How to Switch to Cloth Nappies: Preparing to Go Reusable
Why Switch Cloth Nappies?
Did you know that Australians use 5.6 million nappies per day, adding over 3 billion to the country’s landfills every year? What’s more, these nappies take around 500 years to decompose! Not only that, but disposable nappies are full of harmful chemicals that can cause long-term health consequences for your baby.
Switching to Cloth Saves Energy and Natural Resources
The initial act of manufacturing disposable nappies alone requires huge volumes of pulp, plastic, paper, water, and energy. In fact, The Good Human reports that manufacturing disposable nappies uses twice as much water, three times more energy, and 20 times more raw materials than reusable nappies.
Switching to Cloth Saves You Money
Plus, years of purchasing disposable nappies can take a financial toll on your family. It’s estimated that families spend between $1900 and $3000 on disposables per child during their first 2.5 years. Using cloth nappies can cut your nappy spending in half, even with the electricity and water bills from washing factored into the cost. Plus, you can reuse cloth nappies on future children!
Despite this, over 95% of Australians are still using disposable nappies. Thinking of making the switch? We applaud you! Using cloth nappies isn't nearly as daunting as it seems. Hopefully, this guide can answer some of your questions and settle your concerns about making the switch.
Don’t Feel Pressure to Go 100% Reusable
The upfront cost of cloth nappies is the first hurdle to overcome. Though cloth nappies cost more than disposable ones, you will ultimately save money in the long run. So, think of it as an investment. To ease the burden on your wallet, try not to purchase a full set of cloth nappies all at once. If you plan early enough, begin acquiring cloth nappies while you’re still pregnant so you have a bit of a stockpile ready for when your baby arrives.
To add to that, don’t feel pressure to start using cloth nappies from day one. Newborns may not properly fit into cloth nappies for the first couple of weeks. In this case, disposables may be an easier way to get started. Especially if this is your first child.
You may want to switch between cloth and disposable nappies as you develop a cleaning routine and get accustomed to how they work. Plus, disposable diapers just hold up better in some situations, like when traveling.
Picking the Right Cloth Nappies for Your Baby
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the cloth nappies available. How do you decide what kind of nappies to buy? Instead of deciding on one type of nappy and buying a whole bunch of them, start with just a few different kinds and see how you like them. Little Piglet has a large selection of brands and nappy styles to choose from to get your nappy stash started.
There are many different types of cloth nappies to consider for your collection:
- Night Nappies
Pre-fold nappies are rectangular pieces of cloth that are folded into three sections. These are folded around the baby and fastened with nappy pins or a more convenient snappi. Pre-folds are the low-cost option and are great to have in your rotation because they dry so quickly.
Fitted nappies are shaped similar to a disposable nappy. They are very absorbent and don’t have to be folded or stuffed. Fitted nappies are held together with snaps or Velcro which makes them very easy to put on and remove. These nappies aren’t waterproof, so they require a nappy cover.
Pocket nappies are some of the most dad-friendly since they’re simple and easy to work with. These types of nappies have a pocket which gets stuffed with something absorbent. These pockets are lined with stay-dry material to keep moisture away from your baby.
All-in-one nappies are the quintessential premium nappy. These require the least fuss and are popular with dads for this reason. They will take a bit longer to dry than other nappy types, but they're great to have in your rotation due to their ease of use. Be sure to check out Little Piglet’s plush, bamboo all-in-one nappies.
All-in-two nappies use snap-in inserts which can be cleaned without changing the waterproof shell. This cuts down on cleaning times and laundry volume, making your life a little easier. This beautiful, printed all-in-two nappy by Close is a very popular choice.
Find What Works Best for You
What works best for one family may not work the same for you. Parents’ preferences vary considerably. Some prefer the no-frills, quick-drying nature of pre-folds, while others enjoy the simplicity of all-in-ones despite the heavy laundering required.
Start by purchasing a few different types of nappies in different fabrics. That way you can see how they perform and what the cleaning process is like for each type. You may realize that your baby is especially sensitive to wetness or synthetic fibers. In this case, it’s best to find out before you buy a whole set of nappies that you can’t use. For these situations, you’ll be able to find a selection of 100% organic cotton nappies and stay-dry liners from Little Piglet.
Learn How to Fit Cloth Nappies to Prevent Leaks
It’s a common belief that cloth nappies are more prone to leaks than disposable ones. But cloth nappies shouldn’t leak. If they do, there is likely something wrong with the fit.
Purchase the Correct Size
This may sound like common sense, but make sure you get nappies that are the right size for your baby. For example, this all-in-two nappy comes in three sizes based on the weight of your baby. Both the legs and waist can be resized as required so it fits snug to all types of baby bodies. If you’re looking for tiny nappies for your preemie or newborn, try these organic cotton fitted nappies.
