A Cleaner, More Sustainable World with Reusable Cloth Nappies
For me, a huge priority for the future of our children is sustainability. Our planet has shown us that it is struggling and it is our responsibility to listen.
The idea of making changes can often be incredibly overwhelming, expensive and may not even align well with our daily routines and lifestyle.
As such, it is important to consider making small but gradual changes in your daily life and commencing with things that will be accepted and used immediately. In doing so, the changes you make will be more inclined to form long lasting patterns of behavior, increased feelings of success and a greater likelihood to try other eco friendly alternatives in the future!
It’s about setting yourself up for success and even one small change can make a very big difference!
What do I mean by this…?
Well, my first real eco-friendly change commenced over 16 years ago now, when I became a mum for the first time.
I bought my very first set of cloth nappies!
Back then, the nappies were not pretty at all! In fact I was definitely overwhelmed by the idea of using cloth, having lots of washing, touching poop – and terrified as a young 20 year old of those safety pins!
However, I commenced the journey because I wanted a better future for my child. I had seen footage and read information about the impacts of disposable nappies on our environment, particularly increased landfill and the damage to our seas and wildlife. I had also read about the huge financial savings that went with this change. For me, it was definitely worth trying!
These days, the change is even easier with modern cloth. They work just like a disposable (snaps or Velcro) and are fully washable.
They also come in the cutest designs, which is definitely very exciting for a Nightmare Before Christmas fan such as myself!!
I find that on average, I spend about 5 to 10 minutes extra per day managing my cloth nappies compared to those days where I have had to use disposables (for example when I have been on holidays).
They are just so easy and truly do not require huge changes in your daily life or routines to use. I am forever washing with three children, what is another load of washing every couple of days?! Cloth nappies do however make a huge difference to the planet – with even just one change a day!
How can something so small make a difference?
In the first two to three years of your child’s life, it is expected that you will change approximately 5,500 nappies!
In Australia, this means that over 2.1 BILLION disposable nappies will be thrown away every year.
Although the majority does end up in landfill, others will enter our waterways, or discarded on roadsides and parks. The damage can be devastating for the health of our natural ecosystems, particularly for our aquatic animals.
From a financial perspective, using disposable nappies exclusively will cost you approximately $2000! This is money that you will literally be throwing away!
How many cloth nappies are required to service the first few years of your child’s life?
20 – 30 cloth nappies are considered ample to support your child for their first few years of life. This equates to 13 cents a nappy change and a grand total of around $200 for the lifespan of your nappies to maintain them (water and detergent).
Although the initial outlay can be expensive, you will save so much money in the long term and if you care for your nappies according to their recommended guidelines, they may also benefit another family at the end of your journey.
I have actually sold some of my nappies as toilet training has commenced and get around 50% of what I paid back!
Cloth nappies range in price, starting at around $6.99 for a basic shell. These days, you can purchase cloth nappies from a range of places, including Aldi, Kmart, Big W and various other department stores.
I do however, recommend spending a little more in the initial outlay phase and buying a decent brand that has good reviews. There are so many wonderful brands out there that have been tried and tested for quality, durability and affordability. If you are in need of recommendations feel free to check out my Instagram for reviews and ideas – @chickedy_and_chic.
The average price that I have paid for my nappies has been around $25 to $30 each (new). These come with the inserts, care instructions and have been tried and tested by many users so that you can be confident in their quality and value for money.
If you were to buy a full time stash at this price, your outlay is approximately $750. But remember, this will last you for years and no impulse buying crisis will ever interfere with your ability to buy nappies again! Yes… this happened here in Australia!
I also have a huge portion of my stash that is second hand. As a cloth nappy and eco advocate, I love the idea that I am able to reuse and recycle. In fact some of the cutest nappies from my stash are second hand!
When I became a mum for the second time, this is exactly what I did… I found a mum selling her entire stash (75 nappies!!) and bought all of them for $200! They were in excellent condition and have served my two youngest children right through until the end of their nappy journeys.
Cloth nappies can be sanitized if you are concerned about buying second hand.
Important Environmental Facts
- It takes one cup of crude oil to make just 1 disposable nappy
- It takes twice the water to produce one disposable nappy than to wash your cloth nappy 200 times!
- Disposable Nappies are not biodegradable, meaning that it can take between 300 and 500 years to breakdown (if at all)
- Cloth nappies do not require soaking, bleaches or nasty chemical treatments. My cloth nappies go into a dry pail after use and get washed every 2 days according to the CCN recommendations for safety. How easy is that?!
- I use environmentally safe washing detergents and wash on a 40-60 degree Celsius cycle. I wash mine in with my towels to maximize the benefits and save time, energy and water.
- Cloth nappies are made from environmentally sustainable materials with some fibres such as bamboo, hemp and wool requiring less water and energy to produce. They also are often free of harmful pesticides and can be ethically sourced with ease. Many do use plastics (to provide a waterproof layer), however it is often created from renewable materials like paper pulp! I am actually less excited by cotton as the cotton industry is one of biggest pollutants!
