Things I wish I’d known about using cloth nappies

A surprised looking toddler, kneeling, surrounded by a ring of different types of reusable nappies

Photo credit, Nappy Go Lucky


We asked Nappy Science Gang

“What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you when you first started using cloth?” and here are their replies:
(NB: some contradictions – but that’s opinion for you!)

Buying Nappies 

  • Not to buy too many of one brand. To buy a couple of each you like the look of and try them with your baby before settling on one;
  • Buy a variety.. a big variety.
  • Ignore the manufacturers who want you to get their birth to potty kit.
  • To get enough of them so that washing and drying them isn’t stressful. This number will depend on your wash/dry routine – how long it takes to dry a towel can be a reasonable estimation. I got all of mine pre-loved, so could afford a few extra to reduce stress of getting them dry. (A friend of mine bought 2 – what do you do with / how do you wash just two!).
  • That two parters [a separate absorbent nappy, with a waterproof wrap over the top] really aren’t that scary and to try them first.
  • I think for some (me included) the terminology, variants and types can be really overwhelming at first. I just couldn’t figure out what went where from looking at pictures on the Internet….boosters/inserts had a hundred names – it was like learning a new language. Add to that the 1 million different mythical laws of nappy washing, with a newborn and a toddler to keep alive – seriously I was frazzled. An AIO at that point seemed manageable and understandable. Of course it seems completely silly and simple now, but not so at the time.
  • Do not… I repeat… do not start buying pretties. You will never stop 😂; It is very addictive!
  • I drool over cloth rocks but cannot justify the price.
  • I’ve got a cloth rocks, it’s amazing! I was lucky enough to win it in a dip but am saving the pennies to get another! I’ve cancelled my TV package so I can buy more 😂
  • They’re probably that cheap for a reason.
  • Don’t buy them for the prints but then for the function. I have so many tots bots that after the first year are just not a good fit.

Types of Nappy

  •  Look at a nappy library or second hand market to trial different brands/styles!
  • Nappy trial kits work! [some] Councils give discount! [it’s worth checking if yours does]
  • Each family is different!
  • Don’t ask ppl what works for them as 9 times out of 10 it won’t work for u!
  • Babies are different shapes. Don’t buy a massive pack of one type before you know they work for yours. Get a few types, ideally preloved to try first
  • About the only exception is terries because you just use another fold. I always recommend terries, they really aren’t as difficult as people think.
    Try Terry towels; they’re not as scary as they seem! Also, we were one of the ones cheap nappies worked really well for. Also the most adaptable. I only swapped because annoying toddler refused to lie down. I’ll Be going back to them next year. Also you can use and abuse without worrying about them so much.
    Before there was a choice, we used terry squares on toddlers. There was a technique – I think it involved a knee on the chest! I remember thinking we needed restarining straps on the changing mats.
    Yes! And they’re handy afterwards for random bits and pieces!
    Love our terries. Some of them are 40 years old and still going strong…
    We use outers that we stuff with pads now, but use the Terrys to dry bums during changes and occasionally to wipe down the bathroom just before we stick a nappy wash on!

Nappy Libraries

[To find your nearest Nappy Library check this map]

  • Go to a nappy library they are amazing!!
  • That nappy libraries exist and you should go to a nappy meet!
  • Try from a library before committing to 20 or more of the same brand. Fortunately, they have worked ok for us but I’ve bought a few from different brands over the last 20 months to suit a changing little body and I now have too many!!!
  • Ours is free and I’ve heard some other places charging around £10 per fortnight or month
  • The postal ones were pretty expensive, much cheaper to buy a couple of different brands second hand

