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Buyer's Guide to Cloth Nappies

What's on offer and what to look out for when buying reusable cloth nappies.

Posted: 27 February 2009
by Maria Muennich

Nappy basics

What cloth nappy for me?

When you're considering what cloth nappies to buy, bear in mind that the right style, fit and fabric are very individual matters - what works well for someone else may not be at all right for you and your baby.

Think about what will work best for your lifestyle and your baby, for example, if your baby goes to nursery or is often looked after by someone else, you might want to invest in plenty of the easiest to use nappies, like the all-in-ones or pockets. If absorbency is most important to you, or your baby has sensitive skin, then you'll want to consider cotton and bamboo nappies, but if drying time is crucial then you might want to try pockets or polyester nappies.

You may want to use several different kinds of nappies and different fabrics for different situations, but if you do then it's a good idea to make sure that the nappies all have similar laundering requirements, so you don't need to separate out different kinds of nappies on wash day. Once you've narrowed down your choice of nappy then bear in mind that fit can vary greatly between similar kinds of nappy and do try nappies out before you invest a whole lot of money in a complete set of one brand. Several nappy retail sites have special trial offers.

Some of the more expensive nappies, like all-in-ones and pocket nappies, as well as the more popular brands, may have a relatively high re-sale value, so that's something worth considering when you buy. You can, of course, get most nappies second-hand yourself, which is a great way of trying out different brands at relatively low cost.

Whatever nappy you choose, you'll need three base layers to keep your baby comfortable and reasonably dry between changes. An inner liner, an absorbent layer and a waterproof cover. You'll also need a fastener.

Inner liner

The inner liner is designed to send the wet through to the absorbent core of the nappy and not allow it back through to your baby's skin, so he stays dry. The liner also acts as a barrier to save the absorbent part of the nappy from pooh. Liners can be either disposable (there are several biodegradable options available that can be flushed down the loo) or washable. Washable liners can be made from polyester fleece, suedette or a natural fibre such as muslin.

The absorbent core

Self-explanatory really, the absorbent part of the nappy soaks up the pee and comes in all kinds of materials with different capabilities in terms of absorbency, bulk and drying time.

The waterproof cover

You need a waterproof, or highly water-resistant, cover on your nappy to keep your baby's clothes cry. Most are now made from PUL, laminated polyester, and some are softer than than others, so do compare before you buy.


Boosters are separate layers of cloth to give extra absorbency. Some nappies include a booster that you can put into the nappy when and if you need it, for example at night, so giving you the option of a less bulky nappy for times when you don't need the extra absorbency. Some include a sewn-in booster which makes for easier washing and drying than nappies with no separate absorbent layers.


Pins are still used by a few mums but the modern-day version of the pin is the 'Nappy Nippa', this is a plastic fastener which grips the outside of the material so is safer than a pin. Many modern nappies use plastic poppers which are very baby-proof. The quickest nappy fastening is Aplix (like velcro) which is as adjustable as the fastenings on disposable nappies, but it also shares the weakness of being relatively simple for babies to undo. You can get other accessories to make life easier too.

Find out about the four main reusable nappy types. And check out our run-down of their advantages and drawbacks. Nappies these days are made from all kinds of materials. Find out the most common ones and what the advantages and disadvantages are.


Check out our sister site MadeForMums for the latest in nappy reivews.

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Discuss this story

i am considering using cloth nappies but not too sure. Friends have used them in the past, but they were bulky, they also used disposable at night time and for going out which seems to defeat the object. It would be nice to hear other opinions. thanks..

Posted: 19/03/2007 at 18:56

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