Buying second-hand nappies

The Clean Cloth Nappies guide to buying second-hand nappies and diapers.

Overview

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

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 purchasing second-hand cloth nappies, 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 great condition than you were before CCN came along!

Before purchasing

Before purchasing, research the brand of nappy being sold.

Compare the price of the nappy new to what is being asked for the 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 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 as new, excellent used condition (EUC), good used condition (GUC) etc.

The term EUC should mean as new with no signs of wear. 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!
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 that 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

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).

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.

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.

Inside of a delaminated PUL nappy cover

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 excessively high temperatures (ie 90/95°C sanitise cycle), exposed to high or low pH or generally mistreated.

Are the nappies stained or do they smell?

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

Some sellers advertise their nappies as S&S’d or washed using a Clean Cloth Nappies routine. However, this is no guarantee that they follow a Clean Cloth Nappies routine. Ask the seller how they washed the nappies, this will let you know if there is potentially ammonia damage or soiling remaining in the inserts. Nappies washed in water only without detergent, not enough detergent, or using inadequate detergents will have high levels of soiling and bacteria, which will result in ammonia damage.

Close up of holes in an insert as a result of ammonia damage
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, a 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 PayPal’s 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 terrible condition and not at all clean. There are also examples of people selling EUC nappies that are in excellent almost new condition!

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

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Additional information to support our advice. Think of this as an “extra for experts” section.

What payment method should I use?

PayPal with Goods and Services offers buyers protection that PayPal Friends and Family, cash and direct bank transfers do not provide. The seller will be charged a small fee to receive your money.