My Green Nappy Discovering Modern Cloth Nappies and Eco-Friendly Disposable Nappies

July 20, 2010

Why Do Wet Nappies Smell So Bad Some Times? (What Can I Do About It?)

The Sponsors of the first Green Promise Nappies are your Nappy Doulas for this series of ‘Congo Questions’.

The Winter Sponsors of the 100 Green Promise Nappies Initiative were invited to contribute to this series of Congo Questions. Each donated a special cloth nappy to go out as a giveaway prize to become an ambassador for ‘Nappy Change’ as it stopped a disposable heading to landfill each time it is worn. This seasonal giveaway strives to reach 100 donated nappies in a future round, and you can register at any time to either play in the current giveaway (they go for 6 weeks at the start of each season) or register to be notified when the next round is set to begin! You can enter into the draw for one nappy, or all of them!

Winter Green Promise Nappy Sponsors – Congo Advice #7

“The Smellies! My husband is worried about the smells associated with piddly nappies. What are my options, and why do wet nappies smell so bad some times?”

You’ll see a wonderful range of responses, and no doubt will gain a perspective on the question that relates well to your situation and needs. No-one sees what anyone else contributes until it is published here. This is what your Nappy Doula’s have to say:

Amanda from Sweet Bubba Eco Store:

If you quickly rinse your nappies before pailing them or wash them within 48 hours of wearing then they shouldn’t smell. Every month or two give them a wash in warm water without detergent and hang in the sun to dry. We have Rockin Green Nappy Detergent coming soon which is also great fo stinky nappies.

Janine from Ninky Bear:

Nappies can smell bad for a few reasons.
If babies are teething, their urine tends to be very ammonia smelling.
If cloth nappies are not quite dry when they are worn and the wee hits them, they can smell.
It’s a good idea to rinse nappies before throwing them in the bucket, so they aren’t sitting around in wee all day.
There is a fantastic new product on the market called rockin’ green, which will eliminate this problem for good! It’s an eco friendly washing powder, made especially for cloth nappies.

Emma from Brindabella Baby:

They don’t smell as bad as a rubbish bin full of disposable nappies with solid waste rolled up in them!
Washing every couple of days will help. When washing, use a detergent that won’t leave a residue to build up on the fabric, rinse well, and line dry. This washing method will help get all the smells out.

Cassandra from New Age Nappies:

Get a great nappy bucket and you won’t even notice – a wetbag is essential while travelling try an oilcloth one rather then PUL and you won’t notice the smells.

Kyra from E-Weez:

Smelly nappies are usually caused by concentrated urine, this is happens particularly with night nappies or when your baby is teething. Make sure you rinse these smelly nappies before dry-pailing them as the strong urine can cause the fibres to break down and will reduce the lifespan of your nappies.

To contain the smells, use a nappy bucket with a lid and sprinkle baking soda of a few drops of essential oil in the bottom of the bucket to keep it fresh. Your nappies shouldn’t be smelly after they’ve been washed and dried. If they do smell when they’re clean, try washing your nappies in hot water without detergent and use 1/2 cup white vinegar in the final rinse (no hotter than 60 degrees celsius and only use vinegar once every few months). If smelly nappies are a regular problem, try using Dettol Fresh or Canestan in the wash once a week to keep them smelling fresh.

Cindy from Ticklefish Tots:

To be honest, I have never had a problem with smelly cloth nappies. Back in the day when our parents may have used cloth terry squares and pilchers on us (or our siblings), alot of the smell then were associated with the fact that the plastic pilchers do not breathe, so everything was contained within them. These days, modern cloth nappies usually have a breathable waterproof layer, or a breathable cover which wicks moisture away from baby’s bottom. These factors, combined with the majority of natural fabrics most nappy makers use, help to eliminate the smells whilst your child is wearing Modern Nappies.

Whilst your nappies are dry-pailing, waiting for a full load, there are various ways to eliminate odours (which again, I haven’t found to be that common) …

  • a quick rinse prior to putting the soiled nappy in the bucket usually gets rid of most of the urine contained in the boosters
  • using a bucket with a lid will help contain any potential odours
  • there are products on the market especially designed for using whilst dry pailing MCN (but again, in almost 2 years, I have never found any reason to use them!)

Sometimes, you may find that leaving a wet nappy on for too long will cause it to smell (and it’s not good for your baby either!) but this can happen with disposables too!

Marnie from Noonee Wilga:

Change nappies frequently and wash every day or two. If you rinse dirty nappies first, then you can add other items like towels and clothing to make up a full load, if you wish. If you find that night nappies are particularly pungent, then it may be wise to rinse them well by hand right after taking them off if you can’t immediately put them in the wash.

Kyra from Bubbalooba:

The smell sometimes builds up in the microfibre in the absorbent inserts – you can wash these separately with 1/4 cup vinegar (or you can wash the inserts together with the nappies, but don’t add vinegar too often as this will deteriorate the elastic and PUL). Hang to dry in the sun for as long as possible – the sun and fresh air is wonderful for removing odours!

Nicole from Krap Katchers:

If the nappies smell really bad (especially when bubs is teething) simply rinse the nappies off a little before placing in the nappy bucket. There are also nappy bucket products available to help mask those odours to make it more pleasant for everyone.

Jacquie from Cheeky Cherubs:

Sometimes at certain times (like when baby is teething) the amonia in their wees can smell strong. If you double rinse your nappies that will ensure that no amonia is left in the nappies which could make the nappies smell stronger when wee’d in.

The best advice really is to change baby’s nappy as soon as they have wee’d in it. Your nappy bucket shouldn’t smell if you’ve rinsed your nappies before placing them in and if you have your lid on.

Rebecca From Bean Sprout Bubba:

Smells are unavoidable and part of the nature of wee/poo: it never smells good at any age 🙂

Options while nappy is still on a child is to use a wool cover over fitted nappies overnight, as they can pong while still on the bottom especially overnight.

Keep the pail out of sunlight, the heat may intensify the smell.

When drypailing, if using a closed pail (with lid) you can try sprinkling bicarb in the bucket to reduce smells, or use a commercially produced nappy product like Pail Pals or a deodorising powder.

Otherwise use an open pail to reduce smells overall (there may be some residual smell, but not as bad as opening a closed pail!)

Thank you to all our nappy doula’s for their contributions,

P.S There is a question at the bottom of each of these features. Join in the conversation and share your own experiences and stories with us…

– Your Nappy Doulas –

This is part of a regular series of articles that offer you an insight into the beliefs, concerns, knowledge and wisdom of Mums making and selling modern cloth nappies in Australia and New Zealand.

Discover More from Your Nappy Doulas…

Thank you to My Green Nappy’s Partners:

If you are just visiting for the first time today, and have found something new in this article, be sure to register & receive My Green Nappy Guide, you’ll be both relieved and excited at the things you will discover!

A question to you about your quest for the best smelling nappies around:

What tip would you like to share about keeping baby’s bottom fresh smelling?


  1. Thanks for your tips. I was having trouble with the PUL covers smelling so it pushed me into EC, best move ever. I just had to change her every wee. It seemed daunting at first but it’s so natural now and sensible. I think different babies wee smells different and some are stronger than others. The worst smell is disposable nappies by far. When I used them (very rare) in a long car trip I keep thinking I can smell a poo but on checking they are clean and it’s just the smell of the disposable, eek – no thanks.

    Comment by Kathy ACT — July 25, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

  2. I try to always hang my nappies out, and I give them an extra rinse every few washes. And we’ve not had a problem with smelly nappies after washing.

    Comment by Sara — July 26, 2010 @ 8:56 pm

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