Cloth Nappy Basics

A cloth nappy is an earth friendly and bottom friendly alternative to single use nappies.

Cloth nappies are comprised of two parts; an absorbent inner layer and waterproof outer.

All in One (AIO)

Nothing to insert or attach as absorbent part is sewn into the nappy, sometimes the booster will fold out to help with drying.

They come in both Hook and Loop (Velcro) and poppered versions.

An example of this type of nappy is the TotsBots Easyfit Star.

Most similar to using a single use nappy, so ideal for childcare. They are however slower drying as some of the other options as the inserts are not detachable.

AIO nappies come in various fabric versions.


The entire nappy is soft and absorbent, but it is not waterproof and will need a waterproof wrap over the top.

Containment is determined by not only the fitted nappy but also the wrap on top, a good wrap will mean the nappy system has twice the barrier.They make for a great night nappy as the whole nappy is super absorbent and when baby is sleeping through the night can last 12+ hours with correct fitting and boosting (if necessary).

You can get these nappies in almost all fibre choices or a combination of them.They do have the slowest drying times of all the nappies and will require a waterproof wrap to complete the nappy system.

An example of a lovely fluffy fitted nappy can be found here.


Terry towelling (terry squares) and prefolds are a traditional flat nappy.

Terrys can be folded into various shapes to suit a babys shape and size and are secured using Nappy Fasteners, they require a wrap to keep them waterproof.

Prefolds are a simpler form of a flat nappy and can be pad folded, sometimes a Joe fold can be achieved (dependant on babys shape and size) Please follow the link below to find out more.

All in Two (AI2)

An all in two nappy is a hybrid nappy, it is a cross between a 2 parter (fitted and wrap) and an all in one. The absorbent inners will attach to the waterproof outer usually with poppers. This allows for the absorbent part to be removed upon wash which allows for quicker drying.

Another huge benefit of using 2 parters is the ability to swap out and reuse. It means that inserts can be removed and swapped for clean ones on nappy change, provided the wrap isn't soiled it can be wiped down and reused for up to 4-5 consecutive changes!

A fab example of this type of Hybrid Nappy is the Close Pop-In

Start small!

When beginning your cloth nappy adventure it is not imperative that you buy enough nappies to cloth full time. Buying a few different nappy types to begin allows you to work out what works best!

Our starter kits are created just for this purpose. 

The quantity of nappies depend on the age of baby and how frequently you plan on washing.

A general rule of thumb is that 20-25 cloth nappies will see you through to potty training if washing every 2-3 days.

20 Day-time Nappies - A combination of  whatever nappy suits.

5 Night-time Nappies - these can be fitted or flat. night-time nappies are often 2 part nappies and will require a wrap.

If you plan to wash more frequently this number will decrease. 

Cloth nappies come in a few main sizes.

Newborn/Size 1 nappies are usually designed to fit from around 5-6lb and some are even designed to fit under the umbilical stump.

They aren't designed to fit babies upwards of 12lb but this is brand dependant, some size 1 nappies do fit for longer than this.

BTP/Size 2 is the next nappy size. Designed to fit from around 8-10lb these nappies are designed to fit till about 35lb+ on average.

Size 3 nappies and onwards, these are designed to fit babies upwards of 35lb, they are often used when a child is dry during the day but still in need of support overnight.

There are a few different aspects which determines how well a nappy will work, one being what the nappy is constructed from. Cloth Nappies are made from a variety of fibres, some natural, some man made.

Microfibre: This is the most budget friendly of all the fibre options, they are quick to absorb and quick to dry due to less absorption capacity, They can be prone to compression leaks so it is not advised to use them in slings or car seats for long periods as you may find they leak.

Microfibre cannot be put directly on the bum as they can be very drying and can cause soreness so ensure there is a barrier between baby's bottom and the insert.

CottonCotton is more absorbent than microfibre, and therefore takes longer to dry. Cotton being a natural fibre and available in both organic and non-organic.

Bamboo: A large percentage of nappies contain bamboo. Bamboo is a natural fibre and due to the nature of the plant and how it is grown is known to be more sustainable than cotton.

Bamboo fibre is also more absorbent than cotton weight for weight but does not absorb as fast as cotton which can prove problematic if your little one is a flooder.

To get the best results with bamboo it is often combined with cotton to allow for more absorbency and faster wicking.

