Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How many cloth nappies do I need?
For newborn stage you will need on average about 30 - 36 changes to wash every second day (this takes into account drying time etc) and for an older baby and toddler age about 24 changes to wash every second day. (There is also a guide in the Types of Cloth Nappies section)
Q: What other items will I need (besides the nappies) to use cloth?
Dry bucket - to store soiled nappies in until wash day
Wetbag - to store soiled nappies in while out and about. In a pinch you can use a plastic shopping bag too
Cloth Wipes - instead of disposable wipes (see below)
Nappy sprayer: To help spray off poop nappies after baby starts solids
Disposable Liners: To help with disposing of poop after baby starts solids
Reusable Liners: Usually made from micro-fleece, it creates a stay-dry layer and prevents poop stains on cloth as it washes easier and doesn’t stain as easily
Cloth safe bum cream - this does not need to be applied with every nappy change, only when you notice some redness.
Q: Which brand is the best?
There is no one best brand. The best cloth nappy for you and your baby will depend on a few factors:
your lifestyle - eg. if baby will go to a creche pockets and AIOs are usually preferred, while flats & covers and AI2s are great for frequent travelers
your budget - types and brands can vary from R20 to R600+
baby's build - some brands fit chubbier babies better, while others are a smaller cut and better suited to petite babies
your preferences - you may prefer a trimmer nappy or only organic cotton against baby's skin
sensitivity - although in the minority, some babies are sensitive to synthetic fibers (eg stay-dry linings in pocket nappies) while others are sensitive to wetness (so natural fibers against the skin won't work for them).
Having said that, most moms prefer a varied stash of types and brands to cater for different circumstances eg. Out and about, night time, day care etc.
Q: What type of nappy should I get?
A variety of types is always a good idea, have a look at our what type of nappy you should get for what lifestyle and build your own variety stash by checking the how many graphs here
Q: How long does a cloth nappy last?
Modern cloth nappies will last for at least one child, and very possibly for a second and even third child. It all depends on how well you look after your nappies. Make sure you follow the correct washing instructions, staying clear of excessive heat, soaking and repeated bleaching and you should have functional cloth nappies for a very long time. You might need to change elastics after about 3 years of use, but other than that you should not have any problems. This does vary between brands, some brands last longer than others. Some types of fabrics are also more durable than others.
Q: What is the price of cloth nappies?
Just like any other product there is a big variety in the price, depending on brand and type. A broad average according to type:
Pockets: R80-R450 each with 1-2 insert/s
AI2: R100-R350 per change
AIO: R150-R600 each
Fitteds: R150-R600 each
Hybrid Fitteds: R300-R1000 each
Flats: R30-R110 each
Prefolds: R80-R150 each
Covers: R80-R400 each
What can make cloth nappies more expensive: Home made, quality, natural fibers (more absorbent), imported or local, types of fabrics used, types of waterproofing/water resistant fabric etc
Q: How do cloth wipes work?
Cloth wipes can be made from any absorbent fabric (flannel or micro-terry works well) or you can buy baby face cloths. Add a spray bottle to make cleaning even easier or you can wet the cloth wipes, squeeze excess liquid out and keep them moist in a wipes container (or Tupperware or zip lock bag). You can add some coconut oil or baby soap to the water if you wish
Q: How do I remove stains?
The sun is truly magical! It does a great job in removing poop stains, especially exclusively breastfed yellow poop stains. After you washed your nappies, dry them facing the sun. If your nappies are properly cleaned, the stain will usually disappear after being sunned once, some stubborn stains might need a bit more sun exposure. You can also put some lemon juice on the stain, dry in sun and wash again. Alternatively you can rub the stain with sunlight bar soap before washing to remove stains. This image shows nappies before and after drying in the sun.
Q: What about the poop?!
As parent to a baby and toddler, you will deal with poop regardless of the type of nappy you choose. The benefit of cloth is that poopsplosions are incredibly rare as cloth keeps everything contained inside the nappy. So you just need to deal with the nappy (and not the clothes, the floor, the car seat, mattress or yourself. A nappy sprayer is a great aid! It’s inexpensive to buy, easy to install and can be used to spray of poop nappies. If you do not have a nappy sprayer, you can use disposable liners or fleece liners (washes off easier than other fabrics and do not stain as easily)
EBF (exclusively breastfed) poop is water soluble, so you do not need to rinse a EBF nappy, it can go straight in the dry bucket for wash day. And no, you will not have any poop particles stuck in your washing machine as it will all rinse away.
