Nappies ain’t what they used to be. Thankfully!

The choices in cloth are mind boggling. Do you want an aplix closing? Snappi? or clips? How about terry? hemp? or bamboo? Want AIO (all-in-ones), pockets, prefolds or flats? Do you get sized or one sized? Should your covers be PUL or wool?

Confused? Although choosing a cloth nappy system is not rocket science, it can be overwhelming. It is a substantial investment, if you intend to buy enough to use full time. While I have not tried every cloth nappy system out there, I have tried a few.

All of the nappies I have listed need covers. You can purchase AIO nappies, which need no cover, but I chose not to as they normally required the purchase of several sizes, were more expensive than the other systems, and take quite a while to dry. I imagine though, that if you leave your little one with Dad, Grandma or a carer, AIO would soften the reaction of despair when you mention you use cloth. They are a one step nappy, and are the easiest option you can choose, short of disposables.

Here are my thoughts so far, though I have only one in nappies at present, and she is only 5 months old.

Tots bots

These are available in terry or bamboo, as well as a synthetic fibre. I have several in terry and bamboo; both have a sewn in booster. The terry use a snappy to close, which I prefer, and the bamboo come only with the aplix (velcro) closing. These do need a cover.


  • very absorbent
  • gentle, but effective, leg and back elastic to contain “spills”
  • the terry is soft against baby’s skin, the bamboo is luxurious!
  • using a snappy as closer on the terry, will fit perfectly no matter the size of your babies tum
  • the size two in the terry can be folded down at the front and used for newborns
  • no nappy origami sessions (no folding required)


  • these take FOREVER to dry. If you live in a very cold, or wet climate, don’t even think about it.
  • to prolong the life of the leg elastic, it is best not to use traditional nappy soaking solution, or to dry them regularly in the dryer.
  • the terry is a bit on the bulky side, the bamboo seems trimmer
  • The aplix on the bamboo nappies is annoying, as despite the washing tabs, it seems to catch on everything, and needs to be de-fluffed regularly. It also means you cannot buy the size two, and fold down the front for a younger baby.

Baby e

These nappies need a cover.


  • gloriously soft, luxurious, organic, sherpa cotton. Could a fabric get more comfy than this?
  • gentle but effective leg and back elastic to contain “spills”
  • one size system, from birth to trained (front folds down)
  • plastic popper style closure, no looking for pins or snappys, no “defluffing” velcro, very long lasting and hard for toddlers to escape from
  • day and night booster included, good absorbency
  • a fairly trim nappy
  • no nappy origami sessions (no folding required)
  • did I mention how soft this fabric is?


  • there was a brief window of time where this nappy didn’t fit well. Baby’s tum was between spaces in the poppers.
  • to prolong the life of the leg elastic, it is best not to use traditional nappy soaking solution


They need a cover, and are available with or without a sewn in polyester liner; mine have the liner.


  • made from absorbent hemp. It is not so much that these absorb more than the options above, but that they are a trimmer nappy while absorbing the same amount as the bulkier ones.
  • come with a sewn in booster, which flips out for drying, as well as an extra booster for night, or heavy wetters.
  • the sewn in liner works to keep baby drier, makes it easier to remove poop, and as it is a dark colour with a gold fleck, the nappy resists looking stained (in case you care about the look of the inside of your nappies….)
  • these dry relatively quickly, compared to the tots bots
  • they use a snappy to close, which means you have a perfect fit, regardless of baby’s size
  • they are more modestly priced than either of the two options above
  • no nappy origami sessions (no folding required)


  • the leg elastic is a little “tough” for tiny babies
  • to prolong the life of the leg elastic, it is best not to use traditional nappy soaking solution, or to dry them regularly in the dryer.
  • without the liner, the hemp could possibly be a bit scratchy on little bottoms

Zappy nappy

Available in cute colours, these nappies need a cover (which kind of defeats the purpose of the cute colours….)


  • soft, flannelette fabric
  • very gentle leg elastic, while still effectively containing spills
  • sewn in booster
  • dries quickly
  • velcro closure is easy to use
  • very adjustable fit
  • top folds down, which means the velcro does not rub against baby’s skin
  • trim nappy
  • no nappy origami sessions (no folding required)


  • not overly absorbent
  • the velcro can leave you with a “nappy train” – it tends to catch on everything else in the wash


I have only used these with the bummis super whisper wraps ( a PUL cover), having purchased them as a set.


  • an economical choice
  • easier to launder (you can soak the daylights out of them if you want to, they are fine to go in the dryer, and also dry quickly on the line)
  • useful to have around to line the change table, save your shoulder from baby spit, place on a waterproof mat for baby’s nappy free time, etc
  • less folding than a traditional terry square
  • available in unbleached cotton, which is more absorbent than bleached
  • when used with a bummis super whisper wrap, the fit is very good, as is the “containment”!
  • no snappy or pins necessary


  • not as absorbent as the other options, suits frequent changes
  • requires more changes of the covers, as they are more likely to be soiled with this system, compared to the others mentioned

Terry flats (traditional, white, cloth squares)

There is still a place in the nappy world for these workhorse nappies!


  • cheap! (and that’s nothing to sniff at: there’s plenty else to buy before you bring your bundle of joy home)
  • laundering is so easy (bleach them if you want, put them in the dryer)
  • dry on the line in no time
  • useful to have around to line the change table, save your shoulder from baby spit, place on a waterproof mat for baby’s nappy free time, etc
  • soft against baby’s skin
  • can be used for different sized children if you have more than one in nappies
  • last for subsequent children
  • endless uses around the home when no longer needed as nappies!


