Which type of nappy should I use?
Reusable nappies come in three main types: All-in-One, Fitted and Flat. They are made of absorbent fabrics – bamboo, hemp, cotton, organic cotton and microfibre. A waterproof wrap is needed for fitted and flat nappies. You can use a disposable (bio-degradable) paper liner, or washable fleece liner, which can be placed inside all types of reusable nappies to catch solid poo and prevent stains.
You may prefer to use one type of reusable nappy or take a mix-and-match approach for different situations like daytime and night-time. You may want to start off small with a pack of 6 to 8 nappies (24 hours’ use), trying out the three main types and a mix of different brands. Then when you are ready, you can increase the quantity by what you prefer to use.
Nappy boosters help to increase the absorbency of a reusable nappy. This is useful for night-time or if your child is a heavy wetter. Nappy boosters come in bamboo, hemp, cotton, organic cotton. Find out more about the different types of reusable nappies and additional items you may need by visiting our ‘What are reusable nappies?‘ page.
How many nappies will I need?
The number of nappies you will need depends on the age of your baby (how many changes you are doing a day) and if you will be using them full-time or part-time.
To go full-time with reusable nappies we recommend buying enough nappies so that you are washing every 2 – 3 days. This could be 18 – 24 reusable nappies. An average of 20 is good – 15 daytime nappies and 5 night-time nappies. For a baby under 6 months, who will need more frequent changing, you may find you will need 24 nappies to go full-time.
To begin with, you may find it useful to start off small, with enough nappies for 24-hours use (6 – 8 reusable nappies) and then buy more as you go. The 6 – 8 nappies could be a mixture of the three main types so you can give them all a go and then buy more of a particular preferred type or brand.
Remember: for flat and shaped nappies you will need a waterproof wrap on top. Our recommendation is one waterproof wrap to every three shaped or flat nappy. This is because wraps made of PUL can be reused more than once by wiping with a wet cloth or rinsing and then leaving to dry before reusing. PUL Waterproof wraps dry very quickly and make for an economical system.
How much will it cost?
The upfront cost depends on what brand and type you choose and if you are going to use them full-time or part-time. As a guide, if you start with 20 flat nappies and 4 waterproof wraps plus some liners (at £3.50 per roll of 100), you can expect to pay around £90 for a set. All-in-one nappies and fitted (shaped) nappies cost more than flat nappies.
Buying new reusable nappies isn’t the only option. You might like to think about hiring reusable nappies at a small fee or picking up nappies for free. London has a network of Cloth Nappy Libraries that hire out sets of reusable nappies for a set period of time. Nappy Networks and parent volunteers offer opportunities for face to face nappy demos and give and take events, where parents can pass on pre-loved good quality reusable nappies and children’s clothes to other parents. There is also an online preloved nappy market.
Our voucher scheme incentive scheme can help you get started with the initial cost of buying reusable nappies, or contribute to a paid-for washable nappy laundry service. We offer vouchers of up to £70 for you to spend with one of the retailers/manufacturers/laundry services on our website. Find out more about our voucher incentive scheme, by visiting our apply page.
What else will I need?
Other items you will need:
- Sealable nappy bucket with mesh bag, or a wet bag, to store used dirty nappies at home. Wet bags are useful when you’re out and about.
- Reusable wet wipes are a great alternative to single-use wet wipes and can be found in a range of fabrics like hemp, cotton and bamboo. They will reduce your reliance on single-use plastic and save you money too!
The majority of suppliers that accept our vouchers sell these accessories, but please remember if you do have a voucher, your voucher can only be redeemed for: reusable nappies, waterproof wraps, booster pads/inserts, disposable/washable liners, nappy grips, training pants, or towards a paid-for trial washable nappy laundry service.
How Do I Redeem My Voucher?
Fantastic news! To learn how to redeem your voucher, please visit our ‘how to redeem your reusable nappy voucher‘ page for more information.
Storing, Washing and Drying Reusable Nappies
A simple routine is all that is needed to wash and dry reusable nappies
1. Throw away the disposable liner in the bin and remove excess poo from the nappy down the toilet. Do not flush liners.
2. Store dirty or wet nappies dry in a bucket or wet bag until wash day. No longer than two to three days.
3. Cold rinse or fast cold wash. Just reusable nappies and any reusable wet wipes (if using).
4. Temperature wash up to 60°C. Add linen, baby clothes and/or towels if the drum is not full.
5. Air-dry away from direct heat.
How do I store used nappies?
Remove solid poo from a reusable nappy using a disposable or washable liner, or by shaking the poo off the nappy straight into the toilet. Do not flush disposable paper liners. Used nappies should be stored dry in a bucket with a lid, or in a wet bag. There is no need to soak reusable nappies in water as this can damage the materials. Modern washing machines and detergents will efficiently clean them. Mesh laundry bags in the bucket are useful accessory to help you transfer dirty nappies into the washing machine. Wet bags are useful for both at the home and whilst out and about.
- Soak waterproof wraps, all-in-ones or pocket nappies as this will damage the PUL material and shorten their lifespan.