Q: What is a nappy sprayer?
It’s a bidet sprayer that you connect to your toilet. You can find one at any hardware store, or from selected cloth nappy retailers. It makes dealing with poop a lot easier after baby starts solids.
Q: How often do I need to change a cloth nappy?
Change every 2 - 3 hours during the day (same as you would with any nappy) for hygienic reasons and immediately for a poo nappy. If you use an absorbent enough nappy at night you shouldn't have to change it until morning.
Q: Can I use bum cream with my cloth nappies? What is safe to use as bum cream on my cloth nappies?
It is not necessary to use bum cream with every change like you would when using disposables. Babies in cloth nappies are less prone to rashes, so you only need to apply bum cream when you notice some redness. Some moms also like to apply bum cream as preventative measure before putting on an overnight nappy, just because the nappy is on for so long.
Most commercial bum creams are not safe to use on cloth nappies as they create a thick barrier on the nappy, which prevents the urine from being absorbed and causes leaks. If you do want to use these types of creams it is advised to use a liner. If some cream accidentally gets onto the nappy, you can remove it by scrubbing the residue with sunlight dish washing liquid and an old toothbrush.
The following locally available creams are safe to use on cloth nappies without the use of liners - Cheeky Monkey Bum balm (Little Lily, Biddykins, Little Details), Sproglets (Smart Bums), Oshana baby natural barrier cream, Kylie Co little bum balm, Olibee bum balm, Wriggly tin, Earthly Lure, Foxybums bum balm, coconut oil, Oh Lief, Pure Beginnings, Enchantrix, Mother Nature, Bloublommetjies, Natraloe, Little Ladybugs bum balm, Ladybird, Naturally Beauty-full, Earth Babies, Cotton tails bunny bum balm.
Q: What is the deal with microfiber? Why do some love it and others hate it?
Microfiber is a synthetic fabric that absorbs very quickly, it’s also one of the cheaper options and dries very quickly. The downside is that it is prone to compression leaks when baby starts moving more. Think of microfiber as a sponge - absorbs very quickly, but releases liquid under pressure. If you buy microfiber inserts, just bear in mind you might need to replace it with natural fibers at some point as baby gets older and output increases. Also see in fabrics
Q: I'm getting leaks, why?
There are multiple reasons you can experience leaks, but leaks are NOT normal with cloth nappies, if you have the right solution, fit and absorbency, you should not be experiencing leaks:
Firstly, check the inserts or absorbent part of your nappy, if it's completely soaking wet when it leaks, it simply means you need more absorbency. You can either add more inserts, boosters or change more often. You can also use different fabric, for eg natural fibers that hold more liquid. (some fabrics can cause compression leaks, like microfiber). For hygienic reasons you should change every 2-3 hours regardless
If the inserts/absorbent part is not completely soaked, the most likely culprit is the fit: Make sure the elastics are in the panty line and that the rise snaps are adjusted for your baby/toddler's size and that there are no gaps around the legs. The inserts/flat/prefold should also be covered completely by the outer waterproof cover, make sure nothing sticks out
Make sure your waterproof cover is in tact and not de-laminating/has micro-tears (you will see a plastic film detaching from the print if you look on the inside of the PUL/TPU). This is VERY rare however, if your PUL is de-laminating, contact your supplier to get it replaced
If you are using fleece as the outer layer, you can get compression leaks if your baby wears tight cotton clothing over it
Please post on our Facebook group to get advice from members that can help you troubleshoot the cause
Q: Can cloth nappies damage my baby's development?
A common question is whether the bulk (of some cloth nappies) can cause hip problems or make a baby walk bow legged. The answer is a very definite and reassuring NO! Some cloth nappies can cause your baby's legs to be spread wider, but that is actually the optimum for them (especially as a newborn) as it supports their hips better. In the past hip dysplasia was treated by putting the baby/toddler in two bulky terry square nappies at a time so the legs could be spread wider to support the hips and encourage healing.
