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Reusable Nappies: A complete guide

reusable nappies

Modern reusable nappies are much better than they used to be, and there are more types of reusable nappy than ever before. 

See the range here on Amazon.

In this guide, we will list the advantages and disadvantages of reusable nappies and compare them to disposable nappies. 

What you need to know about reusable nappies:

Modern reusable nappies are available in a wide range of designs, types and colours. 

The four main types of reusable nappy are:


  • All-in-one nappies: These are a combination of cloth nappies with a waterproof cover. The presence of a waterproof cover has obvious benefits, but it does mean that they can take longer to dry.
  • Shaped nappies: these reusable cloth nappies are designed to fit around your baby, and usually come with poppers or velcro straps.
  • Pre-folded nappies: these are basic, rectangular cotton nappies that are held in place by a waterproof wrapping. These nappies take less time to dry but aren't usually as absorbent as other options.
  • Terry-towelling nappies: unsurprisingly, the old-fashioned style is the cheapest and most basic of reusable nappies. They come in a square shape and need to be folded into a triangle and fastened at the side with a nappy pin clip.  Very quick drying.


Pins are a thing of the past, and we think babies will probably breathe a sigh of relief!  All modern nappies use either plastic clips, velcro fastening or poppers nowadays, so there is no change of accidentally jagging your baby in the bottom.  Most modern nappies are also shaped now, making them easier to put on.

It may be worth trying various types to find out which ones work best for you and your baby.  Opinions vary.


Reusable nappies and disposable nappies: pros and cons


The Benefits of Cloth Nappies

  • There are still nappy services in many cities. These companies rent cloth nappies, wash them, and deliver them to the mother's home. The charge averages approximately £2500 a year.
  • If you buy cloth nappies and take care of washing, drying, and folding yourself, you will spend an average of £200 during the time your baby wears nappies.
  • Cloth nappies, when washed with organic laundry detergent, have no added dyes or chemicals.
  • Nappies made of fabric are not extremely absorbent, which means moms will need to change nappies much more often.
  • Some say their babies have fewer rashes when they wear cloth nappies.
  • The fact that children can feel the wetness more when a cloth nappy is covering them may shorten the time it takes to potty-train your young one.
  • From time to time, the tabs on disposable nappies can pull off at exactly the time when a mother has no spares or nothing to use to seal the nappy sides together.
  • Disposables make up 3.4 million tons of landfill waste each year.
  • Disposables are not biodegradable.


Another advantage of modern reusables is that it is no longer necessary to have poo-stained nappies soaking in a bucket of water in your house.  Most nappies have a biodegradable liner which can be flushed away, and most parents definitely prefer that to storing soiled nappies in a nappy bucket until there are enough for a load in the washing machine.

If you do choose to use reusable nappies, you'll need a stock of around 20 nappies and it's a good idea to wash the new nappies a few times before using them on your baby.  Some parents use a combination of reusable and disposable nappies, which are obviously much handier when travelling.

Nappy manufacturers almost universally recommend using non-bio washing powder, and advise against using fabric softener which reduces the absorbency of the nappies. Some manufacturers also recommend an extra rinse cycle to ensure all the detergent is rinsed away from the nappy before it comes into contact with your baby's skin.


The Benefits of Disposable Nappies


  • Cloth nappies require a little more effort to change than disposable nappies.
  • The all-in-one cloth nappies are more expensive than the disposables.
  • Cloth nappies require washing two or three extra loads of laundry per week.
  • The additional wash-loads will demand more water and electricity, as well.
  • Using cloth nappies when you are "out and about" means carting around dirty nappies until you return home.
  • More severe and more frequent cases of nappy rash can occur for babies who wear cloth nappies.


Are cloth nappies better for the environment?

On balance, cloth nappies are probably more environmentally friendly than disposables, but it's worth remembering that reusable nappies also come with an ecological footprint.

The main environmental benefit  for choosing cloth nappies is that it results in less waste being sent to landfill sites.

Approximately 8 million disposable nappies are thrown away every day in the UK, and experts believe they will take hundreds of years to decompose.  It's a huge amount.  Disposable nappies account for 4% of all landfill in the UK. It’s estimated that if parents with one child used cloth nappies instead of disposable, it could reduce landfill by 874kg.

Reusable nappies, however, need to be washed and dried, which uses a lot of energy, particularly as they need to be washed at 60 degrees.  Just washing and drying reusable nappies for one child could add over 600kg of carbon emissions to the planet.  Whilst it's not recommended by health experts for hygiene reasons, you could reduce this amount by using a more energy efficient wash-cycle.


Are reusable cloth nappies cheaper than disposables?


Cloth nappies are definitely cheaper than disposables. 

Check the price here on Amazon.

Most babies are in nappies for at least two and a half years. Using disposables for that time will cost around £600.

Buying an average amount of reusable cloth nappies will cost about £250, and an additional £80 to wash and dry.  Some local councils offer vouchers to encourage parents to choose certain reusable nappies. Washing cloth nappies over a two-and-a-half year period will cost about £80. Tumble-drying reusable nappies could add an extra £100 to your bill.

Further savings can be had if you end up having more children, as using the nappies again can massively reduce the costs.

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