Big square towelling nappies and Snappi Diaper Fasteners are so last decade! Enter cloth nappies! If you haven’t heard of these amazing life changers or if you’re trying to figure out if this is the route you want to go or if you’re just downright curious as to how these are different from what you wore, stick around.


As a child, I loved my dolls and one of the best things to do was to change a nappy. When I was older, new-fangled disposables made their appearance with a Velcro type tab and so I could just reuse and reuse instead of using Prestik to stick down the stocky tabs. But, before I had enough pocket money to buy a packet of disposables, towelling nappies it was. We started with a square of towelling material. And, depending on whether you were folding it for a boy or a girl, you would do the origami a different way. I can still remember exactly how I folded them – yes, I loved my dolls!


Then came the Snappi Diaper Fastener…who remembers these?


And lastly came the ugly, oversized waterproof that dates our summer baby pictures.


Although these are still around and used, our lives just got easier! Welcome to the world of trendy, cloth nappies! A friend of mine ordered hers ten years ago and it was the first time I’d seen anything like it! It made so much sense! Why had people not figured out how to make the whole rigmarole of changing a nappy simpler earlier?

I’ve seen many memes about changing nappies…

Sounds about right…

Or there’s my favourite…

And honestly, it takes two adults and four hands on a bad day! You’re doing well on your own if you can keep your baby’s feet and hands out of the nether regions and stop – with your thigh – the nappy slipping onto the floor. Then it takes some real problem-solving skills to carry on from there! Or, my favourite –  you have managed to secure all limbs and have your child’s bottom all ready to receive a good clean and the wipes stick together! ARRRGHHH!!!

And then (!!!), if you were our parents, you would have to add a pre-folded towelling nappy to the already sticky situation without unfolding the origami in transit! You must be joking!! How? I have no words. Dolls are easy! Thrashing babies are a completely different kettle of fish!


So here it is, guys! The new, improved and trending cloth nappy!

And, the best part is, we have our very own cloth nappy brands made locally in South Africa and, according to my friend, they are cheaper here than in the USA! She shipped some Proudly South African nappies to her sister in the States because the ones her sister can get there cost a pretty penny!


So, at a mere 8 weeks pregnant, I went armed with my card, an informed friend and a ridiculous amount of excitement to purchase my unborn child a stash of nappies. I was overwhelmed at the variety of designs and types of cloth but also by the cute prints! Below are the ones I chose. (We weren’t going to find out if we were having a boy or a girl so I had to pick unisex nappies.)

Cute hey?!?

A cloth nappy has a waterproof cover which can be a plain colour or may have a cool print on the outside and, depending on the brand and type of nappy, the lining on the inside is different. Mine is like a light fleece, great for keeping that sensitive bottom dry. There is an opening at the back of the nappy where you can slip in the inserts. The inserts are layers of different types of fabric that absorb all the moisture, sewn together. Depending on the age of your baby and the extent to which he or she wets the nappy, you can have one or two inserts. Some of my friends don’t put the inserts into the cover pocket. I followed suite in the beginning, just laying them on top of the cover but, after realising that, when they wriggle, you have to line up the inserts under them again and also realising that the fleece lining of the cover keeps them nice and dry (important for nappy rash, I’ve decided to use the pocket. It does take longer but folding them all at once helps; in that way they are ready to go. One last thing that I would say you need, although some moms differ on this, is nappy liners. These prevent you from having to flick solid waste into a toilet. You can pick up the corners of the liner and toss it and the contents. If you get biodegradable liners, you can even flush them down the loo!

Here are the 5 things you need to know about cloth nappies…

1.There are different types of inserts

 I own four types but there are more!! When I bought each cover, it came with a microfibre insert. These inserts draw in moisture but leave the baby feeling mostly dry. When I started using cloth when my prem baby finally fitted into them at three months, this was the only insert I used. She didn’t soak through them. As she began to drink more and consequently, wee more, I added an extra insert. I have other inserts that are a blend of microfibre and bamboo, some that are hemp and others that are bamboo.

The first insert on the left is microfibre. (You suddenly realise how much dry skin you have on your hands when it sticks to you!) It dries the fastest. They would be essential inserts in every nappy for me.

The second insert is hemp. It dries very stiff which makes it very easy to put into the pocket but it loses its shape in the machine. I reshape mine before hanging them up. These take much longer to dry.

The third insert is bamboo. These ones are my least favourite and I avoid using them if I can. They are very floppy so it’s really hard to get them inserted straight inside a pocket. They also lose shape in the machine and take a very, very long time to dry! I wouldn’t buy these again. (Personal opinion)

The fourth is the blend of microfibre and bamboo. These ones are okay. They are considerably stiffer and thicker than the bamboo ones and don’t lose shape. They do, however, take an age to dry.

My favourite extra insert is definitely hemp. Stiff and easy to insert. Takes half the time to dry. I can live with the odd shape!


2. How to wash your cloth nappies (The Fun Part!)

I won’t lie, this is a time in the week I dread. It happens twice on a good week, three times on a bad week. I don’t think my friends dread it as much because they just chuck their nappies straight into the machine. I, on the other hand, can’t stand the thought of my clothes going into the same machine straight after my child’s waste has been swirling around in there! So I throw all mine into the bath and hose them down first. And yes, it takes a lot for me to sink my hands into yellow water, but my hands can be washed.

