Reuse: Cloth nappies

Cloth nappies are also known as “real” or “washable” nappies and by using these you will save money in the long term, reduce your waste and help our environment.

Washable nappies

Today modern cloth nappies come in a range of shapes, sizes and colours designed to suit your baby and your pocket.  They incorporate many of the convenient design features that you expect from a disposable, like a fitted shape and by using poppers and Velcro fastenings they are easy to put on and take off.

Modern cloth nappies are easy to wash and can be used with a natural biodegradable liner which catches the solid waste.  Nappies can be washed between  40oC and 60oC  (depending on soiling) and either line or tumbled dried.

Saving money

Although there is a high initial outlay for cloth nappies, you can save up to £500, compared to market leading disposable nappies.  Further savings can be made by reusing nappies on subsequent children or selling them.  The cost of home laundering nappies is about £1 a week.  Further savings can be made by using fleece liners, rather than flushable liners – up to £75 or making your own wipes from material to save a further £250.

Nappy designs to suit your child

Modern cloth nappies are made from natural materials like cotton, bamboo and hemp and Babies in cloth nappiesalso from man-made fabrics like fleece.  They do not contain chemical gels and are available in a wide range of styles.  The main styles are:

  • Flat nappies:  These include flat terry towelling and pre-fold nappies.  They require folding and often fasten with a nappi nippa or safety pin and can be the quickest to dry.
  • Shaped nappies: Do not require folding and are shaped like a disposable nappy.  They fasten with poppers or Velcro.
  • Sized nappies: Come in different sizes and as your child grows you will need to buy the next size.
  • One size nappies: These nappies come in only one size and will fit from birth until your child is potty trained.  The size of the nappy can be changed by using a variety of poppers and or Velcro.
  • Some nappy styles incorporate a waterproof outer (known as an ‘all in one’) while some have a separate waterproof outer known as a wrap.  The waterproof outer contains the moisture within the nappy and protects your child’s clothing.

Reduce waste

The UK dumps around three billion disposable nappies a year, weighing 670,000 tones.  A typical baby will require about 4,000 nappy changes and on average in Somerset we estimate that a child under two using disposable nappies generates around 340kg per year of nappy waste.   If you use disposable nappies these will go to landfill where they can take up to 300 years to breakdown or alternatively you can reuse approximately 24 cloth nappies between birth and potty training.

In 2015/16, Somerset alone is estimated to have landfilled 3,700 tonnes of nappy waste or 10 tonnes each day; with landfill costs rising every year because of increasing government levies, that waste stream could cost council tax payers close to £400,000 a year. 

Carbon emissions

Washable cloth nappies can save up to 40% carbon emissions compared to disposables.  This carbon saving is greatest when cloth nappies are washed in full loads at no more than 60oC, line dried and reused on a second child.

For more information

The Somerset and West Somerset Cloth Nappy Library provides advice and support for parents in West Somerset, Sedgemoor or Taunton Deane.  Contact them via their Facebook page or email.

Facebook –

Email –

If you live in the Frome area, contact Frome Happy Nappy Library via the Frome Share Shop for advice and support.

Website –

Email –

Telephone – 01373 475574 or 07983639611

If you live in the Ilminster area, contact Natural Baby Accessories via the online shop or Facebook page for advice and support.Website –

Facebook – Natural baby accessories


The Go Real website offers information nationally and aims to provide all you would need to know about real nappies.  From information on the different types, product reviews, blogs and forums.
0845 850 0606

The Nappy Lady is another informative website providing advice and support on all things washable nappy related.
0845 652 6532

Visit the SomersetChoices website to find information on local services to help children, young people and their families.