Cloth Nappies FAQs
Which cloth nappy should I choose?
The right one for you! All-in-one, all-in-two, pre-fold, booster, liner, PUL, pockets. It can be easy to become confused and disheartened when you start researching the world of cloth nappies. But once you start it’s so much easier to know what you like and how things work.
Some families like to have a variety of different nappies in their collection, whereas others just want to buy one thing and make it work for them. An important thing to keep in mind is that you’re probably not going to find the ‘magic bullet’ with the first nappy you try (though you might!). Research shows that families who cloth nappy successfully for the entire time their baby is in nappies have about 5 different brands and/or styles of nappies. We like to encourage you to share the love and not be brand exclusive!
Each family will have different needs and lifestyle as well as a different baby. This means the different features of each kind of nappy will appeal to different people. Reviews and marketing, friends opinions and what your neighbour uses are all good tools, but most important is what works for YOU. When making your decision, think about your budget, how committed you are to doing cloth, if you’re likely to persevere if things get a bit tricky, where your laundry is, do you get sun on your washing line, will you use a drier, do you enjoy / have time to sit and put nappies together. When it comes down to it everything is pretty simple once you’ve practiced it a few times!
At Nest, you can take the guesswork out of your choice by selecting from a tried and tested range of products – every single thing we sell, we have used ourselves for a minimum of 3 months. This means we really know what the pros and cons of each nappy are and we’ve done a pretty good job at cutting the ‘crap’ for you (pardon the pun!) and can give you an honest review of fit, drying time etc.
How many cloth nappies will I need?
The number of nappies you will need depends on whether you plan to use cloth full-time or part-time, how often you want to wash, what style of nappies you use and of course, your baby. Most people who successfully use full-time cloth nappies wash every 2nd day and have between 20 and 30 nappies to cover the 8 to 12 nappy changes per day required by the average newborn. Older children require about 15 nappies for an average of 5 nappy changes per day. You may find you need more nappies if you’re leaving more than 2 days between washing, if you don’t get a lot of sun or if your baby uses more nappies than average. Likewise, you may get away with fewer nappies if you wash every day or tumble dry your nappies. If you choose a nappy that requires a separate cover we recommend one cover for every four to six nappy changes (ie 24 nappies would require 5 or 6 covers).
Can I start using cloth nappies from birth?
Absolutely! The earlier you start using cloth nappies the easier it is to build a great routine and the more it just becomes part of your life! Considering the average newborn uses about 500 nappies in the first six weeks of life, using cloth from the start makes good economic sense, even if it’s just part-time.
Many of our customers start off with 12 – 15 nappies and go from there, buying more as they work out what they like, how often they wish to wash and if they want to do cloth full time or part time.
Buying nappies that are flexible and well suited to a newborn (small, easily adjustable & quick drying) means you can start right away if you wish to. If you want to team them up with some larger one-size-fits-most nappies you will get a much more flexible collection of nappies and won’t run the risk of having to wait for weeks or months until your nappies fit your baby.
Another option is to get a few nappies to try in terms of fit and style and then supplement with disposables for a few weeks until you find your feet, adding to your collection as you go.
Of course, there’s no reason you can’t go 100% cloth from the start!!
How long will my cloth nappies last?
This question can relate to both fit and longevity.
One-size-fits-most nappies fit really well from around 8 – 12 weeks of age, before then they can be a little bulky and unless the legs and back are snug, they may be inclined to leak. Most traditional newborn nappies (flats, fitteds & pre-folds) can go on to be used well past the newborn stage, making them a very economical option.
In relation to longevity, it depends on many variables. When you purchase nappies that are good quality and care for them well you will get a good return on your investment. Nappies that are cheap are made of substandard elastic, PUL and the absorbent materials often wear out very quickly (or aren’t very absorbent in the first place). If your nappies are in high rotation (ie washed and worn many times over a week) they will wear much more quickly than if you have lots of nappies in rotation. Because washing is loaded with so many variables some people may find their nappies wear quicker than others. Likewise, if you have a baby that has a very acidic wee, you may find your absorbent inserts wear very quickly.
