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Cloth nappies are designed to catch your baby’s wee and poo. Ammonia develops from urine so it’s no wonder many parents find themselves faced with ammonia smells in their nappies - here we detail how to get rid of that smell and keep it away for good.

The good news is, by following our tips to get rid of the ammonia smell, and continuing to follow our cloth nappy washing guide, your nappies will smell as fresh as the day you bought them, wash after wash.

What is ammonia?

Ammonia is a colourless gas that forms in nappies after your baby urinates, and is known for smelling pretty bad.

It forms after urine leaves the body, when urea (found in urine), reacts gradually with the water (also found in urine).

That ammonia smell doesn’t appear the moment your baby urinates, it takes a while to build up.

A small amount starts to build up within a few hours however a daily pre-wash of your modern cloth nappies is enough to ensure that it’s sufficiently washed out and prevent that awful smell.

If you’re finding you can smell ammonia the moment your baby has done a wee in her nappy, this is because your nappies already have an ammonia build up.

This build up is more likely to occur in the bamboo nappy inserts due to the multiple layers of fabric.

What causes the ammonia smell?

When following our recommended wash guide, you nappies shouldn't smell at all.

If you are finding your nappies smell bad, the most common causes of ammonia build up include:

  • Incorrectly storing nappies after they come off the bum of your baby, i.e. in a sealed nappy bin
  • Not washing the nappies regularly enough
  • Not doing the 2 separate washes required for nappies (a pre wash and a main wash)

Other signs other than that awful smell to indicate that there’s an ammonia build up in your nappies can include:

  • A red rash on your baby that looks a bit like sunburn
  • Little holes appearing in your insert fabric

How successfully to get rid of the ammonia smell

The way we get rid of this ammonia build up is a strip and sanitise, this will reset your nappies back to their former glory.

You then need to look at your wash routine and identify why the ammonia smell appeared in the first place to prevent it happening again.

Nappies that have been properly cared for, including where they’re stored straight off the bum and how and when they’re washed, should never have any ammonia build up or smell issues.

Unfortunately if the ammonia damage has indeed led to the little holes forming in the fabric as we covered earlier, there’s no undoing this damage.

This is why it’s so important to always follow our recommended washing guide to ensure your nappies last the test of time, remain smelling fresh, and your baby stays rash-free.

The longer your nappies last, the higher the chances are that you can use them on multiple children, re-gift them, or sell them on after you’re done with them. All of which helps saves you money and reduces landfill.

For more expert advice on, read our ultimate guide to using modern cloth nappies


Meet the Author

Natalie Lassen

Black and white photo of Natalie with her daughter cuddling

Natalie, Founder of NappyLuxe, is an eco-conscious mother and entrepreneur who discovered the benefits of cloth nappies for her family and the environment. With a mission to create the ultimate cloth nappy, she spent years researching and testing various designs before launching NappyLuxe - a range of high-quality, easy-to-use, and ultra-absorbent cloth nappies. Natalie is passionate about sharing her experience and expertise, helping parents make informed decisions and embark on their own sustainable parenting journey.

March 18, 2022 — Natalie Lassen