Cloth Nappies in Modern Life

Parents saving the planet, one poo at a time

nadine-and-kai mum and bub happy with cloth nappies thanks to eco bums in Adelaide“I know my body made him, every cell and my milk continues to stimulate his growth,” says Nadine from Norwood, pictured with baby Kai.

“Poo is a by-product of that growth. I poo, he poos. I clean myself up and it’s no different to cleaning him up.”

Nadine is a new breed of parent making the decision to switch to cloth nappies rather than disposables, for the sake of the planet.

Continue reading

How to use Modern Cloth Nappies

Some Mums are put off cloth nappies in the mistaken belief they are more fiddly or awkward than disposables, but they are actually quite simple to use – once you find the right system! Below is a breakdown of the process step by step.

Component Parts

  1. The NAPPY provides the absorbency. It can be either SHAPED or FLAT (for you to fold as appropriate).
  2. The WRAP or pant is the waterproof outer, which stops clothing getting wet.
  3. Inside the nappy, you have a LINER, which is designed to catch the poo while urine passes through to the nappy. Liners can be disposable or flushable. They are not theoretically essential, but make dealing with real nappies much easier.
  4. For sleeping through the night, you might need extra absorbency for the nappy, in the form of a BOOSTER. Some boosters have a fleece top, so they have the liner built in. Some children need no boosting at all, whilst very heavy wetters might need boosting on day nappies as well as night nappies.

Nappy Types

There are three main types of cloth nappy. In an ALL IN ONE nappy, the nappy and wrap parts are built together into one item. A TWO PIECE nappy system means there is a separate nappy and wrap. Finally, a HYBRID nappy is a two piece nappy which can be put together beforehand to act like a kind of pseudo-all in one – two examples are the Cushie Tushie and Grovia.

A nappy system can be SIZED, in which case there will be two or maybe three sizes from birth to toilet training, or a BIRTH TO TODDLER, in which case there is one nappy that will require adjusting to new born, infant and toddler.

Modern cloth nappies are shaped like disposables and come with simple fastenings – Velcro or poppers.. There are so many different nappies available and for this reason we offer the Eco Bums cloth nappy library

Changing and Washing

The following information is based on a hybrid nappy system, but can be applied to an all in one and a two piece. When putting a nappy on a baby, working from the outside in you will have a wrap, the nappy itself and a liner.

You will need to change the nappy every 2 to 4 hours depending on your babies age and how heavy a wetter they are – most young babies go through 6 nappies per day, excluding night changes, this usually drops to around 4 nappies per day from 6 months onwards.

When changing the nappy undo the wrap and the nappy itself, clean the entire nappy area and replace the wet/soiled nappy and liner with clean ones. You then put the same wrap back on unless it is soiled, or after 12 hours use. Bamboo liners can be flushed down the toilet.

The dirty nappy can be rinsed out if soil marks are thick but if not the nappy  can be placed straight into the nappy wet bag.

If you purchase 18 nappies and 4 wraps in each size you will be able to wash every other day once your baby is no longer having nappy changes during the night. When you are ready to put a wash on simply place the nappies in your washing machine, with half the recommended amount of ecofriendly powder for the load and run a 60 degree wash. Do not use fabric conditioner as this will coat the fibres and affect absorbency over time.

The amount of powder you use is the crucial factor here, it is very important not to use too much as it will build up in the fabric of the nappies and can cause the nappy to lose absorbency.

The two most common misconceptions are that you have to soak your nappies and that you can’t possibly use cloth nappies without a tumble dryer. Modern cloth nappies dry very quickly – there is even a polyester nappy that comes out of the washing machine virtually dry! Given that many mums choose cloth nappies for environmental reasons, regular tumble drying really isn’t an option.

There are so many benefits to using cloth nappies, including health benefits and financial benefits – please go through our website to learn more.


Why are people so crazy about modern cloth nappies?

Why are people so crazy about modern cloth nappies?

Have you noticed the growing trend of families switching to modern cloth nappies? It used to be that just the idea of cloth nappies made our eyes glaze over – more washing, more hassle, more work. Not anymore! Suddenly there are facebook pages, cloth nappy group meeting and countless blog entries spreading the cloth message. Here are a few things that go through a modern cloth nappy parent’s mind:

“I’m saving money”

Having one baby in disposable nappies is expensive at a time when the family is often reduced to one income. Not great timing! Which is why many families choose a cheaper option. Using disposables, you can easily spend $30 per week for one baby until they are toilet trained, which may be up to four years away (which equates to anywhere between $4000 and $6000!!). Having two or more in nappies obviously makes this a significant addition to the weekly grocery bill.

