advice environment Nappies reuse

Using cloth nappies on a budget

Someone putting a pound coin into a pink money box pig

There has been a lot of media coverage recently about people who collect cloth nappies, and focussing on one mum who spent £160 on 2 nappies. Whilst it’s great that cloth nappies are making mainstream media, it is worrying that it is putting families with less disposable income off using them in fear of the cost involved.

A couple of weeks ago I did a cost comparison with the cost using cloth nappies versus the cost of disposables ( Are cloth nappies cheaper? ), but how much do you NEED to spend, in order to use cloth nappies.

Tip 1 – Choose 2 part nappies. The expensive part of making cloth nappies is the PUL (the waterproof bit) so if you are changing the whole nappy every time (as you do with All in Ones and Pockets), your nappies are likely to work out more expensive overall. Two-part nappies tend to work out less expensive as you only change the absorbent bit at most nappy changes. To have 20 nappies, you would need 4-5 wraps and 20 inserts, meaning 20 nappies could cost as little as £140 brand new. 2-part nappies are easier to pass down to several other babies too, as if the PUL wears out, you only need to replace the wrap, not the whole nappy.

Examples – Totsbots Peenuts (£18 for wrap and pads, £7.99 for additional pads), Grovia (Wraps £15, inserts £15 for 2), Ecobebe (£11.50 for complete nappy, £5.50 for replacement inserts)

Tip 2 – Buy second hand. There are loads of preloved groups on Facebook for buying second hand nappies, just type preloved nappies into the search bar. Some people sell second hand nappies on Ebay, but this is technically against eBay regulations and you may find that they won’t help if something goes wrong with the purchase. Freecycle or other pass it on sites also often have cloth nappies, if you are not too fussy about what you get. Things to look out for when buying second hand is whether the elastics and PUL are still going strong. Ask for close ups of waterproofing and leg holes and check them over carefully before using.

Tip 3 – Buy bulk packs and kits. If you know which nappies work for you (and we always recommend you try before you buy loads, whether that is via a nappy library or buying a select few of the ones you’ll thing you’ll like), then buying a bulk kit can work out cheaper eg a single Tots Bots Easyfit is £18, but a birth to potty kit costs £265, and includes 2 packs of liners and some washing powder.

Tip 4 – Consider using flat nappies some of the time. People are often put off using flat nappies (terry squares, prefolds) because the thought of folding them is overwhelming. However, I like to tell people I learnt to fold a terry square when I was four years old, so it can’t be hard. There are lots of tutorials on YouTube for the different folds. Flat nappies are really cheap, even new you are only looking at spending £2 a nappy, and as they dry really quickly, you don’t need quite so many of them.

Tip 5 – see if your nappy library has a relationship with any retailers. We often offer nappy libraries a discount code to allow their customers to buy nappies for a bit less.

What are your tips for doing cloth nappies a bit cheaper?

advice environment reduce

Six ways to reduce your waste…

This is the second in our series on the waste reduction pyramid. Last month we looked at REFUSE, just choosing not to buy, but sometimes we NEED it, so what can we do to reduce our impact on the environment when we do buy?

