Cloth nappy information: types of nappy, care & advice

In this section you will find advice about all aspects of cloth nappying, from the different types of nappies to how to wash and care for them:

Why Choose Cloth Nappies?

Nappy Types  |  Sizing  |  Materials  |  How Many?  |  Care  |  Out & About  |  Useful Links | Woolens

 

Why choose cloth nappies?

There are a number of benefits to using cloth nappies, but here are the main advantages:

  • kinder to baby
  • kinder to the environment
  • kinder to your pocket

Kinder to baby

With cloth nappies you can choose what materials go next to baby's skin.  Cloth nappies contain no chemicals or gels and are gentle and comfortable for your baby's sensitive skin.  Which would you prefer to wear - scratchy paper pants or nice fluffy, cosy pants?  

Kinder to the environment

Using cloth nappies rather than disposable nappies will halve your weekly rubbish and is 40% better for the environment.  

8 million disposable nappies are sent to landfill each year in the UK.  Each nappy takes at least 200 years to biodegrade, which means that every disposable nappy ever thrown away is still sitting there!

Kinder to your pocket

Using cloth nappies is more cost effective than using disposable nappies, since cloth nappies can be used over and over again.

Based on the cheapest cloth nappy option, spending around £80 on a set of cloth nappies could save you up to £500 when compared to the cost of buying disposable nappies from birth to potty training.  

Some people may be put off by the initial outlay of buying a set of cloth nappies, however you could always ask for nappies as a gift or buy them when pregnant to spread the cost.  You would then have no outlay for nappies for subsequent babies, so could save even more!

To save a further £250, why not try using re-usable wet wipes?  The re-usable wipes can be thrown in the wash with the nappies, and you can control what you use to wipe baby's bottom, from just plain water to home-made wipe solutions. 

And on top of all that, re-usable nappies are super-cute, soft and fluffy.

Nappy Types

You will be amazed at the many different types and brands of re-usable nappies available on the market:

Flat nappies and prefolds

Flat nappies (terry squares) require to be folded and used with pins and a waterproof wrap.

Prefold nappies consist of a large rectangle of fabric which is stitched into 3 panels for folding, again needs the use of a close-fitting waterproof wrap.

Shaped/Fitted/2-part nappies

A shaped, absorbent nappy, which requires the use of a waterproof wrap over the top.  Fastened with Aplix (velcro), poppers/snaps, or with the use of a nappy nippa (plastic gripping clip)

All-in-ones

The closest to a disposable nappy, all-in-ones have an absorbent inner, a waterproof outer, and are fastened with aplix or poppers/snaps.  Very easy to use, and ideal for babysitters and grandparets who perhaps aren't so familiar with the 2-part nappy systems.

All-in-two's

All-in-two's are similar to All-in-one's, except that the absorbent inners are removable for ease of washing/drying.  Some modern all-in-two's are designed so that the outer can be used more than once if the inners are only wet.

Pocket nappies

These nappies have a waterproof outer, and stay dry lining, with a pocket in-between for stuffing an absorbent pad.  Like the all-in-two, pocket nappies come apart for ease of washing and drying.  Pocket nappies tend to be aplix or popper/snap fastening.

Nappy wraps/covers

Many fitted/shaped/2-part nappies will require the use of a separate waterproof wrap over the top.

Wraps come in different shapes, sizes, materials:

Pul wraps - pul is a waterproof inner used on many wraps, the closest to the old "rubber pants"

Fleece wraps - since fleece draws moisture away and acts as a stay-dry barrier, fleece wraps are a good option to use over 2-part nappies.  The fleece is not completely waterproof, therefore you would need to ensure that your nappy is absorbent enough to soak up all moisture, and the fleece wrap will then absorb a little of the moisture too.

Wool wraps - wool acts in a similar way to fleece.  Wool wraps come in various different options, from simple wraps and soaker pants to shorties (knitted shorts) and longies (knitted trousers).  Wool wraps require to be treated with lanolin before use, but once treated they can be used a number of times without washing (unless soiled) - simply use, hang up to air, and then use again.

Nappy wraps tend to have either aplix (Velcro) fastening or poppers/snaps.  Some fleece wraps and wool wraps can be pull-up, with a draw-string waist if required.

Sizing

Sizes of nappies vary by brand, but most nappies are either sized (S/M/L or by weight/measurements) or onesize/birth to potty (BTP).  Please remember that the weight guidelines given for nappies is approximate, and the fit of the nappy will depend on the age and shape of your child.  If you are unsure which size to buy, we would advise going by the waist and rise measurements (if given).  

How to measure your baby for a nappy:  take the following measurements without a nappy on:

* Waist - measure at the waist, all the way around
* Rise - measure from belly button (or wherever you like the nappy to rest), to crotch,    through the legs, and back up the back, ending wherever you like the nappy to rest    in the back

How to measure your baby for a wool nappy cover:  take the following measurements over the top of the fitted nappy to be worn with the woollens:

* Hip - measure all the way round from hip to hip

* Rise - measure from around half to one inch above where the nappy rests at the waist, down through the legs and up to half or one inch above where the nappy sits at the back. 

