Cheeky logo

FAQ's: How Do I Stop My Reusable Wipes From Smelling Musty?


Updated June 2023

We've been all about reusable wipes since 2008 when we launched our best-selling reusable wet wipes kit.

One of our more frequent customer problems is that customers who have been using our washable wipes for a while suddenly have an issue with stinky wipes. If your reusable wipes are suddenly smelling bad, it's a sign that you may need to tweak your washing or soaking routine.  Yuck! Thankfully we can help!

Here's our 10 top tips on how to stop your reusable wipes from smelling musty:

  1. check your reusable wipes are wet enough
  2. use enough wipes soaking solution
  3. check how often you wash your reusable wipes
  4. dry your cloth wipes thoroughly
  5. don't use warm water to soak your reusable wipes
  6. check where you're storing them
  7. ensure that your storage bags and boxes are clean
  8. open the drawstring on your mesh wash bag
  9. use decent laundry detergent
  10. how to get rid of the musty smell on wipes

Fortunately they aren't beyond saving, we have some hints and tips for how to both prevent and get rid of that musty smell!  It's a good idea to read the Cheeky Wipes instructions on this page too!


1. Check your reusable wipes are wet enough

For every 25 Cheeky Cloth Baby Wipes, you'll need approx 400 - 500 ml of tap water. Your wipes should be properly wet through, not just damp when they are in the box. Use enough water to properly soak the wipes but also tip any excess water and soaking solution away.

This is particularly important for our microfibre wipes for hands & faces which are SUPER absorbent. If they aren't wet enough, they can drag on skin which isn't good.

2. Check you are adding enough soaking solution to your reusable wipes

You should aim to add around 4 - 5 drops of fresh wipes oil to your water to soak your wipes. The fresh wipes oil doesn't just make the wipes smell nice. The essential oils are also mildly anti-bacterial and help preserve your wipes.

When you have a newborn baby, you can use your washable wipes to clean your baby with just plain water, however only soak 10 at a time and change daily.

Once your little one is 6 weeks old, you can add the essential oil wipes solution to the water and that will keep your wipes fresh for a couple of days.

"We have been using cheeky wipes reusable wipes for faces and bums for over 2 years now and have only had to buy more as we have had a 2nd baby. They are great quality and so easy to use. If we have ever used baby wipes (even water based) both our boys would get nappy rash. This has prevented it from happening! We just use plain water. The dirty box is very handy! We have a couple in the house so we can use them for faces after food."  Mia, via Trustpilot

3. Check how often you wash your reusable wipes

Although we've taken our Cheeky Wipes (soaked in the mucky wipes tea tree oil solution!) to Glastonbury where they were fine in the box for 4 days, this isn't really recommended.

You'll usually have a wash going on every couple of days at least, so just chuck your reusable wet wipes in every time you have a wash going on - every other day is ideal.

Even if you have some 'fresh' wipes unused you can still wash them to freshen them up before starting over.

Dry your reusable wipes on a sock dryer

4. Dry your cloth wipes thoroughly

If you've run out of wipes, you *can* resoak your wipes straight from the washing machine in an emergency. However we don't recommend it as a matter of course. It's always best to line dry or tumble dry your wipes to keep them smelling fresh and mustiness free!

5. Don't use warm water to soak your reusable cleaning wipes

Tap water is absolutely fine for soaking your cloth wipes. Cooled boiled water is good too and will also help inhibit bacteria growth, but is a bit of a faff.

Whatever you do, don't use warm water or a wipes warmer as it encourages mould growth.


Large Double Wet Bag

6. Make sure that your reusable baby wipes storing boxes and wetbags are clean

Often parents forget to wash out their wipes containers and wet bags. This doesn't have to be done all the time, but it's a good idea if your wipes are smelling to bleach or disinfect our wipes containers thoroughly. Also, run the fresh wipes and dirty wipes bags through the washing machine.

"Anything that saves money and helps reduce waste I'll give it ago.  The tubs for fresh and dirty are sturdy but easy enough to open when needed.  The bum cloths are soft they wash lovely.  After using them for over a month I am happy with my purchase and as the price of loo roll goes up I'm a tad smug when using my bum wipes ."  Nerissa via Trustpilot

7. Keep your reusable wipes away from direct sunlight / radiators

We often get this from puzzled customers in the summer, where their wipes have been quite merrily sitting on a nursery windowsill..until summer. When they get warm, this encourages mould and mildew growth.

This is one of the easiest things to solve as you just move your wipes somewhere cooler!

Large Mesh Wash Bag

8. Open the drawstring on your mesh wash bag

If you're using our laundry mesh bag, always ensure that the drawstring is left open. This allows the wipes to be sufficiently agitated in the washing machine.

"These were recommended by a friend and having seen them being used first hand by her, I ordered some and have never looked back, they are so easy to use, wash and dry. I even bought some as gift’s recently as well for an expectant mum." Heather via Trustpilot

9. Use decent laundry detergent on your washable wipes

This is super important. We've found that some more eco friendly detergents aren't as good at cleaning dirty reusable nappies and wipes. Although thanks to Liz for letting us know that the eco friendly powders are better than liquids.  

An eco egg is great for freshening up lightly soiled items, but aren't brilliant on heavily soiled items such as wipes or cloth nappies.

We completely understand that you want to make greener choices for your laundry detergent, but if they aren't doing the job and you have to replace items because they aren't clean, then they just aren't eco-friendly.

"My son is now (nearly) 7, and we still use cheeky wipes every day - bums, hands & faces! I always keep some dry wipes in my backpack so I can use them for muddy knees, hands & faces when we're out and about (we generally have a water bottle with us, so that way I just wet them as we need them). They were a lifesaver through the toilet-paper shortages during Covid." Liz, via email


White Vinegar to remove musty smells

10. How to get rid of musty smell on wipes?

If you've left your wipes in your fresh (or mucky wipes) bags and forgotten about them what then? According to Cleanipedia, try pre-soaking in diluted white vinegar.

Alternatively to get rid of the musty smell on wipes:

  • wash the wipes in the washing machine with a cup of white vinegar
  • then wash on a high temperature, 60c.
  • adding Borax substitute or soda crystals to the wash for additional mould killing power

We hope this article was useful if you've found yourself with stinky wipes!  If you fancy reading more, these articles may also prove interesting:

5 top tips for making reusable wipes easy

15 alternative uses for baby wipes


About the author: Cheeky Wipes were created in 2008 by Helen Rankin, who was on a mission to prove to parents that they could ditch disposable wipes and save money and the planet by switching to reusable wipes. Since then the company have introduced a range of 'Simple Reusables' including period pants and cloth sanitary pads which lead to them being awarded the Queens Award for Enterprise in sustainable development in 2021. The Cheeky Customer Services Team have all used the products themselves and love nothing more than to chat pee, poo and periods!