Wednesday 13 July 2011

What’s Stopping You From Using Cloth Nappies?

There are so many myths and misconceptions about cloth nappies. Now I know they are not for everyone. I am not so sure if I’d had multiples (twins or more) I would have bothered. But I love them, they are easy to use, easy to wash, and they are pretty.
I do enough washing as it is – with cloth nappies, you can get away with doing a wash every 2-3 days. It’s easy, you can use a paper or mink liner (I find now Joseph does *ahem* people poo, it just bounces off the nappy anyway. You flush the solids then pop the nappy in a pail (preferably lined with a mesh liner) Once the liner is full you pick it up (the liner that is) and throw it in the wash. I normally do a rinse cycle, then wash with a dessertspoonful of non-biological powder on a 60 degree wash. I then normally rinse again.
But live in a flat/don’t have a tumble drier – I lived in a flat for Joseph’s first year, and I have never owned a tumble drier. Most nappies don’t like being tumble dried. In summer I put my nappies outside. The sun is good for nappies, even cloud filtered sun, and bleaches any stains. In winter I dry inside. If you are drying inside more often than not, then its best to choose a fabric that is quick drying.
There are so many types, styles and fabrics, how can I ever choose? I won’t lie, at first, its completely and utterly bamboozling. There are so many types and so much terminology that it is bewildering.  Here’s a brief rundown of some of the terminology.
AIO – All in Ones, nappies that are completely self contained, no separate parts required. These can be one sized, which have rows of poppers so you can change the size to suit your baby, or sized, usually in small, medium and large. These are usually slim fitting.
AI2 – or 2 part nappies – these are similar, they have a water proof layer and then boosters or pads for absorbency. AI2 are more customisable than AIO’s and sometimes quicker drying.
Pocket nappies – these have a waterproof layer, and a stay dry layer, and a pocket where you can stuff them, usually in advance. These are totally customisable.
BTP – birth to potty, used to describe a nappy or a system. Personally I think asking a nappy to be a BTP is a big ask. A newborn’s needs are completely different to a toddler. I do think it’s best to buy enough to get you through a few months, and then add to it over time. I did buy a BTP system, and I did use it a lot, but have found I’ve had to add to it.
Why are there so many fabrics? What’s the difference? There are two functions of the fabrics used in nappies. The first function is to be waterproof. AIOs, AI2s and Pockets have a waterproof layer, usually PUL (polyurethane laminate). This is a waterproof fabric which is light. It doesn’t like to get too hot, so no boil washes or tumble drying (except on a very low heat) Sometimes the PUL is covered in a pretty fabric, often minky, which is soft, and often very pretty!
You can also use, surprisingly, fleece or wool to be the waterproof layer. Unlike PUL which traps the liquid, these two fabrics wick the moisture away. They are great to use at night time with microfleece or with terries or with bamboo nappies.
Inside the nappy there are lots of different options and I won’t go into all of them. For newborns, muslins work well, just contained with a waterproof wrap.  I love bamboo. I am happy to put up with the fact that it is slow drying, as its absorbency is second to none. The downside with bamboo is that you have to wash it a few times to improve its function. This is where buying second hand is wonderful. You can use cotton terry nappies, these also provide good absorbency. Microfleece can be used as “stuffers” for pockets, or to provide additional absorbency, or you can buy microfleece nappies that fix with Velcro or poppers.

Microfleece is super fast drying. My first system was microfleece and no word of a lie, inside with no heating on they only take three hours. The only downside is that the need a separate wrap made of PUL over the top (or fleece or wool pants). They can be bulky underneath clothes, particularly on boys.
My favourite nappies
I buy my nappies on line. The shop I buy most from is Cheeks and Cherries.
My favourite nappy are Bambooty Easy Dry. These nappies are bamboo but are constructed in such a way that they dry very quickly. They are super slim as well, and fit as well as a disposable, in my opinion.
My next favourite are Itti Bitti. These nappies are bamboo as well, but more padded than the Bambooty. I love them, as their colours are bright, and the outer is minky, soft and bright. I like these best with a funky t-shirt, leggings and a smile!
I have a couple of the Tot Bots Easyfits V2. I love these nappies, as they are made in the UK, and are stocked widely, even in our local Tescos. They are slightly fiddly, half way between a pocket and an all in one, the insert is attached but has to be folded inside. I love the fit of these nappies, and they have cute designs.
So, I want to try what do I need to get started?
A bucket
A mesh liner
5 nappies (more if your committed already!)
A child
Some non bio washing powder or liquid
You may want to go the whole nine yards and use “washable wipes” which to me are just flannels and water. I tend to use this at home, but normal baby wipes when out and about.
I strongly advise that you start out slowly, and find the nappies that work for you and your family. I think the danger is that you can get too excited, spend too much money and then become disillusioned. I know so many people with huge stashes of nappies that have been used for a week or two, then put in a loft out of the way.
Personally, I find cloth nappies have saved us money, are fun, and I enjoy using them, but if I didn’t love them,  I wouldn’t use them. Nothing is worth doing if it’s going to drive you mad, but give it a try!


  1. Great post, very informative especially to someone like me who would have no idea where to start. Not sure I am ready to convert but definitely something I will explore further.

  2. Great post. I really wanted to use 'real nappies' but since my baby was born have gone off the idea. Once he's home and settled into a sort of routine I think we'll reconsider.

  3. They are definitely worth doing, but wait until he's 9lb or so. You can get dinky ones or use terries, but I think you've been through enough, and once he's settled and a nice weight, you can then think about it. You only have to use them part time to get some financial benefit and to relieve the planet of some landfill pressure.

  4. I have to say cloth nappies a big saver for when we had twins the cost of disposables for 2 babies is extortionate and i think I saved a small fortune putting our twin boys in REAL nappies

  5. I'm hoping when I finally have a little person we will try cloth nappies, I'm really into the idea. Visited Sam recently and she is using them for her 3 month old and it seems just as easy at disposables to me so think we might try it out. (Should I ever be lucky enough to have my own child!)

  6. You didn't mention basic flat nappies, I don't think. I have always used flat flannelette nappies with PUL velcro covers for the early years, then flat terries for later. This was the cheapest system I could put together (I could have saved a bit by getting crappy plastic pilchers from Target, but chose Baby Beehinds instead) and has been great. Comparing notes with a friend who had two under-twos in disposables, she said they had to get an extra weekly rubbish collection to deal with the nappies, which blew my mind! We recently used disposables on the baby for a holiday, and I was surprised to find that while wee was well contained for longer than in cloth (though I have a new batch of flannelettes that are super-absorbant), explosive poos were just as likely, if not more, to end up through her clothes. So, take that disposables! I get a real (possibly slightly smug) satisfaction from seeing a lineful of nappies snapping in the breeze, stains magicking away with the UV!

  7. Great article really balanced and realistic! I would definately recommend reusable nappies to parents with twins. We recommend having 30 nappies for twins rather than the standard 20 for one baby. I don't think they need to double the number. Disposable nappies for twins for two years would cost a family £2000. With twins they are always going to have the washing machine. I would definately recommend fast drying nappies though! :-) If you ever want to test any product for Screaming Green, give me a shout. Keep up the great writting. :-)