Birth to Potty (BTP) or Onesize Fits Most (OSFM) nappies are the most cost effective, and many brands have a clever folding system with snaps/poppers to make the nappy bigger or smaller.

Many BTP nappies could be a bit bulky on a tiny newborn, so if you opt to go with a BTP nappy system, you may want to invest in a few newborn sized nappies for the first few weeks.

Liners and boosters

Paper liners - can be used to line the inner of the nappy to catch any solids.  You can also buy biodegradable liners which can be flushed straight down the toilet.

Fleece liners - can be used with or without a paper liner, to line the nappy and catch any solids for tipping down the toilet.  Fleece acts as a stay-dry barrier between the nappy and baby's bottom, so fleece liners are ideal if your nappy doesn't have a stay-dry lining.  They are also good for protecting the nappy against stains.

Boosters - can be used to 'boost' the absorbency of your nappy as required.  You can buy shaped/sized boosters to suit specific nappies, or you can use any kind of absorbent material (old towels, flannels etc).

Inserts - are similar to boosters but tend to be a bit more substantial in size.  Again you can buy inserts to fit specific nappies or use any kind of material you like.

Materials

Microfibre - is very absorbent and quick drying, acts like a sponge to soak up wetness quickly. 

Cotton - similar to microfibre but tends to be a bit heavier and thicker.

Hemp - very slim but very thirsty material, ideal for boosting absorbency. 

Bamboo - again a very slim and thirsty material, Bamboo is also a very eco material and has been known to contain anti-bacterial properties.

Fleece - acts as a stay dry barrier, ideal for nappy liners and for use as a breathable nappy wrap.

Wool - when treated with lanolin, wool is an excellent nappy wrap, absorbing some of the moisture from a 2-part nappy, and can be used over and over without washing.  Wool also makes a good backing for washable sanitary pads and breast pads, as it is more breathable than the waterproof pul materials.   

For boosters/inserts:  

Microfibre is best used on top of bamboo or hemp.  For smaller/light wetting babies, microfibre may be adequate on its own, however for heavier wetters or older babies, microfibre may betcome saturated, which could cause the liquid to start leaking out of the booster/insert.  Using a layer or two of bamboo or hemp underneath will soak up these leaks.

Hemp is a very thirsty but slow-absorbing material, so best used topped with cotton or microfibre.

Bamboo is also very thirsty and slow-absorbing, again best topped with cotton or microfibre. 

How many nappies will you need?

The average baby will require around 4-5 nappy changes per day (sometimes more for younger babies and less for older)

If you are planning to use a 2-part nappy system, around 15 nappies and say 5 wraps would be sufficient, but may mean washing every day.  If you prefer to wash only every 2 or 3 days, you may want to have a bigger stock so that you do not run out in between washes.

It is a good idea to try one or two different types of nappy before splashing out on a 30-pack of one kind of nappy.  What fits and suits one baby may not necessarily work for another, so its always a good idea to find out for yourself what suits first.

How to care for your nappies

Storage of used nappies:

Nappies can be stored either in a nappy bin or a wet nappy bag prior to washing.  There is no need to soak modern cloth nappies, we would advise dry pailing your nappies until wash day.  Simply knock any solids down the toilet and keep the used nappies dry in the wet bag or nappy bin until wash day.  If you have a particularly badly soiled nappy and are worried about staining, you could rinse the nappy before putting it in the dry pail.  You can also buy a separate mesh for the nappy bin, which helps to lift out all the nappies together into the washing machine, if you prefer not to touch them.

Washing:

Most cloth nappies and wraps can be washed at 60 degrees, however in order to prolong the life of your nappies, and to use less energy, a 40 degree wash is usually sufficient.

Use around a half to full dose of detergent when washing nappies, and never use fabric softener, as this can affect the absorbency of your nappies.  Non-bio detergent is normally advised for washing nappies, as it's gentler on baby soft skin, however some biological detergents can be used if you find the non-bio isn't getting the nappies quite clean enough.  We would advise against adding any oils, additives or bleaching agents, as these can damage your nappies.  There are some detergents on the market which are designed specifically for use for cloth nappies, however it's always a good idea to check the washing instructions for your particular brand of nappy, as some ingredients could invalidate warranties on new nappies.

It is often a good idea to run a cold rinse cycle before the main nappy wash, as this will rinse off most of the mess and urine.  Popping your nappies straight into a hot wash can seal in stains and odours.

Most aplix (velcro) fastening nappies now come with tabs to fold back the aplix onto - you should always check that the aplix tabs are fastened back before washing, otherwise they could catch on other nappies and wraps in the wash.  Please note that once a nappy has been prewashed, we cannot accept it back for a straight refund or exchange, so it is always best to try on new nappies over the top of a disposable nappy or wrap, to ensure that it fits before washing or using it.

Dark or strong colours should be washed separately, especially for the first few washes.

