How long should I expect my cloth nappies to last?

How long do cloth nappies really last?

So you've taken the plunge and invested in your beautiful cloth nappies. You're saving money, (Or going to start soon), you're doing your bit to keep the earth beautiful, you're keeping unknown chemicals away from your baby's skin and you're feeling great about it all! 

So now, realistically, how long should you expect them to last? 1 month? 1 year? 1 child? 10 children!? 

Honestly there is no easy answer to this question. As with most things in life, it will vary from one person to the next. 

Here at Bambooty we work very hard at providing you with the best quality products we possibly can. (We have spent hours/months/years! working on this and take it very seriously). 

It should be noted that often the nappies go through one child onto the next and ocassionally even a third or more! This is not necessarily the case for everyone though and following are some reasons why. 

There are various factors that will effect the lifespan of your nappies. These include - 

  • How many nappies you have in regular rotation
  • How frequently they are washed
  • The acidity in the wee the nappy is holding for you
  • What fabrics the nappy is made from
  • The quality of the fabrics/materials and the workmanship

With some common sense and a dash of practicality your nappies are likely to last a long time. Often more than 1 child.

We aren't going to tell you, you have to wash everyday or it will kill your nappies and void your warranty.

We aren't going to tell you, you have to rinse immediately after every single nappy change, as this is not always practical and by not doing so would then void your warranty. 

We aren't going to tell you to never use nappy rash cream or you'll void your warranty, we aren't going to tell you, you have to use our over priced washing powder or you'll void your warranty either. 

We hope you'll follow our simple washing instructions, including the things to avoid such as bleach and mostly you'll be fine. If you have any questions we're here to help as much as we can. 

Now for further explanation of the above listed factors. 

How many nappies you have in rotation - 

Due to the nature of nappies, they are put under some pretty harsh environments, regularly soaked in acidic wee and poo day in and day out, washed over and over again for years on end, hung out to dry in the harsh sun for hours if not days every week. Sat on, dragged along the ground, pulled tight over and over again, snapped and unsnapped regularly, its a wonder they last the way they so often do. So onto my point, given how we treat them (and that's if we're being good to them) having more nappies in rotation will mean they will last longer.

Having fewer nappies in your nappy stash, will mean they are washed and used more frequently, therefore wearing them out faster. (eg 6-10 nappies)

Having many many nappies (eg50!) will mean they are likely to last longer as they won't be used as often. You would still want to wash frequently though for hygiene reasons of course. Once you become addicted to cloth nappies, this won't seem like such a high number to have.

We recommend starting with somewhere between 18-24 nappies per child in cloth nappies at the same time. See - How many cloth nappies do I need?

If using nappies for subsequent children, some of them may need a bit of TLC to get them back into tip top shape. Elastics can be replaced as can absorbency either with boosters, snap in or not, or by sewing in extra absorbent fabric if needed. 

Sized nappies are more likely to be lasting for subsequent children, than the Easy One Size nappies, as the sized nappies will not have had the same duration of pounding as the One Size ones. 

How frequently they are washed - 

This one has 2 sides to the story. 

As with all our clothes, washing them frequently wears them out faster of course, therefore washing them less frequently will mean they'll last longer. However with nappies due to the nature of their purpose, leaving them soiled will mean they will deteriorate faster than not being washed frequently, as would be common sense for any garment that was regularly left wet for days at a time. Plus there is always the hygeine aspect of washing them frequently too of course. 

We usually recommend having 3 days worth of nappies, which means you would have to wash and dry within 3 days so you have clean nappies ready to go for day 4. If you have a little one with highly acidic wee (more on this below) you may choose to wash more frequently. This will increase the longevity of the nappy as well as being more hygienic of course.

Another point on the washing side is that different amounts of detergent will effect the nappies differently as will different types of water. Different types of water seem to need varying amounts of detergent to keep the nappies clean too. We recommend half the receommend dose of washing powder to the instructions on the box, however this may very for your individual circumstances. 

It is up to you, however I often suggest washing nappies with regular clothes etc. I put the nappies in the wash first, do a pre-rinse of the nappies by themselves in the machine to get rid of anything icky. Once this is done, they are just like any pair of dirty  knickers. I add in whatever other washing there is to do so there is just a handful of nappies in the bottom of a normal load of washing I'm already doing. 

This makes washing the nappies not an extra task that needs doing. It also saves, water, washing powder, electricy and time :)

The acidity in the wee the nappy is holding for you - 

As we've mentioned before, wee is acidic in nature as is poo. The level of acidity will vary from child to child. 

It may also vary at different stages in the same child. Teething is known to increase the acidity in wee, as is sometimes commented on with sore bottoms where the skin is being burnt by the increase in acidity too. Drinking less or more water is known to effect it too of course. 

