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Real Nappies: A Quick Guide

What are Real Nappies?

There are 3 basic parts to a real nappy:

  1. The absorbent part
  2. The waterprooft part, and
  3. A liner (optional, but makes life easier)

How do I find the right nappy for my baby?

The tricky part is deciding which absorbent and waterproof part is going to suit you, your baby and your lifestyle. The best way to decide is to try out 3 or 4 different nappies and use them one after another. Using real nappies in between disposable nappies does not give you a good idea of what they are like. Have a go when you have the time and energy, use them at least 4 times before deciding which one you like. When you’re happy with your choice, order a full set. You can mix and match nappies and covers until you find a combination that suits your baby.  If you are buying nappies such as Motherease or Pop-ins, which pretty much fit every shape and size of baby, we'd feel safe for you to buy a birth to potty pack without trying anything else.

Consider who else might be changing your baby's nappy; you may be perfectly happy with a pile of terry squares but if your baby eventually goes to nursery consider the nappies you will need to send your baby along with.  The shaped Velcro fastening nappies are easier to explain to a childminder or nursery than terries that need to be folded. You can have different nappies for different situations. Some people use thicker towelling nappies for nights and neater shaped nappies for days. We can advise on what you might need.

Modern washable nappies now come in a variety of fabrics.  We commonly think of real nappies as being made from cotton, but new 'hi-tec' nappies are now made from polyester, bamboo and hemp. Polyester towelling makes great nappies because it is very absorbent but dries very quickly; this is because the liquid is not absorbed by the fibres, instead it is held between the fibres and when spun the liquid simply spins out, leaving the nappy almost dry. Cotton, bamboo and hemp absorb the liquid into their fibres and so take longer to dry, bamboo takes the longest as it's fibres are super long and strong, followed by hemp then cotton. Cotton/polyester or Bamboo/polyester mix fabrics give you great absorbency without extra long drying times.

We often recommend people use a thirsty fabric such as bamboo for night time nappies as these will absorb more liquid by volume of fabric, bamboo is also silky soft next to your baby' skin, and because it grows like a weed it is not sprayed with pesticides and chemical fertilisers when it is growing so it is naturally 'organic' in nature.

In our shops you will get the chance to be shown in great detail how all of the nappies we stock work so that you can make an informed choice.

How many nappies do I need to get started?

For full time use (including nights) we suggest an ideal of between 18 to 24 nappies and 8-10 covers (if you are using shaped or pre-fold nappies). It is possible to only need 12 nappies and fewer covers but you will be washing more often so you must take that into account when considering how long your nappies will last and how quickly you can dry them. The nappies are also likely to wear out quicker with spinning over 1200rpm and tumble drying. Excessive amounts of detergents might also reduce the absorbency of the nappy by 'clogging ' them up. If you choose a style of nappy that has more than one size you only have to pay for the size that your baby needs, then get the next size up when appropriate. They will also have to last a shorter time. Remember, when your baby is out of nappies you can save them for your next baby or sell them to another parent.

Storing nappies for the wash

After use, take out the nappy liner, if it is soiled flush it away or if it is just wet throw it in the bin.  Place the parts of the nappy into a nappy bucket. A laundry net in the nappy bucket ensures a quick transfer of nappies into the washing machine; leave the net undone so the nappies can come out of the net and circulate well in the wash.

No soaking is necessary… a few drops of Tea Tree essential oil in the bucket will make it smell nice, but as you have flushed any poo and you are not soaking in chemicals, the container does not usually get smelly.

Washing Nappies

When you have a couple of days' worth of dirty nappies, tip them from the bucket into the washing machine, having a nappy net helps with this, put them on a short rinse and spin-cycle. Then add the rest of your whites and non bio detergent, and wash on a40 degree cycle (some brands say you can wash at 60 degrees). Always check washing instructions first, as different nappies and wraps have different maximum washing temperatures. You can wash nappies separately if you preferby using a pre-wash cycle in order to rinse them with fresh water first.

Keep in mind that the more care you take with your wraps the longer they arelikely to last and keep their waterproof qualities. You may want to wash them on a low temperature or by hand.

Some nappies can be washed at 95 degrees. Boil washing is not necessary. Do not use bleach or biological detergents as they can ruin the elastic and don't use fabric softeners as they coat the cotton in chemicals. To makeyour nappies soft, use a tablespoon of vinegar in the final rinse. With modern technical fibres it is advisable not to use fabric softener or wash your nappies and wraps together, as this might affect their absorbency overtime.

We asked our friends on Facebook for their tips about how to get rid of stains on nappies.  Their unanimous advice was to hang them in the sunshine where the sunlight can bleach out the stains! Even putting them in a sunny window works wonders. And to prevent staining in the first place, don't let the nappies dry out - give them a rinse in the loo before putting them in the nappy bucket and leaving them to soak until you're ready to wash them.

Drying Nappies

Air drying is the most economical way to dry your nappies. Most can also be tumble dried or placed on a radiator. Do not tumble-dry or radiator dry wraps as these can reduce their water proofing ability. Polyester nappies such as the Pop-in Dream-Dri and the Bumgenius/Flip are the quickest drying nappies whilst nappies containing bamboo take the longest to dry.


Need More information? Download the Real Nappy Guide

Click on the picture to go to the detailed Real Nappy Guide. (opens in a new browser, you will need a PDF reader to view the document). 

Many councils offer a voucher scheme for parents wanting to try reusable nappies;  Nappies for London operates in many London suburbs, check their website for details.  You can find out by just putting 'real nappy incentive scheme (and the name of your council)' into a search engine.

Of course if you need one to one help or advice, just call one of the shops or come in.

The Real Nappy Guide Cover Click Here to download

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