If you are having problems with your nappies smelling unfresh, we would advise increasing the amount of detergent used and/or increasing the washing temperature (obviously bearing in mind washing temperature instructions for your particular brand of nappy).  

Wool care

We would advise washing wool soakers by hand, in warm water, with a wool-safe detergent or soap.  Gently squeeze the excess water from the soaker (do not wring or twist) and dry flat.  Woolens should not be tumble dried or dried directly on a heat source.

Lanolising:  wool nappy covers will need re-lanolising regularly to retain their waterproof qualities.  We would suggest using a lanolin designed for this purpose, and there are several different choices from solid, liquid, and spray-on lanolins (see our instock range from CJ's and Sheepish Grins.  Lanolising normally involves soaking your woolens for a few nights, or overnight.

How to measure your baby for a wool nappy cover:  take the following measurements over the top of the fitted nappy to be worn with the woollens:

* Hip - measure all the way round from hip to hip

* Rise - measure from around half to one inch above where the nappy rests at the waist, down through the legs and up to half or one inch above where the nappy sits at the back. 

 

Prewashing:

We advise that you wash your new nappies and/or accessories at least once before use, to remove any manufacturing residues.

Materials like hemp and bamboo require a lot more washing before they will be up to full absorbency - probably at least 6 washes.  Or if you prefer, you can soak the nappies in a bucket or sink to help speed up absorbtion (this is not required for cotton or microfibre nappies). Hemp or bamboo nappies or inserts can still be used after just one wash, but will require changing more frequently until they have been washed more and are up to full absorbency.  

Drying:

The best and most cost-effective way to dry your nappies and wraps is by line drying.  The sun is also a very good natural stain remover.  However, line drying is not always possible with our unpredictable UK weather. Most nappies and wraps can be tumble dried on a low heat (check manufacturer's guidelines first), but I would advise that any pocket or all-in-one nappies with pul inners are best dried on an airer, as the heat from a tumble drier could damage the pul and/or the elastic in the nappies.

Radiator drying - 2-part nappies and inserts/boosters etc can be dried on radiators, however you should avoid drying hemp or bamboo materials directly on radiators, as the direct heat can "cook" the fibres.  Again I would advise not to dry pocket nappy outers pul wraps on radiators. 

You can, however, buy little clip-on radiator airers, which are ideal, especially if you are short on space.

Nappies with minkee outers and inners can be kept in tip-top condition by brushing the minkee with a baby brush after each wash.  This may sound odd, but it does help keep the nappy looking and feeling nice and fluffy.  This is entirely optional of course, but it you do find the the pile on the nappies is looking rather flat, then just give them a little brush to spruce them up a bit :)

Nappy creams:

Oil based nappy creams and barrier creams can coat your nappies and reduce their absorbency.  If you do need to use nappy creams, opt for an oil-free cream, or use a large fleece liner to cover the whole of the inner of the nappy, to avoid any damage to the nappy; the liner can be thrown away afterwards.     

Stripping nappies:

Sometimes, especially in hard water areas, your nappies may become clogged up with suds etc., which could affect their absorbency and/or cause them to start smelling a bit unfresh, even after washing.

If this does happen, you could try 'stripping' the nappies.  To do this, pop your nappies into a normal wash cycle, but substitute the detergent for 1 teaspoon of dish washing liquid.  You should notice a lot of bubbles in the drum during this wash.  Afterwards, rinse, rinse, rinse until there are no bubbles (around 5 rinses would be a good start, but you may need more or less depending on the strength of your machine machine).  This should help to freshen up your nappies and remove any lingering bacteria.

However, if your problem is smell after washing, the most likely solution is the need for more detergent.

If your baby has a very upset tummy, and subsequently some awful nappies, you may wish to wash your nappies at 60degrees to ensure that any bacteria is removed.

Out & About

If you are using a nappy bin at home to store your nappies, you may wish to invest in a wet nappy bag for when out and about.  Wet nappy bags come in different materials and sizes, with a drawstring top to keep odours inside.

Re-usable Nappy Wipes

Why stop at re-usable nappies?  Invest in some washable nappy wipes, and you won't look back.  When my daughter was very young I found that the disposable nappy wipes upset her sensitive skin.  By using washable wipes, you can control what you use on your baby's skin.  For sensitive skin, you can use just plain water from the tap, or you can make up your own wipe solution (plenty of recipes can be found online).  The nappy wipes can then be washed along with the nappies!

If you have any further questions which have not been covered here, please feel free to email us and we will be more than happy to help!  

Useful Links

Local nappy networks, groups and organisations promoting the use of cloth nappies:

www.facebook.com/FifeRealNappyLibrary   Fife Real Nappy Library

www.pkrnn.org.uk  Perth & Kinross Real Nappy Network

www.forthenvironmentlink.org/community_projects  Forth Valley Real Nappy Network

www.aberdeenforward.org  Aberdeen/shire Real Nappy Network

www.grab.org.uk/nappy.htm  Argyll & Bute Real Nappy Network

www.greatbritishnappyhunt.co.uk   Great British Nappy Hunt