Every nappy is different, as is every baby. It’s easy to get caught up in how long a nappy will last for in terms of time but equally important is how often you will use that nappy over that period. It’s much more economical to use a nappy you love many times over a short period than it is to only use it a few times over a long period.
What’s the difference between cotton, bamboo, hemp and microfiber?
All fabrics have positives and negatives in regard to absorbency, drying time and ecological benefits.
Microfiber dries very quickly (perfect for winter or humid summers).
Bamboo is very absorbent and breathes well (great for nights).
Cotton dries fairly quickly and is usually less expensive and
Hemp is extremely hardy and absorbent.
It’s a good plan to have a few different types of fabrics in your nappy collection.
What do I do with the poo?
The thought of poo is much scarier than the reality!! There are few techniques you can use to get solids off your nappies, the one you decide on will be up to you (and more often than not up to the kind of poo your baby does!). Newborn poo is just milk curds, weird coloured and prolific but easily removed by simply flushing under the toilet flush, or by using a Little Squirt (a pressure hose that attaches easily to your toilet). Parents of older babies find flushable liners can be helpful or again a Little Squirt can help make the job very easy but most children will do a solid stool, which will simply fall off the ‘stay-dry’ layer on the nappy.
What do I soak my cloth nappies in?
Nothing! We recommend you dry pail your nappies and never use any kind of chemical soak. Soaking is smelly, a drowning hazard and breaks down the absorbent fibres, elastic and PUL in your nappies. In addition soaking agents can stay in the fibres of your nappies making them less absorbent and can contribute to nappy rash.
Do I have to use a special kind of detergent?
So long as it doesn’t contain enzymes, optical bleaches and/or phosphates you’re fine. A good rule of thumb is; if you can put it on your garden you can put it on your nappies. Avoid highly perfumed detergents and don’t use soap flakes or any highly acidic detergents containing citrus.
What about stains?
Clean is not a colour! But if you want your nappies to stay in sparkling condition the best bleach of all is hang your nappies in full sun and let nature do all the hard work!
What should I choose for night times?
Newborns generally require changing during the night and are just fine in the nappies you use during the day. Once your baby stops doing a poo during the night you may wish to put them in a nappy that will last the whole night. A well-fitted one-size-fits-most nappy with all its absorbent layers can be a good starting point. Alternatively, a fitted nappy with a cover is a great option because you can boost the absorbency up as much as required and the cover keeps everything intact. By about six months you will probably find your baby requires a dedicated night nappy with lots additional absorbency, particularly if they’re being fed during the night.
I’m getting leaks! What am I doing wrong?
Leaks from ANY nappy system will happen from time to time (even disposables) but there are some simple checks you can make if you’re getting recurrent leaks;
- Check your nappy is pre-washed before first use – bamboo takes about 6 washes before it becomes fully absorbent. Your nappy may need a few more washes to make it really absorbent.
- Check you have the right size nappy for your baby. The nappy should fit around the waist and legs snuggly, but not too tight. There should be no big gaps. Check when your baby is on its side not just on its back. If your nappy is a one-size-fits-most snapped on a small setting, check the ‘extra’ fabric isn’t sticking out of the leg holes or bunched up. You can check out how to get a good fit on a one-size nappy on our YouTube channel.
- Make sure no clothing is tucked into any part of the nappy and no part of the nappy is hanging out of the waterproof cover. If your covers have a gusset make sure it’s on the outside of the cover not tucked up between the nappy and the body of the cover.
- Do you have enough absorbency? Many super cheap nappies come with just one microfibre insert. This isn’t enough for the average baby and you will need to add additional (or different) absorbency to avoid leaking. If you have a heavy wetter or are using small or newborn nappies, you may need to boost the nappy with some additional layers of absorbency. You can do this with purpose designed boosters, old nappy inserts, small pre-folds or by folding up cloth wipes and popping them where you need additional soaking power.