  • the folding. There is just no getting away from it.
  • no leg elastic – they fully rely on your creative folding.
  • require frequent changing
  • require pins or snappy
  • a bit on the bulky side

A word about covers……

I use Imse Vimse wool covers, and bummis super whisper wraps for my PUL covers. I also have an Imse Vimse organic cotton wrap, and a Thirsties PUL. They are all applied to the baby in a similar fashion to disposable nappies, as opposed to the old pilchers, or “fluffies,” which had to pulled on like pants. The wool covers have leg gussets to catch and help contain those poop disasters, and the PUL covers have a highly adjustable fit: both are equal to disposables in their abilities to contain mess.


I have two wool covers, which I use for night time. These have a double layer of wool through the centre of the cover, and a large velcro (aplix) panel on the front to secure. They are very absorbent, and allow moisture to evaporate, leaving your baby drier and, I presume, much more comfortable than the old plastic pilchers.

Wool covers need only be washed occasionally, provided you alternate them and allow them to dry between uses. When you do wash them however, you will sometimes need to lanolise them, to maintain the water proof properties. This is not an arduous task.

For super cheap wool covers, there are free patterns galore out there, if you can knit or crochet. One suggestion for the frugal, is to scour the op shops for a knitted jumper and unravel it to recycle the wool, with the caution to look for wool that has not been serged at the seams. Another option is to pick up a wool jumper (and if you are a novice, do check the tag to make sure it is not acrylic!) and use one of the free tutorials to sew yourself a wool cover. (see my adventures at “long sleeves for little legs“) The oz cloth nappies link below has links to several tutorials for wool covers.

Several crafty ladies sell hand knitted soakers (covers) on ebay, another option if you can’t, or don’t have time, to make your own.


PUL covers are a synthetic fabric with a waterproof performance slightly better than wool. They are breathable, but not as breathable as wool, which is why many choose PUL for day use, when the waterproof factor is important, and wool for night, when any evaporation is a bonus for that soggy bottom!

The bummis super whisper wraps come in a variety of sizes. The new born size does not fit for very long, and I would only recommend it if you were buying a sized nappy system, or were using prefolds. With any of the other nappy options, the “small” size is fine for newborns, as the velcro tabs will attach to each other, enabling a very snug fit.

The Thirsties covers have a very generous fit, and some people like that the inner layer can be wiped. Personally, it seems more plastic looking than the bummis wraps, and looks cheaper. (well, it IS cheaper!) I also don’t like the colour of the one Thirsties I bought to try, as the web photos looked baby pink, and my cover arrived in a poke-you-in-the-eye watermelon pink, which doesn’t effect the wear of the cover, but does seriously detract from the cute factor! In fairness to my ugly, watermelon pink cover, it is very functional, and matches the bummis wraps for practicality.


These are great with any type of nappy system. If you have a sleepy baby, or a heavy wetter, these are well worth purchasing separately.

Thirsties make boosters in hemp, hemp fleece, and microterry. I have tried all three, and prefer the hemp fleece over the others. They are very reasonably priced, and even if you are on a strict budget, it would be well worth purchasing a couple to use for night time.

If you have a sewing machine, you can easily purchase the hemp/bamboo by the half metre and whip some up yourself in no time, if you would like to custom fit your boosters. I highly recommend a set of boosters, whether you are using traditional terry flats, or fitteds. It gives so much more absorbency to your nappies.


You can purchase disposable liners at the supermarket, or there are eco-friendly alternatives that you can compost or flush. I have used the flushable liners, and find I throw them in the bin anyway, as you are required to tear them in half before flushing, and, well, with that runny, breastfed poop happening, I would rather not!

For a reusable option, purchase a metre of micro-fleece and cut into the size you need – too easy! Because it won’t fray, there is no need to get the sewing machine out, just cut and go. These are so easy to use and very, very effective at keeping the bottom dry. The small size I cut to suit my premi-newborn, I now use as baby wipes: they are very easy to launder.

Laundering moments…..

Cloth nappies were not the only thing to change. Now, the recommended laundering method is called “dry pailing”. There are several reasons for the change, but primarily it is to preserve the elastic in the fitted nappies. Gone are the days of two nappy buckets full of bleaching solution. They were a drowning hazard, very heavy to lift, but perhaps a more thorough, or at least a more satisfying, method of nappy laundering.

The new plan is to place your wet or soiled nappies (solids removed) in an empty nappy bucket with a well fitting lid. When you have enough for a load of washing, machine wash them, and away you go.

This did not work for me: my nappies didn’t smell fresh. Using an automatic washing machine, I now wash the nappies twice. The first time I wash them in warm water with a half measure of detergent. I then put them through the cycle again, still with a half measure of detergent, and have found this much more successful.

With any laundering practices, you may still have stains on your nappies at the end of the wash. Hanging them in the sun to dry as opposed to the dryer, will not only save you money, but will fade the stains away and leave them smelling clean.

A final word on laundering……..

When the care instructions for your nappies suggest that you prewash them, and assert that they will not reach full absorbency until 10 or 12 washes, it really is true. Hemp “fluffs” out a lot more after approximately 12 washes, and you will notice the increased absorbency. Prefolds, particularly if they are unbleached, will feel very different after 10 or 12 washes. It is well worth throwing them in with your regular wash before you want to use them, both for the absorbency and the feel against baby’s skin.

Some interesting links;

For all sorts of information on cloth, including making your own nappies and wool covers (free patterns!)

and this one just because the lady was so clever, my children loved practicing this on the teddy, and you never know when you may need it…..

With so many choices to make about so many new things, it can be helpful to have someone to speak to about your thoughts and concerns. There are lots of parent’s forums, which are great for bouncing ideas off: a google search should locate one in your country. If you have any questions or comments about what I have posted here, feel free to use the comment section below, and I will happily share if I can be of help to you in your nappy adventures!


To read how these nappies compare 9 after nine months of use, see Modern Cloth Nappies, a review.