Ditch those disposables for a more environmentally friendly option with our guide to the best reusable nappies
It’s estimated that three billion disposable nappies go into landfill each year – and that’s in the UK alone. If you’re looking for a way to reduce your carbon footprint and save money, reusable nappies are a great way to make a big difference.
The best part is that today’s modern reusable nappies marry disposable-rivaling absorbency with gorgeously cute looks. You can pick from a vast range of colourful designs and soft fabrics that are easy to clean and comfy for baby to wear.
They’re increasingly popular, too. In fact, compared to the 1990s where only 2% of parents were using reusable nappies, over 30% of parents are believed to have now made the switch.
There is a greater upfront cost, but reusable nappies can work out much cheaper than buying disposables throughout your child’s nappy-wearing years. Make no mistake, the cost of disposable nappies adds up considerably over time.
But before you get started, you’ll need to decide which type of reusable nappy is best for your baby. Read on and we’ll answer all the key questions you might have before recommending some of our favourite choices in the mini-reviews further down the page.
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Best reusable nappies to buy: At a glance
- Best value all-in-one nappy: Bambino Mio Miosolo | £17
- Best nappy for big wetters: Little Lamb Bamboo Shaped | £13
- Most versatile all-in-two nappy: Tickle Tots All-In-Two Reusable Nappy | from £9.38
How to choose the best reusable nappy for you
What types of reusable nappy are there?
There are several types of reusable nappies and we’ve listed the main types below:
- Flat nappies: This old-school option is cheap, effective (if put on properly) and easy to clean. These are flat pieces of fabric made from terry-towelling, bamboo or cotton, which wrap around your baby’s derriere and are secured by safety pins or a nappy fastener. You can use them underneath a waterproof outer for more security against leaks too. They do take a little while to master, though.
- All-in-one nappies: These nappies combine a waterproof outer with a stitched-in absorbent layer. The absorbent bit is sometimes stitched at the top in a tongue design while others are fully sewn in. They’re generally easy to clean, but they can take longer to dry and may not be as absorbent as other designs, so they’re not always ideal for nighttime. They’re almost as easy to use as a disposable nappy, though, which is a big plus.
- All-in-two nappies: These are formed from a waterproof outer layer and a separate highly absorbent inner, which clip together either with toggles or Velcro. The waterproof outers are normally wipe-clean, so it is often possible to swap the inner and reuse the outer several times before it needs washing – the only exception is when the outers have an absorbent inner layer. A little bit fiddlier than all-in-ones, but the extra absorbency can make it worthwhile.
- Two-part nappies: Similar to all-in-two nappies, two-part nappies combine a waterproof outer and an absorbent inner nappy. The difference here is that they’re not attached to each other and you’re not necessarily tied to one brand. This means you can combine them how you see fit: you can use a traditional flat nappy underneath or a special shaped nappy for ease of use and improved absorbency. You do need to take care that the outer covers the inner if you don’t want leaks, though.
- Pocket nappies: These partner an outer waterproof layer with an inner pocket that can be stuffed with a separate absorbent pad. The benefit of these is that you can tailor the thickness of the pad to suit your baby (or potentially use extra pads), and they’re also easy to wash and dry. Unlike the two-part nappies, though, you can’t reuse the outer several times before washing – the pocket becomes soiled with every use.
How much do they cost?
The cost of reusable nappies depends on several factors, but most importantly whether you’re planning on using them full or part-time. As a rough guide, you may need as many as 25 reusable nappies for full-time use, and up to ten for part-time use. In either case, we’d start out with around 15 for full-time use, and seven or eight for part-time. You can always buy more if you need them.
Depending on the brand you buy, the upfront costs do sound daunting: you can end up spending anything from £150 to £500. This should work out far cheaper than the total cost of disposable nappies, though – it’s been estimated that parents can spend as much as £1,000 on disposables over the course of a child’s nappy-wearing life. A further benefit is that you can keep reusables on the off chance that you have another child or resell them once yours have grown out of nappies.
A further cost to factor in – even if it’s not an immediate one – is that of the energy required to wash and dry the nappies. You’ll want to store soiled nappies in a sealed nappy bin and ensure that you wash a full load wherever possible to maximise the energy efficiency of your washing machine. When it comes to drying, you’ll also need to air or line dry for maximum savings; regular tumble drying will add to the lifetime cost of reusables.
How do you wash reusable nappies?
Before you start using reusable nappies, you’ll need a secure nappy bin (this is especially important if you have other toddlers or children in the house) and at least one waterproof bag to go inside your changing bag – sometimes it’s worth having two or three waterproof bags just to be on the safe side.
When you remove a dirty nappy, simply dispose of any poo straight into the toilet before popping the used nappy into your secure bin or bag. If you have multiple bags you can separate the stinkier nappies too.
If you’re also using nappy liners for extra protection, just dispose of them straight into the bin. You should then pop your used nappies into the washing machine with non-bio detergent and nappy cleanser before air drying. Most reusable nappy brands advise washing your collected dirty nappies every three days. Leave it any longer and things will get a bit whiffy.
How we test nappies
We try every product that we recommend ourselves in order to provide the most honest and reliable information. For this roundup of the best reusable nappies, we have tested a number of the top nappy brands on the market on our reviewer’s young baby. Each brand of reusable nappy has been evaluated for its design, fit and adjustability, absorption, plus how well it washes and dries. We also consider the type of nappy (pocket, two part and all-in-one, for example) and the age range for which it’s best suited (some reusable nappies are for newborns, while others are a better fit for slightly older babies). At the bottom of each review you’ll find at a glance details such as type, size, and drying time.
