All you need to know to get started using cloth nappies…

Why use cloth nappies?
  • Reduce Waste – Use 24 cloth nappies vs 6500 disposable*
  • Save Money – Spend $2500 on average on disposables* vs $500 on average for MCN’s
  • Conserve our Resources – It takes twice the amount of water to produce one disposable than is used to wash one cloth nappy for a year**
  • Keep it simple – Cloth Nappies are easier to use than ever before
  • Style it up  – Cloth Nappies look adorable and feel lovely!
  • Buy Local – Support Australian owned businesses

* Choice Magazine ‘Cloth Nappy Use” 01DEC2012, **,

What you need
  • Cloth nappies – a minimum of 24 nappies for full-time use or lessfor part-time.
  • A washing machine & clothes line, clothes rack or dryer
  • A nappy bucket, basket or tub for the bathroom or laundry
  • Extra boosters for nights, or night nappies
  • Wetbags for being out and about
  • Cloth wipes
  • Liners are optional – you can get fabric or flushable
A glossary for all the terms and acronyms
OSFM, Ai1, Ai2….What does it all mean?

Below are some easy definitions to help you make sense of the jargon and many, many abbreviations.

PUL – Polyurethane Laminate is the thin, waterproof cloth that makes up the outer layer of many nappies, covers, change mats and wetbags.

Minky/Minkee – Soft and fluffy fabric often used as an outer on nappies and in covers, wetbags and changemats. MInky can be backed with PUL to make it waterproof.

Bamboo – A highly absorbent, soft and natural fabric made from Bamboo. Bamboo is an ecologically friendly crop and the fabric has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.

Hemp – A natural fabric often blended with cotton. Hemp is ecologically friendly and extremely hard wearing.

Micro-fibre – An absorbent polyester fabric. Very quick drying.

Flats – The nappies of old. Traditional Terry Squares are still available and you can also get flats made from Bamboo. These nappies require folding and a water proof cover.

Prefolds – Is a flat nappy with extra layers of absorbent fabric sewn into the middle section of the square. They can be folded, fastened and used with a water proof cover or as a booster for a pocket nappy

Fitted – A fitted nappy is shaped like a disposable and often made out of Bamboo or Hemp. They are fastened with snaps or Velcro and need a waterproof cover. Fitteds can be sized or OSFM.

Snappi – An alternative to pins used to fasten flats and prefolds. They are made of plastic or stretchy rubber and have three prongs with little claws to attach to the fabric.

Pocket Nappies – Have a waterproof outer layer (usually PUL or Minky) and a stay dry inner layer with an opening in the back that can be stuffed with absorbent boosters/inserts. Both inserts and covers need to be washed.

Sized Nappies – These MCNs often come in 3 or 4 sizings  (eg Newborn, Small, Medium, Large)  and need to be replaced as baby grows. They have the benefit of looking and fitting trim.

All-in-Ones (AIO)– Are a complete nappy. A waterproof cover has absorbent material attached so they don’t require assembly and can be put on like a disposable.

All-in-Twos (AI2)-  Have a waterproof cover that absorbent boosters or inserts can be snapped into. This can make them faster to dry and you can often reuse the cover with fresh inserts reducing laundry.

Side snapping nappy-  Is a nappy with the front comes up and snaps onto the wings of the nappy instead of the wings coming up and snapping to the front.

One-Size-Fits-Most (OSFM) – Are a nappy that fits from birth to toilet training. The size of the nappy is adjustable with snaps making them a very cost effective option. They can look bulky in the early stages but as babies grow so quickly it is not for long!

Snaps – Press stud like fasteners that pop open and closed

Covers – A waterproof outer layer for Flats, Fitteds and Prefolds. Like the pilchers in ye olde times. Covers are fastened with velcro or snaps and can be OSFM or sized.

Shell– The outer waterproof part of a nappy that absorbent boosters are snapped or stuffed into.

Boosters/Inserts – Made up of layers of absorbent fabric, boosters or inserts are added to nappies to provide or increase absorbency. Pocket nappies and AI2s need inserts and these can be increased for night times or as baby gets older. Inserts can also be added to AIO or fitted nappies.

Trifold/Fold-up – A square booster/insert that needs to be folded into thirds to fit into a pocket nappy

Liners – An optional thin layer of fabric (washable) or paper (flushable) that can be laid on the nappy. LIners protect the nappy from any creams used (can affect absorbency) and can be handy for disposing of any solids. 


