Cloth Nappies - The Basics



As a child of the 70's (yes I do mean 1970's!) I have memories of my Mum standing over a seemingly huge vat of boiling terry nappies, enormous, wooden tongs in hand, preparing to haul them into the trusty twin-tub.

Many years later,while pregnant with my daughter, this was the image that my imagination conjured when I began to notice articles about the growing popularity of cloth nappies. On further investigation I was very pleasantly surprised by the evolution of the humble terry square, even if a touch bewildered by the variety available and the terminology surrounding them!

The great new designs and super efficiency of modern washing machines mean that cloth nappies really are as easy as disposables yet kinder to baby, the planet and your purse.

If you are bamboozled by the choices and don't know your pre-fold from your pocket, then hopefully this brief guide will help you find your way around.

Flat Nappies:

This category includes the aforementioned terry squares from my childhood, these along with muslin squares are the most basic of cloth nappies,and can be folded in a variety of ways from the basic kite fold to those requiring a black belt in origami! A modern addition to the flat nappies are ‘pre-folds’- these are rectangular in shape and made of layered woven cotton or bamboo. Stitched with a thicker middle layer for added absorbancy, the thinner sides give a slimmer fit than terry squares.Pre-folds require simple folding and, like Terrys and Muslins, can be fastened with the traditional safety pin, or with the modern (and blunt!)Nappi Nippas. Flat nappies are not waterproof and require a cover or "wrap" Flat nappies are the most economical of cloth nappies and no longer require the vat or tongs!!

Fitted Nappies:

FItted nappies are shaped nappies, designed to fit neatly around a little bottom and fasten in front with either a Nappi Nippa, poppers or Velcro/Aplix. Fitted nappies require no folding, but, like the flat nappies, do require a wrap/cover. Many parents prefer the fitted nappies for night time use as they offer great absorbancy, especially those made of bamboo. Boosters can be added to increase absorbancy and liners can be used to keep babies delicate little bottom dry.


As mentioned above, these play a vital role when using flat or fitted nappies. As well as providing the waterproofing for your nappy, the wrap is also the fun part! Wraps come in an endless range of colours, patterns and designs, they can even be embroidered and personalised (try doing that to a disposable!). Wraps can be made of PUL (polyurethane laminate), polyester, fleece or even wool (.wool soakers make an excellent cloth diaper cover because of wool's natural ability to absorb and repel moisture. Wool is also very breathable which will help reduce incidence of nappy rash, it is recommended that wool soakers are lanolised) It is important to ensure that your wrap fits properly, different makes will suit different babies, we can advise on wraps and sizes to ensure a suitable one is found. You will need to replace your childs wrap as they grow, but they can of course be used for the next baby, and the next etc and even if you are not planning anymore, there is a big market for pre-loved nappies and wraps.

Pocket Nappies:

Also called stuffables, these are wraps with a pouch into which you can insert any pads eg folded terries, shaped inserts (these are commonly made of either super absorbant, quick drying micro-fibre or natural fibres such as bamboo and hemp, which also offer great absorbancy), prefolds or pads you have made yourself; like creating an all-in-one. They do not require a separate covering wrap as this is integral to the design, with the inner layer of the pocket being a fabric liner, often made from polyester fleece or suedecloth. Pocket nappies are very versatile as you can add pads for night times and use fewer during the day. The inserts are "shaken" out of the pocket prior to washing, making them faster drying than an AIO. Pocket nappies can be sized or Onesize, fasten with either poppers or velcro/aplix and come in an endless array of styles,fabrics, colours and designs.

All In Ones (AIOs) :

As the name implies, these are a nappy that has the waterproof cover, liner and insert built in. Shaped like a disposable again, these really are like using a disposable, only difference being they will be washed and used again. They fasten with velcro or poppers. The whole nappy goes in the wash each time. No extra waterproof cover required.  The ultimate in cloth convenience, as easy as a disposable but without the nasty chemicals or burden on landfills. Once again these nappies are available in a huge array of styles, colours and patterns and fasten with poppers or velcro/aplix. Because they are so easy to use they are an ideal nappy for those using childcare, but will generally take longer to dry than the pocket nappies and tend not to be as super absorbant, although recent additions to the AIO range have proved to be extremely absorbant and are designed to dry much quicker than most.

One-size Nappies:

Or Birth to Potty nappies are a great and economical option for those wanting the convenience and styling of Pocket nappies and AIOs but do not want the expense of buying different sizes. The range of Birth to Potty nappies is now as great as those of pocket and AIOs and although some tend to be a little bulky on smaller babies, some, like Bumgenius, come with smaller inserts to be used with the smaller size settings, the Gallery pictures show the versatility of these nappies, showing them on babies from a few months to 3 years! The majority of Birth to Potty nappies are adjustable using a series of poppers on the front of the nappy as illustrated below.

Inserts and Boosters:

Inserts are the absorbant pads used in pocket nappies, likewise boosters are additional pads used to "boost" the absorbancy of a nappy, be it a pocket or fitted.

Nappy Liners:

Most commonly washable liners are made of fleece, although babies with particularly sensitive skin may benefit from liners made of silk. Flushable liners are made from soft paper. The liners serve to wick away moisture and keep babie's bottom nice and dry, fleece liners are particularly good at this.