Hemp: The most absorbent of all the fibres used for nappies. Hemp is a very sustainable natural fibre. Hemp is known to absorb 2.5 times that of Microfibre. Hemp does take the longest to dry.

A few additions are required to complete a nappy system.

Storage for soiled nappies is a must, these can be using a nappy bin/bucket or wetbags or equally a combination of both.

An out and about nappy bag such as the Baba+Boo double zip allows storage of clean and dirty nappies in one bag when on the go.

large wetbag serves as a great alternative to a bucket and can store 10+ nappies when at home, they are hung over door handles which is great for keeping them off the floor if short on space.

It is a good idea to have liners whether these be washable or single use liners is personal preference.

Washable liners are good for all ages as they create a stay dry layer and a serve as a solids catcher once weaned. 
Single use liners aren't recommended pre weaning as most of the time their nappies are quite liquid and therefore it just means additional work before washing to remove the liner

Caring For Cloth Nappies

It doesn't need to be as hard as you may think!

It is so important to find what works for you and fit it into your routine.

With the vast array of nappies now available on the market there is also a vast amount of recommendations and opinions surrounding the best way to keep your nappies in tip top shape.

Below gives instructions of how best to care for your nappies and includes some troubleshooting guides to help with possible issues with wash routines and usage.

It is important to store your nappies correctly to prevent damage. Nappies can be stored in one of 2 ways, buckets or wet bags. Advice is to dry pail nappies, meaning no soaking necessary. Soaking can lead to fibres degrading and PUL (waterproof layer) becoming damaged. 

Wet Bags - often come with a loop to hang from door handles, they come in an array of sizes and great to store nappies out and about and also at home. They can be washed in the washing machine alongside nappies. 

Bucket - larger capacity, often used with a mesh bag to help with transfer to washing machine. Various types available on the market. Often come with secure lids for appropriate containment but does require washing out when nappies are placed into machine. 

Washing instructions shouldn't need to be complicated, how you end up washing your nappies will depend on wash load, size of washing machine and age or number of children you have. Below will give you the main principles of washing cloth nappies.

If ever in doubt always follow manufacturers guidelines as they will know what works best for their own nappies.

Wash your nappies every other day or 3 days max.

Make sure your machine machine is 2/3 - 3/4 full when wet to give enough room to wash but have enough weight to agitate well together.

Main principles of washing is rinselong washrinse.

Rinse: This program on your machine may be called prewash/rinse or similar, essentially what we are doing by running this cycle is removing a large amount of the soiling on the nappy.

Make sure it is a cool/cold wash as this will prevent staining. 

You will not require washing powder at this point as that will be added in the main wash.

After the rinse if you find the washing machine is not full enough you are then able to add other small items of clothing to bulk out a wash if you need to.

Long wash: Nappies like lots of water and agitation to get them nice and clean so it is important to load your washer with a good amount of washing but also give the correct amount of powder based on your machine size and water softness. Always dose for heavy soiling.

Put the washer on a nice long wash, 2.5hrs min and let it work its magic. 

Rinse: The final rinse will be to rid the nappies of any residual powder. should you find that at the end of this cycle you are still seeing bubbles/suds in the machine then an additional rinse may be required and then on the next long cycle ensure you decrease the amount of powder used ever so slightly.

When the nappies come out of the machine they shouldn't smell of anything, smelling the powder can mean there may be residual powder within the nappies. (this is obviously dependant on the brand of powder used)

If your baby is under 3 months old or you have multiple children in cloth nappies then wash at 60◦ otherwise a 40◦ will work fine.

How you dry your nappies is extremely important for their lifespan. As nappies are often made from heat sensitive elements it is not best practice to expose nappies to high temperatures especially that of dryers or direct heat sources like radiators. 

Nappies are best aired on an arier or outside on the line (weather permitting) the fresh air and breeze drys nappies quicker than were they inside. 

Airers can be placed close to heaters should you need them to dry slightly quicker but do not put nappies directly on them. 

Heated airers are also not advised, if you are using them make sure you put a towel over the bars and the nappies on top to protect the nappy.

Tumble dryers are a no no with some cloth nappies (again check manufacturers guidelines)

Why? Nappies with a PUL layer are likely to delaminate or melt if exposed to direct heat, so the damage will be immediately apparent, heat damage to natural fibres like bamboo may not be immediately apparent but over time balding can occur as the heat breaks down the natural construction of fibre and it will mean the nappy will no longer be as absorbent.

As mentioned before always follow manufacturers guidelines.