cloth nappies real nappies pros & cons

When S was still fairly small, I commented on Facebook that I was thinking about using cloth nappies instead of disposables. A friend very kindly brought me over her entire set of Little Lambs, including inserts, covers, paper liners and buckets. (I really do have some effing awesome friends, don’t I!)

Single Mother Ahoy Cloth Nappies
S at 4 months, loving her cloth nappy!
The nappies we used came in two different sizes, and we started with the smallest. I found myself wishing I’d used them from day 1 with S; because she was so small when she was born, even the micro nappies had been a bit big on her. The cloth nappies we had were smaller though, and because of the velcro fastening, could be used across a wide range of sizes.

The PROS of using washable nappies:

  • Cloth nappies these days are nothing like they were when we were babies. My mum was expecting it to be a piece of terry cloth and a safety pin, but they’re actually formed in the shape of a regular nappy, and fasten with either snaps or velcro – so a million times easier to use than anything our parents had to fart about learning to fold.
  • They look nicer than disposables: the ones we use are fluffy and white, and the covers are plain white. Better than advertising some brand, or having some stupid mass-produced picture on baby’s bum! You can also get all sorts of different colours and patterns for the covers; some of them are really funky!
  • Sometimes, yes, they do get poo stains on them – but sunlight really does bleach those out. You just put the nappy in the kitchen window for a couple of days, and hey presto, the stain is gone.
  • One of the main reasons people give for not wanting to use cloth nappies is dealing with the poo situation.When your baby is very small and being fed milk, yes, their poo is practically liquid and it can be a bit messy to clean up. But realistically, cleaning up poo is cleaning up poo, isn’t it. You take the nappy off and put it in the bucket, and then you chuck it in the washing machine, wash your hands, and carry on with your day.
  • When your child is on solids, dealing with a poo in a nappy is easier than with a disposable. You just tip the poo and the liner straight into the toilet, and flush the smell away – rather than putting it into one of those artificially scented bags and having it hang about the house.
  • The absolute best point of  cloth nappies is that they have an elasticated waist, whereas disposables… don’t. So when your beloved baby has one of those massive, outfit-ruining, up-the-back-and-out-the-sides poonamis, a cloth nappy will keep it all inside. S once went 18 days without a poo, and when she eventually went, none of it escaped the nappy. Show me a disposable that can do that!
  • Obviously, there is the “green” aspect of using cloth nappies. Opinions are divided on this though; a lot of people think the carbon footprint you save on disposables is just used up in washing machine electricity and water usage.
  • Several people have told me that wearing cloth nappies can make a child easier to potty train. Disposables sell themselves on the fact they wick all moisture away from baby’s skin, so they never feel wet. The argument goes that this means the child never knows when they’ve done a wee, so they take longer to learn when to use the potty. With cloth nappies, they feel wet as soon as they’ve done a wee. I can’t vouch for this personally though, as I’ve not tried it with S yet.
  • Depending on who you speak to, cloth nappies will either make your child more or less likely to get a nappy rash. I can safely say, though, that S has only ever had one, very small case of nappy rash. And she’s 15 months old.
  • Because they’re bulky, there’s more padding around baby’s bum when they’re learning to walk (and falling on their bum every five minutes).

Some CONS of washable nappies:

  • Whilst it’s perfectly possible to cope with washable nappies without a tumble dryer, and you can get quick-drying ones as well these days, a tumble dryer certainly does help. Unless you have loads of spare nappies, so that getting the wet ones dry isn’t so urgent, you’re reliant upon consistently good weather in order to line-dry, or a house with nappies on every radiator for large portions of time. Personally, I don’t have the facility to dry my clothes outside, so I have a dryer any way. And I’m lucky in that the set I was given contained loads of nappies, so even when I got a bit lazy with the washing, I never ran out.
  • They take up a lot more space around your changing mat than a bag of disposables does.
  • Where you can just chuck a stinky disposable nappy straight in the bin, and then take the bin outside, with washables you are left waiting until you have a full load to do. One of S’s favourite tricks has always been to wait until I’ve just given up and done a load of nappies, and then do a poo.
  • Because babies feel wet as soon as they’ve done a wee, they need to be changed straight away – otherwise they’re liable to get nappy rash (and a bit grumpy). This can be a bit difficult when you’re out and about.
  • They can be a bit of a nightmare to change when you’re out. When you change a disposable while you’re out, you can just chuck it in the bin and go about your day. With a washable, you have to put the wet/smelly nappy in your changing bag and carry it home with you.
  • Because they’re so bulky, it can mean trousers or tights become too small sooner. When S is wearing cloth nappies, I have to crack out the 18-24 month clothes, but if she’s in disposables she’s often still in 9-12 month shorts/trousers. (she’s still quite small for her age, and is actually still getting about in a pair of 3-6 month shorts some days!)

Some tips for using washable nappies:

  • They take up more space than disposables, so find yourself a spare cupboard or drawer for your clean ones.
  • Invest in a couple of nappy meshes. These are mesh bags that you use to line your bucket. When the bucket’s full, you just pull the mesh out and chuck it in the washing machine. No big deal!
  • Invest in a roll of paper liners. If not when baby is really small (when the paper liners are miles too big) then at least once they are on solids. That way, when baby does a poo, you can just take the liner out and flush it down the loo.
  • Buy reusable nappy liners. That way, if you’ve used a liner in a nappy and there’s no poo to remove with it, you can just leave it in the nappy and put it through the wash to reuse. You can reuse liners 2 or 3 times before they’re beyond saving.
  • If you are using nappies with velcro fasteners, make sure you stick the fasteners together before you put the dirty nappy in your bucket. Otherwise they stick to each other, and to the nappy mesh, and when they come out of the washing machine/tumble dryer you spend half an hour untangling them.
  • When you’re washing them, put them on a high setting. You don’t need to use too much soap, and never use fabric softener. The softener soaks into the fabric and makes the nappies a lot less absorbent. Instead, use white vinegar; it’s a really great substitute for fabric softener with anything that needs to be absorbent (as mentioned in my post about it, here).
  • With disposables, you chuck your dirty baby wipe into the nappy, and chuck the whole bundle. With cloth nappies, there’s nowhere to chuck the baby wipes. I used to keep a plastic nappy bag tied to the cupboard door to put them in each day
Do you have any of your own pros, cons or tips to add to these lists about cloth nappies? Have you had a great, or awful experience with washable nappies? Please do share in the comments!


Vicky is a mother, a blogger, a podcaster and a social media trainer. She writes about life as a single mother, parenting and lifestyle type things.


Clare · 21/07/2013 at 21:01

I had never considered cloth nappies as they were never mentioned buy friends or even magazines/books I read while expecting. I would consider for the future after reading your blog as I would say the pros outweigh the cons. Thank you xxx

Daddy's home · 24/07/2013 at 22:26

We use fleece liners and microfibre wipes with cloth nappies. 15 litre pedal bin next to the changing table and an Ikea wallmounted shoe storage on top to have all clean nappies at ready. Ikea sock dryer dries 2 days worth of nappies at the time and can be hung off the banister. We have used disposables on a holidays but hated them. Little one got a nappy rash straight away. Each to their own

Daddy's home · 24/07/2013 at 22:27

We use fleece liners and microfibre wipes with cloth nappies. 15 litre pedal bin next to the changing table and an Ikea wallmounted shoe storage on top to have all clean nappies at ready. Ikea sock dryer dries 2 days worth of nappies at the time and can be hung off the banister. We have used disposables on a holidays but hated them. Little one got a nappy rash straight away. Each to their own

sangeetha menon · 23/08/2014 at 08:00

Even I have felt the same. Though I haven't used cloth diapers for my daughter , I have felt that my daughter's trick is to wait till I have put on a new diaper and then poop… :P.. Lovely post

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