- If you’ve been using your nappies for more than 9 or 10 months you may find oils and detergent have built up in the absorbent fibres. Strip washing your inserts will help the regain their absorbency. Head here for our recommendations.
- Older babies often start to do a ‘flooding’ wee as their bladder control increases. You’ll often find their nappies leak out the legs but when you take the nappy off it’s quite dry. If your nappy has a suede cloth or fleece lining you may find it doesn’t absorb the sudden volume of wee quickly enough into the fibres of the nappy. Try folding the insert of your nappy differently so the natural fibre is against your babies skin. If you’re using a pocket nappy lay the insert on the top rather than putting it into the pocket. If you have all-in-ones that you can’t swap around you may like to add a booster made of natural fibre (cotton or bamboo) between your baby and the nappy.
- Is your nappy high enough? We see lots of babies, particularly boys leaking from the top of some brands of very trim nappies that sit low on the waist. Many nappies with a single snap close at the waist are difficult to get a good fit on, especially if your baby has chubby legs and a skinny waist & hips. If you find your nappy has a ‘gape’ at the front this may be the cause of your leaks. It’s worth trying your inserts inside a different style cover with either a double snap close or a velcro close.
- What are you washing in…?! Laundry soap, fabric softener and soap flakes (including home made detergents) can leave a really oily residue on your nappies that quickly builds up and makes it impossible for your nappies to absorb liquid.
My baby will be going to daycare. Is it worth starting cloth?
Many daycare centres are now cloth nappy friendly and some even encourage the use of cloth nappies! If you intend to approach your daycare centre about cloth we recommend you take along one of your nappies to show them how they work and any extras that will make life easy for the carers (a wet bag, flushable liners etc). Many centres are more than happy to accommodate families in cloth when they see how easy they are.
Many families use disposables when their child is in care and cloth at home. Others choose to stop doing cloth nappies when their child starts care. There’s no right or wrong. What ever works for your family. Even if your child was to start daycare at 12 weeks, using cloth full time up until that point would still well and truly cost you less than disposables for the same period.
My cloth nappies are starting to smell. . .
Do you pull your nappies out of the wash and they smell lovely and fresh but the second your baby does a wee in it, they start to stink?
The most likely culprit is a build up of laundry detergent or minerals in the absorbent fibres of your nappies. When the ammonia in wee reacts with a build up of either it can cause a pretty horrible smell.
To avoid detergent build up make sure you are allowing your nappies to rinse well – this means avoiding too many nappies in a load (leave lots of room for things to move around) and if you have a front loader running either a full wash cycle (the longest one!) or running an extra rinse cycle at the END of your wash.
Ensure your nappies are thoroughly clean by ensuring you are using enough detergent to break down the minerals in the water and effectively cleaning the poo and wee out of your nappies.
Industry standards state nappies should be washed with as much detergent as recommended on the box for the load size you are doing and the machine type you use. Avoid highly perfumed detergents as they more often than not have fillers that stay behind in the nappies which can build up quickly.
Washing in vinegar rarely helps with cutting out the stink in nappies and sometimes makes it worse as the acid reacts with your babies wee and the minerals in the nappies.
What is strip washing?
Strip washing is a recently new phenomenon and should be done sparingly as it is a harsh process and can cause components such as elastic and PUL to break down more quickly. If you’re washing your nappies with lots of rinse water and the right amount (and type) of detergent you will find you rarely, if ever, need to strip wash.
Essentially a strip wash is a deep clean that washes (strips) out any organic matter (that’s politically correct speak for poo!), minerals and/or detergent that has built up in your nappies. A strip wash can help with increasing absorbency and eliminate smelly nappies. A strip wash is also a good thing to do before you put nappies away for an extended period of time or before using after an extended period of storage (ie between babies).
There are a number of different ways you can strip wash, you can click here for more details on strip washing.
*Credit to nest nappies