how to use reusable nappies

Reusable or washable nappies sounded complicated to use, but they’re actually really simple.  Today I wanted to cover what do you need to use reusable nappies.  When I first started out, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was less than what I had imagined it might be.  

I first thought about washable/reusable nappies when I was about 4 months pregnant.  The idea of buying nappies upfront and then never having to spend any more money on nappies was very appealing.  It would also help with budgeting whilst on statutory maternity pay big time.

My first thoughts about washable/reusable nappies, however, were the terry towel nappies secured by large safety pins that my mother used on my sisters and me as babies.  I knew that I would never be able to get my head around the folds and the pins.  So I began to research cloth nappies. 

I was pleasantly surprised at how far cloth nappies have come in the past 30 years.  Most washable nappies look like nappies, and require no folding and definitely no pins, as they fasten with poppers or velcro.

My research also uncovered some rather disturbing facts about disposable nappies.  Did you know they can take 500 years (yes, a whole 500 years) to break down in landfill?  And not only that, the materials they use to make the nappies absorbent are full of rather nasty chemicals that sit right next to your baby’s delicate skin.

My Reusable Nappy Experience

So, a few days before my baby was born we invested in a set of washable nappies.  I bought a birth to potty set.  This meant we needed no other nappies. 

I then started using them when my daughter was about 6 weeks old.  You can start using them from birth, but we wanted to get past the meconium stage as once that stuff stains then it’s stained for good.  As first-time parents, we also wanted some time to also get over the shock of becoming parents before adding something else to learn to the mix!

Despite watching YouTube videos, getting a demonstration from a friend, and e-mails to the nappy company, these particular nappies just did not work for us at all.  We had leaks aplenty.  I felt disheartened, and went to the shop and bought a pack of disposables, thinking we were resigned to using disposables.

A few weeks later I really wasn’t happy about using the disposables.  I bought two Bumgenius nappies online that I found going cheap.  I figured if they didn’t work then I hadn’t lost out much.  They arrived and we tried them.  Triumphantly they worked, even overnight.  I then sold my existing set of nappies on eBay (for about the same price as I paid for them.  This is the beauty of washable nappies – they hold their price well, even if used.

I then bought a set of Bumgenius nappies.  As I’ve been using the Bumgenius nappies for over a year now, I thought I’d share here just about everything you could ever need to know and more on how to use reusable nappies.  From what you need to use reusable nappies to all the other questions you never knew you had.  

What You Need to Use Reusable Nappies

First off, here is my reusable nappy arsenal.  It’s probably less than you’d imagine:

washable nappies equipment needed

A Nappy Bucket

I use this Bambino Mio Nappy Bucket* to store wet and soiled nappies.  I like it because it comes with two mesh bags that you line the bucket with.  When it’s time to wash the nappies, you just have to pick up the bag.  No need to handle soiled nappies!

Detergent

I use a non-bio detergent.  Since I took this photo, I’ve switched to Bio D* as it’s palm oil-free.  I also sometimes make my own laundry powder and fabric conditioner, which I promise is not as much work as it sounds.

Nappies

Of course, the nappies!  I have personally found that 16 is a good amount of nappies for us.  

Wet Bag

A wet bag is essential for when you are out and about and need to change your baby’s nappy.  Simply roll up the used nappy, and pop it in your wet bag.  Once you get home, simply pop the nappy in your nappy bucket.  The wet bag I use is no longer available.  However, I’ve since bought a spare wet bag from Etsy*.   

Liners

Liners are the non-absorbent bit that goes between the cloth nappy and your baby’s bottom. Wetness is drawn through the liner, away from the skin into the absorbent core of the nappy.  The liner also catches the majority of your baby’s poo.  This makes it easier to flush away and minimises any staining on the nappy.  I also find it stops your nappy from getting impregnated with bum cream (here’s how to make your own homemade nappy rash cream by the way!).

To use, simply place one liner in the nappy.  When the nappy is dirty simply lift out the liner, pop the poo down the loo and then place the liner in the waste bin or compostable nappy sack.  I found that Tots Bots nappy liners* were the ideal size to fit BumGenius nappies.  

Extra Inserts

The insert is the main absorbent part of a pocket nappy.  Extra inserts are handy for stuffing into nappies if you want to use reusable nappies at night time.  There are a variety of different inserts or booster pads that you can buy.  From microfibre, to bamboo to charcoal.  I had three inserts, as I tended to wash my nappies every other day.

Buying Reusable Nappies

What I like about Bumgenius nappies is that they expand as your child grows via a system of poppers and folds.  So as your child grows you simply let them out a bit, meaning once you have made your initial purchase you don’t have to buy anything else.

I paid around £180 for the 16 nappies.  However, if you consider this is all we need until our daughter is potty trained then this is considerably less than if we were buying disposables every week for two years plus.  If we have another child then our savings would be considerably greater.  I also plan on selling our set once we are done with it, helping to offset the initial outlay.

Reusable nappies typically come with popper or velcro fasteners, and with Bumgenius you get a choice of which fastener you prefer.  I went for poppers as I thought they would be more durable than velcro.  As you are dealing with fasteners and not safety pins, this makes Bumgenius really easy to use.

bumgenius reviews

Will Reusable Nappies Hold As Much Wee as a Disposable?