  1. 1. Buy loose. It’s a no-brainer, but 16 apples selected loose and put in a bag need less packaging than 2 pre-packed bags of apples. Bonus points if you take your own reusable produce bags, or if it’s something like a single pepper or bulb of garlic, just leave it loose in your basket. Supermarkets often have fruit, veg and break rolls. You might be lucky and find your local market has a scoop and weigh where you can get anything from rice to washing powder loose. Some pet shops sell pet treats loose. It also means you can buy just what you need and that will reduce your food waste. Buy packaging free alternatives. Hand soap in a pump dispenser can be swapped for bar soap in paper or no packaging, you can also buy shampoo and conditioner in bar form. Even things that come in some packaging, can often be bought in less packaging (any need for a glass bottle, inside a cardboard box, inside plastic wrapping, or can you buy just the plastic bottle for example). Every little helps, and you’ll soon see a difference in the amount of non-recyclable plastic you are sending to landfill.
  1. 2. Buy in bulk. Obviously only do this for things you use a lot of and/or doesn’t go off. It takes only a small amount more packaging to package 24 toilet rolls as 4, and 5kg sacks of rice or pasta don’t use much more plastic than 500g ones. I buy my washing powder direct from the manufacturer (I use Simply washing as it gets things clean, has strong eco credentials, and doesn’t aggravate my son’s eczema), buying it in the supermarket it comes in small plastic tubs, buying direct means it comes in loose in a cardboard box.
  1. 3. Refill.Certain of the more eco-friendly cleaning and toiletry brands are moving back to refillable bottles (anyone remember when Body Shop did this? I miss it!). Ecover and Faith in Nature have refilling stations in certain outlets (these can be found on their website), Splosh deliver refills for their household cleaning products to your door, and refills for Method products can often be found in supermarkets.
  1. 4. Cut paper waste. Get rid of unwanted mail and junk through the letterbox. I have to say that a significant amount of the waste my house produces comes through the slot in the front of the door. Registering with the Mailing Preference Service prevents organisations sending you speculative direct mail. It won’t stop organisations you have a relationship with from sending you stuff, but you shouldn’t get anything from companies you don’t have a relationship with and you can take action if you do. Affix a sign to your door requesting no free papers or circulars to stop takeaway menus, estate agents flyers etc coming through your door. Investigate whether companies you do have a relationship have a system for reducing paper mail sent to you (opting out of marketing by mail, switching to paperless statements etc).
  1. 5. Buy quality or for longevity. I have a 1980s Kenwood chef. It was my aunts, she used it a lot. I use it a lot too. They are built to last, but not only that, just about every moving part is replaceable. My kids scoot to school on JD Bug scooters. My kids scoot about 400miles a year (yep, you read that right, they scoot an average of 2 miles a day, 5 days a week, 40 weeks of the year, and that’s not including any ancillary journeys in the school holidays). We have in the past replaced wheels, hand grips, quick release pins and more, we didn’t need to replace the whole scooter because a small moveable part needed replacing. There are brands that have a reputation for being built to last, ask around and avoid brands/products designed to need replacing in short periods of time.
  1. 6. Use what you already have. There is a temptation when starting on the waste reduction journey to think we need to buy things to be able to become zero waste, but often we don’t. Don’t buy reusable bags until you’ve used up all the life in the millions of carrier bags, old school bags, produce bags etc that you have knocking round the house for example. At the end of the day, waste reduction is about simple thrift and using what you have. This is the best way of reducing your waste.

So there we have, 6 quick tips to start reducing your waste. Next month we will look at reusable products.

But share with me. What are your quick tips for reducing your waste?

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Do you really need to buy THAT?!

Waste reduction ladder grow up greenYou know the feeling, you walk into the store and the brightly coloured, well lit display shouts “Buy ME!” You pop it in your basket, pay for it and take it home, filled with a sense of almost euphoria. Even more pervasive are the little ads on your computer, you browse that pretty dress, then every time you log on to check your email or browse Facebook, there it is, looking at you, whispering “go on buy me, you know you want me”  Marketing is everywhere and our whole economy is based on the buy more, buy more mentality.

There’s just one problem. Our earth’s resources are limited, and everything we buy has to be disposed of eventually, whether because we have fallen out of love with it, or because it has worn out.

This is why the first level in the waste reduction triangle is REFUSE.

It is also the hardest of the steps to zero waste for me. I’m a retailer, I love things. My personal achilles heels are stationary and clothes. I end up with so much. The other day I found a jumper at the back of my cupboard. I’d forgotten I even had it, yet I loved it when I bought it. It is enjoying a new lease of life as I am wearing it again, but I was horrified that I had so many clothes, I could forget I owned some. (A piece of research by M&S and Oxfam in 2016 showed that people only wear an average of 44% of clothes in their wardrobes regularly, so I’m not alone).

It’s also hard because there will be times we actually NEED new things (children grow out of things, things wear out and get broken).

So what’s the solution?

For me I started with a no spend month. It was back in September, prompted by a large purchase that came sooner than I had budgeted for (taking advantage of a second-hand bargain that came up!). It was amazing. I could ignore adverts, walk past shiny displays, let the whole marketing industry flow past me.  I was not too hardcore in my no-spending, if you want a really inspirational read check out this lady – she gave up spending for a whole year!

