Cloth Nappies Everything You Need to Know

Cloth Nappies Everything You Need to Know

We’ve been asked a lot about cloth nappies by parents and parents-to-be who are curious, fascinated and sometimes amazed that cloth nappies even exist in their current modern form. Yes they do, and they are a million miles away from the old terry squares steeping in a bucket! These days, thanks to modern technology, reusable cloth nappies go on just like disposables, keep your baby dry and protected, they wash and dry really well and look far cuter than their disposable counterparts. 

There is a growing population of parents who have done their research and are choosing to use cloth nappies for lots of different reasons – environmental concerns about the amount of disposables they use, financial reasons as cloth nappies are a lot cheaper in the long run, and for general health reasons as cloth nappies don’t contain any chemicals or toxins. It’s a win-win for your pocket and the environment.

Once you start your research you may feel a little overwhelmed with the amount of choice out there and with all of the terminology – it’s like learning a new language! To make it a little easier to get through the jargon, there are some basic things you need to know – there are a few different styles and sizes you can use and there are a few different materials too. After that its just a matter of how many and what colours!!

Cloth Nappy Sizes:

There are usually 2 size options: the popular One Size ‘birth to potty’ nappies which can be used from day 1 until they are potty trained with clever snaps which grows with your baby – a very economical option but there can be times when the sizing isnt exactly right until they grow a bit more etc. All the bumGenius range are one size nappies

Or a sized nappy that goes from newborn up to toddler sizings eg newborn/small/medium/large – they do fit more snugly so less likely to leak but more of an investment as you have to buy the difference sizes as they grow. Our best bottom range is the best of both worlds though as the wrap is a One size wrap that will grow with your baby and the inserts are sized so you can start with the small size insert and buy the mediums when your baby gets to about 6 months then large when they get to about 18 months.

Cloth Nappy Styles/Types: 

The styles can be broken down into 3 broad categories:

  • An All-in-one style, where the outer water resistant material is attached to the inner absorbent layer so it’s all one piece attached together – great for handiness and practicality but can take longer to dry and shouldn’t be tumble dried. Examples are bumGenius Elementals and Freetimes
  • Pocket nappies, 2 different parts where the outer water resistant material has a pocket and an inner absorbent insert can be placed in it – great for quick drying and for extra boosting when your baby gets bigger but a little more work prepping them. Examples are bumGenius V5 Pocket Nappies
  • An outer wrap and separate insert, so the wrap is the outer water resistant layer and can be used with any sort of inner absorbent insert. An example is our Best Bottom range

Cloth Nappy Materials Used:

There are generally 2 types of inner material used to make cloth nappies absorbent – either a manufactured stay dry material called microfibre fleece, which dries really quickly but holds less moisture (think of any fleece clothing), so we find them better for daytime wear or short intervals between nappy changes ie when babies are smaller. Example are bumGenius Freetime or V5 pocket nappies.

Or a natural material inner made from organic cotton or hemp or bamboo or a mix, these are great for soaking up lots of wee but take a lot longer to dry. So we recommend having some of these in your stash to cover night time or longer trips out but maybe also having some stay-dry for quick drying options too. Examples are bumGenius Elementals, Best Bottom Hemp/Cotton or Bamboo inserts.

The outer layer is usually PUL (polyurethane) which keeps the nappy waterproof.

How many cloth nappies will you need?

You’ll need about 20 all in one nappies or 6-7 wraps with 18-20 inserts in total to cover you with enough clean ones to do a wash every second day. Costs can vary depending on brand but you can start anywhere from €250 up to about €500 for a full set of new nappies and even less for ‘preloved’ ones (we don't sell these but there are lots of groups that do).

We recommend that you get a mix of all of the above styles and materials as there will be different times when different options work better depending on the size of your baby, their mobility and how much they are drinking or sleeping etc at the time.

The only other accessory that’s handy once you’ve got set up with your nappies are some flushable or reusable liners. These handy little sheets will take most of the mess out of number 2’s so less work for you and less mess in the washing machine. We don’t recommend flushing your disposable liners.

