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Deep Cleaning and Sanitising Cloth Nappies

In the past, strip washing was a common phrase, a remnant from the days of inadequate wash routines, smelly nappies, and myths about 'detergent build up'. 

Now-days, a deep clean and sanitise is rarely required, but it's a great tool to have in order to be able to make sure that second hand nappies are safe to use, and we can keep that circular economy going! 

Should I Deep Clean+Sanitise or can I just Sanitise?

  • Shells and covers without absorbency, always only need a sanitise, so skip the deep clean for these items. 
  • If you have just purchased second hand nappies, and they are in excellent condition, or you know they have been washed in a good strong detergent, you can just sanitise them. A full deep clean plus sanitise can be a good idea if they seem grubby, or not sure how they have been cared for. 
  • If you have nappies that have a pungent urine (ammonia), or poopy smell either straight out of the wash, when dry, or when your baby pees in them, we recommend a full deep clean plus sanitise

Deep Cleaning

Deep cleaning is a way to remove lingering organic matter and minerals from absorbent fabrics, it is not necessary to deep clean shells and covers. 

What you need:

  • A good strong detergent preferably with enzymes 
  • Any brand of laundry booster such as Napisan, Friend OxyAction, Sard, Select Boost, Ecostore Booster, Earthwise Booster etc 
  • A large vessel for soaking that is safe and locked away from children


Bucket Soak (10L)

1 Tablespoon strong detergent + 2 Tablespoons Laundry Booster

Laundry Tub Soak (40L)

1/4 Cup strong detergent + 1/2 Cup Laundry Booster

1/2 Bathtub Soak (80L)

1/2 Cup Strong Detergent + 1 Cup Laundry Booster 

Note: A Persil, Surf or Cold Power scoop is equivalent to 1/4 cup or 4 Tablespoons


  1. Start with clean nappies, they don't have to be dry
  2. Fill your safe vessel with hot water (as hot as the tap will go)
  3. Add your detergent and booster to the water and stir until dissolved
  4. Add all nappies to soak for between 2-6 hours, stirring occasionally. Any items with waterproofing like all-in-one nappies should be soaked no longer than 4 hours
  5. Drain water and squeeze out each item
  6. Wash on a hot heavy duty cycle with no detergent
  7. Now your ready to sanitise!


Sanitising is important for second hand nappies and vital after a deep clean in order to kill any microbes that have been pulled from within the nappy. There are two methods proven to kill all microbes- a short soak in diluted bleach or keep above 71 degrees for more than 10 mins. We recommend the bleach method, as the hot water sanitise is only suitable for items with no waterproofing.

Option 1: Bleach Method

Don't freak out!! The bleach dilution is very weak, it is not strong enough to degrade nappies and certainly not strong enough to cause skin irritation, especially after the wash cycle. 

Polyester and minky PUL is colour fast, if you have coloured cotton panelling, embroidery, or bamboo velour there can be some minor fading, but the nappies will be safe to use on your baby!

What you need:

You need bleach with sodium hypochlorite as the active ingredient.  

The best option is 4% bleach, the bottle will say "Available Chlorine" of 4% or 42g/L Sodium Hypochlorite, Standard Janola from the supermarket is 4%.

Cheaper 'budget' type brands pf bleach are often 2% or 21g/LSodium HypoChlorite. These can be used if you have no other option (You will need to double the quantities below) but it can cause more suds when rinsing, so we suggest doing an extra rinse before adding detergent.

Make sure your bleach is not expired, expired bleach does not work.


Bucket Soak (10L)

20mls 4% Bleach (4 teaspoons)

Laundry Tub Soak (40L)

80mls 4% Bleach (1/3 cup)

1/2 Bathtub Soak (80L)

160ml 4% Bleach (2/3 cup)


  1. Mix the bleach well with cold water in your chosen vessel
  2. Submerge all nappies, put a timer on for between 30-45 minutes, no longer
  3. Drain tub, do not wring out, rinse with hot water in top loader, or by hand 
  4. Put them through your new and improved wash cycle on hot, with your strong detergent
  5. Dry how you like

Option 2: Hot water method

  • Your washing machine must have an internal heater in order to use this method (All front loaders have internal heaters)
  • PUL can usually cope with high temperatures, but if your covers happen to be on their last legs, the sanitise cycle can be the last straw! Bleach is a lot gentler on your nappies. The hot water method is safest for nappies that don't have a waterproofing component
  • You will need to use your new strong detergent 
  • Wash on heavy duty or Cottons at above 71 degrees or 'sanitise' setting
  • No extra rinses nessesary
  • Dry how you like

Please note- Your nappies are YOUR nappies, and you must do with them as you see appropriate. These methods are not advised unless absolutely necessary, they are hard on nappies and best avoided which is why we promote great wash routines from day one! But ensuring nappies are safe is top priority. We stand by these methods as we have used them for many thousands of hire nappies without damage. In saying that, soaking, hot water and bleach can be the last straw for very old, poor quality or damaged nappies and may void the warranties from some manufacturers.  

Need specialist advice?

Nappy Mojo love CCN! At the same time I launched Nappy Mojo in 2015, I also launched CCN along with 2 other nappy Nerds from Australia. After retiring from CCN in 2019 there has been growth and change. We support their new methods and also stand by the methods above. 


  • Thank you for this resource! I come back to this page again and again after purchasing second hand nappies.

  • Hi, this is very helpful! I just bought some second hand nappies and want to do the bleach method on the inserts. Just wondering if you could recommend a brand of bleach? As some don’t specify the percentage of active ingredient or the expiry date (ie the bottle I have in my cupboard!) thank you :)

    Rachael Preston
  • Thank you for this. I have an ammonia problem, as I took a while to work out my wash routine, I think it’s sound now though. Have just finished the soaking, about to wash without detergent and then sanitise. My bleach says 21.5g/L sodium hypochlorite. What percentage is that? And can I just use twice as much bleach if it turns out to be 2%?

  • Wow, I wish I’d known all that before using my second hand nappies on my bub! So thankful I tried your service Sharon, you have been a great support!!

    Elizabeth Trip

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