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October 13, 2017 4 min read

For most nappy stink issues, we don’t recommend a strip wash. We recommend tweaking your wash routine.

Why? Because cloth nappy stink is most often the result of nappies not being properly cleaned or not being properly rinsed. So the three main things to remember here are:


The quickest, easiest thing you can do to prevent smelly nappies is to give them a quick rinse in fresh water as soon as they come off baby and before being dry-pailed. Your nappies will also need a machine rinse prior to running them through a load as this will get rid of any excess soiling and urine. This has the added benefit of protecting your nappies from potential fabric damage due to acidic wee.


If you try and wash a load of dirty dishes in 10 cm of water, you’ll quickly find that you don’t have enough water and that the water you do have is getting far too filthy to do a proper clean. It’s the same concept with nappies.

Ensure your machine is putting out enough water to thoroughly clean your nappies. Front loaders generally use less water than top loaders, so if you use a front loader you may need to:

a) wash more frequently so there aren’t as many nappies in a load, or

b) up the water level on your machine, or

c) run your nappies through a long cycle (a 20 minute quick cycle isn’t going to cut the mustard). 


There’s been a whole lot of talk over the years about how much washing detergent we should be using to get nappies thoroughly cleaned.  If you are using a good cleaning washing detergent, you should be using the amount recommended by the detergent manufacturer for your load size and water level. If you live in an area with hard water, you may need to use more detergent to break down the minerals in the water and get your nappies thoroughly cleaned.

Bottom line: your nappies shouldn’t smell like anything when you pull them out of the machine. If they smell like detergent, they need an extra rinse, a longer cycle or more water to thoroughly get rid of the excess detergent. If they smell like urine, they likely need more detergent, a longer cycle and probably also an extra rinse.


In this age of strip-wash overkill, it can be easy to think your nappies need to be strip washed if you pull them out of the machine and they still smell like wee.

We often talk to parents whose babies have urine that smells very strongly of ammonia, and the extra rinse, longer cycle, bit more detergent almost always does the trick.

For some children, this needs to be incorporated into the regular wash routine to keep the nappies smelling fine. For these families, the awesome clean becomes the new normal. For others, an awesome clean will only be required every so often when changing diet, teething or because of illness.

And that’s totally fine.


<<Psst. Need a cloth nappy washing refresher? Click Here.>>

Keep an eye (or in this case, a nose!) on your nappies and if they come out of the machine smelling like something’s not right, throw them right back in for another good long wash!

Your washing machine was built to get stuff clean – be sure to let it work it’s magic.





Now to the issue of leaking… this is where a strip wash may be required.

If the nappy is leaking and is saturated at change time, the solution is simple:

The nappy requires more frequent changing or more absorbency.

Each child is different and their output can vary from week to week, so this isn’t something we can throw a blanket statement over.

Consistently, healthcare professionals advise frequent changing as the most important factor in the reduction and prevention of nappy rash. Specifically, we recommend two-hourly changes during the day, unless you know your baby has soiled the nappy, in which case you’ll want to change the nappy immediately. This is regardless of the type of nappy. For more information about nappy rash, please CLICK HERE.

For naps and nights, we recommend boosting the nappy sufficiently so you don’t experience leaks.

If, however, the nappy is leaking but is barely wet when you go to change bub, you need to ensure that the fit of the nappy is right and that there are no absorbent parts poking out from the waterproof covering.

If you’re confident that you’re getting the fit right but the nappy continues to leak, this is when we would call in the strip wash.

Generally defined as the process by which oils are removed from nappies, you should really only need to strip wash if you suspect barrier creams, fabric softeners or additives from laundry detergent have caused a build up in your nappies. These oil and additive build ups can cause nappies to repel rather than absorb urine, which leads to leaks.

You can strip wash using a small amount of dish washing detergent in a tub or the bath, followed by rinsing until the water runs clear.

If you know the nappy is leaking because barrier cream has been used without a liner, pop a bit of dish wash detergent on a toothbrush and scrub the affected area prior to washing.

Here’s a handy flowchart to help you work out if a strip wash is required:

Strip washing cloth nappies 101

A good wash and care routine will go a very long way in preventing the need for strip washing. Some key takeaways on this topic:

  • If using barrier creams, use a liner.
  • If using a front loader, up the water level or put fewer nappies in the machine.
  • If you have hard water, use more detergent.
  • Rinse, rinse, rinse.

Bottom line: If your regular wash routine is getting your nappies consistently clean, you shouldn't really need to do a strip wash. 

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