No. The nappies will save you money over time, you can estimate the amount for your circumstance here: Calculator. They are far better for the environment even in comparison to eco nappies. They are better for baby’s health and comfort. You can read more about the benefits here: benefits. Cloth Nappies are definitely worth a try and there is little to lose when you can borrow nappies at a low cost from the library.
Every nappy going to landfill takes an estimated 500 years to decompose so from that perspective it’s worth switching at any age at all. The financial savings kick in for most families after about 6 months use of cloth nappies, so you will make a saving once your toddler has a few months left in nappies. This can be difficult to gauge but most will train between 2.5 and 3 years of age. Nappies of course can be used on subsequent babies or sold on. Many families opt to switch a toddler to cloth before a younger sibling arrives -knowing that the nappies will be used again. Read the benefits again -it usually makes sense to at least give them a go before you decide.
There is honestly no one perfect nappy -what fits one baby well may not be as good a fit on a baby with a different build. Your own circumstances will also play a part in what you prioritise in a nappy: fast drying, inexpensive, cute, organic, easy…and many more factors vary in importance between people. The best approach is to have a look at some nappies and a chat about the differences and borrow some nappies to see what fits well before buying your own nappies. The library demos and loans are ideal for this if you don’t have a friend who uses cloth nappies. Read more about our services here: Our Services.
It is worth considering that you may want different nappies for different purposes. Some quick drying nappies for winter use, some very absorbent nappies for night-time, some cute nappies for showing off in the summer, some slim nappies for tighter clothing. A mixture is generally advised so you can pick a nappy that suits your needs at each change. Whatever you decide to invest, be prepared to add to your stash in sales: Cloth Nappy Week is in April and other promotional, closing down and seasonal sales happen throughout the year.
You will hear a lot of jargon about nappy types, brands, materials and features and it can be a steep learning curve. Check out our section on nappy selection in our nappy guide: Nappy Selection.
Cloth nappies are intended to fit a range of sizes and are adjustable. As you look at the nappy type it will usually give approximate weights but build is also a factor for a good fit. We suggest that you try out some nappies before you invest. You can borrow nappies from the library if you don’t have a friend who is using them (…or even if you do!). While all nappies are adjustable some will be more easily adjusted to your baby’s particular shape. This is difficult to predict and best tried out!
Unfortunately cloth nappies are difficult to come by in real life shops and are mostly only available online. If you prefer to see before you buy you are welcome to have a look at the nappies in the library demo kits and talk to one of our volunteers. You can find details of local demos and nappuccinos here and please, please contact us if there is nothing local or at a time that works for you. You will find more information on where to buy or sell new and preloved nappies here: Buy&Sell
Keeping in mind that cloth nappies will save you money over your baby’s time in nappies and can then be used for another baby or sold on, the initial splash out is not an expense but an investment that saves in the long run. It could be compared to buying crockery instead of disposable ware: more pleasant to use and it would seem a bit mad to be putting all that plastic in the bin every day!
You will have nappies at 3 different stages.
ready to use: on a shelf; in a basket; in a changing bag.
used: in your wash bag; in a bucket with a lid.
washing/drying: on the line; on a clothes horse; on a rad; in the dryer.
you’ll also have one on your baby!!
Most nappy brands suggest 20-24 for full time use….but these don’t all need to be the same brand. Some retailers suggest 12 to start off and this allows you to add to your “stash” (collection) as you find bargains or other nappies that you like.
The number you need will depend on drying time and the washing routine you wish to follow. Most brands suggest 20 to 24 nappies for full time use, but your nappies do not all need to be the same brand. Some brands suggest starting with 12 so you can add some different nappies to your stash as you go.
With 20 nappies and some additional “night nappies” you should have enough to wash every second day, using 6 nappies during the day.That’s a change every 3 hours and an 8 hour stretch in a night nappy.
Of course you might find you want a lot more nappies than that
Keeping on top of the nappy wash is not as difficult as keeping on top of other laundry. Laundry with smallies in the house usually involves gathering, sorting, deciding which wash to put on, washing, drying and perhaps ironing. It can be endless. The nappy wash is simple. The nappies gather in your nappy bucket near your changing spot and when the bucket is full you put them in the washing machine and wash them. It’s hard not to keep on top of it really. Of course they need to be dried after that and put away. But no sorting or checking labels, no removal of food or grass stains. No deciding whether or not to put on a wash -it’s very obvious when it needs doing. No ironing allowed! No procrastinating. Those using cloth nappies don’t tend to find this a chore and find it quite different to “other laundry”.
