The Nappy Lady Ltd

Stains on Cloth Nappies

Stains on Cloth Nappies

Before & After

Below is my before and after of sunning a stained Easyfit nappy. I used this nappy as I knew the bamboo material was especially susceptible to staining.


  • For this test I deliberately didn't use a nappy liner in the nappy so that the nappy got as marked as possible.
  • Nappies are not usually stained to this level. This is deliberate excessive staining.
  • Before sunning I washed the nappy to remove poo so I was just left with a coloured stain.

Photo 1
The first photo is how the nappy looked straight after coming out of the washing machine.

Photo 2
The second photo is of the same nappy after approx 24 hours on the line on a cloudy day. (I left the nappy out overnight as well.) The stain had almost entirely gone using only the power of the sun.

Stained Nappy Stained Nappy After Sun

Staining Varies Child To Child

How frequently cloth nappies get stained really seems to vary baby to baby.

My first son wasn’t too bad as his poo was thicker and held more by the liner. My second son had extremely runny poo and stained virtually every nappy he pooed in and my daughter was a mix of the two: sometimes she stained and sometimes she didn't.

All three children were exclusively breastfed, all used the same nappies and I used the same detergent.

Stained Doesn't Mean Not Clean

If you have stained nappies, this DOES NOT mean they are not clean and sanitary. You can wash and dry stained nappies and and reuse without any problems. The stain will eventually fade with future washes.

If your baby however is like my second and always seemed to poo in the same nappies, the staining can get quite bad and parents are often concerned that others may think their nappies aren’t sanitary.

Difference between Stain and Poo

It's important to note the difference between a stain and dirt still left on the nappy, so you can deal with it appropriately.

If there are any marks on the nappy when it comes out of the wash, scratch it with your fingernail to see if anything comes away (yes it's so glamorous dealing with dirty nappies). If you can scratch the stain away, this is likely poo that hasn't been fully removed in the wash, so double check your washing routine particularly that you're using enough detergent and the machine isn't overloaded. If nothing comes away then it's just a stubborn stain so you can go on to try and fade it if you prefer.

How To Remove Stains Without Damaging Your Nappies

So how can you remove stains without damaging your nappies?

The answer is SUNSHINE or, more accurately, UV light from the sun.

The Science Bit!

Here comes the science bit, it’s been a long time since I studied science so any scientists reading this please excuse any glaring errors and I’d love to be corrected.

Coloured things are only coloured because they absorb light. The light moves the electrons in the molecule into an excited state. The excited molecules are often more reactive; they may decompose or react with oxygen in the air. If they react then they are likely to be converted to things that are less strongly coloured.

"The stains aren’t removed but through a process of oxidisation they are made invisible by changing the way the colour (or stain) absorbs the light to make them seem colourless."

Bilirubin is responsible for the brown colour of all human faecal matter and is produced when red blood cells break down naturally in the liver. The chemical Bilirubin is photosensitive, which essentially means it breaks down under UV light which is why sunlight is good for cleaning nappies! (If i wanted to be completely accurate, it isn't actually photosensitive, it undergoes isomerization in the presence of light, but only scientists would pull me up on that point!)

In Layman's Terms..

Hang your washed wet nappies (or stained clothes) in the sunlight and the stains will disappear or at least fade.

Any UV exposure will help to lighten the stains, so if you don’t have access to an outside line or balcony, lay them with the stain facing the light on a window ledge or hang on a drying rack next to a window.

The sunlight will fade the stain in bright sunshine or even on a cloudy day. The stronger and more direct the sun the better and quicker the results. In the summer one afternoon’s sun may be enough but in the winter or autumn in the UK a few days might be needed.

Rainy Days

In Winter / Spring in the UK there are often more wet than dry days. If it’s raining and you have stained nappies, I still put mine outside on the line. I’m not sure what my neighbours think when I put things out when it’s raining (and take photos of my stained nappies) but it really does work.

I also find the rain helps to soften cotton nappies that have gone hard. I believe this is because rain water is soft water whereas my tap water is hard.

Stain Remover

If all the above fails and you have a particularly stubborn stain, the Mother-ease Laundry Magic Stain Remover is designed especially to be safe for use on cloth nappies.

The Sun Works for other stains too

A couple of weeks ago I was cooking a batch of tomato sauce in my favourite white linen top (stupid idea I know!) I managed to get several splashes down it and thought I’d ruined it. I washed it with a very generous dose of detergent plus a generous dose of a stain removing product and the stains hardly faded at all. I hung the top by the window for 3 days and the stains have completely gone much to my relief.


If you have any questions regarding stains or would like any assistance with your washing routine then our advice team is always available to help. Fill in our troubleshooting support request form below.