Reusable/Cloth Nappies: A Plain English Guide for Dads and Dads-to-be

OK, OK, I know I wrote about NOT offering advice to parents, but I’ve been specifically asked for some information on cloth nappies. By a dad-to-be. And so I thought I ought to offer a dad’s perspective on that.

[Please note, if my tone doesn’t come across, this post is slightly tongue-in-cheek in places – forgive me in advance for my transgressions]

Why a dad’s perspective? Well, because you could go searching on the internet for information and advice but – and I mean this in the nicest possible way – the cloth nappy forums:

  1. have lots of stuff about ‘pretty’ nappies. And as a man you’re much more interested in how a nappy performs, lasts, and what sort of fasteners it uses, than what it looks like! If you’re not sure what I mean by ‘pretty’ nappies, Wee Notions has a fine display to browse with more on their Facebook Page. All very lovely, but not the kind of thing a geek dad is interested in. And besides, nappies shouldn’t be out on display in public often enough for us to be worried about what they look like, right?
  2. use a strange and baffling code in many posts. I mean, I just about understand why my “OH” might put my “DS” in a “Bamboozle”, “strip” her “AIO’s”, or get her “DH” to order the “CD’s” before her “LO’s” “EDD”. But it’s taken 9 months to get there. To a newbie, it’s incomprehensible.


I also think a dad’s perspective is good because, actually, nappy changing is one thing you can get involved in (especially if mum is breastfeeding) and “geek out” about, while getting plenty of opportunity for toilet humour in too.

The Executive Summary

The headlines are this:

  • Cloth Nappies are great.
  • The save huge amounts of resources and waste
  • As long as you get into a good washing routine they’re little hassle
  • They need up-front investment, but can save money in the long run – especially if you have two or more babies
  • Every nappy brand is different, every baby is different and it’s kinda pot luck whether or not yours will fit well
  • We use, and love, our 20 Bum Genius nappies – they’re well designed and easy to use
  • We also use re-usable fleece liners and cotton wipes

Brands and Babies

We asked around our cloth-nappy-using friends and got two basic bits of advice:

  1. You can never be sure if they will fit. Each type of nappy is a different shape and each baby is a different shape. It’s pot luck if the nappies will fit your baby well or not.
  2. “Bum Genius” seemed the most popular brand and were almost universally acclaimed as an excellent product. I think there were some “TotsBots” in use as well, but they were used by less people.


There’s an overwhelming array of choices and accompanying terminology. Everything from simple cloth squares to complete, all-in-one nappies that grow with your baby from birth to 18 months of age.

A few hints:

  • Nappies have up to three parts: a waterproof outer, an absorbent pad for soaking up wee wee, and a soft, water-permeable layer that sits next to baby’s skin, and keeps poo out of the pad.
  • All in One nappies are just what they say they are.
  • All in Two nappies, as far as I can tell, are an all-in-one nappy that comes apart for washing, or that you can add “booster” pads to to increase absorbency.
  • Pocket nappies have a waterproof outer and fleecy inner stitched together, and you stuff an absorbent pad into it before use. It comes apart to wash and dry.
  • Fitted nappies are like an evolution of terry/cotton square nappies. They’re just an absorbent piece of fabric, but that’s been shaped and has built-in fasteners. You’ll need to use this with a waterproof “wrap” or cover over it. These tend to be bulkier, but more absorbent. Good for night-time use when you’re leaving the nappy on for a long time.
  • Nappy Wraps, or Covers are the waterproof outer parts. You can use these with fitted nappies, or with traditional cotton squares.

The Fill Your Pants guide is quite useful and gives pros and cons of different types.

You’ll also need to know about fastenings:

  • “Aplix” is a form of velcro. This is quicker and easier to do up and is more easily adjustable, but has the disadvantage of sticking to all your washing and wearing out quickly. You may also see traditional velcro fastenings.
  • Poppers, or snaps, are limited in their range of fastening and possibly trickier to do up, but are more robust and long-lasting.

What to Get

I’m not going to tell you what to get. But I’ll tell you what we’ve got and are very happy with.

The Nappies

We have 20 Bum Genius ‘pocket’ nappies – version 4 I think – with popper fasteners. We started with 15 but it just wasn’t quite enough and the extra five give us a little more lee-way on washing and drying.