How do you wash and store reusable nappies?

Before their first use, ideally you should wash and dry them once or twice without detergent. The inserts are just like towels as they increase their absorbency after a few washes so it will help prevent leaks during the first few uses. 

For storage you can use any bucket with a tight fitting lid or you can buy a nappy bucket. Some people prefer to use a wetbag that can hang near your changing area. You should store your dirty nappies in a dry bucket – not steeped in water like the old days :)

Its handy to use a mesh laundry bag inside your nappy bucket - with the zip open – as this makes for an easy transfer from nappy bucket to washing machine.

* Prewash – lots of people do a cold prewash, or a rinse beforehand or an extra rinse after – it depends on what your machine can do and if you have hard water (hard water areas doesn’t need the rinse after as it may deposit minerals back into the nappy making it less soft). If your nappies are smelling of ammonia, do a prewash to rinse out the urine with cold water before it is “locked in’ by the hot water.

*  Wash - easy to wash at up to 60 degrees. Use a full dose of your regular detergent based on the machine load and water hardness in your area. Don’t use detergents with optical brighteners as they are tiny particles that stick to material to give it a blue/white hue and you don’t want them near your babies bum!

You can also use a little antibacterial nappy wash also to prevent stains and greying. An ecoegg in your wash will soften the water if you have hard water but we don’t recommend only using an ecoegg for nappy washes. Never ever use fabric conditioner/softener as this will reduce absorbency.

* Easy to dry – inserts can be tumble dried on a low heat. An ecoegg dryer egg will speed up the process and save electricity. Whenever possible hang them on the line indoors or out. The sun is the best stain remover there is!

* Every now and again – do the longest wash on your machine with a full dose of detergent to clean your nappies thoroughly. Also make sure you clean your washing machine every month with soda crystals or a washing machine cleaner on the hottest wash.

Things to check if your nappies are leaking 

  • Have you tried different settings on the poppers? Try the inserts folded to the front or the back etc. As your baby grows you will need to experiment to see what size fits best.
  • Have you checked a nappy liner or insert isn’t poking out beyond the elasticated leg?
  • Have you used fabric softener/conditioner? (stops absorbency).
  • Do you need to boost with extra inserts? You can buy extra inserts for any of the nappies we sell, hemp or bamboo boosters work really well to increase absorbency for night time or heavy wetters.
  • Are you using nappy cream? We would recommend that you only use non-oil based creams as the oil based creams can create a barrier on the material. Always use a nappy liner when using nappy cream.

Still a bit bamboozled? Here's our top recommendations for a quick start:

If you're still unsure about what to go for and just want a recommendation, here is what we think you should try first, and then you can come back for more,

1 x bumGenius elemental organic cotton nappy - all in one, birth to potty, soft and super absorbent BUT takes time to dry

1 x bumGenius freetime stay dry nappy - all in one, birth to potty, easy to add additional boosters, really quick to dry BUT not as absorbent for overnight etc

1 x Best Bottom wrap - this is the outer layer only, can be used 2-3 times before washing, just wipe it down. It has internal snaps to attach inserts to. 

1 x Best Bottom 3 pack of Hemp/Organic Cotton Inserts - will snap into your wrap and snap out for washing. You will need to decide on s/m/l size - our estimate is that small will suit to 6 months, medium will suit from 6 - 18 months and large will suit for 18mths+

1 x Popolini liner roll - to catch number 2s

1 x Wetbag - lots of options to chose from!

In total, the above will cost approx €140 and will give you about a day's worth of cloth nappies, more importantly, it will give you a feel for which ones you like and want to get more of. 

Good luck and we hope you really enjoy using them. If you are on facebook, there is a great discussion group at Cloth Nappy Chat Group (Ireland) or you can email us with any further questions – we’ve personal experience having used them for our children from birth to potty training so there isn’t much we haven’t seen!

Enjoy your cloth nappy journey. Any tips from experienced cloth nappiers?