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February 1, 2011

Insights into Leaking PUL Nappies: Tips From Our Nappy Experts

My PUL Nappies are LEAKING, What Can I do?

PUL is short for Polyurethane Laminate, a thin plastic film applied to fabric in order to make it waterproof. This is a great boon to the modern cloth nappy industry of today – waterproof cloth nappies that do not leak. But, what do you do when they DO leak? Find out below…

In the comment responses to the article: “The Modern Cloth Nappy: How to Destroy Your PUL Lined Nappies – 3 Strategies to Avoid Doing This!” a mum posed this tricky question, which I then asked of Our Nappy Experts, their responses are below, giving both Kari and you more helpful insights into caring for your green nappies. I had never heard of ‘repulsion’, so it’s a learning day for me too.

We have helpful tips and insights on leaking PUL from Lara of  Extremely Nappies (closed) Mandy of Cuddle Bumz, Kyra of Bubbalooba, Nyssa of Snow Pea Nappies, Janine of Ninky Bear, Amy of WeePantz, and Amanda of Mamma’s Lil JellyBean

Has leaking PUL Nappies happened to you? Share your advice in the comment section below too

“I have a problem still with PUL nappies just randomly becoming not water-proof. It happens overnight and I wondered if it happens to anyone else, or if you have any other suggestions?

I store up a load, rinse poop off in cold water, do a cold machine rinse then cold or 30 degree (coolest warm wash on my machine) wash in the machine.

I use Ecostore wool wash liquid but only a fraction of what they say to use. Same issues happened when I used fractions of ecostore front loader powder.

Nappies work great then one day BANG, the leak like a sieve. Usually when I’m out somewhere.
– Any advice?

Thanks, Kari”

Hi Kari,
The suddenness of your leaks suggests it is repulsion. Happens to me if I do too many cold washes. Try a strip wash then stick to cold rinse, warm wash.


What is a strip wash?

Sometimes the nappies might aquire a build up of detergent (or creams) that can repel fluid, causing  leaks, or make them smelly when wet.  Make sure you’re not using barrier creams directly on your nappies.  You can remove a buildup by doing a strip wash.  This means you strip the oils and buildup out of the fabric.  It’s done by washing the clean nappies in hot water with a squirt of dishwashing liquid, then ensuring they are rinsed until all the bubbles are gone. (from the Extremely Nappies FAQ page)

Lara of Extremely Nappies

Hi Kari,

Here is my advice on your suddenly leaking cloth nappy problem. Cloth Nappies will eventually come across this problem approx. every 3-6 months depending on how often you wash. Even if you have been following the cloth nappies care instructions down to the letter. The cause of the problem is the washing powder/liquid build up that can accumulate over the nappy over time.

Firstly test to see if the washing powder/liquid build up is the problem by performing a warm full cycle wash WITHOUT any washing powder/liquid.

If you see the water start to have soapy bubbles appear then you may need to wash the nappy/nappies a few more times till the water no longer has bubbles.

Try out the nappy and see if this has rectified the problem. (If you use boosters/inserts then these should also be included in the wash.)

After testing the nappy if it still seems to be leaking then you will need to strip wash the nappy by giving it a Deep Clean.

In your nappy pail or laundry sink fill it up with hot water and add about a tablespoon of regular household dish-washing liquid (a cheap detergent without moisturisers or conditioners is the best). Yep! The dish-washing detergent is the exact stuff you use on your dirty dishes the aim of using this is to try and dissolve the Oil Build Up & Residue in your Fabrics so a degreasing detergent is exactly what is needed here)!

Now massage the soap into the nappy especially the inner nappy liner (if you have boosters/inserts that you use then these should also be deep cleaned).

Leave to soak in the soapy water over night.

PLEASE REMEMBER if you are using your nappy pail or other form of bucket to PLEASE KEEP IT UP HIGH & OUT OF REACH OF ANY YOUNG CHILDREN. Young children drowning in buckets is tragically way too common yet so simple to avoid!

Do a warm full wash cycle WITHOUT powders/liquids. **If you feel that too much dish-washing liquid was added previously then it’s best to do a pre-rinse cycle before the full wash.**

This should do the trick and turn your nappies back to the super absorbent machine they used to be!!!

A deep clean every couple of months will maintain absorbency and will strip residue & oil build up on your Modern Cloth Nappies.

I hope this information has been helpful.

Kind Regards,

Mandy Murdica, Cuddle Bumz

Hi Kari

I have experienced your problem in the past too – I find having some extra boosters in there helps (I think it’s an absorbency problem more than a PUL problem?). It also generally only happens with nappies that have a cotton outer – for night time (or other times when your bub will be in the nappy for a while, ie. outings, car trips) try usually nappies with a polyester outer, like minkee or polar fleece.

Hope that helps,

Kyra from Bubbalooba

Hi Kari,
Even without using a lot of detergent you may still be getting a build up of product on your nappy lining and inserts, which means the liquid isn’t absorbed and they leak. If you use any sort of nappy rash cream they can cause a waterproof barrier on the lining of the nappy, other issues could be washing too many nappies at once meaning they aren’t getting a good wash, and using cold water can also cause problems, especially when using very little washing powder as it won’t dissolve any oily stuff on the nappies.
The best thing you can try out is a strip wash of all your nappies.
Instructions for doing this are:
1. Take all your clean dry nappies and put them in the machine, with NO detergents and put them through a hot wash
2. Wash nappies a second time, again with hot water, adding ½ cup of bicarb this time
3. Dry as usual
You can also try soaking nappies overnight in ECOstore pure oxygen whitener, which is perfectly safe for PUL nappies.
Hope that helps!
Nyssa from Snow Pea Nappies

Hi Kari,

For one, I recommend using a dedicted night nappy. They are far more absorbant, and built to handle all that wee. They are also more breathable.

