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Do Reusable Nappies Smell?

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  • Bambino Mio
  • 20 / 09 / 2023


When you tell friends and family you’re planning to use reusable nappies, one of the things they’ll say is that they’re inconvenient and smelly.


Using cloth nappies, apparently, will create an ammoniacal miasma which will permeate your home, your clothes and, well, your entire life for at least three years.

Reusable nappies don’t smell as long as you treat them right

The good news is that reusable nappies don’t smell until your baby (ahem) makes them smelly. It’s at that point you whip the nappy off, stash it in your wetbag and replace it with a fluffy clean one.


Using a Stay at Home wetbag or a lidded nappy bucket to store soiled nappies until they go into the washing machine helps to minimise smells too. In practice, you should only smell your baby’s reusable nappies when you change them and when you transfer them from storage into your washing machine.

Reusable nappies usually smell less than single-use nappies

When you change a single-use nappy, you typically fold it up and put it into a nappy bag, complete with poo. Even if the nappy only contains wee, it could stay in your bin for a week or so before bin day and in summer, things can get stinky pretty quickly.


With reusables, you flush most of the poo down the toilet and then wash away the wee within a day or so, leaving you with soft, fluffy and squeaky clean nappies, ready for more action.

My reusable nappies smell even after I’ve washed them - what should I do?

Your reusable nappies shouldn’t smell of anything once they’re washed and dried - not even your detergent - as they should be thoroughly rinsed before you dry them.


If your cloth nappies are becoming smelly then this could be due to one or more of these reasons:


  • You’re not washing them for long enough to completely clean them, so make sure your wash cycle is at least two hours long
  • You’re overfilling your washing machine’s drum, so your nappies aren’t getting as much wriggle room as they need, so wash a maximum of 15 nappies at any one time
  • You’re using the eco mode on your washing machine, which reduces the amount of water the wash uses, so forego the eco mode for nappies
  • You’re using too much detergent in the wash so it’s not being rinsed away and is forming a residue, with traces of wee and poo, in the nappy fabric
  • You’re not drying your nappies thoroughly before storing them and what you’re smelling is stagnant water or the beginnings of mould

Can I get rid of the smells from my reusable nappies?

Almost certainly, yes. If you’ve identified the reason behind the whiff then you can take steps to turn things around. For example, if you’ve been using too much detergent, a few wash and dry cycles with the right amount will set you straight.


Don’t be tempted to use chlorine bleaches or fabric conditioners to get rid of or mask smells, however. Chlorine bleaches will damage the fabric of your nappies and softeners will reduce their absorbency and take ages to wash back out!