A month, however, gives you chance to ask “do I really need it?” “Can I borrow it from somewhere?” (there is a growing network of libraries of “things”, I run a sling library for example) Just accepting less into our houses will reduce our waste automatically.

Next time I will be looking at the next rung of the waste reduction ladder – reduce – but in the meantime, let me know how you are getting on with REFUSE!

advice Nappies

Don’t bleach your nappies…

Don't bleach your nappiesWhen my eldest child was a baby, my mum came to stay because I was unwell. One afternoon she popped into my bedroom to bring my son for a feed and cheerfully told me she washed my nappies for me. However, she said, that the wash hadn’t got the green out of the nappies that had gone a green colour, so she’d put them on to soak in Milton. I was horrified! For a start, my nappies were supposed to be green, I’d bought beautiful mint green fitteds from a WAHM, and secondly, bleach isn’t good for nappy elastics. My mum had been used to soaking terry squares in napisan, boiling them if they were still stained and hot washing, but she didn’t understand modern cloth nappies. A few washes after the soaking incident and my beautiful, (no longer) mint green, hand made fitteds fell to pieces at the legs where the elastic perished.

Recently, a group on social media has been advocating that people wash their nappies in toilet bleach. Yikes!

Washing nappies in toilet bleach is not recommended for a number of reasons. Firstly, toilet bleach is not skin-safe. It’s covered in warnings about not letting it come into contact with your skin. Do you really want something washed in toilet bleach next to your child’s most sensitive areas? Secondly, it’s not fabric safe. It will almost certainly take the colour out of most fabrics (even milton left a purple t-shirt horribly spotted when I was spot treating mildew and spilled a highly diluted form recently). It will also rot delicate fabrics like elastic. Finally, it will invalidate your warranty on most cloth nappy products.

So what do you do if you need to get your nappies really clean? It partly depends why you need to do it in the first place. A good wash routine will prevent most unpleasant smells, Go Real has the guidelines for good washing here . If you buy second hand nappies that are stained or smelly, then that link has some suggestions for strip washing, or these tips here could help. I’m a huge fan of a 60 degree wash with a full does of washing powder and scoop of Little Violets stain remover. General stain removing is best achieved with sunlight.

So please, when you are going to wash your nappies, think twice before using toilet bleach!

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Help! My nappies are stained…

I have lost track over the years of the number of people who return cloth nappy trial kits to me stained with breastfed baby poo. For those not familiar, I’m talking chicken korma yellow, persistant staining. Some are embarrassed, some don’t mention it, some contact me before the kit is due back to ask how to shift it. I always tell them, it’s easy, just put them in the sun. Outside on your line preferably, but if you really can’t, in a window can help.

Quite often, people are incredulous that something as simple as hanging your nappies on the line can deal with a stain the a long wash in the washing machine cannot. But there is science on our side.

The yellow colour of baby poo comes for them billirubin in bile, and billirubin is broken down by ultraviolet light (which is why jaundiced babies are put on UV beds in hospital). Putting your nappies on the line allows the UV light in sunlight to destroy the billirubin and low and behold, your nappies are white again!

Not only that, but ultraviolet is also used in industry as a powerful anti-bacterial. So not only are your nappies bleached nice and white, any residual bacteria is given a hiding too! (source here)

Below are some before during and after pictures of a variety of stained nappies, before washing, after washing and after hanging on the line in the sun! (All nappies were washed and dried by trial kit customer before returned to me, washed by me at 60 degrees, with a full dose of Simply Washing non-bio powder tabs and a scoop of Bio D nappy fresh).

Tots bots Peenut after being washed by client, but not by me

After washing, before sunning
After washing, before sunning

Totsbots peenut after sunning
Totsbots peenut after sunning

Diddy diaper after washing
Diddy diaper after washing

Diddy diaper after sunning

Tots bots easyfit before washing by me (the gusset at the side should be white!)
Tots bots easyfit before washing by me (the gusset at the side should be white!)