For best results, and to abide by the manufacturers warranty, check specific washing recommendations for the brand of nappy you are using.

General Wash and Care Instructions for Cloth Nappies

Brand new cloth nappies need to be washed before use. All nappies need at least 1 wash prior to use and nappies using bamboo will need 8-10 washes before they reach peak absorbency. You can also soak overnight, do one wash and then use.

After nappy change flush any solid contents down the toilet. Give your nappy a quick rinse to dilute wee and pop it in a dry pail. A night nappy may need a more thorough rinse.

We recommend that you wash every second day. Nappies left longer than three days this can start to smell and the acids in urine will eat away at fabric and elastic. If you want to wash every three days then you can do a daily rinse cycle. Don’t forget that you can add other small items of clothing, washers to your wash after you have done the first rinse cycle.

When you are ready to wash remove boosters and inserts from covers/shells. Fold back the laundry tabs on any velcro nappies. Do a rinse cycle or quick wash with half the recommended amount of detergent on your box/bottle. Follow this by a full or heavy duty wash cycle. We find best results are from a warm wash (up to 60 degrees).  Use the recommended amount of detergent on your box or bottle. Avoid detergents with fabric softener included. Ensure you are washing your nappies in enough water to get clean and agitate properly (if you have a top loader).

With a good wash routing you will not need to use bleach, fabric softener, Napisan, vinegar, stain removers or bicarbonate of soda. Using these may void your warranty (check with nappy manufacturer).

The sun does wonders for drying nappies. Whenever possible hang your nappies outside to dry.

You can tumble dry inserts on a low temperature but be wary that tumble drying reduces the life of your nappies and can cause elastics to deteriorate and PUL to delaminate.


 My nappies are beginning to smell. What can I do?

Stinky nappies could be from:

  • not washing them as frequently as they need,
  • not letting them dry 100% before reusing,
  • ineffective cleaning – over filling machine, not using enough water, not using enough detergent or a strong enough detergent
  • a build up of soapy detergent or fabric softener

Solution 1 – Analyse and experiment with your washing routine:

  • Get a wash routine done for you from the folks at Clean Cloth Nappies Down Under
  • Increase/decrease your detergent amount or change detergents. Supermarket brands that have worked well for me are Ecostore powder + Almat & Trimat from Aldi
  • Check the water levels on your machine and increase/decrease them in your nappy wash
  • If you have a top loader check the agitation of your washing
  • If your baby is teething or has very acidic wee you may need to hand rinse thoroughly before dry paling and wash more regularly.

Solution 2 – Strip Wash

If you nappies are smelly, or if you have purchased secondhand nappies, you may need to do a strip-wash.

A strip wash should be a one-off. With a good wash routine, you shouldn’t ever need to do a strip wash again.

1 – Checkout Clean Cloth Nappies Down Under for their strip washing methods and check out their facebook page to get a wash routine


Use Grovia Mighty Bubbles

3 – A final cold rinse to ensure that there is no suds remaining. Do another rinse if you can see lots of suds.

4 – Dry in the full sun.


Why are my nappies leaking?

Absorbency – if the nappies are new remember that they need several washes (up to 10) before they get to peak absorbency. As your baby gets older they may need extra boosters as they drink and wee more. Many brands offer special night time boosters and nappies for older babies and toddlers.

Fit – Ensure that you are fitting cloth nappies snugly on your baby. There should be no gapes around the legs or back of the nappy. The nappy needs to sit up high for good coverage. Take note of where your babies leaks are to get an idea of where you need to improve the nappies fit.

Build-up – Excess use of soapydetergents or barrier creams can clog the fibres of your nappies. Do a strip wash and try to use cloth liners when using barrier creams.


Do you feel like your washing machine could use a clean?

Easy! Most washing machines have a cleaning cycle or cleaning instructions in the manual. Follow these instructions to abide by warranty.

I have used the below methods with good success, although be wary – some new machines don’t recommend the use of vinegar.

Top loader – Run a normal hot cycle and add ½ a cup of bicarbonate of soda and 2 cups of white vinegar when the water has filled and let it run as usual.

Front loader – Add 2 tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda into the detergent drawer and ½ cup of white vinegar into the drum and run a hot wash as normal. Take time to clean the filter as per manufacturers instructions