Forum: Adults / Baby On Board

Everything you needed to know about Cloth Nappies/Diapers (karma: 4)
By oz_helenmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sat Jun 28, 2008 04:14 AM
Made sticky by hylndlas (107168) on 2008-06-28 06:52:07 YAY! Thanks so much for doing this Helen!

Oh so many types of nappies!

There are so many choices! Here’s the lowdown on all the options to help you make you decision.


Fitted nappies are shaped cloth nappies that require a cover to prevent baby’s clothes getting wet. Here are some examples from my stash:
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Some fitteds are meant to be one-size-fits-all and can snap down to fit different sized babies. Others will need to be upgraded as your baby grows.

Fitteds work best with a fleece (not microfibre) liner. As fleece doesn’t like being wet, the liquid is forced through the liner and soaks into the nappy, leaving baby’s bottom dry. You can get flushable, biodegradable liners instead, but these require you to dump them into the toilet even when they aren’t soiled, so they don’t really save you time, in my opinion. You can also get liners made of suedecloth or raw silk.


Pockets don't require liners or covers. They are usually a PUL outer (waterproof) with a fleece or suedecloth inner, with a gap at the back where you slide in a prefold or shaped insert. Because you can pull them apart, they dry faster than all-in-ones and they are quicker to change than fitteds, which require covers. However, they don't work for a lot of bubs until they are more mobile. Elijah was in this category. Because he always had leaks, I ended up using the pockets as covers, using the insert as the "nappy" and adding a liner. It worked really well. Now we use pockets as they were intended.
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AIOs (as they are often called) are like pockets, except the absorbent layers are sewn in to the nappy itself. Sometimes they have attached boosters as well. AIOs are often made with a PUL outer (though you can find some with fleece outers) and generally have microfleece as the inner layer, which acts as a liner. AIOs are quicker to change than fitteds, and are just as quick as pockets, but don’t require the pre-stuffing. However, they do take much longer to dry.

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There are some new versions of AIOs that are a hybrid of a pocket and an AIO. Some brands call them “All-in-twos”. They generally have some absorbent layers sewn in, but still have an opening for additional stuffing or have snap-in or lay-in boosters. They still take a long time to dry, but less time than AIOs.


Prefolds are flat nappies that are prefolded so that there is extra padding in the middle. Many prefolds are now made of hemp, though you can also find organic cotton prefolds and possibly other fabrics as well. Some come in different sizes for different sized babies.

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Prefolds are good for stuffing pockets but they can also be used as a substitute for a fitted nappy, with a liner and a cover.

Here are some instructions for folding prefolds: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Terry flats

Terry flats are probably what your mother or grandmother used. They are very useful to have because they can be used as spit-up cloths as well as nappies. Terry flats require pins or a snappi for fastening.

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You can buy flats in organic cotton or bamboo now as well. This is an organic terry flat:
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Here are some instructions for folding flats: . . .


Covers must be used with fitteds, prefolds or flats. Covers can be made of PUL, fleece or wool and are shaped to fit the size of the baby. You have to upgrade your stash of covers as your baby grows. Covers work by putting a barrier between the wet nappy and the clothes. Here are some of mine:

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You can also get pull-up wool covers, shorties and longies. These don’t need to have clothes over top as they function both as cover and as outerwear. They are absorbent and allow the urine to evaporate. Here is Elijah modelling a pair of longies:
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Wool covers, shorties and longies all need to be lanolised. (See lanolin) WOOL CANNOT BE TUMBLE DRIED.

The PVC covers (plastic pants) that you see in supermarkets and that your mother/grandmother used to use are not recommended as they are not breathable material. This contributes to smellier nappies and a higher temperature under the PVC. They can also contribute to nappy rash.
I tend to use wool for naps and overnight and PUL during the day, though I used to also use fleece as well. Wool works really well for overnight because of the fact it allow the urine to evaporate, so it means that baby is a little less wet upon waking. Whatever system works for you, however, is fine.