Easyfit after washing
Easyfit after washing

Easyfit after sunning!
Easyfit after sunning!

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What temperature should I wash my nappies at?

Reason's not to wash your nappies at 90If you spend any time at all on Facebook cloth nappy forums (and for your own sanity I suggest that you don’t), you will be aware that there is a lot of debate out there on how to wash your nappies. Grandparents, remembering terry squares and twin tubs often recommend washing at 90°, the uber-eco conscious recommend 30° and a whole host of other temperatures in between.

Go Real, the reusable nappy campaigning body recommend washing at 60° (there full washing instructions are here, as do the UK Cloth Nappy Library Network. The reasons for washing at 60° rather than a lower temperature is that research shows that a good dose of detergent, combined with washing at 60° will kill or remove most bacteria. 30°-40°is very close to body temperature and can encourage bacteria to breed.

Advise to wash at 90° is particularly worrying. The Environment Agency report of 2008 specifically mentioned that washing at 90° was one of the reasons why using cloth can end up being as bad for the environment, whereas washing at 60° or lower reduces the carbon footprint of your nappies (washing a full load and line drying when possible also helps with this – see my blog on whether cloth nappies are actually greener). A very hot wash can also cause your nappies to delaminate (when the waterproof layer comes away from the fabric). I actually had this happen when my husband put the nappies on at the wrong temperature by accident. Finally, from a financial point of view, washing at 90° will invalidate your warranty with the manufacturer. Most manufacturers recommend washing at 60° (and some even as low as 40°) so always check the wash care label on your nappies when washing them!

If you are worried about staining, a cold rinse before washing can help prevent stains from setting.

So remember, wash at 60° or lower to protect your nappies, protect the environment and protect your warranty.


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How do I choose which nappies to use?

In the almost 10 years that I have been using cloth nappies, the market has expanded beyond recognition. I take great delights in explaining to trial kit customers that when I had my eldest is a Motherease One Size was considered an innovation!

This growth in the market is all for the good, it means there really is a nappy for every family out there, but it does mean that the choice can be somewhat overwhelming. I wrote a post before about how it is important it is to try before you buy if you can, but in the meantime, here is a quick fire overview..


The first thing to note is that all nappies require an absorbent part and a waterproof part. How the absorbent bit and the waterproof bit go together is what differentiate the different nappy types. 

Easyfit Tweet_500All in Ones

All in ones (AIOs) are so called because each nappy is a complete unit – ie the absorbent part and the waterproof part are sewn together. The advantage of these is that they are easy to use and change just like a disposable. This is particularly useful if lots of people are going to be changing baby’s nappies (eg grandparents, day care etc). The downside is the cost. The most expensive part of a cloth nappy is the waterproof bit, so the more often you’re changing that, the more expensive your nappy system is going to be.

Brands that are all in one include Tots Bots Easyfit, and Bum Genius Freetime



Pockets are so called, because they are made up of 2 parts – a pocket which tends to be waterproof material on one side and fleece on the inside. You then put absorbant inserts into the pocket to make the nappy usable. Inserts vary from brand to brand, some are all microfibre, some are bamboo (more on materials later in the guide). Once “stuffed” with their absorbant inserts, a pocket nappy is as easy to use as an AIO, with the added advantage that you can choose how much absorbancy to add – meaning you can make them slimmer fitting for a newborn, and more absorbant for a toddler. Like AIOs, they tend to be more expensive (although there are cheap chinese imports on the market).

Brands include Bum Genius V4s and Wonderoo


GroVia Shell Pudge
GroVia Shell Pudge

Snap ins/All in Twos

These nappies get their name from the fact that the absorbent parts popper into their waterproof outer. Once poppered together they are very easy to use. Their main advantage is that if the nappy is only wet, or the poo has been contained by the aborbent pad, then only the pad needs changing and a fresh pad can be poppered into the waterproof outer. The advantage of this is that you can usually use several absorbant inners to each waterproof outer, which brings the cost of your system down.