Cloth will actually protect your baby when he gets mobile too! It's a lot softer to land on a squishy cloth bum, so your experimenting baby will actually thank you for his beautiful and soft landing.
Q: Can I use (insert brand name) cover over a flat, prefold or fitted nappy?
Generally yes, you can use any cover over these nappies, regardless of brand. If you want to trifold a prefold or pad fold a flat it is normally best to use a snugger fitting cover as it will hold the prefold/flat in place better. For terry squares and fitted nappies a roomier cover normally works better to cover the entire nappy.
Q: Can I send cloth to daycare/creche?
Yes! A lot of moms send cloth to creche. It always helps to do a small demonstration for the team at daycare so they know how to put the nappy on properly. For the daycare cloth is no more effort than disposables, you provide enough cloth nappies for the day and a wet bag (where they can store all soiled nappies). When taking the nappy off, they simply put it in the wet bag instead of in the bin, Some might offer to throw away the poopy liners, but this is not necessary. Many moms simply deal with the poop once they get home and then move the used nappies to the laundry bucket until wash day. Feel free to direct your daycare provider to our information on cloth at daycare.
Q: How do I prep new cloth nappies before using?
Before using your new nappies it is recommended to wash them once just to get rid of any dirt that might have collected with packing and shipping etc. Keep in mind that natural fibers need to be washed 8-10 times to be fully absorbent, so if you want max absorbency from the start, you need to wash them repeatedly. It is however easier to prep on the bum, just keep in mind you will have to change baby earlier the first 8-10 times until they reach their full absorbency capabilities.
Q: Why do some people revert to disposables after starting cloth?
It’s usually because of misinformation and expectations that are not realistic. Some reasons for people to get discouraged:
Stinky nappies: This is due to not using the correct washing routine and believing the cloth myth that you can not use mainstream detergents. Any detergent not containing fabric softener is safe to use on cloth. Have a look on the Washing Cloth section to see how easy washing cloth really is and to get a fail-proof washing routine
Unforeseen costs or challenges: A lot of people start with pockets as entry level cloth, since pockets are very easily available and seem very cost effective to start out with. Many pockets are only sold with 1 microfiber insert, which means a new cloth mom will start out very positive and with no leaks, but as soon as baby gets a bit older, they experience lots of leaks and don’t understand why. Microfiber tends to get compression leaks as soon as baby starts moving, most babies and toddlers will also need at least 2 inserts at some stage to not leak. This means an additional investment that the cloth mom did not anticipate, which can be discouraging and off putting. To avoid this, make sure that you buy natural fiber inserts from the start with your pockets and budget to have at least 2 inserts per pocket, this will give you a more accurate total cost calculation for your stash as well as prevent possible leaks.
Using OSFM cloth on newborns: Most one size cloth options are too big for newborns and only really start fitting well at 5+kg, so the leaks (due to incorrect fit) and the bulk of OSFM nappies on a newborn might make a new cloth mom turn back to disposables. See using cloth on a newborn section
Frequency of changes: Cloth needs to be changed every 2-3 hours for hygiene reasons (Disposables too, but most moms don’t change that often). For some babies that are heavier wetters, cloth needs to be changed every 2-3 hours to prevent leaks too (depending on what nappy types and brands you use) and if you are not prepared to change as often, it might turn you back to disposables. Usually a mom going cloth also does it for the hygiene and health of their baby (in addition to the environmental aspects and cost savings) so changing often won’t be an additional challenge as they would do it in disposables too. Cloth nappies do have more absorbent options for nap times and night time (so you don't need to change at night)
Q: What is FDR and SDR?
One-Size diapers' rise can be adjusted in two ways, either by a SDR (Snap Down Rise) or a FDR (Fold Down Rise)
A SDR works well with pockets, covers, AIO's, SIOs etc and usually provides 3-4 rise settings to adjust the size of the nappy
Don't be concerned if your baby has all rise snaps open early on, their body shapes change constantly, especially after starting to crawl and walk, so you'll probably go up and down with rise snaps as your baby grows to get the ideal fit
A FDR works really well for hybrid fitteds and fitteds as the shells are usually thick so it helps with a neater fit around the legs as the excess fabric is at the tummy and not at the legs. The snaps are all situated on the tummy panel and you adjust the rise by folding the tummy panel over as much as required and then fastening it. FDR can also be more customizable as you don't have that awkward in between phase like with rise snaps, you just fold the height to what you need
Q: What is the difference between serged and turned?
