Why do my cloth nappies smell?

In this blog we are going to look at a few issues that have arisen in some peoples wash routines. The big question we will deal with is ‘why do my cloth nappies smell?’ and we will also address why your cloth nappies (particularly inserts) have changed colour.


Firstly we need to analyse when our cloth nappies are actually starting to smell. Do they smell whilst sitting in the pre-wash basket, or are they smelling after you have washed and dried your nappies. Once you have established when they are smelling we can start to resolve the issue.


If you are finding that your nappies are smelling when they are sitting in the pre-wash basket, never fear it is normal for them to still have a slight smell. This is because they have not yet been washed thoroughly within your main wash*. However this smell should not be something you notice once you walk into the laundry room. Or even as you walk past your pre- washed nappies. If it is a strong ammonia smell make sure you have the right nappy bucket for the job. I always advise using a bucket with holes all around ( no soaking in water as this degrades the fabric) and NO lid, this allows ventilation to occur and no horrible odours to stick around. If you already have this down packed and the smell is still strong you will have a build up of ammonia, which you need to get rid of, as that will slowly eat away at the bamboo fibres of your inserts. So your next step is to sanitise all of your nappies…. which we will get to a bit later.


This also goes for smells after you have completed a main wash. After a main wash your nappies should be smelling fresh and ready to use. If they are at all smelly….. the dreaded ammonia build up has happened again and you will need to sanitise your nappies to get them like new again.


Now on the topic of stains and discolouration. If you have stains on the inside of the shell of your nappy (happens a lot around the gussets), this is most likely stool stains and means that you have not washed all the stool from your nappies correctly. Make sure you have been following our wash routine correctly to avoid this*. I personally always use a stain remover spray on the stools I know that will stain bad (like stools containing a lot of blueberries are always a killer! Ha).

If the stain is discolouration of your inserts … especially those microfiber ones, it usually is just from washing with other laundry items and a colour run from those items to your lovely white inserts. These are totally fine to be discoloured as they are not dangerous to bub or do not affect the absorption of the inserts. However if you are like me...a bit OCD…. And want them looking ice white then sanitise them like I advise below.


Ok so lets sanitise these nappies!


Super simple really… I first of all use bleach. Use the ratio that it advises on the back of your bleach bottle for nappies. This is usually 20:1, water: bleach. I use warm water.

Let soak for 5 minutes.

Drain water and squeeze nappies out and then do a pre- wash and main wash at 60 degrees. Hang them to dry and then check the results. They will look like new! I did this to my 3 year old nappies the other day and I was so impressed with the outcome. Have a go and let me know how they turned out?

Once again you only need to do the sanitise if you have had any of the issues listed above. Also make sure your wash routine is good and try to follow it, then you wont have to go down this avenue. However I know being a mum is draining so I am always thankful for the sanitise if my wash routine slacks a bit….. we are all human after all ;)


Happy washing TLB lovers.




*For more on the best wash routine for your nappies go on to our FAQ page.

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