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Cloth Nappy FAQs

6 babies sitting in a row with their backs to the camara, all wearing different pattern cloth nappies

Friday 16 June 2017

Why should I try cloth nappies?

  • Cloth nappies are often made of natural comfortable materials such as cotton and bamboo, which are soft and gentle on your baby’s skin. Compared to super-absorbent chemicals, paper pulp and plastic.
  • On average each baby will need 5000 disposable nappies or 25- 30 cloth nappies.
  • Cloth nappies can save you up to £1000, even when you consider the cost of cleaning.
  • Cloth nappies can be used again and again, even at the end of their useful life they can be recycled as a textile recycling bank. Single-use nappies can take 100’s of years to break down, and will never fully decompose.

Are cloth nappies easy to use?

They are! Modern cloth nappies are very similar to disposable nappies, the only difference is the washing. Cloth nappies have come a long way; there's no need for soaking or sharp nappy pins. 

  • Modern cloth nappies have easy to use poppers or Velcro fasteners and there are so many different designs and colours available.
  • Using either a washable or disposable liner in the nappy will mean that any solids will be contained and can be flushed down the toilet.
  • Used cloth nappies can then be stored in a lidded bucket and added to your normal wash at a frequency that suits you.
  • Cloth nappies can be washed at 40 degrees although many people prefer to wash them at 60 degrees. If your baby is less than three months old or unwell then nappies should be washed at 60 degrees.

How many cloth nappies will I need?

This will depend on the type of cloth nappy you use and how often you want to wash them.

  • A newborn will need changing more often and will probably need 18-24 nappies.
  • A weaned baby (6+ months) will not require so many nappy changes a day; and will probably need 15-20 nappies.

How do I choose which type of nappy to use?

It can be difficult to know where to start when choosing the right cloth nappy! There are many different types of cloth nappies, so it may be worth visiting your local cloth nappy library first as you may be able borrow a trial pack. 

Are eco, compostable or biodegradable nappies better for the environment?

Eco, compostable and biodegradable nappies are available, however they are usually a more expensive option and would require a special disposal process for them to break down in a more environmentally friendly way, something that is not currently available.  If these items end up in landfill, they will break down very slowly over time (sometimes hundreds of years), in an anaerobic process which often produces methane, a harmful greenhouse gas

That’s why we promote cloth nappies as the best option. They are up to 40% better for the environment even when you consider washing and energy costs. Even using just one cloth nappy a day can make a difference.

Main types of cloth nappy include:

  • Two part nappies: these have an absorbent inner nappy and a separate waterproof outer wrap. The nappy can either be shaped like a disposable nappy or you can use a nappy that you fold. You then use a separate wrap to cover the nappy. Two part nappies are often praised for being really absorbent and the wraps help to prevent leaks. Unless they are soiled, the wraps don’t need to be changed at every nappy change and so you won’t need as many wraps as you do nappies.
  • All-in-one nappies: these nappies have an absorbent inner nappy and an attached waterproof outer layer. They are really simple to use.
  • Pocket nappies: these nappies have a fleece inner liner and a waterproof outer layer. They have a pocket like opening along the back of the nappy where you can insert liners to increase the absorbency of the nappy. These nappies are also very simple to use and are usually very quick drying.

Some factors that may help with your decision are the age of your baby and how they are fed. For newborns, two part nappies with a wrap are often preferred by parents as they deal well with ‘containment issues’!  For the same reason, these nappies are particularly favoured for babies that are breastfed. For older babies that are not so inclined to stay still during change time, some parents prefer the all-in-one or pocket nappies as they can be quicker to put on!

‘Birth to potty’ nappies are available or you may prefer the variable size nappies, which depend on the weight of your baby, and come in small, medium and large.

Are cloth nappies affordable?

The cost of cloth nappies will depend on the type of nappy you choose. All-in-one and pocket nappies are generally more expensive than two part nappies.  Sized nappies are also more expensive overall than buying birth to potty nappies. 