They are ‘one-size’ nappies, so they cleverly expand to grow with your child. We didn’t quite use them from newborn when Isaac was REALLY tiny, but certainly from very early on, and he’s still on the smaller settings at 9 months.

The nappies are great. Really easy to use. Really durable. And we’ve had minimal nappy rash and leakage. It’s hard to compare if we’ve had more or less nappy rash and leakage than we would have had with disposables because every baby is different. However, when we’ve used disposables when travelling and on holiday we have definitely had more leaks. This is possibly because we are less practised at fitting them.

We bought a kit from that included a bucket, two mesh bags, a dry sack for the change bag, and some other stuff. All of which has been really useful.

We also have four fitted bamboo nappies with boosters that we use overnight (two came with the kit, two were bought subsequently) and two waterproof wraps to keep the wee wees in (one came in the kit, one was bought extra). We got the extra nappies and wraps here because they take a long time to dry and we couldn’t get just two of them out of the washing/drying quick enough.


We also use re-usable wipes. We bought the wipes in a kit from The extra stuff in the kit hasn’t turned out quite as useful (the small bags for taking wipes on the move are good), but the wipes are great. In fact, we find them better than disposable wipes because they have some texture to them that picks up dirt. We ended up using them on the move, at the dining table, and in the bath, so we bought another 25 as they are so good and so useful. But you could easily make your own from, say, and old towel, and store them in plastic tubs.

I also recently did the maths on washable wipes and, despite seeming expensive to buy, I reckon they’re a better money saver than nappies. Isaac is nearly a year now and we could easily have used more than a pack of disposable wipes every week, which, at £1+ a week means we’ve easily saved money already and we’ll continue to use them for years.


You can use re-usable nappies without liners, but nappy creams can clog them up, and using liners makes handling the contents of a dirty nappy much easier. Liners do, of course, add to the ongoing costs of reusable nappies.

We’ve used a combination of re-usable and disposable liners. We started off with Tot Bots disposable liners which came with the nappy kit, but they were a bit rubbish and tended to gather up into a long, thin strip, so they didn’t catch much mess.

We then tried some washable micro-fleece liners. These are fine if you’re not dealing with great volumes of poo, but when poo arrives they’re not so good.

We’ve settled on some cellulose liners that are stiffer, and so better at keeping their width and catching poo. They’re more expensive, but in fact, if they’re not pooed in then they can be washed and reused.


We’ve used a variety of creams and I don’t think there’s been any that we’ve not liked. We used Bepanthen in the early days to tackle nappy rash, and have subsequently used Welleda’s Calendula cream successfully too. But our favourite cream – which was recommended to us because it doesn’t clog nappies but has become our favourite because it just smells good enough to eat! – is CJ’s BUTTer. It’s a tad expensive, but the amazing smell makes changing a nappy almost enjoyable.


You’ll need to know how to look after your nappies. This is a science of its own, but we’ve managed to get by with the very basics.

Pretty much everything you need to know about washing has been written by a friend of mine in a blog post of her own.

Our own process is to wash on a 40 degree cycle with our machine’s ‘wash plus’ and ‘rinse plus’ settings on, followed by an extra rinse and spin. We use a small amount of non-biological powder – we’ve used a few different types including Ecover, Fairy and Surcare all with no problems.

We have done the odd 60 degree wash to get rid of smells and hanging them outside in the sun bleaches them back to whiteness, but mostly we’ve had no problems and we don’t really do ‘strip washing’ as described in the other post. Perhaps our tolerance of smells and discolouration is higher than others?

Summing Up

I hope that’s all been useful information. I suppose the summary is: we love our reusable nappies and, if you can afford the up-front investment, we would recommend them highly…especially the BumGenius pocket nappies that we use, which are fantastic.

‘One final thing: if you’re not so happy around the outputs of other people’s bodily functions, then you might be better with disposables. There is a certain amount of handling the dirties with disposables. However:
  • the modern systems minimise this by clever bagging arrangements; and
  • this is a dad’s guide, and dads are real men, and real men aren’t afraid of a bit of baby poo…
…are they?
Feel free to ask questions or share your own experiences in the comments.