 Washing Nappies

  • Leave plenty of space in the washing machine, things need space to get clean! Don’t overload the machine
  • Ditch the non-bio! Bio is king
  • If in doubt use more powder!
  • If you wouldn’t clean your knickers in tepid water and the sun…..
  • You don’t need to sloosh breastfed newborn poo. TWO WEEKS of that before I read somewhere it was water soluble
  • To use the full dose of washing powder!
    That the tablespoon of detergent malarkey is completely ridiculous.
    I now use double scoop if they are looking dodgy and half fill the washer on my longest setting at 60 every month. Regular is same setting but standard dose and 40. No more ammonia burns or stink.
  • If your nappies smell or giving burns you’re not washing them properly.
  • How blinking long it takes to do the laundry, and that 20minutes every other day is a very big commitment when you have a baby.
  • 3 things: How to deal with smelly nappies. That bamboo can only be washed in nonbio and that might be a problem when the advice from elsewhere is to use bio.
    I wash my bamboo in bio with no issues!
    Technically over time it could degrade the natural fibres apparently. But so does washing and drying. My only problem is finding an unfragranced bio!
    Other countries that have bamboo nappies don’t have non bio so I’m intrigued on how this works out.
    To be honest I’m increasingly thinking some of the companies are just finding excuses you’ve breached the warranty.
    It’s much easier for them to say don’t do things, than say it’s okay and something go wrong. Then they’re liable.
    I wash my bamboo socks in bio all the time – no problem. Why would nappies be different. Whether it’s from cottom, hemp or bamboo, surely it’s all cellulose!

Drying Nappies

  • Don’t tumble dry. Ever.
    We tumble dry all the time.
    I finish mine up in the dryer every time for the last year. No issues here!
    Tumble drying combined with spinning to high in the washing machine did this to my nappies:
    Damaged Nappy.jpgAnd yeah, I may have exaggerated slightly about ‘never’ tumble drying. I will often tumble dry for a maximum of 20 minutes on a low heat to soften up line dried nappies. But now, I spin no higher than 800rpm and line dry. I had about 20ish elementals, and every single one was like this, in varying degrees. I had to throw them all away. x
    I bought a load of cheap nappies from Amazon. Never had any issues like this. Have used for two children washing and drying for three years.

Buckets / Bags

  •  That I didn’t have to wet pail! 😷(1st used cloth over 18 yrs ago – pre internet! 😱)
  • Use a wet bag, not a bucket. Wet bag is better because you chuck it in the wash so it gets cleaned;
    As they have a zip I find they contain smell better because you can open a small portion and chuck in and reclose quickly rather than taking whole big lid off bin. You can also hang them from a hook.
    Look out for the rumparooz half moon ones, they are the best (tried them all 😉 )
    Get 3 bags. One to use one to wash one to dry. You can make do with 2 as they dry fairly quickly but I found three much easier
    After almost 3 years I’ve finally ordered an xl bag lol. I’ve been using a bucket.
    I love our monkey foot XL double straps (quite big) and the rumparooz (kangacare) half moon ones
    Definitely get a few, and smaller ones for our & about. Much easier just to chuck in the machine. No cleaning dirty buckets!!!
    I’ve just ordered off eBay – Im on a budget at the moment.
    I love my wetbags, we’re out of nappies but I’m still using the out and about ones for changes of clothes, swimming stuff, etc; Yeah, I use them for swimming, dirty clothes, wash bags on holiday etc. They are so useful.
    Do yours withstand a 60 degree wash? My kangacare ones are falling apart (the inside tape on the seams anyway) and the new baby is only 4mo!!! Used a bucket last time & was wondering whether to go back to that or try a different bag
    Ah I wash at 40 with occasional 60 washes of specific items (already washed at 40) so not including bags or wraps. It’s my own little compromise
    My eBay cheapies have been done on 90 a few times and survived okay.
  • Now I ‘d say the opposite! My cheapy lidded bucket has never smelled, but whenever I try a wet bag it reeks. However they’re great for out and about.
    Me too I have both bag and bucket and always use bucket first and bag if I need it (2 in cloth fills the bucket quick).