Night Nappies

Once your baby starts sleeping through the night, you’ll need to consider night nappy options. There are some brands that make specific nappies for night use. These are often pricey (because of the amount of layers and work in making them) and sometimes hard to come by because they are snaffled so quickly! One particular brand I know of sells their night nappies via auction! Night nappies are much more absorbent in the “wet zone” (the middle of the nappy) than other nappies. Some night nappies are fitteds while others are more of an AIO or AI2 style.

Other night nappy options are as follows:
Douple nappying – Two fitted nappies or two prefolds, one over the other, with a cover on top. You can also double nappy with terry flats, with one flat folded into a pad and inserted into the middle of the second flat.
Internal boosting – Laying a flat, prefold, shaped insert or specialised boosters inside the fitted nappy. This can have an effect on the fit of the nappy, with the leg elastic not fitting as snugly.
External boosting – Putting a flat, prefold, shaped insert or specialised boosters between the fitted nappy and its cover. This is the method I use.
Double stuffing – Inserting double the amount of usual inserts into a pocket nappy. This works well with certain brands and not so well with others. Some pockets seem to be designed to be very slim-line and will not take double stuffing. Over-stuffing a pocket can cause problems with fit and lead to leakage.

Care & Laundering


Dry-pailing is a much more energy efficient, water saving and easier way to deal with nappies in between laundry days. To dry-pail, all you need is a big 20L (5.2 gallon) pail with a tight-fitting lid. If the nappy is merely wet, you drop it in the pail and all is well. If the nappy is soiled, you can either rinse the poo off into the toilet or if it’s only newborn poo, just fold the nappy up to keep the poo inside and drop it in the pail. I found that newborn poo is dealt with quite well by doing a rinse cycle in the machine first. This also saved water and all poos were rinsed at the same time, rather than rinsing several times a day. Nappies shouldn’t stay in the pail longer than two days. We’ve gone for three while travelling, but they can get pretty icky by day three. You may choose to put a liner in your pail if you wish. I never bothered with a pail liner, just rinsed out the pail when the nappies went into the machine. If it got a bit whiffy, then I just put a drop of essential oil on a cloth wipe and dropped it in the pail - odours gone!


All cloth nappies need to be washed before use. Most cloth nappies need 3-6 washes before they reach full absorbency.

This is the instruction list that I wrote out and taped to the laundry door so that Hubby and in-laws would know what to do with the nappies.

Cloth nappy care
*Place dirty nappy in dry pail. Ensure velcro is closed. Do not soak.
*When pail is full, detach any snap-in boosters and remove any pocket inserts. Transfer all nappies to washing machine.
*Put nappies through a cold rinse cycle without detergent if there is any soiling. (This step is not necessary if nappies are only wet.)
*When cycle is complete, add half the recommended amount of detergent to machine and do a full wash cycle. Do not add fabric softener.
*When cycle is complete, hang nappies on line. If nappies have a sewn in booster, hang nappy so that the booster falls away from the nappy.
*If nappies do not dry completely on the line, they may be placed in the dryer on low. Do not use high heat settings on the dryer as this will melt the snaps.

I also hang the nappies on a clothes horse and put it in front of the heater in winter instead of using the dryer, which saves electricity. If you have any stains, they will bleach out in the sun. I've never had to bleach any of our nappies, as the sun has always done it for us!

For newborns and babies that aren't on solids yet, the runny motions can just go straight into the wash, though if there's a lot of it, you might want to empty some into the toilet first at the time of the nappy change. Once the motions become more solid, they will just roll off into the toilet, especially if you are using fleece liners.

You don't have to soak or scrub nappies. Soaking causes the nappies to smell more. Dry pailing means that the nasties will dry out a little more, so will smell less. Your washing machine would get more wear and tear from jeans than from nappies. As long as your machine is working properly, you shouldn't have anything left over once the wash cycle is complete.

Line drying is best, either inside or outside, as using a dryer will wear the nappies out sooner. If you see the amount of lint you collect from your dryer after a load, then you’ll see why.



Inserts are used to stuff pockets and can be made out of many different materials, such as cotton, hemp, bamboo or microfibre. Inserts are sometimes shaped like this:

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Boosters are used to internally or externally boost a fitted nappy. They are usually rectangular. They are sometimes called “doublers”. Boosters are usually not made of microfibre because the texture doesn’t feel nice against the skin.

