Reusable nappies are also known as ‘cloth’, ‘real’ or ‘washable’ nappies. Using reusable nappies instead of single-use plastic ones will save money, reduce waste, and help your environment. And local reusable nappy packs for hire (see below) are a great way to try them out.
Modern reusable nappies come in a range of shapes, sizes and colours designed to suit your baby and your pocket. They have many of the same convenient design features as disposables, like a fitted shape. By using poppers and Velcro fastenings they are easy to put on and take off.
They are easy to wash and can be used with a liner to catch solid waste and reduce nappy soiling. After flushing the poo from the liner in the toilet, just bag and bin the single-use liner or, if you’re using reusable liners, pop it in the nappy bucket for washing later. Nappies and reusable liners can be washed at 40-60C (depending on soiling) and line or tumble dried.
Benefits of reusable nappies
Despite a higher initial outlay for reusable nappies, you can save up to £500 in the time your child is in nappies. Save even more by reusing the nappies again for subsequent children or by selling reusables when no longer needed. You can save up to another £75 by using fleece liners, rather than single-use liners, and another £250 by making your own wipes from material.
Disposable nappies are a source of single-use plastic and the UK dumps around three billion disposable nappies a year. In the UK, the vast majority of these will end up buried in landfill or (as happens in Somerset) taken to energy from waste facilities to generate electricity. The recycling industry is working on technology to recycle disposable nappies, but this is not widely available.
Modern reusable nappies are made from natural materials like cotton, bamboo and hemp and from man-made fabrics like fleece. They do not contain chemical gels and are available in a wide range of styles.
More nappy stats and facts: Wrap website
A typical baby uses about 4,000 disposable nappies, or you can reuse around 24 reusable nappies between birth and potty training, saving resources and reducing carbon emissions. And line drying and using reusables for a second child, the financial and environmental savings are even greater.
More information on reusable nappies
Main styles of reusable nappies:
- Flat nappies – such as flat terry towelling and pre-fold nappies require folding and often fasten with a nappy nippa or safety pin. These can be the quickest to dry.
- Shaped nappies – do not require folding and are shaped like a disposable nappy, fastening with poppers or Velcro.
- Sized nappies – come in different sizes and you will need to buy the next size as your child grows.
- 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 wrap contains the moisture within the nappy and protects your child’s clothing.
Experiences of Somerset reusable nappy users
We asked reusable nappy users for their experiences. Edited extracts are below. Send your thoughts to email@example.com
Used for both of my children and will use for my third. My boy’s nursery has been great with them. More washes are needed but you just get used to it. Definitely saved money over the years and have bought most of mine second-hand off social media. – Rachael, Somerset.
Lots of great things: don’t smell as much as disposables, fewer poo leaks when younger, better for the environment, cuter, harder for a toddler to remove by themselves! Our childcare provider has been brilliant; no issues with them using cloth full time. – Kayleigh, Somerset.
So easy to use, I actually don’t understand what the fuss is about! I find the idea of putting poo in a bin way more off-putting than rinsing it into a toilet. Didn’t soak ours, just put them in a wet bag and washed them every three days. You can sell them on for almost what you bought them for. Easiest green parenting decision! – Suzanne, Taunton
Using cloth nappies seemed complicated as there are so many different sorts but we hired a pack from a nappy library to try it out and found it was great once we got into the swing of it! We would absolutely recommend it, it does take a little bit of getting used to but quickly becomes the norm. – Alex, Wellington
I have five kids and have used them for them all. They don’t smell half as bad, no nappy rash (which my girls had really badly when I did use disposables briefly), they look so much cuter and I’m convinced they have led to easier potty training. Oh, and no unplanned nappy free time as they can’t undo the poppers! – Hayley, Somerset
The best advice I was given was that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing; no one is going to judge you if you need a few disposable days. My bin isn’t constantly full either; no squashing down a stinky overflowing bin so the lid shuts, which is a massive bonus. – Holly, Wellington.
I only wish I’d done it sooner. Although the initial investment is larger, I’d made my money back already six months into use. Neither of my children have ever had a nappy rash as there are no nasty chemicals. I’ve already saved myself a fortune and hopefully saved the environment a lot of suffering in the process. – Krystal, Taunton.
Great local deals on reusable nappies
Somerset Council is working with community partners to promote alternatives for disposable nappies.
We have provided funding for local cloth nappy support groups Carry Me Kate Parenting Services CIC and South Somerset Cloth Nappy Library to help people switch to reusables. This funding has provided fantastic reusable nappy packs to hire direct from the groups and a pack which can be hired from Share – a Library of Things in Frome.
Providing reusable nappy packs with a bumper selection of styles and brands to suit all budgets will help you find the perfect fit for your baby and your lifestyle. The project brings the expertise and advice of the nappy support groups, and funding for 30 fantastic reusable nappy packs for hire, and accessories to help you get started.
With so much to try and guidance from nappy advisors, we hope more people will gain the confidence to make the switch to reusables and reduce the tonne of disposable nappy waste the average child produces until they are toilet trained.
What’s in the local reusable nappy packs?
Each reusable nappy pack funded by Somerset Council includes a range of (almost) birth-to-potty nappies, sized nappies, pre-folds and Terry squares, waterproof wraps, wet bags, mesh bag for bucket (bucket not supplied), nappy nippa, reusable wipes, reusable fleece liners, boosters for extra absorbency, and a roll of disposable liners.