Health and Safety Facts
- Cloth nappies use less harmful chemicals, dyes etc like chlorine, alcohol and sodium laurel sulfates. Many of these chemicals have been banned in women’s products due the dangers to health, yet can still be found in many disposable nappies!
- Cloth nappies allow for airflow and the body to breath this means less bacteria, chances for rashes (you must still change your baby regularly) and other more serious long term health risks. There are also a number of studies that have looked at temperature differences that exist between disposable and cloth, again demonstrating a preference to make the change!
- Cloth nappies do not need to be changed more frequently than a disposable (every 3 hours is standard). However, there are specific overnight nappies that can allow you to go longer between changing and are highly absorbent. I have two toddlers, one just turned 4 and the other is 2.5 years. Both use cloth at night still and although they are very wet when they wake in the morning, there are no leaks! These nappies often require a wool cover to be placed over the nappy to provide a waterproof barrier.
Caring for your Nappies
- Cloth nappies do not require soaking or any chemicals. Just place them into a dry pail!
- If you wash every few days, you can pop the nappies and inserts into pre-wash cycles then do a main wash every 2-3 days.
- Always follow the guidelines and care instructions that come with your nappies or join a Facebook or Instagram Group that can help you to care for your nappies. This will ensure that your nappies stay clean, smell and bacteria free and that you will be able to use them for years to come!
- Never put your nappy in the dryer (inserts you can put in dryer on low heat) and never use barrier nappy creams or fabric softeners as this can drastically reduce the life and effectiveness of your nappy.
- The cloth community is in general very supportive. I have made so many amazing friends and connections over my past 16 years as a cloth mum. If you are unsure, need recommendations or are facing any challenges, I can almost guarantee that there is a Facebook or Instagram group to help you through! We are all parents, all know the struggles and challenges of newborns and children and so it is all about empowering each other to succeed.
- I have also seen a number of groups on the rise just for dads! I love this idea and think that it is absolutely brilliant. Our world and stereotypical formula of ‘mum at home’ is no longer the only way. We need to empower dads to also feel confident in taking environmentally friendly steps in their parenting and support them. Welcome Dads!!
- The feedback that I generally have read from men is that Velcro Modern Cloth is preferred compared to the snaps. Velcro is definitely much easier to use (but remember to fold the Velcro tab before popping it in the wash!).
- Daycare and childcare centres will also often be very supportive and accommodating. When my middle child attended Daycare, I would send a pod of approximately 6 nappies and some wet bags. The feedback from our centre was that cloth was equally easy to use compared to disposable!
Designs and Styles
- You can buy cloth nappies in virtually every design on the planet!! This is where you hear many parents joking about the cloth nappy addiction…. IT IS REAL!
I have my workhorse nappies, but I also have my collection of pretties! I have My Little Pony, Carebears, Nightmare Before Christmas, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Dinosaurs, Disney and so much more! Your cloth nappy can be transformed into an outfit in its own right! My girls absolutely love selecting their nappies and of course have their favorite designs.
- Cloth nappies can come in different styles and with different types of inserts and elastics. You can buy cloth nappies in Velcro or with snaps (which can be front or side).
I recommend trying a few brands when you buy your initial stash so that you can narrow down what your personal preference is. You can always resell or donate any cloth nappy that doesn’t work well for your family. Personally, I am not a fan of side snapping nappies, but I do prefer snaps, particularly on toddlers who have learnt to remove their clothing with ease! I have also recently learnt that you can also turn them around with the Velcro or snaps at the back to avoid removal and nudie runs!
- WAHM vs Commercial Styles; You will often see the term WAHM used in cloth nappy circles. This stands for Work at Home Mum and indicates that this nappy is handmade. I love supporting local families and small businesses and definitely have a large portion of WAHM nappies in my stash! I also love that you can tailor the nappy to what suits you. You can choose the fit and the fit is very trim compared to some of the commercial styles out there!
Abbreviations and Lingo
- This part was definitely the trickiest to learn for me! However if you are unsure of what someone is meaning, I suggest asking to clarify. There are also some great pages that have cheat sheets of abbreviations online – Google was my friend for a long time!
Buying Cloth Nappies
There are many stores that stock cloth nappies. Often, these stores will assist you with the fit and style so that you purchase something that is best suited to you as the parent or baby. My preference is to buy your nappies after baby is born.
You can also purchase online.
If you do purchase online and are not able to view the product, make sure that you check the reviews first.
Again, I recommend buying a few different brands and styles to try before you buy a complete stash of nappies. Start with buying 3-4 cloth nappies and try them out before attempting to go full cloth. You want to increase your chances of success, which means being strategic in the style and brand that you select.
You may even want to master the daytime cloth nappy process before going to overnight styles and use, as this can be a little trickier if you are a beginner.