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Cloth wipes are essential for cleaning baby’s bottom. What’s the point of using cloth nappies if you are going to use disposable wipes? You can purchase specific cloth wipes from the same places you buy cloth nappies. I just bought a heap of ultra cheap baby face washers. The loops in the terry are much more efficient at cleaning the poo! I keep a spray bottle full of water on the change table and just dampen the wipe at change time. If he's really dirty, I'll spray Elijah's bottom directly as well. It’s handy to keep a stash of wipes in your nappy bag and at every place in the house that baby usually gets changed. I recommend having at least two dozen individual wipes. You can throw them in the pail with the nappies and they will get washed with the nappies as well. No extra work!


Wetbags are made of waterproof PUL and are great for storing wet nappies on outings. You can buy these in different sizes. Some have zips or velcro/applix and some have drawstrings. Some have handles to hook over the door knob in baby’s room. We've got one huge one for overnight trips or longer holidays (instead of a pail) and two small ones for day trips. I have two so that while one is in the wash, we've got another ready to use.

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If you are using terry flats at any time, or something like Tots Bots that don't have velcro/applix or snaps, then snappis are essential as they are so much easier and quicker than pins. We bought pins and gave up on them within two days. You only need two snappis (or three in case you lose one!). You can't get by with just one, because you have to alternate them so they have time to contract back to the pre-stretched size.

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You can buy lanolin in a tube or as spray lanolin. Spray lanolin doesn’t last as long, though some people like it because you can buy different scents. Lanolin is used to lanolising wool covers, shorties and longies. This restores the wool to its natural state, increases water resistance and reduced smell. Air drying between uses and a quick rinse every few days or so (with heavy use) keeps a lanolised cover fresh.

To lanolise, you put a pea-sized amount of lanolin in a bucket, dilute it with some hot water and then add more cold water. Ensure the water is cool before putting the wool in, as you don’t want it to shrink. Put the wool covers, etc into the bucket, swish them around a little and leave to soak for at least fifteen minutes. I tend to forget about them and leave them half the day. ;) Take them out, remove the excess water and leave to dry flat. You can lanolise dry or damp wool covers.

See Dry-Pailing

Nappy bag

A good nappy bag is worth the money. Most that are made these days don't have enough room for cloth nappies as they are made with disposables in mind. We have a Kapoochi one that has a zip-off mini backpack on one end. The backpack is great for short outings (fits two nappies, wipes and wetbag) and the bag is big enough for all his bottom-end needs for longer trips. This is our second nappy bag as the first one's zips busted by the time Elijah was four months old. Definitely don't be afraid to go for quality over price with a nappy bag, because you'll get a lot of use out of it.

Little Squirt

A Little Squirt is attached to your toilet, using the water in the system to rinse the nappies. We were going to get a little squirt, but never got around to it. We got by fine without one, though some people swear by them.

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Starting a stash

The general consensus is that you need approximately 12 nappies per day, so if you intend to wash them daily, you can get by with 12, but you’ll need 24 if you want to wash once every two days. I say to be on the safe side, it’s probably prudent to have 30 nappies to get through washing every second day, in the case that there’s a sudden bout of gastro problems or the laundry on the line gets rained upon! Six or so covers should be enough, with a variety of PUL, fleece and wool until you figure out what system suits your needs best. Unless they get soiled or really wet, you can alternate two during the day and then use a new one for overnight. At the end of the day, just pop them in the pail with the nappies.

A good way to figure out what system will work best for you is to buy as many trial packs as possible to see what you like and what works the best for you. It’s a fairly economical way of doing things too, because the trial packs are often quite inexpensive (because they want you to buy more!). After a while, you’ll figure out what works best for us and buy more of those ones. Quick tip: Terry fitteds are good for the newborns because the loops in the terry catch more poo than hemp or bamboo nappies, which are smoother.

Babies need to be changed every 2-3 hours or sooner if there's poo! Urine is sterile, so it's not going to hurt them. It's the bacteria in the poo that breaks down the urine that is the problem, which is why babies need to be changed as soon as possible once they've pooed. This is why you go through that many nappies every day.