The acidity in the wee etc will have damaging effects on the natural fibres of the nappy over a period of time, what that period of time is will vary, depending on the acidity and how frequently they are washed and used - as described above as well. Rinsing the nappies straight after changing or as soon as practicable will dilute the wee's acidity and increase the nappy's lifespan.

This is usually only a problem for children with super acidic wee, most children's wee will be fine and no need to worry about this.

If your little one has highly acidic wee the absorbency will need to be boosted in order to keep using the nappies. See more on this in worst case scenario below. 

(Wee is often referred to as acidic as we have here, due to the effects it can have on fabrics or skin, being that it causes redness and seems to eat away at fabrics such as we would expect acid to, however it is usually the alkalinity that is technically causing the problem. More often than not, we believe!)

What fabrics the nappy is made from - 

The majority of modern cloth nappies these days seem to be made from either, a bamboo blended fabric, or man made fabrics. 

Man made fabrics often last for many years even under heavy use such as in nappies. Man-made fabrics (often called polyester) are not as good for the environment of course as natural fibres, nor are they as reliable for absorbency either. 

Natural fibres are often one of the weakest parts of cloth nappies, due to their nature of being natural they are likely to be the first to start to break down as that is what they do better than all the man-made fibres in the nappy. 

Personally I would prefer natural fibres to man-made fibres however, we believe in modern cloth nappies a combination gives the best results. Combining, reliability, longevity, drying time, and comfort. 

Last but not least - Quality - 

The quality of the fabrics used as well as the quality of the workmanship and the design of the nappy are all going to play roles in the lifespan of the nappy. 

For example, from our expereince, higher grade quality fabrics such as PUL should from my experience be ok to be dried in a tumble dryer, where as cheaper PUL covers will be more likely to delaminate. 

Cheaper natural fabrics will not be as absorbent as higher grades of natural fibres as they are likely to be lower weighted fabrics. 

The workmanship of the nappies is of course imperative to its lifespan. Cloth nappies that haven't been stitched together very carefully and reinforced in weaker areas of the design will of course fall apart much faster.

Cheaper grades of snaps or hook and loop won't last as long, nor will cheap elastic.

The quality of the design of the nappy, will not only effect its lifespan, but also its reliable day to day use as well. 

Bambooty nappies are manufactured with the highest standards of fabrics, workmanship, other materials we can possibly find. We work very closely with our manufacturers regularly visiting the factory to check up on this as well as build trusting relationships and work on any issues arising along the way. 

Our nappies are all designed by Amelia, who has been changing nappies in long day care, as a nanny, a mother's help and her own 2 childrens' for many many many years! There were many prototypes before the ulitmate designs were manufactured, tried and tested along the way. Slight improvements are still continuously being made as we learn from our expereinces and those of our customers. 

This brings me near the end of this post, however still to mention is the,

Worst Case Scenario - 

We would dearly like all people to be able to use their bambooty modern cloth nappies for more than 1 child if possible, however sometimes the nappies just don't quite make the distance. With the high quality fabrics we use throughout our products it is highly likely that only the natural fibres will wear out earlier than you or I would like. 

If this does happen to you, there is a fairly simple remedy. Basically the nappy just needs more absorbency fabric replaced back into the nappy. If you are using an Easy One Size nappy, this can easily be done by snapping in some of our EOS night boosters, these will then be able to be snapped in and out if needed or not, or left there if used all the time as if sewn in the first place. 

If you are using an Easy Dry or Night and have this problem, you can simply stitch more bamboo or other absorbent material back onto the flaps of absorbency, bringing back up to tip top shape :)


We dearly hope that our nappies will at least see you through 1 child, if not more. Please feel free to share your experiences we would love to hear them. 


Update - July 2016

Elastic - 

As with anything in life there are varying levels of quality and expenses related to the quality and/or type of elasitc used. Our Basics nappies use a swim wear elasitc which is very gentle. Unfortunately it does not last as long as the elastic used in our Bambooty range of nappies. The Elastane used in our Bambooty ranges, is stronger, it is more expensive to source, it requires special machines to cut it exactly the same length each time and is harder to stitch into the nappies. This is part of the reason that our Bambooty ranges are more expensive, our prices related directly to the costs associated with producing the products. 

As with a new car you may purchase it will need servicing from time to time to keep it running and/or in top condition! Or a shirt might need a button replacing. Some of you might find that the elastic of your nappies may need replacing from time to time, particularly if you are using our BASiCS range of nappies where the gentler elastic (also cheaper) is softer for baby, but has the downside of not lasting as long. 

The good news is that it is very simple to replace! Please see the below image for some helpful tips to replacing elastic. 

Replacing elastic

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