I have bought some brands in the past (mostly because of their amazing fabrics) that have had a huge cult like following, only to find that the fit was way off for my children. I was so pleased that only a few were purchased and that I could resell them with ease!
I am all about reducing, reusing and recycling! I own a large number of cloth nappies in my stash that are second hand, however there are a few things to know if you wish to buy pre-loved.
- Ask Questions – what is their washing routine? How many nappies are in their stash (the more nappies, the less use that they will have had in theory)? Did they buy the nappies new or secondhand? How much use has it had, including how many children have used it? Does it have any stains? What are the elastics like? What is the PUL or plastic inside layer like? Ask them to sell photos if buying online. I also recommend paying via Paypal Goods and Services where possible because if there is an issue, you have buyer protection available.
- View the nappies if possible. When you look at the nappy there are some important things to check. Unfortunately, there have been some occasions where I have purchased a nappy or a bulk lot of nappies, only to find that they are delaminated or have slack elastics!
Make sure that you check the elastics. Are they slack? Are they absent? There are generally elastics around the legs and in the back pockets (sometime on the tummy). These need to be tight or the nappy has a very high chance of leaking. Tight elastics provide a better seal and trust me it is worth checking!
Turn the nappy inside out (if you can) and look at the PUL (plastic lining). Is it bubbling? Is it lifting? Discolored? Does it make a crunching sound if moved around?
This plastic coating is probably one of the most important elements in your nappy! It is what makes it waterproof. Make sure that it is in good condition and that there is no bubbling, lifting or discoloration.
Check for stains, smells and any damage to the liners/inserts. Sometimes inserts can curl and this is normal, however you do not want holes or stains. Check the snaps and Velcro to make sure that it is all in good working condition.
Again, I recommend starting out with just a few brands to narrow down what you like before completing your full stash.
Making your own Cloth Nappies
Can you sew? Making your own cloth nappies can be so rewarding and a wonderful way to tailor a nappy to what you prefer and the designs that you love.
Handmade nappies often provide a more trim fit that can make clothing sit a lot better – particularly shorts and leggings.
I recommend joining a cloth nappy group for this, for example – ‘How to make your own cloth nappies’ to get advice on things like the best materials for your inserts (hemp, cotton, microfiber, bamboo).
The fabric that is generally used in cloth nappies is PUL. PUL is a polyester fabric, backed with a waterproof laminate coating. It is used a lot to make cloth nappies but can also be used to make bibs, art smocks, bed wetter sheets, training pants, menstrual and breast pads, carseat covers, pram liners, baby change mats and so much more. It can be purchased in the most adorable prints! There are many online stores that stock PUL.
Some of the more popular patterns that can be purchased to make your own cloth nappies include:
What Nappies are in my Stash?
As mentioned, my stash is diverse and includes a mixture of brands, styles and new, handmade and secondhand. However, I do have some preferred brands.
These include (in no particular order):
- Eco Peach
- Mimi & Co
- Mama Koala
- Designer Bums
- Bare and Boho
- Close Pop In
- Baby Bare
- My Little Gumnut
- Fancy Bottoms
- Bibs n Buns
- From the Rose Garden (FTRG)
- Libby Lou Rose (LLR)
- Boho Babes
Will you make the change?
If you have any questions or need support, my inbox is always open! You are also free to check out my instagram – @chickedy_and_chic for lots of recommendations, eco friendly ideas, parenting and play strategies. I am all about empowering others and am a very positive, welcoming person.
– Costello A et al 1989 The Sanitary Protection Scandal. The Women’s Environment Network
– Getting to the bottom of diaper rash (1996) Medical Post. Toronto, 32 (10), 53)
– Link, A (2003) Disposable nappies: a case study in waste prevention. Women’s Environment Network
– LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT: REUSABLE AND DISPOSABLE NAPPIES IN AUSTRALIA Kate O’Brien et al – www.qdocuments.com/11/pdf/life-cycle-assessment.html
About the Author
Hi There! My name is Tegan and I am a mum of three girls aged 16, 4 and 2.5 years.
I am also a psychologist and criminologist, who holds a particular interest in early childhood learning and development.
Over the last decade, I have connected and learnt so much as a practitioner and a mum, but enjoy learning each and every day.
I also love to share my knowledge and ideas!
In my career, my specific field of interest has been working with children impacted by trauma and as such, I have worked extensively in the fields of sexual abuse, domestic and family violence, drug and alcohol abuse, foster care and supporting those in or at risk of child safety intervention.
I joined Instagram as a means to beat Covid boredom and was so blessed by the experience. I have networked and connected with so many likeminded professionals and parents – including Daddy and Munchkin. I love this blog so much because it includes everything… parenting, tips and ideas, reviews and more!!
If you would like to connect or are interested in any of my play based ideas, learning strategies or eco based suggestions, please visit
Thanks for reading,