“It’s the easiest way to do it”

We know this sounds farfetched, but with modern cloth nappies it is true for many. If you live a long way from the shops (especially in a rural area), getting there can be tricky. Sometimes just getting out of the house with a baby can be tricky, no matter where you live…. And it’s not just the rural families that find it more convenient – not having to battle the traffic in the big smoke is always appealing! And we all know it’s not good to run out of nappies in the middle of the night or on public holidays.

They take no longer to change than a disposable, so as long as you get in a good routine with the laundry, modern cloth nappies only add around 5 minutes of extra work to your day and they don’t leave you reeling from the stinky wheely bin!

“Cloth nappies are not like they used to be”

Like most things in our lives, cloth nappies have caught up with modern times. The idea of terry squares with pins and soaking is no longer relevant. Modern cloth is just not like that. They are made from modern materials such as bamboo cotton, which is very thirsty and naturally antibacterial, and microfleece, which keeps baby’s skin dry and is nearly impossible to stain. They are designed with elasticised legs and press stud fastenings, to be fitted on just like a disposable with no need for intricate origami folding. You can also use flushable liners (preferably 100% natural bamboo, which is biodegradable as well as gentle on baby’s sensitive skin), which means there is no need for poo-scraping or soaking. They are washed just like your other clothes and then dried in the sun.

“They are just so cute”

Let’s be honest, this is one of the main reasons why people try them out. The fun designs and colours are far more appealing than a white plastic disposable. Suddenly, modern cloth nappies have become a fashion trend with customers becoming ravenous for new designs. There is also something a little romantic about nappies hanging on the line, swinging in the breeze.

“I am making the right choice for a sustainable future”

This is a big reason for many, right up there next to the cost savings. The environmental impact of switching to modern cloth nappies is huge. Here are some of the statistics:

In a home with one baby using disposables, 50% of the household’s waste will be nappies. Thismeans that a family can halve their waste by just using cloth. Amazing. We all know how important it is to recycle and compost and cloth nappies seem to just fit with this way of thinking. So many families (using disposables) struggle to get to the end of the week without the bin overflowing. And let’s just not talk about the smell of a week’s worth of disposables in the wheelie bin!

In 2009, Australian babies used 2.1 billion nappies — about 5.6 million per day. These nappies can take up to 400 years to break down. Wow, that’s a lot of stinky landfill.

In 1993, 40% of Australian nappy use was cloth. Now it’s less than 95%. We have made so much great progress in sustainable living practices, yet this is one thing that have gone backwards. We are driving more fuel-efficient cars and using energy saving light bulbs, yet using more disposables nappies.

Home-washed reusable nappies use less non-renewable and total energy over the life cycle than any other nappy system. People often argue that the water use is washing the cloth nappies counteracts the environmental benefits of using them. This has been proven to be untrue, as the pulp in the disposables, the resources used to manufacture, transport and store them far outweighs the resources used in cloth. And that doesn’t even take into account the landfill issue. Using cloth nappies, the parent has much more control over their environmental impact as they can use a cold wash and line-dry them to be most efficient.

“It’s the natural choice”

The environmental and cost savings are probably the biggest motivator, but many families switch because of their concerns for their child’s health. Modern cloth nappies are a more natural choice, as they are chemical free (so long as you use a natural detergent that is). Here are some of the reasons why:

Nappy rash and allergies Many families are concerned about the link between nappy rash and allergies with disposable nappy use. Modern cloth nappies do not contain any chemicals, such as chlorine, sodium polyacrylate crystals (used to absorb urine) or dyes that are commonly found in disposable nappies.

Chemical free Modern cloth nappies do not contain any of the harsh chemicals or toxins that are believed to be present in disposable nappies. They can be washed with natural detergents, ensuring that they are the safest and most healthy option for baby’s bottom. Lots of MCN families also have reusable wipes and neutral nappy change solution, which are a natural and chemical free alternative to baby wipes which often contain alcohol and fragrances which can irritate sensitive skin.

Long term use of disposables Some people are concerned about the compounds used in the manufacture of disposable nappies have potential long term side effects. Parents often raise concerns about the link between cancers, asthma, male infertility and immune system function with disposable nappy use. Studies on these effects are not conclusive, but some families chose not to risk it.

“I’m supporting Aussie mums in business”

The modern cloth nappy community is made up of online stores, independent retailers and mumpreneur designers and manufacturers. Most of these are mums who are running a great business while raising a family. Most of these MCN businesses began (or still are) in home offices and are all Aussie owned. There is something satisfying about buying from someone who is just like you!


Nappies and landfill: Zero waste – New Zealand Trust.

Rate of nappy use in Australia and NZ: Choice magazine – Disposable nappies review and compare.