Washing frequency is dependant on how often you change the nappies, as well as the total number that you have. Most will wash somewhere between everyday and every 3 days. Roughly every second day is about average.
The limitations are:
Having enough nappies for baby to wear full time. You can get more nappies to resolve this. Drying time will have to be considered here. Some nappies are quick drying, some drying methods are quicker than others and the weather can be a factor.
Not having nappies dirty for long enough to become stained or damaged. Some brands suggest 24-48 hrs as a max time to dry pail (leave you nappies in the bucket) but you can rinse each nappy to increase this time.
Keeping your load size economical (bigger) and yet not too big as to not give nappies enough water to clean fully. They will need more water than the same weight in clothes. Some brands suggest about 15 as a maximum but this will depend on your washer and how wet/dirty the nappies are.
Bucket size. you will need to wash once your dirty nappy storage is full. Of course a better size bucket/bag can be purchased where this is a problem.
Cloth nappies come with washing instructions and these should be followed for best results as they vary slightly from brand to brand. You can generally expect to store used nappies for up to 48 hours -in a bucket with a lid or a large wet bag. You don’t need to soak them. You may want to remove dirt and (disposable or reusable) nappy liners make this easy. Nappies usually need to be put on a rinse cycle, a full wash at 40 or 60 degrees with a full dose of your regular powder. Do not use fabric softener as this will make the nappies repel water. Do not use nappy creams as they will get very stuck to the nappy and affect absorbency. Nappies should be rinsed until they do not smell of detergent (lavender, lemons etc) and instead smell of nothing. If this means a lot of rinsing use less detergent next time. If they smell bad you will need to use a little more detergent next time or do an extra pre-rinse.
New nappies need a few washes before they reach full absorbency – some opt to wash a few times before use, while others use immediately but have lowered expectations until the nappies have had a few washes.
You don’t need to soak cloth nappies. They can be stored dry in a bucket or pail. A lid will contain any odours. You can see some samples and alternatives here: Buckets.
Some nappies will take up to a day to dry while others are much faster -this is something to ask about when you are buying. Most will dry overnight hanging on a clothes horse. Some are suitable for the dryer or on radiators while others are to be air dried only -outside or on a clothes horse. You’ll need to check the labels or the brands website for these details.
Bamboo and hemp nappies and inserts will take a lot longer to dry than microfiber nappies
Don’t put wraps or All in One nappies with the PUL layer directly onto a radiator or into a tumble dryer, this will damage the PUL layer
The tumble dryer is fine for any inserts, prefolds or fitted nappies, but nothing with a PUL outer layer as the heat of the dryer will damage it
Sometimes nappies build up some residue from detergents used in washing, this can make them smell or absorb less. Stripping is not necessary unless you are having these problems and many never need to strip their nappies. Individual nappies have washing instructions and it is important to check labels, websites or contact retailers to check that various stripping techniques are appropriate for your particular nappies. There are various methods of stripping nappies and the option you choose will depend on the nappy. Options include the following but you will find many more are suggested:
First check with your manufacturer’s instructions which will be available on their site as each one has different suggestions but here is a general guideline
wash with a full dose of non bio detergent powder at 60 degrees until there are no suds
ecosprout: (a gentle method) soak nappies in this overnight and then wash as normal.
There is no need to be washing at 90 degrees or using dishwasher tablets which can cause skin allergies due to the strong chemicals in them
Stain removal depends on the particular nappy’s washing instructions: some are ok to use bleach on and others will need gentler approaches. The sun, even in poorer weather, is great for stain removal. The sooner nappies are washed the less likely staining is, so it’s good to wash frequently or time washes so that they are dirty for as short a time as possible. Putting on a wash directly after a dirty nappy should in theory give you the shortest stretch for dirty nappies waiting in your bucket -but babies can be unpredictable. Rinsing at this point is also an option. Using liners often reduces staining.
We are being rolled out across the country
Local libraries do a monthly nappuccino where you can see various cloth nappies, ask questions and borrow a kit to try at home.
The best way to find out whether cloth nappies will suit your baby and your lifestyle is to try them out. Our postal loans cater for newborns, right up to toddlerhood and beyond!