  • What works for one person (and they swear to be the ONLY way to do it 😉) might not work for you/your baby. Try different things/washing routines/types of nappy and see what works for you.
  • You don’t have to commit to full time cloth from day one – you can work up to it over a period of time while you learn how to make them work do you and your child.
    It doesn’t have to be all or nothing….even 1 cloth nappy a day makes a difference x
  • Knowing other cloth mums really helps (and/or cloth Facebook group) to solve problems your other baby group friends can’t!
  • Don’t worry about being ‘the most cloth diaperin’ mama’ out there; we used cloth wipes for ages but my husband is just not into them so we ‘gave up’ and buy wet wipes. It makes for a happy home here and we’re still using cloth where it properly counts.
  • Buying trousers may be difficult as few places cut for cloth! Try H&M, Frugi, Zara, Kite, Sainsbury’s tu
  • The ‘weaning’ stage will be grim…yet fascinating in equal measure.
    You’ll become very interested in looking at shit

    • “Aha, so he DID eat that raisin!”
    • ..aka ‘ohmigod he has worms…ohh ohhh Ahhh banana’
    • OMG there’s a googly eye looking at me! Or “so Lego goes straight through!”
      Glitterpoo-gate is still probably my favourite…genuine sparkles in the nappy.
    • I was convinced my son had eaten slug pellets during a particularly bad period of sleep deprivation – turned out he’d just chewed a green crayon…
  • Don’t listen to random people on the internet!!
  • Not to listen to the smug naysayers while pregnant! You know those assholes who give you that patronising smile when you say you are planning to use cloth “oh come back to me when the baby is here” smile. I invite them all to come check out the TINY amount that goes to landfill of a fortnight from our house!
    ‘Eww, you’re going to leave poo in a bucket in your house?’
    ‘Yep, well, actually most of that goes down the loo and it sits around for 3 days. Cleaner than full bags of excrement being left festering for 14 days’
    Especially with so many councils swapping to fortnightly and later collections
  • Don’t worry about reselling. Use the nappies or don’t buy them.
  • Give Elimination Communication a go – makes everything so much easier and they can do it from birth.…/live-chat…/…/live-chat…/

Re-useable wipes / Liners

  •  That if you are washing nappies you might as well wash the wipes too
  • And if you use reusable wipes flannels are just as good and a lot cheaper than brands.
  • Cloth liners and wipes are MUCH easier than paper ones (consider the bagging up and taking to the outside bin!). Not just that. One cloth and it’s gone compared to a million wet wipes
  • I agree – i find cloth just works so much better than wipes, which tend to smear rather than remove.
  • Oh definitely! One wipe wetter with water – done! Even now my kids are long past toilet trained I find tons of day to say uses for our cloth wipes.
  • Oh, I don’t buy cheeky wipes etc, I actually think they are a waste of money (I used to have close parent ones) once baby is past a certain age they are too small and you end up using a few. I use flannels or cheap IKEA towels cut and hemmed (I use an overlocker). Because they are cheap when they get stained I boil, bleach etc
  • But if you do go with paper liners, wash them too!
  • I don’t even use liners – I found they caused more problems than they solved

Other reuseable items

  •  That deciding to use cloth opens your eyes to how many more things you can replace with a reusable version…. wipes, liners, kitchen roll etc etc.
  • We went from nappies to wipes to family cloth (cloth toilet roll) 🙂 id already started with liners while pregnant thanks to the sneezes
  • Yes! We haven’t bought tissues for a long time, only use muslins or cloth wipes, have changed to csp and contemplating family cloth too 😂
  • My husband gets mad when I’m behind with laundry and he had to use toilet roll 😂I was using cloth wipes on my son and we ran out of tp one weekend so I used them too, liked it and carried on. My husband tried it too. Now I only buy toilet paper for guests.
  • family-clothThere’s a group – Family Cloth Sew and Tell
  • Practical question – do you use wipes as toilet roll dry, or do you moisten them first?
    • We do it just before using with the tap. I only use plain water on baby wipes too
    • My toilet is next to the sink. I can turn the tap on from the loo 🙂
      We keep the wipes in a bag next to the toilet

We hope you found this useful. I’ve certainly picked up a few tips.

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