Cloth Nappy Types. Fabrics. Liners. Fit. How Many Do I Need?

New to cloth nappies and unsure where to start? The Clean Cloth Nappies guide is here to help.

Cloth Nappy Types


Flats are large square or rectangular shaped single layered cotton. These types of nappies have been used for decades and require folding, a fastener (eg a Snappi or a large nappy pin) and a water resistant cover. Terry towelling are popular, or any cotton tea towel will work.


Prefolds are made of cotton, hemp or bamboo fabric with three sections, the middle often doubled up with fabric for added absorption. These can be used similar to a flat where they require a fastener and a water resistant cover, or as an insert in a Pocket nappy.

Flats and prefolds are a great option for newborns. See the Cloth for Newborns page.

All In One (AIO)

A nappy that doesn’t require assembling.
These (generally) have a water resistant (PUL) cover with absorption sewn into the nappy.
Some sewn in parts can be turned inside out for washing and drying if needed, these pockets type AIO also allow inserts to be added.
Inserts are made of cotton, hemp, bamboo or microfiber.  

Snap In Or All In Two (AI2)

A nappy that has separate inserts that are snapped into place.
They (generally) have a water resistant cover.
Inserts are made of cotton, hemp, bamboo or microfiber.


A nappy that has separate inserts that are placed inside the pocket of water resistant cover.

One Size Fits Most (OSFM)

A nappy can come in a variety of styles.
The snaps can be adjusted to fit the child. OSFM generally won’t fit newborns well, but do fit from a few months on wards. Older children can out grow them.
Inserts are made of cotton, hemp, bamboo or microfiber.


A nappy that will fit a specific weight range. Can be AIO, Snap in or Pocket style.
Inserts are made of cotton, hemp, bamboo or microfiber.


Sized or OSFM nappies that are made entirely of an absorbent material.   They often come with additional inserts that snap or lay in to customise absorbency. 
They require a water resistant cover.
Inserts are made from cotton, hemp or bamboo.


Water resistant covers made of wool, PUL, fleece or a plastic piltcher.
Can be sized or OSFM, with snaps or velcro tabs.
These are used over flats, prefolds, fitted or any nappy that does not have a water resistant cover.
They can be aired between use if they are not soiled.

Wool Covers

Available in knitted or felted finishes, either as a pull up or wrap style. When well lanolised they provide a water resistant option while still allowing evaporation (specifically useful over night nappies), the lanolin provides water resistance.
These can be aired between use, and washed once soiled or significantly smelly.
Wool can absorb up to 3x its own weight in moisture before becoming wet. See the Caring for Wool page for more information.

Swim Nappies

Swim nappies are designed to contain poo, but not pee.

Work At Home (WAH)

A business which operates from home.

Sewn At Home (SAH)

A product which is sewn at home.

Inexpensive Mass Produced Nappies

These are nappies which are generic, inexpensive and mass produced, often called Chinese Cheapies (CCs). They can be purchased on ebay, AliExpress, directly from online businesses who produce them eg Alva, or are sold via retailers.

Rebranded Nappies

These are generic inexpensive mass produced nappies which have been purchased and a brand name/tag has been sewn on.

Modified Nappies

These are nappies which have been modified from the original template provided by the manufacture. A large percentage of the nappies on the market are produced like this.

Original Design Nappies

These are nappies which have been manufactured from an original custom design or template.



A synthetic fabric that has a high absorption and liquid retention level. Due to its high liquid retention, once saturated and compressed, leaks can occur. This fabric works well in conjunction with a natural fabric, place this on top and the natural underneath to catch any compression leaks.
Due to its high absorption this fabric should never be placed directly against skin, it can cause discomfort and a rash. This fabric dries quicker than natural fibres.


A fabric with a high level of absorption. Cotton tea towels can be used to add absorption.

Bamboo (Viscose)

A synthetic fabric derived from bamboo, with a high level of absorption.


A naturally derived fabric with a high level of absorption.

Velcro Tabs

Easy and quick to use, especially for those inexperience with cloth nappies. A great option for childcare.

Snap Tabs

Plastic press studs that are the most popular fastener used.

For more info about fabrics and how absorbency increases over time for natural fibers see the New Nappies page.


Microfleece liners are reusable, the fabric is available at most fabric stores. It doesn’t fray so they don’t require hemming, just cut to the size you require.
Dispose of poo in the toilet, if a significant amount remains, rinse the excess off then dry pail with nappies. Rinsing a microfleece liner is much easier than rinsing an entire nappy.
In front loaders we suggest washing them in a medium sized wash bag with large holes, as they can get stuck in filters. This isn’t usually the case for top loaders as the filter is often in the middle agitator.

Disposable liners are single use, these can be purchased online or at some supermarkets. If using disposable liners, remove as much poo as possible down the toilet, then throw the liner away.

Disposable liners should not be flushed down the toilet. They can and do cause blockages in plumbing, especially in drains that have been invaded by root systems, which can result in an expensive plumbing bill. If they don’t cause a blockage in plumbing on your property, they do cause a blockage further down the pipeline.

Disposable liners are made of a variety of materials, such as polyester and bamboo. Polyester can be washed and reused till they develop holes.

Bamboo disposable liners do decompose it won’t happen prior to reaching the waste water plant which means they do build up and clog plumbing. So regardless of their biodegradability, it isn’t wise to flush them.

If a liner or wipe does not disintegrate in the washing machine, like a tissue that has been accidentally left in a pocket, covering everything with annoying fluff, it should not be flushed down the toilet. Disposable liners and wipes tend to clump, which is representative of what happens in the sewer system.

Disposable liners can cause irritation, redness and rashes sometimes as they retain moisture, whereas microfleece do not retain as much moisture.


As with everything practice makes perfect.

Leaks are often a result of a saturated nappy,  or incorrect fit.

A cloth nappy needs to be equal in height at the front and the back.

For boys ensure genitalia is pointed downwards, with extra absorption at the front, for girls extra absorption in the crotch of the nappy.

A close fit around the legs is important, otherwise before the insert has an opportunity to absorb any liquid, it will leak out the gap.

See the Clean Cloth Nappies Fit Guide and Why am I getting leaks? for information.

How Many Do I Need?

The number of nappies needed is variable to an individual’s situation.  The main factors to consider are:

  • how old the child is
  • how often the nappies will be washed
  • how they will be dried

A newborns and young baby’s food source is liquid, which results in a large liquid output. A toddler’s primary food is solids, so less liquid output (but larger pees).

To prevent leaks, discomfort and rash, a newborn should be changed every 2 hours. For toddlers this can be extended to every 3 hours.

Please remember this is just a general guide, all children are different so change times should to be customised accordingly.

If air drying, take into account the season and nappy type for dry time. Line drying in summer will take less time than winter.

Using a dryer usually requires a double cycle (depending on the cycle length of the dryer) and the nappies will be dry within a few hours.

Scenario: Newborn, day use only, washing every two days, line drying. First change at 6am, last at 4pm with two – three spares, with a day for line drying, equals 24- 27 nappies in total.