I also wouldn’t use wool wash, use something like Rockin’ Green, Purity or Amolin.

If they are not leaking during the day, then the PUL is probably not damaged.

Try a strip wash (tiny amount of dishwashing detergent and wash them in warm to hot water, then rinse til water is clear) to get out all the gunk and help with repelling issues.

Warm regards,

Janine Garvey

Ninky Bear

Hi Kari,

There are 2 main reasons why PUL nappies randomly start doing this and that I can see might apply here.

Firstly, because the nappies are washed in wool wash, there will most likely be a build up of detergent in the nappies causing them to become less absorbent. I recommend doing a strip wash

** Step 1: Start by washing your nappies as usual, its best to do a strip wash on clean nappies. A cold wash with a very small amount of detergent is best.

Step 2: Run your nappies through a HOT wash with NO DETERGENT. Note that with PUL nappies it is recommended that you do not wash above 60 degrees, so set your machine on about this. (you can use a small amount of cheap dishwashing liquid in this wash if you wish, make sure there is no moisturiser in this liquid. You could also use some Bicarb instead)

Step 3: Run your nappies through an extra rinse with a little vinegar (the vinegar removes the odours and detergent residue)

Step 4: KEEP RINSING! do as many rinses as it takes for the suds in the washing machine to be completely gone and the water to become clear. (this will probably take about 3 or 4 rinses)

Step 5: Put your nappies out in the sun to dry. (if its not a sunny day then its okay to hang them elsewhere) **

The strip wash will help your nappies to become more absorbent, which will help with your random daytime wee leakages. I recommend either strip washing once a fortnight or using a detergent free nappy wash such as rockin green or soapnuts (I have tried both of these and they are both great options) There are other detergents strictly for nappy washing that I haven’t tried also.

The other thing that might be causing the PUL to leak, especially in overnight instances, would be that the nappy is simply not containing the wee. A brief description of what I mean…

PUL is a micro-porous fabric, this means that while the fabric is waterproof, it is breathable (which is why we use it on our little ones’ precious bottoms instead of PVC pilchers). Because it is breathable, when your bub has filled their nappy to capacity and is wearing something on the outside (such as cotton shorts) you will have “wicking” problems, this is when the polyester fabric that is your PUL is against an absorbent fabric such as cotton and the absorbent fabric pulls the wetness through causing damp or sometimes just plain old wet pants. Another thing your nappy might do is “pressure leak” so when they sit it might leak on their bottom, or if they are in the car seat it might leak where the strap goes through their legs.

So the way you can fix this, is (as per the other cause) do a strip wash on your nappies as it will improve the absorbency or add more absorbency to your nappy. Overnight, I’d recommend getting a wool cover (this will act as a second layer of waterproofing for the nappy) and maybe adding another booster to their nappy to add absorbency.

Either way, Id recommend the first course of action would be a strip wash.

If this doesn’t work, perhaps look at some more absorbent nappies, extra boosters etc.

If you have any more questions about anything I’ve said, please email me to

– Amy Grant

WeePantz Cloth Nappies


It sounds like you care for your nappies very well.

Unfortunately PUL nappies are not the most durable nappies on the market. After much of my own research before the birth of my son, I decided that a cover separate to the nappy was the most durable and economical.

You see PUL covers (and material) do not have as long a life span as the nappy itself. It is the least durable part of the nappy and once it wears out the AIO or pocket nappy is unusable.

So Kari, this problem is very common when it comes to AIO’s (nappies with PUL covers all together). It has nothing to do with the way you care for them – they are just not designed for full time use. Especially over night a two cover system is more reliable as it has 2 layers of containment rather then one.

Having said that, AIO’s are good to have for the occasional wear, especially on outings or when someone who is not as experienced with nappies is caring for the baby. I myself have a few that I take as spears when we go out for the day.

Hope that is helpful.


Mamma’s Lil Jellybean

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  1. I hated strip washing, had to do it every two months here because of my HE front loader, and I found that using a rock’n’green soak was fantastic for getting the repelling factor under control.
    But it still meant that I was doing a soak every three or four months.
    SO… I switched to using natural fibres and now I LOVE WOOL!!! It’s seriously easier to care for than PUL. SERIOUSLY.
    Wool covers rock.

    Comment by Holly Puckering — February 1, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

  2. Hey thanks heaps for all your advice and comment. I use a front loader and it’s a water saver (never again to be honest, we live in a RAINforest, collect our own water for everything and have never even come close to running out) so it sounds like that might be the problem. I’d always discounted it because the wet went through pockets as much as just the plain covers (we’ve got a variety of nappy styles), and I could see where it went through the outer PUL fabric, rather than rond the sides. I’d only ever thought it was a bounce-off-and-go-round-the-sides issue, not a storage-capacity-overcoming-waterproofness issue. Thanks and I’ll let you know how it goes. K

    Comment by Kari Beaven — February 2, 2011 @ 9:01 am

  3. P.S. just to make doubley sure I’m not killing them before I launch, you do mean put the PUL outers through that hot wash aye? I won’t melt the laminate doing it now and then? I’d always be told never do PUL above 40degrees…? Thanks

    Comment by Kari Beaven — February 2, 2011 @ 9:04 am

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