Real Nappies

Are Cloth Nappies As Difficult To Use As People Think?

Let me say it as it is. If using reusable nappies was really that difficult, time consuming, messy and fiddly as people say they are I wouldn’t have used them for 3 kids so far. I wouldn’t be so certain to say that our new baby (due in September) will be wearing them from day 1. We haven’t had a nappy free day for 5 years in our house, and much of that time was spent with 2 children in cloth nappies at once. It’s Real Nappy Week 2017 and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to show you all how to use cloth nappies, the way we do in our house.

gnappies glen lassie

The nappy

Most people imagine a cloth nappy to be  terry towelling square that needs folding, pinning and then covering with a big waterproof outer pant. Whilst this style of nappy does still exist, it is no longer a common sight. Most cloth nappies now are either all-in-ones, or a simple 2 part system, looking like this…

All-in-one nappy, with booster.
All-in-one nappy, with booster.

Many nappies available to buy are called birth-to-potty nappies, and are designed to last the baby for their whole nappy wearing years. Simply adjust the size of the nappy by adjusting the poppers. Easy!

I mostly use these 2-part pocket, birth-to-potty nappies. Here is the cover and prefold…

A pocket nappy, with prefold insert.
A pocket nappy, with prefold insert.

I fold the pre-fold. Its a rectangle, and I fold it into thirds…

A folded prefold.
A folded prefold.

and put into the nappy pocket…


I then finish with a nappy liner. This one is home made, and created from an old fleece blanket. You can buy disposable versions, and some people don’t bother with them at all.

An old fleece blanket cut up makes perfect nappy liners.
An old fleece blanket cut up makes perfect nappy liners.

Storing dirty nappies

I find that used cloth nappies so not smell if you store them dry, in a large bucket/bin outside. My bin was second hand and has lasted us years. I do need to replace it at some point soon, as the lid is broken, but it wasn’t going to look perfect because it does live outside in all weathers.


If the nappy is just a wee, I take the nappy off and take it apart (back to cover, pre-fold and liner), Then I just throw it into the bucket for washing. If its a poop (and a solid one) I take it to the bathroom, flick the poop off down the toilet, and then put the whole nappy (taken apart) into the nappy bucket. I don’t bother trying to scrape off newborn baby poop, as it just washes off easily in the machine.

Storing dry won’t rot the materials and make them weak. It eliminates the need to change/pour away/ faff around with stinking old water. I also store my cloth baby wipes in this way. This is my personal preference and I know some cloth nappy users store dirty nappies in the wet method. I just find dry storing reduces a lot of effort (and smells).

A loose fitting lid is a must. I stops flies and toddlers (and other crazed wildlife) from getting into the bucket and destroying your nappies. It also allows gentle airflow to keep smells at bay.

Do not store dirty nappies in nappy sacks, because the nappy cannot ‘breathe’ and it will stink, and possibly go very mouldy.

Washing Nappies- the shocking truth!

This is the bit that most people worry about, assuming that it is messy, hard work. Far from the truth!

I take all parts of the nappies from the bucket and load into my machine. Now, this is where I surprise people… I use hardly any laundry powder. Too much causes a build up in the nappies and stops them from being absorbent. I also never use fabric softener as this can also have the same effect. I don’t use any harsh chemicals, such as stain removers either. Not only does this increase the risk of baby getting sores and chemical reactions, but again, it can damage your nappies.

nappies drying on the line

I was my nappies on 40*c, with minimal powder and no extra chemicals. I do stick on an extra rinse if I have time. This is just to remove any powder build up that may have occurred. And that’s it. Done. Washed. Ready for the line.

If we have a sick bug, and the kids have diarrhoea I wash my nappies with a larger dose of powder and on a 60*c  wash. Then rinse twice. Any hotter than a 60 wash, and the nappies can be damaged.

Once every now and then (maybe every other month) I do a ‘strip wash’/deep clean. I wash all of my nappies with a normal-big dose of powder, on a 60*c. Then again with no powder on a 30*c. The rinse, rinse rinse, until I see no powder ‘bubbles’ leaving the nappies when on a spin. When water is running clear, I am done. Doing a strip wash just seems to remove any build up of detergent or smells and gives the nappies a nice deep clean. Please note, I don’t do this job very often.

Drying and stains

Drying your cloth nappies is easy enough. Just hang out on the line and let them air dry. You can dry nappies indoors easy enough by hanging on an indoor line or clothes airer. Its best not to tumble-dry nappy covers, pocket nappies or all in ones as these can damage the waterproof layer on the nappies. I don’t own a tumble drier, but it is OK to tumble-dry the cotton prefolds.

Yet another radiator!

Any stains can be removed by mother nature. Hanging a nappy in the full sun will naturally bleach the nappy back to white! The same can be done with cold frosts in the winter. Hang nappies on the line over night and allow them to be frozen. One thawed and dried the nappy should be stain free. Using a nappy liner (either disposable or homemade) should protect your nappies from the worst of any staining.

One note worth remembering is that even if you buy ‘flushable’ disposable liners, these should still be put into your normal waste disposal and NOT flushed, as they can still clog pipework and cost you a hefty bill if your toilet becomes blocked.

Hopefully this post has most of the info you need to get you started using cloth nappies. Using cloth nappies really isn’t hard or cost worthy, and the benefits certainly outweigh the negatives. I will never make a switch back to disposables.

Any questions about cloth nappies? Just ask me in the comments section and I shall get back to you as soon as possible.

Check out your local council, as many do have money-back schemes when buying cloth nappies! For more info about using cloth nappies, please visit the Go Real website!

cloth nappy week 2015 pretty nappies

Hazel Newhouse

Hazel is a mum to 3 daughters and a son, she lives in Bedfordshire with her husband, kids and pets. Hazel has written for various publications, and regularly works alongside popular parenting and gardening brands.

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