Turned and serged is the way a WAHM's nappy is finished. Choosing which finish you prefer is mostly personal preference.
Serged - usually provides more stretch which helps with an easier fit, especially over chubby legs. To some babies the serge might not be as comfortable as turned though when moving around in the day. At night the serge can be helpful as the leg elastics will be gentler on legs. Could get more wing curl opposed to Turned
Turned (Turned and Top stitched - T&T) - gives a neater look, might start fraying quicker if older
Q: What is the difference between a petal and snake insert?
Petal insert: Usually 3 inserts that are the same length as the cover. These provide an even absorbency and is sometimes preferred by girl moms as they mostly have an evenly spread wetzone
Snake insert: this is one long insert that can be folded in different ways to provide max absorbency in the wetzone. This is for moms that like to customize the wetzone
There is no "best" type of insert, both work well so it depends what your personal preferences are
Q: How does buying from overseas work?
You will typically need a credit card (or debit card enabled for online shopping) or a PayPal account in order to buy online. Using papal offers more protection in the case of needing to lodge a dispute.
Remember that you will need to factor in shipping - when ordering from the US, this is typically $12 for one nappy, $14 for 2 and $16 for 3. The shipping cost depends on weight of the parcel, so things like covers will typically be cheaper to ship, while prefolds, flats & fitteds will be more expensive. Most sites will give you a shipping quote before you place your order, so you know what you're in for. This shipping option will be via USPS by default. Courier will be a lot more expensive. You can also use companies like Aramex Global Shopper to courier (Cost: R175 for first 500g, and an additional R100 per 500g. This excludes possible custom charges too)
When shipping via a postal service expect to wait at least 3 months for your parcel to arrive.
You may also incur customs charges - this varies greatly, so it's difficult to estimate. People have paid anywhere between R50 and R1260! In some cases you may be lucky enough to not pay anything. The official tariffs charge for nappies are 45% duties plus 14% vat (If you use a courier you will get asked about 10% handling fees too)
Q: What is the deal with rebrands?
There are a number of large factories in China that produce cloth nappies, particularly your typical pocket nappy. These factories include, but are not limited to Alva, Babyland, AnAn baby, Happy Flute, SunBaby and Pororo.
These factories are able to make nappies for small businesses and allow them to add their own logo and choose their own prints. Often they can manipulate a pattern or design for the business too. This means, although the nappy may be made in the same factory, it's possible the cut and style is very different to another nappy. This is where the term "rebranded" comes from.
Some of the companies in China offer free shipping to South Africa directly from the factory.. As a cloth-using mom, you are faced with the decision to either buy directly from China or to order locally as there are a number of small businesses in SA who import rebrands.
If you order locally, you will support local moms, who often depend on sales to run their families. Many people report excellent customer service from the local businesses. Bear in mind, you may also be liable for customs, tax and clearance fees which is usually 40% - 60% of the value when you import. Buying local will ensure you have warranties as well and that your covered when there are manufacturing faults etc.
Q: I live in a Putzi fly (mango fly / tumbu flu / tumba fly) area where I need to iron and/or tumble dry all my laundry. Should I do the same with my nappy laundry?
Yes. You need to use cloth nappies that is safe to iron (nappies without elastics and PUL) and safe to tumble dry (check nappy’s care labels). Alternatively you could create an indoor area to hang your nappy laundry where the female putzi fly can not reach it.
Q: If you require information/services that you cannot find on this page or our FB group, try one of the groups on this list:
South African Cloth Nappy Business group
South Aftican Cloth Nappy Buy/Sell/Trade group
South African Cloth Flats and Prefolds
South African Cloth Nappy Retailers - Only for Retailers (please answer the questions if you send a join request, otherwise your request will be declined)
South Africa Eco Menstrual Solutions
La Leche League South Africa
Custom Group Buys
EC - DiaperFree Baby
Baby Led Weaning South Africa - A place for local BLW parents to connect
Crunchy Mom SA
Cloth Nappy Moms Cape Town
KZN Cloth & Carry Moms
Vaal Triangle Moms
South African WAHM Clothing buy/sell/trade and chat