The nappy support groups have carefully selected the pack contents – brands may differ between packs, but all include a range to suit different budgets for each style of nappy.
Each community partner sets their own terms and conditions, hire durations and rates. All are fantastic value for hiring such substantial reusable nappy packs.
Below is an example of one of the reusable nappy packs put together by Carry Me Kate Parenting CIC with grant money from Somerset Council.
Somerset nappy libraries and suppliers for older/disabled children
Carry Me Kate Parenting Services CIC is a community interest company offering parents access to different services, including a cloth nappy hire and advice service, sling hire and feeding support, with meetings across Somerset. They have over 20 reusable nappy packs funded by Somerset Council.
Areas covered: Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West & Taunton, South Somerset (western part including Chard and Ilminster)
Hire cost: £15 for 4 weeks of hire. Card details are taken in lieu of a deposit.
Facebook: Carry Me Kate on Facebook
Phone: 07583 829880
South Somerset Cloth Nappy Library provides reusable nappy hire and helpful advice for “going cloth” to people living in South Somerset and North Dorset. They will have six reusable nappy packs funded by Somerset Council
Areas covered: South Somerset (central and eastern part)
Hire cost: £15 for 4 weeks of hire plus a refundable deposit on return.
Facebook: South Somerset Cloth Nappy Library
Share – a library of things in Frome offers various-sized reusable nappy kits for hire and has one of the Somerset Council funded nappy packs for hire which includes over 25 nappies of various types, packs of reusable wipes, wet bags, and other accessories. See the great local deals above.
Areas covered: Frome and surrounding area (borrower collects)
Hire cost: Pack sizes and hire rates to vary. Can be hired from a single day to weeks. Please note, you need to become a member of Share to borrow items.
Phone: 07983 639611 (opening hours only)
Address: 3A The Bridge, Frome, BA11 1AR
Request for extra space
Somerset Council is committed to working with residents to improve recycling and reduce waste. We understand that everyone’s circumstances will be different and that this may be a challenge for some.
Requests for extra refuse space, which may be for a variety of reasons that generate substantial extra waste, from medical needs to multiple children in single-use disposable nappies, can only be authorised for households making full use of weekly recycling and food waste collections.
More space will only be provided if essential. If provided it may be as an additional bin (if the need is long-term, such as a health condition) or stickers to authorise extra rubbish sacks (if the need is temporary, such as children in nappies).
Requests are assessed on a case-by-case basis. At any stage, a Somerset Council Waste Management Officer may wish to speak to the resident making the request or visit to confirm a household’s needs and to make sure all waste is being appropriately managed.
The steps in our process for support are as follows:
1 . Check household capacity for the number of permanent residents.
When assessing capacity, we take into account the number of adults and children in the house, and whether any children are in single-use nappies.
If there is sufficient standard capacity, yet occupants have concerns, they will be asked to try without additional capacity first and contact us again if there are issues after they have been through one full collection cycle.
This policy applies to children in nappies who are expected to potty train between two and four years old.
If a child or adult has long-term health issues, or the waste is due to the use of continence products, permanent additional capacity with an extra bin space can be provided. Otherwise, stickers will be provided for a fixed period. If stickers are provided, nappies should be double-bagged and put in the rubbish bin (to reduce odour issues) and extra rubbish bags used for other unrecyclable waste.
2. If, after a full collection cycle, a resident feels they cannot manage with standard capacity, they can request a Waste Management Officer visit to determine what additional capacity is required.
3. If a resident continues to struggle with managing waste, they can contact us again to arrange a Waste Management Officer visit for a waste review to look at:
- What waste is in the bin
- Ensure that the household is recycling everything they can at the kerbside
- The Officer can approve a larger bin/additional stickers if required.
4. If following steps 1-3, the resident continues to struggle, the Officer will visit again and consider – only in exceptional circumstances – offering an additional collection solely for nappies/hygiene waste via the clinical waste collection service while the household reverts to standard capacity for their size for all other waste.
The Nappy Lady is an informative website providing advice and support about all things washable nappy related, including help and how to videos. These explain how to use and wash cloth nappies, the parts of a nappy system, answers to nappy concerns, and much more.
Mummy of Four helps “busy mums make their lives easier with parenting tips, tricks, hacks reviews and advice”. There is a suite of useful videos on reusable nappies, including accessories you need to go with reusable nappies, cloth nappy liners, inserts and boosters explained, and how to stuff pocket nappies.
There are several Facebook groups, internet parenting forums and reusable nappy retail sites which provide advice and guidance on different reusable nappy designs and styles. Some may also offer opportunities to buy or sell second-hand reusable nappies, as do some NCT events.
Used Nappies is a dedicated website to buy and sell used cloth nappies.
Older or disabled children. Possible suppliers.
Please note, Somerset Council does not endorse or promote any specific provider.
Reusable nappies for older children: Lizzies Real Nappies
Toddler and plus-sized nappies: Peanut and Poppet
Nappies for bigger babies: The Nappy Lady
Adult incontinence: The Nappy Lady – Adults
For older children or young adults: The Washable Nappy
Older children and adults with continence needs: Snuggle Blanks