Once I’ve done that, I throw them into the washing machine. The inserts can be washed with hot water but the covers only with cold. I wash mine together so I use a cold wash. I set the machine on the longest cycle. I don’t use a special or specific washing powder or liquid but it cannot have bleach, softener or any other kind of detergent in it! So always make sure of this as some washing powders and liquids now contain softeners. Just use washing powder or liquid – don’t even think of adding bleach. All these extra detergents will spoil your nappies and block the fibres, and then they will no longer absorb. Once the cycle is over, hang them outside to dry. I like to use my clothes horse so if they’re not dry in time, I don’t need to unpeg 16 odd covers and 32 odd inserts and then rehang them inside!


3.Cost and Environmental Impact

We have friends who live on a farm and the husband burns his rubbish. I’ll never forget what he said. He told us that everything in in his landfill burnt – except for disposable nappies! Not even fire can destroy those bad boys! Check out the facts for yourself!

If you’re anything like me, seeing is believing…

I paid approximately R3000 for 20 covers + microfibre inserts, 20 extra inserts (hemp, bamboo blend, bamboo), a wet bag (to store wet nappies) and bamboo breast pads. Since my daughter has been in cloth, I buy a packet of disposables maybe every second month. We use one a day as her night nappy. In her first month of being alive, we spent R500 on disposables, a sixth of the price of all my cloth nappies! And, I can use the nappies again for our second child. We have saved so much money!!


4.How They Work

All those press-studs might be making your head spin but basically, it’s a one-size-fits-all. As your child grows, you can adjust the size of the nappy. The same nappy that fits your three-month old can be adjusted to fit your toddler.

Once the cover has been adjusted to size, you will need to insert two inserts into the pocket of the cover. Put the microfibre on top as that draws moisture away from your baby and keeps that bottom dry. (Alternatively, you can just lay them on top. The microfibre must not make contact with your baby’s skin as it will dry that poor little bottom out. So if you choose to do it this way, you will need a liner to cover the inserts.) Once you have put the inserts into the pocket, place your liner over the inside of the cover. That way, you can neatly grab the corners without touching anything nasty and throw it all away into a bag. (Biodegradable liners are available but they are ridiculously expensive and don’t cover the full length…go figure!) Make sure the liner sticks out over the sides of the nappy so you don’t have to scrape waste out of the folds with your fingernails!

I use Cherubs liners. They are cheap (R25.00 for 50) but, from what I know, they can only be found at Baby City.

I love how these nappies fold up so compactly when you remove them. Simply fold them in half and press-stud them together.

Throw soiled nappies into an empty nappy bin (no soaking, no water, no solution required!) and leave them there for no longer than three days.



How many nappies do you need?

  • At least 20 covers, 20 microfibre inserts, 20 alternative inserts (bamboo, bamboo blend, hemp)

Do you have to put the inserts into the cover pocket?

  • No. I’ve done it both ways and definitely prefer the inserts inside. It looks nicer and is easier to handle under a wriggling baby rather than trying to make it all line up. The fleece that my cover is lined with also keeps the baby dry. If you choose to just lay the inserts on top of the cover, the mircofibre insert (which you put on top) cannot touch skin as it will dry out your baby’s skin.

Which inserts should I buy?

  • I think this is a matter of preference (see point 1). If I were to buy again, I would probably only buy microfibre and hemp. Some people find bamboo more absorbent. I didn’t. And some stop using microfibre (because it doesn’t absorb much at all) and use bamboo and hemp. I haven’t needed to thus far.

Can I use bum cream?

  • Only organic bum cream! All other bum cream blocks fibres and makes your nappies less absorbent. You can also use coconut oil or corn flour (dries out nappy rash). No regular bum cream can be used! I use Pure Beginnings Nappy Cream if my daughter has a nappy rash.

How do I treat nappy rash?

  • Use an organic bum cream, coconut oil or cornflour. Alternatively, I switch to disposables for the day if she has a bad rash, so I can use the pasty, white, no-nonsense bum cream.

It looks like a lot of admin…convince me otherwise…

  • It is more admin than disposables but here’s what I like about them. Once made up, they are easier to put on. With disposables, I find myself redoing the tabs all the time because my child is squirming. At least, with cloth, I know which press stud must pop in where. I also feel better about myself, knowing I’m doing my bit for the earth and, frankly, when I watch how disposables pile up after a week of using them, I shudder to think how much waste we would generate if we used them all the time. The money I save is the main reason I went with cloth nappies. I cannot tell you how relieved I am when I realise how much I don’t need to spend. When finances are tight, the last thing I want to do is to be using our funds weekly on something that collects waste and then goes into the bin! I am regularly thankful that I made this choice. I haven’t reached potty training yet but I have heard that children in cloth also potty train faster because they feel wet sooner. I also think they are better for our children as they don’t contain chemicals and we are forced to change them more frequently. Less convenient, maybe but better for my child, definitely!

Are they easy to use?

  • Once you get the hang of it, very easy!

How do you store them until you wash them?

  • In a bucket or nappy bin without water, solution, bleach, etc. Throw them into the empty bin as they are and then either into a bath with just water to rinse or straight into the washing machine.

How often do you wash them?

  • I find that I need to wash every three days. If it’s cold, I need to get my act together. They do take about two days to dry when the weather is awful. When it’s nice and sunny or even in overcast weather, they can take just the morning or daylight hours to dry. You can dry the inserts in the tumble dryer although I would imagine it’s not brilliant for them. You can’t dry the covers in the tumble dryer but I find that these dry pretty quickly.


Super long post, guys! But I really hope this has been helpful to those of you who are debating whether to start the cloth journey or not or you are sitting with a pile of brand-spanking new nappies but not a clue how to use them! If you’re already using cloth, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Bottoms up to cloth nappies!

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