Put Nappies on Correctly
Nappies should sit snug around the waist and there shouldn’t be any gaps around the legs. Any gaps between nappy and baby will quickly become leak areas. Here’s a quick tip: once you’ve put the nappy on your baby you’ll want to make sure the cuffs are pulled out. Tucked-in cuffs are common causes of leakage.
Use Creams That Are Safe for Cloth Nappies
Some ingredients in nappy creams are damaging to cloth nappies. Petroleum products are found in most nappy creams because they protect the baby’s skin from irritating wetness. However, petroleum-based creams will create a waterproof layer on your cloth diapers, preventing them from absorbing liquid and quickly leading to leaks. Similarly, zinc oxide will coat the fibers of cloth nappies and lead to leaking. This ingredient can also stain your beautiful cloth nappies.
Try to avoid creams with these ingredients. Or make sure you use nappy liners to protect your precious cloth nappies from these damaging ingredients. A better option is cloth-nappy-safe creams which are made from natural oils that wash out of nappies easy. Like this baby lotion from wotnot.
Set Up a System to Keep Things Sanitary
A good system for storing cloth nappies will make your life easier and keep your home sanitary. This means you may want to invest in a few additional items for your house.
Storing Dirty Nappies
First, you’ll need somewhere to store those soiled cloth nappies until it’s wash day. Traditional wet pail and soaking methods aren’t recommended for modern cloth nappies. Instead, many people prefer to store used nappies in a dry pail or hanging wet bag without soaking them first. You can use any pail or container for this, lined with a reusable, washable, waterproof cloth bag. Then, you can just throw this cloth liner into the wash with the nappies!
Rinsing Dirty Nappies
Before you put the nappies in the dry pail you’ll want to remove any solid matter from them. You can invest a nappy sprayer which hooks up to your toilet and makes rinsing nappies much easier and more sanitary. As an alternative, you can also dunk or swish your nappies in the toilet.
Keeping Odours at Bay
To cut down on odours in your used nappy pail, try to wash nappies every 2 to 3 days. This will help you avoid odours caused by urine breaking down. Washing frequently will also keep the cloth nappies in top condition. Stains can set in if nappies are left too long before washing.
Commercial deodorizers can be added to nappy pails to prevent odour:
- Deodorizing discs or balls made for garbage containers or nappy pails
- Solutions to spray onto diapers before they are put into the pail
- Bags of bamboo charcoal naturally absorbs odor and lasts up to a year
- Natural pail fresheners like Rockin’ Green
Or, you can create your own odour-eliminators:
- Add a couple drops of essential oil to a rag and place in the diaper pail
- Sprinkle some baking soda on the bottom of your bag or pail
Don’t Be Intimidated by The Cleaning Process
If you’re considering the switch to cloth nappies, the dreaded clean-up may be another hurdle that’s making you hesitant. We’ve summarized the cleaning process below, so you can see how simple it really is.
How to Clean Cloth Nappies
Once your nappy pail or bag is full or it’s been a couple days, it’s time to wash those nappies. Of course, make sure you’ve already rinsed any solids from the nappies before throwing them in your washing machine!
- Pre-rinse Nappies
Run the nappies through a warm cycle in your washing machine. You can use cold water, but warm water will better remove body fluids from fabric. Avoid hot water during the pre-rinse as this will cause stains to set in.
- Wash Nappies
Now, the nappies are ready to be put through a normal or long wash cycle with 60°C water and a nappy-safe laundry detergent. Don’t use bleach as this can damage and discolour your cloth nappies. We recommend Rockin’ Green’s liquid laundry detergent because it's plant-based and gentle, yet extremely powerful. Steer clear of detergents with additives that stay in cloth after washing and may reduce absorbency or irritate baby’s skin!
- Fabric softeners
- Detergents with phosphates or enzymes
- Dry Nappies
Follow the recommendations from your nappy manufacturer as to whether it’s safe to tumble dry them. Some brands or style should be line dried only. Regardless, line drying is the best way to keep nappies in great condition and save power by not running the dryer. If you’re lucky enough to have some sunlight outside, your cloth nappies will benefit from the naturally-sanitizing UV rays!
Just beware of long Australian summer days which may provide too much heat for cloth nappies and cause damage. On these extreme days, dry your nappies in the shade or inside.
Still Feeling Uncertain?
We understand! Switching to cloth nappies can seem daunting and intimidating. It will involve learning and facing new challenges as you get used to it. For example, you’ll have to learn how many nappies you’ll need in a day, how often you have to change them, and how to get into a good washing routine. Once you get the hang of it, the environment, your wallet, and your baby will thank you! We find that many mothers can even convert their husbands after they get a chance to try out cloth nappies and see how simple the process is.
The transition to cloth nappies can be very easy if you do your research. Subscribe to our blog to stay up to date with our cloth nappy tips and guides!