Disposables vs Cloth Life cycle assessment: O’Brien, K. R., Olive, R., Hsu, Y.C., Bell, R., Morris, L. and Kendall, N. (2009). Life Cycle Assessment: Reusable and disposable nappies in Australia. In: , Australian Life Cycle Assessment Society Conference 2009. 6th Australian Conference on Life Cycle Assessment, Melbourne, (1-14). 17-19 February. (2009)

Water resource comparisons: Link, A. (2003) Disposable nappies: a case study in waste prevention. Women’s Environment Network.

Costing of disposables vs Modern Cloth nappies:

What Are Disposable Diaper Manufacturer’s Hiding Anyway?



Disposable Diapers Exposed!

Editorial by T. Washko – Staff Writer for The Diaper Jungle

If you visit the web sites of the popular disposable diaper manufacturers you will find little information about what exactly is in a disposable diaper. Instead you read information about why they are not compelled to make this information available to you…the consumer. When requesting MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) on disposable diaper products you may be met with a response such as this:

Dear Customer,

These consumer products are exempt from the MSDS requirement under the Hazard Communication Guidelines of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. More importantly though, all of our paper products are composed of non-hazardous substances.

We go to great lengths to ensure that our products are safe for workers, consumers, and the environment. All of our products have been proven safe through many years of extensive testing and consumer use.

Please be assured that there has never been a need for MSDS for these products.

A Large Disposable Diaper Company

So this inclines us to ask…what is the big secret and what are you trying to hide? Perhaps they know it would be unfavorable for them to tell consumers that they are in fact buying polyethylene and polypropylene plastic with bleached paper pulp, AGM (a gelling substance), petrolatum, stearyl alcohol, cellulose tissue, elastic, and perfume. Instead they would rather consumers subscribe to the ideas they present on national television…that you are diapering your baby with materials as soft and inviting as cashmere.

Even when contacting them to determine if your child might have sensitivities to the “ingredients” in their diapering products, you will not get any closer to the truth. Instead, they tell you that this information is proprietary due to the prevalence of diapering spies out there and that if you want further information about the contents you must submit a letter from your doctor explaining what allergies or product sensitivities your child might have and they will either confirm or deny. The extent of the security that exists around the contents of a diapering product is not only baffling but alarming. Millions of our children adorn these products for anywhere from 1-4 years and yet parents are not permitted to know what is in them. Even more alarming is the fact that many parents blindly trust these companies to make products that are safe for their children, never questioning the content of a diaper or their health and environmental impacts.

Did you know that scientific studies have linked disposable diapers and their harsh perfumes and toxic substances to the increase of asthma in society today? Laboratory rats exposed to disposable diapers straight out of the package have suffered increased eye, nose and throat irritation, as well as bronchial constriction similar to that of an asthma attack. These findings appear in a scientific report concluded by Dr. Rosalind C. Anderson of Anderson Laboratories, Inc. in Vermont. The report went on to say that, “Chemical analysis of the emissions revealed several chemicals with documented respiratory toxicity. The results demonstrate that some types of disposable diapers emit mixtures of chemicals that are toxic to the respiratory tract. Disposable diapers should be considered as one of the factors that might cause or exacerbate asthmatic conditions.”*

Not only are these large disposable diaper manufacturers producing products laden with chemicals to diaper our children with, they are polluting the earth our children will inherit. In one U.S. town, one such company is responsible for discharging approximately 50 million gallons/day of wastewater into a nearby river.** The chemicals being dumped into this river have made their way into the well water of the surrounding residents and have caused mutations among the fish that live in it. The water is so dark and murky that oxygen and sunlight cannot penetrate it and the smell emanating from it is noxious. Residents have been fighting for close to ten years now to stop this company from polluting their natural resources, all to no avail. Not only do the “safe” ingredients used in these diapering products have the potential to cause asthma-like conditions in our children they may also be polluting our drinking water and mutating our wildlife in areas where they are manufactured.

So, it would seem that when a diaper consumer is prohibited from knowing the full contents of the diaper they are using on their child, the manufacturing company has a great deal to hide. How many parents would buy disposable diapers if you were to read something like this on the company web site or diaper packaging:

Dear Customer,

Our diapers are made from a variety of non-child friendly products including bleached paper pulp, petrolatum, stearyl alcohol, cellulose tissue, sodium polyacralate, and perfumes. Some or all of these ingredients may cause adverse reactions to the wearer, including reduced respiratory function, so please exercise appropriate caution when using our product.

Our products are not biodegradable or environmentally friendly and they may contribute greatly to environmental pollution. Although recycling disposable diapers is a possibility, we do not, at this time, use any of these available methods as the monetary costs are too great. Thank you kindly for using our products anyway.