- Flush disposable liners. This will damage your system.
How do I wash reusable nappies?
It is very important that you prewash brand new reusable nappies two to three times before you use them. This will help to get them up to full absorbency. To test for absorbency you can pour a little bit of water on a dry nappy – if the water runs off the surface, it is not ready for use. Reusable nappies made of bamboo may take three to four washes, but you could still use them after two washes, knowing that it has not yet reached its full absorbency capacity so may need changing sooner than usual.
As a guide, when you are ready to wash, first put just the reusable nappies (and any reusable wet wipes) on a cold rinse cycle or fast cold wash without detergent. This cycle will agitate the nappies and remove dirt before draining the water away from the machine. Then put the rinsed nappies on your washing machines longest cotton temperature wash up to 60°C (40°C lightly soiled nappies, or 60°C heavily soiled nappies). Alway wash rinsed nappies at 60°C if your baby is under 6 months, while your baby is developing resistance to infection. Please Note: make sure you follow the manufacturers fabric care label.
Waterproof wraps do not have to be washed each time they are used if they have not been soiled and can be quickly rinsed under a tap if you feel this is necessary. Wraps with Polyurethane Laminate Fabric (PUL) dry very quickly. Please make sure any velcro tabs are folded in to protect them in the wash, this also applies to velcro tabs on all-in-one and fitted (shaped) nappies.
We recommend using non-bio detergent. Commonly powder rather than liquid detergent. This is recommended by the majority of reusable nappy manufacturers. There are nappy sanitisers and cleansers, such as Miofresh, or Bio-D, which allow washing at lower temperatures and will help to freshen and deodorise the nappies. If you live in a hard water area, such as London, you may find you need more detergent than in a soft water area. Follow the recommended detergent dosage based on your water hardness, as indicated on the detergent box. If after the temperature wash there are soap suds on the nappies, put the nappies on a quick rinse and cut back on the level of detergent in your next wash.
If you do not have enough reusable nappies for a full load you can add reusable wet wipes to the rinse cycle and then add other household washing like baby clothes, towels or bedsheets to the temperature wash.
Useful Tip: Whether you use reusable nappies or not, regular maintenance washes are essential to keep your washing machine in its best condition. It’s recommended to perform this every so often, typically on a monthly basis if you are using reusable nappies.
- Use fabric softener as this can prevents the absorbency of the nappy fabric.
- Boil wash – high heat will damage/destroy the fabric of nappies.
- Use bleach, vinegar or bicarbonate of soda.
- Avoid oil based barrier creams, such as Sudocream. If you do use creams, please use a liner to protect the fabric of the nappy.
How do I dry reusable nappies?
Air-dry reusable nappies where possible and away from direct heat such as radiators. Sunshine will deodorise, sanitise and naturally remove stains. Even placing nappies on a windowsill can help. Avoid tumble drying, as this reduces the life of the nappy, uses a lot of energy and costs more to run. If you do use a tumble drier, please do so on a low, cool setting.
Some reusable nappies dry quicker than others. Having a variety of types means you should always have some to use. For example, microfibre or cotton nappies dry quicker than bamboo and hemp nappies. There are a range of reusable nappies made of fast drying materials (see our what are reusable nappies page for more information about fabric).
- Iron nappies.
- Put nappies on direct heat sources.
Is there a washable nappy laundry service?
Washable nappy laundry services supply, deliver, collect and wash reusable nappies for you. These are usually flat nappies.
The service provides a lidded nappy bin into which you put the wet and soiled nappies. Once a week all the used nappies are collected and a freshly laundered set delivered. They are washed to NHS disinfection standards and thoroughly rinsed to protect your baby’s skin. You may need to provide your own waterproof wraps or you can hire them. Laundry services cost £9.50 – £15 per week.
Using Reusable Nappies at Nursery
What happens when my child goes to nursery?
If you’ve chosen to use reusable nappies, you’ve done so for a reason. Whether it’s for your baby’s health, waste reduction, or cost savings. It’s important that the nursery you select for your child supports and respects your choice. Our guidance is to take enough clean reusable nappies (and wraps if using flat or fitted/shaped nappies) to the nursery to last the day and then take them home for washing in the evening. It’s also a good idea to equip your nursery with a wet bag so that they can store the used nappies.
What should I do if my nursery is unwilling to use reusable nappies?
Most nurseries will be happy to use reusable nappies. However, if your child’s nursery is not accommodating to use them, please let us know. We are keen to help and find out why they are unable to meet your needs.
Preloved Second-Hand Reusable Nappies
What do I do with my nappies once my child has potty trained?
The great thing about reusable nappies is that they can be used again on subsequent children, or passed onto other families. Just make sure they are in working condition before passing them on.
Many retailers, nappy networks and nappy libraries have Facebook groups allowing you to sell/donate preloved, second hand nappies. You can also try apps such as Vinted or Olio. We host Reusable Nappy Meet and Give and Take events where families can pass-on or take no longer needed good quality reusable nappies. Check out upcoming events via our events diary.