Tips and Tricks

Making a Velcro/applix pocket fit smaller

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Fold up nappy so front is higher than back. Insert should not be right to the top of the front for this.

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Fold top over. Insert should be at the fold.

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Use fastenings as normal.


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Fasten nappy before folding.

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This makes for a firmer hold, but doesn't sit as neatly.

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As baby grows, the fold-over amount is less, giving more room in the rise.
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And lastly, you can fasten the sides as wide as you need for extra room!
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Time savers

Before Elijah was born, I folded all of the terry flats we had (we were given heaps of second hand ones - some were even worn by Elijah's Daddy!) so that if we were really stuck, we could just whack one on with a snappi and a PUL cover and be done with it. It was actually really handy to have done that - I'm so glad I had that amount of forethought, as it definitely made life easier while we trialled various cloth options.

When using pockets, if you stuff them after they come off the line, they are ready to go at changes. That way, you won’t be trying to stuff a pocket with a squirmy baby on your change table/mat.

And finally, here’s the link to two great, informative threads about using cloth! . . . . . .

And a link to a cloth nappy FAQ: . . .


6 Replies to Everything you needed to know about Cloth Nappies/Diapers

re: Everything you needed to know about Cloth Nappies/Diapers
By hylndlasmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Thu Jul 03, 2008 01:59 PM
Helen. Thank you so much for taking the time to rewrite our cloth diaper sticky. The info in this is AWESOME!

If you are thiffty like I am and looking to save money here are a few options which you may find helpful.

One thing that has been suggested to me by Nadine which was really helpful in finding diapers is if there is a local diaper service in your area to give them a call. Often they will have older but still usable diapers that they have taken out of service but yet they are still usable. Often they will sell them for a SONG. I'm not kidding....the one in my area sells them for $2.00 a piece!

You can also look around on DiaperSwappers if you are in the USA.
re: Everything you needed to know about Cloth Nappies/Diapers
By Liritmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sun Jul 06, 2008 04:00 PM
Worth pointing out, also, that having a few extra snappis around is always useful - even if your kids are out of diapers. These are NOT unitaskers! I inherited a few of the ones my mom had leftover from her cloth diapering days and nothing holds an ace bandage on better. For serious.
re: Everything you needed to know about Cloth Nappies/Diapers
By CrayolaPremium member
On Mon Jul 07, 2008 08:25 AM
Thank you for posting this! I am not ready for children yet, but when I am I know that we will be cloth diapering. I was cloth diapered, but back then it was just those terry nappies, not these fancy ones. ;)

One question I have is are these diapers more bulky than disposables? If so, which ones are the best for being less bulky? It's always something that I have wondered.

I am not planning on sending my child to day care, but of course it's not something that I can accurately predict, so if you have your child in day care is it still possible to cloth diaper? I guess it's specific to each facility, but how would that work?

Thanks in advance :)

re: Everything you needed to know about Cloth Nappies/Diapers
By Kekoamember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Mon Jul 07, 2008 11:12 AM
^Should you need to put your child in daycare, your best bet would be a private, home-run daycare. My best friend's mom has run one for 20 years, and she's had several cloth diapered babies. Her mom says that if you want to be guaranteed your baby is only cloth diapered or fed breast milk, a small home daycare is your best bet :)
re: Everything you needed to know about Cloth Nappies/Diapers
By oz_helenmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Mon Jul 07, 2008 10:33 PM
I agree with Kekoa - the only places that didn't baulk at the cloth nappies were small home-run family daycare places.

The most trim are generally AIOs and pockets but there is usually enough room in the cut of a bub's pants to accomodate a cloth nappy.

re: Everything you needed to know about Cloth Nappies/Diapers
By Nicola_xmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Tue Jul 08, 2008 10:13 AM
This is an amazing post Helen, you've put so much information in - thanks!

Like a few others, I'm not having kids yet, but myself and my partner feel that cloth nappies are the way we would go, I have often wondered how it all works and now I know, lol!!

I have to say that I wouldnt have an issue with parents wanting to use cloth nappies within my nursery (daycare) in fact i would encourage it! In the uk you just dont hear about it so much.

Nicola x


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