Real Nappies

Real Nappies

Currently in the UK about eight million disposable nappies are thrown away each day, which accounts for about three percent of our household waste. Using real nappies can dramatically reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill and minimise our impact on the environment.

Alternatives to disposable nappies

Real nappies are a natural alternative to disposable nappies. They are made up of three parts:
  1. a soft absorbent cloth nappy 
  2. a waterproof breathable cover
  3. a paper liner that can be flushed away. 
They are quick and convenient to use and come with speedy fasteners. There are also over 30 different styles and patterns to suit every child.

Real nappies can reduce the rubbish in your bin and also increase the pounds in your pocket! To get a baby through from birth to potty you will only need to buy around 50 cotton nappies compared to thousands of disposables that cannot be recycled.

How do real nappies work?

A cloth nappy is made up of a number of layers. The outer wrap acts as a waterproof layer; whilst the inner lining provides the absorbent layer. Some cloth nappies will come ‘ready made’ and are quite similar to disposables, whereas others may need to be made up in layers as required.

Each nappy will require a final layer consisting of a washable or flushable liner; which acts to catch any solids. At night, booster pads can be added to provide extra dryness over a 12-14 hour period.

Modern real nappies don’t use safety pins, instead they might have Velcro, poppers or an elastic fastening. You can even use traditional terry cloths, but with different folds to suit your baby. Have a look at our Nappy-Origami guide in the download box on the right for a free guide to folding.

Benefits of using real nappies

Converting to cloth is easier than you may think and there are many benefits for both you and your baby, as well as for the environment too!

For babies:
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests that those children who use cloth nappies become potty trained much quicker than those using disposables as they are more aware that they have been to the toilet.
  • Cloth nappies are made from natural materials, which help your child’s skin to breathe naturally as they do not contain any chemicals or gels.
For parents:
  • Real nappies could save you up to £500 per child and this price will rise if the nappies are reused for subsequent children. An initial payment is required for the nappies at the start of use, but this is one-off and you won’t need to pay out for disposable nappies as part of the weekly shop. Although the one of cost for real nappies will be between £300-400; parents will end up spending four times this amount over a two and a half year period.
  • There is a vast network of second-hand nappy suppliers, which can reduce the cost even further.
  • Washing nappies at home is the cheapest option, but there are also plenty of collection laundry services which cost around £8-10 per week.
  • For the environment:
  • It is predicted that a child will use between 4,000 and 6,000 nappies. These will unfortunately end up in landfill sites and as they decompose give out a harmful greenhouse gas called methane, which contributes to climate change.
  • WRAP (the Government's Waste & Resources Action Programme) have calculated that households which use cloth nappies reduce their household waste by up to half compared to those continuing to use disposables.
  • Disposable nappies use up to three and a half times more energy to make compared to cloth nappies.

Costs and Cashback

Real nappies cost as little as £2 each and washing them at home is as little as £1 per week, so you could save over £500 over a 2.5 year period.

Further information

Contact the Nottinghamshire County Council Customer Service Centre for more information.
Tel: 0300 500 80 80

Exploding the myths of real nappies

There are many myths surrounding the use of real nappies... here are a few of the facts:
  • They leak:
    Cotton nappies are no more likely to leak than disposables as long as they are fitted correctly.
  • They cause a nappy rash:
    Independent studies show that frequent nappy changing is the key to avoiding a nappy rash and the type of nappy used is not a determining factor.
  • They smell once used and have to be sterilised:
    Used cotton nappies can be stored in either a bucket with a lid or a container filled with water. Both will prevent them from smelling. Modern washing machines clean well enough that there is no need for sanitising cloth nappies.
  • Cloth nappies create extra loads of washing:
    Cloth nappies can be washed with the rest of your families washing. Heavily soiled nappies can be easily pre-washed or soaked. On average, families that use real nappies carry out a wash every 2-3 days. Overall the cost of washing real nappies (including the cost of detergents), is minimal compared to the environmental cost of disposables.
  • Nurseries and childminders won’t use real nappies:
    Nowadays child carers are happy to use real nappies as they are now so widely used. Real nappies also reduce the nurseries costs for the disposal of clinical waste.
  • My child is used to disposables; it's too late to convert to cloth:
    It is never too late to convert to cloth and it will even help to potty train your child quicker, saving you even more money.
Real Nappies are more environmentally friendly
Frequently Asked Questions about real nappies.