Getting started with reusable cloth nappies

About the scheme 

Here in Sutton Council’s Sustainability Team, we’ve tried reusable cloth nappies on our children, and we’ve pooled our collective knowledge to give you the low-down on reusable nappies. We’ve put together enough info to get you started, but if you’ve got more questions, please do get in touch with us so we can talk you through it. Email us at

Why choose reusable cloth nappies?

Better for the environment

Disposable nappies take up to 500 years to decompose. Each baby gets through an average of 4000 nappies - that's a huge pile of nappies sitting in landfills or being incinerated.

Even part time cloth wearing can make a big difference.

Save money, long term

The initial cost of reusable nappies is more than a pack of disposables, but our cashback scheme can help there. If you spend over £100, you can get £25 cashback, and get £40 when you spend over £150. 

Disposable nappies from birth to potty can cost £400 or more, depending on the brand but a basic reusable nappy set can cost as little as £150 new - far less if you buy second hand.

If you have more than one child, you can use the same nappies and sell your nappies once you've finished!

You don't need to begin reusables all at once. Consider making the move gradually as you buy more reusable nappies - you can apply for your cashback voucher up until 18 months after your baby’s birth. So make sure you save your receipts because you’ll need them to apply.

Kind on baby skin

Using cloth nappies avoids the absorbent gels and chemicals found in disposables making it much kinder on your baby’s skin. Cloth material is much more breathable than plastic disposables. 

Cloth nappies are pretty

There are some lovely looking prints out there that look far nicer on a baby than a disposable nappy. If you like fashion you’ll love trying to coordinate nappies with their outfit for the day! 


Top tips for getting started

  • read a little on the subject to understand some of the options and terminology, but don’t get bogged down, you will learn as you go.
  • trial different options before committing to one type. 
  • look out for trial packs or hire kits from reusable nappy shops or nappy libraries or find some cheap second-hand nappies to give you a taste for what works for you and your baby
  • some people like to commit and go all in, but you can also take a gradual approach by starting with just one or two reusables a day, or just at night 
  • even if you only cloth part-time it makes a big difference to the environment
  • there are disposable liners available which mean you'll be throwing away far less than if you were using disposable nappies

Types of cloth nappy

There are different types of reusable nappies so don’t be put off by anyone system. There’s something to suit all! Here we give you just a brief overview of the main types:

All-in-one nappies 

All-in-one nappies are shaped nappy where the absorbent fabric and waterproof cover are combined all-in-one and are the closest in resemblance to disposables.

Shaped two-part nappies 

Shapes two=part nappies have a separate absorbent layer, but are still shaped and easy to fit. A waterproof layer then needs to be fitted over the top. 

Pocket nappies 

Pocket nappies consist of a waterproof shell with a fleece lining. Absorbent inserts fit inside the pocket between the fleece and outer layer. 

Flat nappies 

Flat nappies are the more traditional terry nappies, or prefolds. These need folding either to form a nappy shape, or to form a pad, then a separate waterproof layer is used on top. In general flat nappies are the cheapest option.

Please note that some types of nappy are considered birth-to-potty, and should last you most of your cloth journey. Others are ‘sized’ which can provide a better or easier fit. Learn more about the different types of nappy, including pros and cons of each type, by visiting some of the external websites listed at the bottom of the page.


You’ll find a routine that works for you, but as a general rule of thumb:

  • rinse or pre-wash used nappies every 1-2 days using a short cycle in your washing machine with a little detergent 
  • put all rinsed nappies in your machine on a long cycle that is 40 or 60 degrees using a full dose of detergent. Try for a ¾ full load to get the best agitation and clean.
  • don’t be afraid of soiled nappies. Before starting solids it’s all water soluble and can be chucked straight into the washing machine! Once you have started solids, dispose of as much as possible down the toilet, much as you would using a disposable. 
  • your nappies should come with washing directions but you may wish to read a little more. Here are some good resources offering some different options. We encourage you to find what works best for you.  
  • Clean Cloth Nappies, Cloth Nappy Nerds and The Nappy Lady all have more advice on washing cloth nappies.

Other resources for more information and advice 

South London Nappies

Real Nappies for London

Cloth Nappy Nerds

The Nappy Lady

Real Nappy Life

Please note, Sutton Council does not endorse any of the products or services found here.

Use social media? There are many reusable/cloth nappy groups filled with enthusiastic parents and carers happy to answer questions and provide advice. You’ll also find buying and selling groups that may help you get started. 

Ask us about them – we use them!

The Sustainability Team at Sutton includes both past and current cloth bum mums! They’re more than happy to help you on your journey by answering any questions or concerns you may have in getting started. Below is a basic introduction to reusable cloth nappies - drop us a line at and one of our team will be in touch to answer any other questions