean your washing machine?

Do you need to clean your washing machine?

Every washing machine, whether being use for cloth nappies or not will need to have a maintenance cycle done frequently. be careful in rinsing other parts too, such as the door and powder drawer.

Washing machines can be dirty and full of germs, but there is an easy way to get rid of them.

Germs thrive in a moist environment that can be found in your machine- An easy way to prevent this is to running vinegar or dilute bleach through your washer once every week or two. Run on a long cycle at 60-90 degrees to kill off germs.

Why Washing Nappies is so Complicated

It shouldn’t be, it’s just that a lot of myths have come up over the years and people have just made it more and more complicated.

Read our definitive guide to cleaning reusable nappies and keep it simple!


One of the most frequently asked questions about cloth nappies is whether or not to strip wash them. If you have a baby, then you know how much laundry they generate- you certainly don’t need extra wash loads added to your list unnecessarily!

Whether a strip wash is necessary depends on what kind of detergent was previously used and if it has left behind any residue that could irritate your child’s sensitive skin.

If you have very hard water, you will probably be more prone to detergent build up.

Watch out for diaper rash in your baby, smells from the nappy or a reduced absorbency which may indicate that strip washing is necessary.

This article was written by: Gian MIller – Full-Time Writer, Baby Whisperer & Dad of 3.

Gian spends a lot of his time writing. A self-proclaimed baby whisperer, Gian has been through it all with his own children and is passionate about sharing his hard-won wisdom with other parents. When he’s not writing or changing diapers, you can find him playing the guitar or watching baseball (or preferably both at the same time).

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