A Large Disposable Diaper Company

Now the question is….if upon reading something like that, would parents still choose perceived convenience and use disposable diapers anyway? We can only hope that cloth diapers would at least merit a consideration for their qualities of superior comfort and safety.


* Acute Respiratory Effects of Diaper Emissions, Archives of Environmental Health, 54, October 1999

**Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Institute, Florida State University

***Thirsties Cloth Diapers


Babies on the Yorke Peninsula in cloth nappies………



Here is a fantastic article promoting the cloth nappy library subsidy program. We are a state wide program!



FAQ’s on compostable v biodegradable nappies

What is the most sustainable disposable nappy?

A nappy that not only takes into account the manufacturing process but also the disposal factors at the end of the nappy’s life. The whole cycle needs to be considered. This cycle is called “cradle to cradle” whereby, no materials are sacrificed to the grave (landfill) and their potential is turned into compost from which more material can grow.

There are more and more claims of biodegradability in new “so called” eco-disposables. A nappy that carries 95% biodegradability but must still be disposed of in landfill where as a 100% compostable nappy will be turned in a resource – compost!

What is the difference between biodegradable and compostable nappies?

BIODEGRADABLE: ‘Biodegradable’ simply means that a product will break down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass within a reasonable amount of time in the natural environment. The term ‘biodegradable’ however has no legal enforcement or definition. Therefore, the term has been used loosely by some manufacturers. Products that are labeled as ‘biodegradable’ will go to landfill. However it is important to remember that landfills lack the microorganisms and oxygen required for waste to biodegrade in a timely manner, so you should still try to minimize the amount of wasted material.

COMPOSTABLE: ‘Compostable’ products are biodegradable, but with an added benefit: when they break down, they release valuable nutrients into the soil, aiding the growth of trees and plants. These products degrade within several weeks in an industrial composting facility and produce no toxic residues.. Compostable items are commonly made out of PLA (Polylactic acid), bagasse (sugarcane fiber) or vegetable starch. It is environmentally-preferable to use disposable products that are labeled ‘compostable’ rather than just ‘biodegradable’.

Misuse of the terms compostable and biodegradable can lead buyers to costly mistakes. Some countries have now moved to ban the use of the word biodegradable on packaging, as there is little benefit if the end product still ends up in landfill. Products may be described as compostable provided they conform to accepted standards.


What happens to disposables in landfill?

In short nothing. They just sit there mostly…and sit there…..and sit there…. In fact, it is what all waste in landfill is supposed to do.

Landfill is designed to contain waste in a stable anaerobic environment. It has walls that are strong and not able to be breached as well as a very stable unmoving, unleaking base to prevent leaching into our water tables..

Plastic nappies in landfill are supposed to just sit there.

What about highly biodegradable nappies in landfill?

Biodegradable nappies go to landfill, they do break down, but the material has nowhere to go, instead greenhouse gases are emitted which will increase our carbon taxes and which will increase landfill costs. But as we mentioned before – this nappy can NOT be composted.

Tea Tree Gully Council promotes the Cloth Nappy Library Subsidy

Tea Tree Gully Council has received excellent media coverage since promoting their involvement in the cloth nappy subsidy program. Here is a link to the Leader Messenger that features a very positive article. Thank you Jane and Amelie for taking the time to have this gorgeous photo taken. If you are interested, a nappy demonstration will be held next Thursday December 13th, 11am at the Tea Tree Gully Council.





Compostable Nappies

Eco Bums is very excited to be partnering with Eenee Eco Nappy to bring you a 100% compostable nappy. The link below is a demonstration on how they work. If you live in South Australia, this nappy can go into your Green Organics Bin to be composted. This is the only nappy that is 100% compostable and is accepted by our two main commercial composters.


Using cloth nappies and compostable nappies achieves 100% Zero Waste !!

Eenee Nappy Demonstration

Factory blast to hit supply of nappies

This will not affect all MCN users  🙂 This article was in the Sydney Morning Herald

Is the disposable nappy you use compostable?

Avoidance of waste is Eco Bums main priority when it comes to education of nappies, hence why we promote cloth nappies. However, we understand not everyone can use cloth nappies full time and there will be times you will need to use disposable nappies. The next best thing to cloth nappies are compostable nappies. Certified compostable nappies can go in your green organics bin and turned into compost. This is a fantastic alternative to plastic disposables because the item is diverted from landfill and instead turned into valuable compost.

Eco Bums is working with an Australian company to bring a compostable nappy to you. We will ensure this item is 100% compostable – not like many nappy products you find in supermarkets that claim to be compostable or biodegradable. Watch this space………


Compostable v Biodegradable

Shopping Cart

  • Total: $0.00 (AUD)