A Guide to Buying Second Hand Nappies

Purchasing preloved cloth nappies is a really great way to try different brands and styles and to see if they work for you and your child. There is potential to find a style that is perfect, without taking the risk of a large initial investment that might not work out. Buying anything second hand entails some degree of risk and there is a degree of trust that the goods are described accurately and truthfully. This information may help in making wise purchases in the future.

Before purchasing, begin by researching the brand of nappy being sold. Comparing the new and second-hand price of the nappy will help determine whether the asking price is reasonable. If the nappy is sold new for $15, advertised for $12 second hand and is 3 years old and was used continually over those years, it might not be worth the money.

Descriptions on 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 stash is important here; when considering that a nappy might be washed 3 or 4 times a week as part of a stash of 10, that’s 12-16 times a month. Compare that to a stash of 30 or 50 and the effect is obvious.
Investigate the physical attributes of a nappy rather than rely on statements about how long it has been used for.
Different terms are used to describe the condition of preloved nappies. They are frequently listed in ‘as new’ ‘excellent used condition’, ‘good used condition’ and so on. These terms are subjective. Cheap nappies can be appealing but if the nappy only lasts a month or two before it starts to fall apart the investment is wasted.
The term ‘EUC’ (excellent used condition) should mean ‘as new condition with no signs of wear’ but in reality many people consider varying degrees of fading, balling, holes in or thinning of inserts, weakened elastics, cracked PUL and greyness to be ‘EUC’.
Ask for photos of the inside of the PUL if it’s possible and any other areas of concern. If there is hesitation that the nappies for sale are not a good purchase, don’t buy them. There will always be more for sale.

Questions To Ask The Seller

Is The Seller The First, Second Or Third Owner?

The waterproof layer of nappies is made from Polyurethane Laminate (PUL), some PUL is better quality than other PUL. PUL is water resistant rather than completely waterproof. Other components such as inserts can be expected to last longer provided they have not been subject to degradation over time. Considering the age of the nappy is important as this reflects the age and wear on the materials that the nappy is made from. The age of the nappy becomes particularly important when buying One Size Fits Most (OSFM) nappies as they are used continually from birth to toilet training (~ 2 years, often up to 3.5 years).

Have The Elastics Ever Been Replaced Or Do They Need Replacing? What Kind Of Elastic Is It: Braided Or Lastin?

Constant stuffing of pocket nappies along with the general wear will stretch elastic over time. Some brands tend to have elastic that needs replacing sooner than others, but generally elastic needs to be replaced after it has been used on one child for a significant amount of time. Most nappies use ‘lastin’ or braided elastics. Lastin snaps with age and wear while braided elastics stretch. If elastics have already been replaced this can indicate the nappies are aged and so other components (e.g PUL) may be nearing their retirement age.

Are There Any Holes, Tears Or Cracks In The PUL? Is It Delaminated?

Any damage to the PUL layer will cause the nappy to leak. 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.


The above photo illustrates cracked PUL

Delamination occurs when the plastic backing on the 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 render a nappy useless, but it results in it being more susceptible to tearing and when it is torn it will leak. There are two processes for lamination of PUL. Solvent lamination fuses the fabric and polyurethane film together, while hot melt uses heat activated glue to adhere the fabric and film. [1] It is possible to re-laminate a delaminated nappy by using a tea towel and iron to heat the plastic and stick back onto the fabric but the solution is only temporary. Delaminated nappies can be used as swim nappies.


The outside of a delaminated nappy


The inside of a delaminated nappy

Are There Any Stains Or Smells?

No one wants to receive a nappy that smells like a toilet. Fortunately, stains and smells are generally easy to resolve with a Strip and Sanitise. While receiving a smelly nappy is disappointing, it’s usually elastics and age of deteriorating fabrics that are common sources of buyer disappointment. Elastics can be replaced but for those without sewing skills it can be arduous and even for proficient sewers it can be time consuming.

How Were They Washed?

Inquiring about the previous owner’s wash routine will enable you to figure out whether there is potentially ammonia, mineral deposits or other smelly gunk in the nappy. If the seller had an effective wash routine it is possible to just sanitise them and begin using them. Consider in this situation, whether the seller has been honest. It is becoming more common for sellers to advertise their nappies as ‘freshly stripped’ or ‘strip-washed’, which can refer to a soak in water with a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid, which is completely ineffective. Ask the seller which process they used to strip the nappy.

Safe Payment And Postage

PayPal is the safest payment option for both the buyer and the seller. Insist on the nappies being sent in a trackable parcel. Ask the seller to take a photo of the parcel tracking number and forward it. If they don’t, there is no way of tracking it. For expensive purchases, signature on delivery is a good option. These options ensure that both the seller and buyer are held responsible for their part of the transaction.

On Arrival

When the nappy arrives, check that it matches the description given by the seller. If the seller said the elastics are like new, but they are obviously very stretched then contact the seller to discuss. If discussions are fruitless, PayPal has provisions to dispute a transaction via the Resolution Centre. Follow the prompts to report an item not as described.

Importance Of Stripping And Sanitising Second Hand Nappies

A Strip and Sanitise is an intensive clean that will remove ingrained soiling, ammonia and mineral deposits from an ineffective wash routine. The CCNDU ‘Strip Water Pics’ album in the Facebook group contains photos from clean nappies that were superficially clean. Nappies washed in only water without detergent, washed in soap nuts or washed in weak detergents Earth Choice Liquid or Purity, usually contain relatively high levels of dirt, soap scum and bacteria. Following a strip, sanitise the nappies to kill the bacteria and neutralise ammonia that has been brought to the surface from deep inside the fabrics. Not sanitising nappies post strip can lead to rashes. Sanitising preloved nappies is needed to avoid transfer of bacterial or yeast infections. The passing of time and wear weakens materials. Checking the condition of the nappy prior to a S&S.
Have reasonable expectations of second hand nappies. Just like buying a second hand car, a preloved nappy may not perform exactly the same as a brand new model. Modern cloth nappies have a finite life span but most should last from birth to toilet training.

Cloth On A Budget

If buying second hand doesn’t appeal there are many other options. See Cloth on a Budget


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyurethane_laminate