What are Suds?

When speaking about washing cloth nappies, routines and troubleshooting leaking nappies, you may have come across the term suds. It’s important to understand what it is and how this understanding can help you clean your nappies better, hence preventing smells and leaks.

Suds is the term use to describe the foam that accumulates in your washing machine when you are washing your clothes and nappies. A good thing in moderation; an excess however is not so good for your nappies nor your clothing. The excess suds is a sign that detergent has built up in your nappies. Detergent penetrates the clothes fibres, and prevents water passing deep into the fabric. This essentially causes detergent and bacteria accumulation, which becomes more difficult to wash out with each wash cycle. Though rashes are rare when using cloth nappies, If your baby develops a rash whilst using cloth, this is likely the reason why (although there may be other reasons for this, like using fabric softeners, or a teething baby).

Do you have excess suds in your washing?

There will always be suds in your main wash cycle, which is not a problem, it is super important for washing out the dirt, but is it an excess? There should be enough foam to get your nappies clean, but if you are seeing more suds than water and the suds are filling the drum, this is a sign that it’s too much and the nappies won’t be washed effectively.

Using too much detergent is usually the cause of excess suds formation. Most people don’t realise that our clothing and nappies don’t require as much detergent as we think. Our washing machines are highly efficient and require far less than we often use. Also remember most washing powders will produce excess suds in softer water areas, so you may not need as much washing powder as you think. I can’t tell you exactly how much to use, as this can vary.

Follow the instructions on your box but adjust to your needs, considering:

  • The size of your drum and your laundry load.
  • Whether you are living in a soft or hard water area.
  • How soiled the nappies are.

The next step is to pay attention to your machine every so often within the wash cycles. The suds really should have developed mid way into the wash cycle, which really helps to create friction between fabrics as well as remove the grease from them. Towards the end of the cycle, you should start to see far less suds, and they should be washed away completely by the end of the cycle. 

The Smell Test

I always advise that you smell your nappies once the wash is completed. You should be able to smell how fresh, not so fresh or soapy the nappies are. By paying attention to this you will be able to adjust your wash routine accordingly. 


If your nappies are smelling of detergent, try reducing the amount of detergent you use, and add a rinse only cycle to the end of your usual main wash. This extra rinse should help to wash out the detergent. 

Funky & Soapy

If your nappies are coming out smelling a bit like detergent but also a bit unclean, you may need to consider a more effective wash cycle. Depending on the cycle you’re using, you may need a longer wash cycle(2-3hour cycles are best), higher temperature (40C is usually sufficient), higher spin (1200 maximum). It’s important to choose a cycle that uses extra water as compared to our normal clothing washes. Nappies need extra water in the wash cycle, as by nature they hold so much liquid, that extra is needed in order to create the level of friction required to remove soiling. Eco wash cycles are usually unsuitable for cloth nappies as they use less water. 

The goal is for the nappies to come out of the wash smelling clean. You don’t want your nappies smelling of detergent.

Washing cloth nappies correctly will ensure your nappies remain super absorbent but also help them last the many years we want them to. A little trial and error is all it takes when you find your nappies aren’t working as well, or smelling as fresh as they should!