Strip wash

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A "strip wash" means you wash your washable nappies in a washing machine, without any detergent. This procedure essentially rinses any excess detergent from the nappy fabric, which in turn increases absorbency and decreases odour problems. The strip wash can be done 3 or 4 times in a row, until the water runs clear without any foam or bubbles appearing in the washing cycle.

The build up of detergent in washable nappies

Each time you wash your nappies with detergent, this detergent can start to build up in the nappy fibres as the detergents available are quite concentrated. This causes an unpleasant ammonia like smell and can also render the nappies less absorbent. Therefore it is recommended to use as little detergent as possible for your nappy wash cycles, to avoid detergent build up. Every so often though, a strip wash of your nappies is required. Cloth nappy users can perform a strip wash every 2 or 3 months to avoid significant detergent build up and avoid the unpleasant smells that can be associated with the build up.

How to perform a strip wash

The procedure of washing washable nappies without detergent should be performed 3 or 4 times repeatedly, until no soap bubbles are seen in the washing machine water. You can wash your nappies on a cold wash or 30 degree wash without detergent. Once the first cycle has finished, there is no need to dry the washed nappies; simply repeat the wash cycle, again, without any detergent, until no soap bubbles are seen. Some people recommend washing the nappies first at 30 degrees (without detergent), then at 60 degrees for the last few cycles (again without detergent).

Some information has been placed on the internet about using washing up liquid in the cold strip wash cycle or vinegar, but generally this is not recommended. For maximum effect, nothing should be added to the washing machine cycle. The nappies should only really be washed with water alone. If a strip wash is repeated every few months, then the absorbency of your nappies should be maximised and the life of your nappies extended.

When babies and toddlers are teething their urine can cause an unpleasant smell in nappies. A strip wash is then also the way to get rid of that smell.


The first version of this article was written by Beverley Wye.

Related articles

Washable nappies

Related words and terms

Smell, smelly nappies, stink, stinky nappies, enzyme, washing powder, detergent.

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