Brands include Gro Via


Bamboozle BerryFitteds

These nappies get their name from the fact that they are often a sized nappy (most of the AIOs, pockets and AI2s are birth to potty). They are a 2 part nappy system. The nappy itself is absorbant, it is then covered by a waterproof cover. When the nappy needs changing you just change the internal nappy, not the waterproof outer (although these will need changing at least once a day). As a rule you will need 1 waterproof cover for every 4 or 5 nappies. The advantages of these are that they tend to be better fitting, work out as cheaper than all in ones and many people find them more reliable as there are two lots of leg elastic to hold any “explosions” in! The disadvantage is that each time you change a nappy you have to put 2 layers on.

Brands include Tots Bots Bamboozle,  Diddy Diapers, Big Softies


flip-organic-day-time-inserts_15Flat nappies

Flat nappies are, well, flat pieces of material that are folded to fit baby. There are 3 main types – terry squares, prefolds and flips.

Terry squares are squares of cotton towelling which can be folded into a variety of different shapes to fit any baby and secured with a nappy nippa (a y-shaped piece of rubber with grips) and a waterproof cover putting over.

Prefolds are a pad of layers of smooth cotton which are folded in 3 and placed in waterproof cover, they also can be secured with a nappy nippa. These come in sizes depending on the size of the baby.

Flips are a budget option from Bum Genius. There are a choice of inserts, including an organic cotton flat nappy that can be folded in a variety of ways to fit a baby of any size!

Some people also use muslins as newborn flat nappies as they can be folded very small. The main advantages of flat nappies are that they are cheap and flexible. As well as being used as nappies they can be used as sick cloths, as emergency change mats and for nappy free time. (they also make great floor cloths!). The disadvantage is that they can be tricky to fold.

Brands include Junior Joy and Bambino Mio


Jargon Busting

Things to bear in mind:

Wraps             Waterproof covers for 2 part nappy systems

Inserts            Absorbent pads for use in pocket and snap in 2 systems

Boosters        Additional absorbent material mostly used with AIOs, but also fitteds and other nappies

Liners             Sit inside the nappy to make dealing with poo easier. “Flushable” ones are generally made of plant cellulose manufacturers claim can be flushed down the loo, however water companies advise caution. Fleece ones are washable once the faeces has been tipped into the toilet

Micro fibre     A man made fiber that is quick drying. Moderately absorbant

Bamboo         Also viscose/rayon from Bamboo – a man made fibre from natural sources. Bamboo is highly absorbant, but slow to dry.

Hybrid            This can be a confusing term because different manufacturers use it differently. It can mean a nappy like the Gro Via and the Flip which can be used with disposable inserts. Other manufacturers use it to describe a thick fitted nappy with a thin water repellant layer that can be used for short periods as an all in one

PUL                 A waterproof material (polyester urethan laminate) usually used for waterproof outers

Minky              A fluffy material that can be laminated to make it absorbant. Laminated minky is often used for the outside of pocket nappies. Nonlaminated minky is sometimes used as part of the absorbancy in some AIOs

Wetbag          A waterproof bag for bring cloth nappies home in

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Why you should try before you buy…


The question I dread being asked when talking about cloth nappies is “What should I buy?” You’d think, being a retailer that I would love that question, an opportunity to sell, to recommend an expensive product. But I don’t enjoy it at all, because there is no right or wrong answer.

So I tend to answer like this:

I recommend you book a trial with us for after baby is born.

This is not so that I get extra money from you, the hire fee and a nice sale at the end. On the contrary, it is to stop you making an expensive mistake.

You see, every baby is a different shape, every family has a different budget and every household has different priorities and facilities for washing and drying. What suits one family perfectly might be a nightmare for others. I have heard too many horror stories of “I bought a full birth to potty kit of (insert brand name of nappy of your choice), but… they were too bulky/they kept leaking/I couldn’t get a good fit/they took too long to dry…

By trying cloth nappies before you buy them you can work whether you want to use the full time or part time, what styles and brands suit you and your lifestyle best, how easy they are to wash and dry and how that fits in with your lifestyle, with little or no commitment up front.

The Grow Up Green trial kits are available to hire in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland, and surrounding areas. One of our agents will bring the trial kit to you, talk you through all the different kinds of nappies, their pros and cons, how to care for them and wash them. There are 14 or so nappies in it, 2 different kinds of liners, a wet bag and washable wipes. It even comes in a bucket, so you don’t even need a bucket to get started! Check out our trial kit page for more details and to contact us.