Some of the high street chains and some supermarkets may sell reusable nappies, but there are many retailers online, Essex Baby have a great list of cloth nappy retailers. To reduce costs further you could consider buying second hand cloth nappies online or from local nearly new sale events.

The savings you’ll make using cloth nappies compared with using disposable nappies does make them overall a more affordable option. If you’ll planning to have more children and are able to reuse the cloth nappies then the savings will be even greater.

How do I wash cloth nappies?

This is one of the most common concerns for parents when contemplating using cloth nappies but dirty cloth nappies are very easy to deal with!

  • New nappies: it is best to wash new or pre-loved nappies three or four times before using them to remove factory coating in new nappies and for hygiene reasons in pre-loved nappies. This will also help to improve the absorbency.
  • A liner placed inside the nappy will catch the solid waste.  Then, simply tip the waste down the toilet and flush away and throw the soiled liner in your bin. The wet nappy can be stored dry in a lidded bucket (with a mesh bag if you prefer) or in a wet bag. Adding a few drops of tea tree oil to the inside of the bucket can neutralise any odours.
  • Cloth nappies can be washed at 40 degrees although babies under three months old and babies which have been unwell should have nappies washed at 60 degrees. It is not necessary to separate the nappies from the rest of your washing, unless you want to. Many manufacturers recommend using a non-biological washing powder rather than liquid or gel detergents as powder dissolves quicker and rinses better than liquid. Use about half the normal amount of washing powder as too much will clog the fabric and your nappies will be less absorbent. The amount of detergent, however, will vary depending on the size of the load, washing machine type and water hardness and so you may need to alter accordingly. Soft water areas often need less detergent to be effective whereas hard water areas may need more. It’s better not to use fabric conditioner as this coats the fabric and will gradually reduce the absorbency of the nappy
  • Drying your nappies on a washing line is the best option as natural sunlight will deodorise, sanitise and naturally bleach them. When that’s not possible you can also place nappies in an airing cupboard, use the tumble dryer on a low heat setting or place them near radiators.

Do cloth nappies leak?

 A cloth nappy shouldn’t leak if you choose the right type of nappy for your baby and make sure it is fitted correctly. Most cloth nappies are fitted round the waist and so many parents find that there are less leaks and ‘explosions’ in cloth nappies than in disposables.

Do cloth nappies smell? 

If you use a lidded bucket to store the used nappies in and wash them every two to three days then you shouldn’t have any issues with smells. Many parents much prefer this to having one or two weeks’ worth of used disposable nappies in an outside bin before they are collected.

How often should I change a cloth nappy?

Just as you would change a disposable nappy, you should change a cloth nappy about 8-10 times a day for a newborn baby and then around five times a day once the baby is around 8 weeks old. Obviously, as with a baby in a disposable nappy, you should change the cloth nappy if it is soiled.

Do cloth nappies cause nappy rash?

The main causes of nappy rash are to do with infrequent nappy changes and ill health of the child. The type of nappy used isn’t a significant factor.  Diet and teething can also affect nappy rash.  To reduce the likelihood of nappy rash it’s best to follow a good nappy change routine and to make sure that the entire nappy area is cleaned really well at each change.

I’m already using disposables, is it worth switching to cloth nappies?

Switching to cloth nappies at any time can mean that you can save money and do your bit for the environment. Even using one cloth nappy a day will mean 365 fewer nappies a year being disposed of.  Converting to cloth might even help to potty train your child quicker as it can help them to form the connection between doing a wee and the sensation of a damp nappy.

Can I use cloth nappies at night?

Yes! You can either get cloth nappies that are specially designed for night time use or you can use booster pads in the regular cloth nappies.

Will my baby need special clothes to fit over the nappies?

Cloth nappies tend to be a bit bulkier than disposable nappies and some parents find that they need to get the next size up for vests and trousers, but you won’t need to buy special clothes to fit unless you want to. Some online baby clothing brands are marketed as being made to fit perfectly over a cloth nappy.

Find out more about cloth nappies:

Claim £30 refund on cloth nappies! 

Tip for using cloth nappies in winter

Who should I contact for more information on cloth nappies?