Yes!  We can go four to five hours between changes in the day.

Storing Reusable Nappies

Storing the dirty nappies isn’t that big a deal.  I line my nappy bucket with the net bag and place the nappies in there.  When it’s time to wash all you have to do is lift out the net bag and put it straight into the machine – so you don’t even have to touch the nappies!  

This method is called dry-pailing.  However, you can soak the nappies in water and sanitiser when they’re in the bucket.  This is known as wet-pailing.  Wet-pailing sounded like too much of a faff for me.  Your bucket won’t smell if you use liners.

Washing Reusable Nappies

I was worried at the start that I’d constantly be washing poopy nappies.  However, the reality is that the washing isn’t too bad.  

I wash my nappies every other day.  All I have to do is throw the bag in the machine, switch it on, and leave it to do its thing.  I then spend 5 minutes hanging them up to dry and viola – that’s it!  It takes less time and hassle than if I had to go to the shop to buy a pack of disposables.

I wash my reusable nappies at 60ºC.  First, I run the nappies through a pre-wash setting first as I don’t wet pail.   Then I use a little bit of non-bio detergent.   I use about a third of the amount of detergent I would normally use to wash clothes as using too much can cause detergent build-up on the nappies and reduce their effectiveness.  The nappies come out clean and fresh.

If you do get a detergent build up then it’s not a big deal.  You can strip the nappies by washing the nappies in a 60ºC cycle without any detergent until you stop seeing detergent bubbles.

Even the drying of them is quick.  The nappies I use separate into three parts for ease of drying.  In winter the nappies dry within a couple of hours on a clothes horse/radiator.  On wet days I dry most of the nappies on a clothes horse without the heating on and they dry overnight.  

Do I Have to Touch Poo?

No!  I use nappy liners as this makes it easy to flush poo down the toilet.  As a parent to a baby, I always think the more you can do to avoid handling poo the better!  

The best thing about using liners is that as the poo goes down straight the toilet then there is no poo in your nappy bucket.  This means it doesn’t get stinky in between washes.  In fact, when I was using disposables the dirty nappies would sit in my outside bin for 2 weeks, making my bin stink something rotten.  Washable nappies avoid all of this.

Won’t the Reusable Nappies Get Covered in Poo Stains?

No.  If you use the liners you won’t.  If on the off-chance you do, hang your nappies outside on a sunny day.  Sunlight works wonders at bleaching them.  You could also add bleach to a wash of only the inserts (not the outer covers), but I haven’t done this.  You can also check out my natural stain remover tips for more ideas.

Will The Reusable Nappies Leak Overnight?

I was using the Bumgenius overnight, and up until about the 10 months stage I never had a problem with leakages.  My daughter can sleep up to 12 hours so I thought that was a pretty good test.  As she got bigger and started taking on more fluids in the day unfortunately we started to see leakages, so at this time we started using Naty by Nature Babycare disposables overnight.  Then I had a brainwave of adding an extra insert to the V.4 (so using two large and one small insert per nighttime nappy) and voila, nighttime dryness again!  You can buy additional inserts for this.

What About When We’re Out?

When we’re out and about we still use the washable nappies.  I pop my wet bag in my changing bag.  This means I can put the dirty nappies in there without having to worry about leakages or smells.  I just dispose of the liners first so I’m not carrying any poo around with me!  And I always think that if someone were to steal my bag then they’d be in for a surprise when they opened it!  Just remember to pop them in your nappy bucket when you get home.

Will My Husband/Parents/Childminders/Nursery Use Reusable Nappies?

Yes, yes, yes, and yes.  My boyfriend, my parents, and my daughter’s nursery have no problem using the nappies as they’re so easy to use. And my mum, who was used to using the folding and pinning method on my sisters and I, found them so easy to use.  She wished they’d been around when we were babies!

With the nursery, I first showed them how to use reusable nappies.  I then supply about 6 clean nappies in a wet bag every morning.  The nursery then put the used nappies into the wet bag throughout the day.  I take the bag home with me when I collect my daughter.  

Final Thoughts

So all in all, purse-friendly (once you’ve made the initial purchase).  Easy to use.  Planet-friendly, and baby-friendly.  I would say these nappies have been the best baby investment we have made.

Bumgenius is just one option.  Your local council might take part in a real nappy initiative and might be able to give you a chance to buy some tester nappies, or let you have a loan of some nappies.

I’d recommend this as not all nappies will suit your child.  As I mentioned, the first set of nappies we used didn’t suit my daughter.  Even if you pick up a few different secondhand nappies on Facebook cloth nappy groups to try out before you make your investment, then this would be a good idea.

If you need to use disposable nappies then it really isn’t the end of the world.  I’ve written a guide to eco-friendly disposable nappies if you need to supplement with disposables, or don’t get on with reusable nappies.  

I hope you’ve found this guide on how to use reusable nappies useful.  However, if you’ve got any other questions leave them in the comments below and I’ll try my best to answer them for you.

I also have heaps of other baby and child content on my site, such as this post on ethical kids’ clothes, that you might find useful.  Have a browse!

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