A Guide to Buying Second Hand Nappies

Purchasing second hand cloth nappies is a great way to try them out first without taking the risk of a large initial investment. But buying anything second hand is a risk, here are some tips to ensure you don’t waste your money and buy a lemon.

Before purchasing

Before purchasing, research the brand of nappy being sold.

Compare the price of the nappy new to what is being asked for second hand price, it will help you figure out whether the asking price is reasonable.
If the nappy is sold new for $15, and the asking price for the second hand one is $12 second hand and it is 3 years old, being used continually over those years, it might not be worth the money.
Cheap nappies can be appealing but if the nappy only lasts a month or two before they start to fall apart your money is wasted.

Ask for photos of the nappy; the inside of the PUL (if possible) and the inserts.

Ask questions, don’t rely on statements or assumptions about the condition.

If you have hesitation that the nappies for sale are not a good purchase, don’t buy them. There will always be more for sale.

What does EUC mean?

Different terms are used to describe the condition of second hand nappies, and these terms are subjective. They can be listed in as new, excellent used condition (EUC), good used condition (GUC) etc.

The term EUC should mean as new with no signs of wear. But in reality it depends on the opinion of the person selling them. It can include varying degrees of fading, balling, holes or thinning inserts, stretched elastics, cracked PUL and greyness

Night nappies bought second hand which were very grey, after being sanitised they looked like new!

Fabrics

The water resistant layer of nappies is often made from Polyurethane Laminate (PUL), there is a great variation in the quality of this fabric. Some nappies even though are priced high when new, use fabrics which are not good quality, research the brand to find out whether they use good quality fabrics when making their products. 

Inserts are made from bamboo, cotton, hemp or microfibre. Bamboo is prone to ammonia degradation over time if the nappies haven’t been washed effectively.

Questions to ask before payment

Is the seller the first, second or third owner?

Sale listings often include a statement that the nappy has been used for a couple of months or only a few times. The size of the owner’s nappy collection is important here, a large collection often means less use, a small collection means more frequent use.

Consider the age of the nappy this is important when buying One Size Fits Most (OSFM) nappies, as they are used continually from birth to toilet training (2 – 3.5 years).

Do the elastics need replacing?

Constant stuffing of pocket nappies, general wear and washing will stretch elastic over time. Cheap elastics won’t last and will need to be replaced.
Lastin elastic can snap with age and wear, and braided elastics stretch.
Replacing elastics isn’t necessarily difficult, it just takes a bit of time (depending on the nappy). Seamstresses can also replace elastics for a cost.  

Is the PUL delaminated? Does it have holes or cracks?

Damage to the PUL layer will cause the nappy to seep liquid when the inserts have been saturated. Cracks look similar to flaking skin. Check the PUL layer in pocket nappies by turning them inside out and inspecting the material. Pay particular attention to pressure points such as the leg holes and around the snaps.

Delamination occurs when the plastic backing of PUL physically comes away from the fabric to which it was bonded. Delaminated PUL looks like a clear plastic sheet that has separated from the fabric. Delamination does not necessarily mean the nappy is useless, but it results in it being more susceptible to tearing and when it is torn, liquid from a saturated insert will seep out. There are two processes for lamination of PUL. Delaminated nappies can be used as swim nappies.
Delamination will occur if the PUL used was inferior, if the PUL has been exposed to excessive high temperatures during use (eg 90 degree sanitise cycle), exposed to high or low pH or generally mistreated.

Are they stained or do they smell?

No one wants to receive a nappy that smells like a toilet.  Sanitise them to remove stains, smells, oxidise ammonia and kill remaining pathogens.

Ask how the previous owner washed the nappies. This will let you know if there is potentially ammonia damage or soiling remaining in the inserts. Ineffective detergents won’t remove soiling well, which will result in ammonia damage.
It is become more common for sellers to advertise their nappies as S&S’d or washed using a Clean Cloth Nappies routine, this doesn’t mean that the nappies are in good condition. See the Wash Routine Basics page to learn about what a Clean Cloth Nappies routine actually is, don’t assume they actually follow the advice provided, many people assume they follow a CCN routine but they don’t.

Close up of holes in an insert as a result of ammonia damage

Safe Payment And Postage

PayPal Goods and Services option is the safest payment option for both the buyer and the seller. Request the nappies are sent using tracking, and ask the seller to forward a photo of the tracking number (listed on the parcel). If they don’t, there is no way of tracking whether it has actually been sent. For expensive purchases, signature on delivery is a good option if you are unsure of the security of the area in which the recipient lives.
These options ensure that both the seller and buyer are held responsible for their part of the transaction.

On Arrival

Check the condition of the nappies prior to sanitising them, do not wash them if you are not happy about the condition and want to return them. PayPal will not issue a refund if the nappies have been washed by the recipient.

When the nappy arrives, check that it matches the description given by the seller. If it doesn’t, contact the seller and discuss it with them. If you are not happy with the outcome of the discussions, start a dispute via PayPals Resolution Centre. Follow the prompts to report an item not as described, only return the nappy once this has been finalised.

Sanitise before use

Sanitising will remove ingrained soiling, oxidise ammonia and kill any remaining pathogens. It’s a really easy process!

The Clean Cloth Nappies Facebook group contains many examples of people selling EUC nappies that were in a terrible condition and not at all clean.
Nappies washed in water only without detergent, not enough detergent, or using inadequate detergents, will have high levels of soiling and bacteria.
There are also examples of people selling EUC nappies that are in excellent almost new condition!

Have reasonable expectations of second hand nappies. Just like buying a second hand car, a second hand nappy may not last as long as a new one. Every product has a finite life span.

Don’t be put off by from purchasing second hand, Clean Cloth Nappies has increased the standard of hygiene over the years in the community. You are more likely to find second hand nappies in a great condition than you were before CCN came along!

If buying second hand doesn’t appeal, check out our Cloth on a Budget information.

Author: A. Michailov