If you don’t live in the North East, don’t despair! There is an amazing network of cloth nappy libraries, staffed by wonderful volunteers, throughout the UK. These are cloth nappy using parents who are very knowledgeable about cloth nappies. Check out this map to see where the nearest one is to you. Your local library should have a Grow Up Green discount code for users of their service, so ask them! But if they don’t, tell them to get in touch to get one…

If using nappies used by someone else makes you feel uncomfortable (and I hope it doesn’t – they are all washed at high temperatures with sanitiser before rehiring), then drop me a line to chat about your lifestyle and only buy one or two nappies until you’ve tried them out. With a little perseverance and patience, I am sure we can find a nappy that suits you and your lifestyle.

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How do I use cloth nappies out and about?

Limited edition Clarabugs@Grow Up Green wetbags
Limited edition Clarabugs@Grow Up Green wetbags

When talking about cloth nappies with new parents, I often get the question “but how do you go out and use cloth nappies, do you have to carry a dirty nappy around all day?”

The short answer is “Yes, you need to bring your cloth nappy home with you,” but it isn’t as terrible as it sounds. The reason? Some genius invented wetbags! Wetbags are a waterproof bag, in which you can safely stash your wet and dirty nappies, any wet/dirty clothes and soggy burp cloths, to bring home and wash.

Not all wet bags are created equal, and you do need to think about what you will be using them for before you buy. Small wetbags typically will only hold one or two nappies, mediums will hold a couple plus clothes, a large will hold a day’s worth etc.. Some wetbags have drawstrings, which are easy to use, but zips will hold the smell and dampness in better. Some are single layer PUL, some are beautiful cottons and lined in PUL. The choice is yours.

The main things to bear in mind when taking cloth nappies out and about is – make sure you tip all solids into the toilet before bagging them, or you will have to take them out of the wetbag to deal with when you get home. The zip can deal with dampness, but not wringing wet, so probably not a good idea to sluice your nappy or overwet wipes before putting them in your wetbag.

If you are interested in some lovely handmade, British made lined wetbags, check out our very own Clarabugs Wet Bags –  they really are beautiful, affordable and ethically produced!

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Some thoughts on potty training


Well, it is that time again. Third time round. It’s time to potty train my youngest child. I am a little sad about this. For 9 years we have had a least one child in cloth nappies. When this child trains, that will be it, goodbye cloth in my house (although plenty in the office still!).

You’d think that having potty trained before, I’d know what I was doing, but all I can say is all children are different.

With my first, I tried to “force” potty training when pregnant with number 2. After a week of wet floors and not being able to go out, I phoned my HV in despair. Her reply? If you are changing 3 pairs of pants an hour, he isn’t ready, put him back in nappies and try again in a few months”. Sage advice, a few months later, after a couple of months of 2 in cloth, we tried again – and he was dry in days. He took a little longer to get the hang of pooing on the loo, much to my frustration, but it wasn’t long and was soon using the toilet. However, he never liked the potty and trained straight to the toilet.

Number 2 child trained herself. We went to stay for a week with a friend who had a little girl 6 months older than mine, and potty trained. Everytime A went to the toilet, K went to the potty next to her. By the time we got back from holiday she was potty trained. Except for one strange foible. If we kept her naked from the waist down, she would use the potty without fail, if we dressed her, she wet herself! This resulted in us using nappies when she left the house for about 6 months, but not at home!

So, how will things go with number 3? Well, he is reliably using the potty at home (naked from the waist down or clothed), so on Monday we take the plunge. No nappies for nursery. Gulp!

So tips:

Treat each child as an individual

Take it at their time

Decide for yourself if you want to use nappies out and about, or just take lots of spare clothes out.

Let your child choose their potty and stickers or reward.

Remember a couple of brands do washable pullups – Bum Genius Flips do a pull up version, and Gro Via do a trainer pant that can be stuffed to make it more absorbant.

Accept that accidents happen

Praise attempts, and ignore accidents (but do clean them up!)

Wish me luck!