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The best reusable nappies to buy in 2023
1. Bambino Mio Miosolo All-In-One Nappy: The best value all-in-one nappy
Price when reviewed: £17 | Check price at Amazon
This award-winning, all-in-one nappy is a great way to introduce yourself to the world of reusables. Its convenient one-size design is great value for money as it can be used from birth to potty-training age, thanks to the adjustable poppers and hook-and-loop fastenings.
Inside, the nappy has an absorbent core that’s designed to keep baby feeling dry and comfortable while staying super soft after every wash – and there’s sure to be plenty. If your baby is a heavy wetter, you can simply add in a booster liner for added protection during nap times and nighttime.
Key specs – Size: One size; Type: All-in-one; Drying time: Quick
2. Splash About Under Nappy: The best reusable nappy for extra protection
Price: From £8.99 | Check price at Splash About
If a leak is your worst nightmare then an under nappy is the perfect solution, and Splash About has you covered with this very affordable, but reusable, option. It’s designed to fit neatly under the Happy Nappy, and this combination means you’ll adhere to many pool’s requirements for a dual layer. However, you can conveniently use it on its own for various situations, including playing in the garden or at the beach.
It arrives in six fun designs, a lot less than the Happy Nappy’s 21, but will often be out of view anyway. More importantly, it’s long-lasting thanks to multiple rows of poppers, meaning you just move to the next set as your baby grows. This means there are only two sizes to choose from, and each will last at least a year.
Key specs – Size: Two sizes available (0-1y, 1-3y); Type: Base-layer swim nappy; Drying time: Quick
3. Tickle Tots All-In-Two Reusable Nappy: The best all-in-two nappy for do-it-all versatility
Price when reviewed: £19 | Check price at Tickle Tots
One of the many benefits of using reusable nappies is the fun and colourful prints they come in, and Tickle Tots offers some of the cutest designs. However, in addition to being far prettier than disposables, Tickle Tots’ all-in-two nappies are ultra-versatile, absorbent and come with a waterproof outer wrap.
The one-size design has adjustable poppers along the sides and Velcro at the waist with double-layered legs to prevent leaks. Each nappy also comes with two additional bamboo boosters: the first is larger and made from four layers of bamboo fleece, while the second smaller booster is designed to be used on its own for newborns. You can combine them both for nighttime security and, best of all, you can use the outer for a couple of changes before throwing it in the wash. They’re a brilliant birth-to-potty nappy.
Key specs – Size: One size; Type: All-in-two; Drying time: Quick
4. Splash About Happy Nappy: The best reusable swim nappy
Price when reviewed: £13 | Check price at Splash About
The Happy Nappy is a best seller and it’s easy to see why. These cute, almost high-waisted shorts are essentially a wetsuit nappy for babies, being made from a 1mm super-soft neoprene that’s chlorine-resistant and won’t lose its shape.
The patented design offers a high level of protection against faecal leaks, which is achieved through a snug fit with waist and thigh ribs as well as a shape that cups the baby’s bottom to avoid unwanted gapes. It’s approved and recommended by swim schools, and if you need to comply with a double-layer rule then it can be paired with the brand’s Under Nappy.
There are five sizes to choose from and no less than 21 different designs, so you’re bound to find at least one that suits your taste. For not much more than £10, the Happy Nappy is great value for money, too.
Key specs – Size: Five sizes available (0-3m, 3-6m, 6-12m, 12-24m, 2-3y); Type: Swim nappy; Drying time: Quick
5. Little Lamb Bamboo Shaped Nappy: The best nappy for big wetters
Price when reviewed: £13 | Check price at the Nappy Lady
When it comes to softness and absorbency, Little Lamb’s shaped bamboo nappies are hard to beat. Best of all, they also come in three sizes, which is ideal if you’ve discovered that one-size nappies don’t fit your baby properly.
You can use the crossover tabs at the waist if you need to tighten the fit and the included double-layered bamboo booster provides extra absorbency at night. Bear in mind, though, that they need to be used in conjunction with a waterproof wrap, and Little Lamb’s gorgeously pretty wraps will set you back £11 each.
The only other downside to these nappies is that they’re very slow to dry – Little Lamb recommends buying some of its microfibre or cotton versions as they sacrifice absorbency for faster drying. You will also need to buy a larger size as your baby grows, although Little Lamb claims that most children only need the first two sizes.
If you want ultra-absorbent nappies for nighttime, though, these are a great choice.
Key specs – Size: Three sizes available (Newborn: Up to 12lbs; Size 1: 7-20lbs; Size 2: 20-38lbs); Type: Shaped; Drying time: Slow
6. Mother-Ease Wizard Uno Nappy: The best performing all-in-one nappy
Price when reviewed: £26 | Check price at Amazon
If you’re worried about leaks, the Mother-Ease Wizard Uno one-part nappy has a strong reputation for keeping the bad stuff contained – so much so that it promises a 100% leak-free fit.
This is due to their clever inner and outer leakage protection that includes two separate elastics and two lines of defence across the legs and elasticated waist. It offers the ease of a disposable with a high-tech inner pad that keeps baby comfortable – and, best of all, it dries quickly after washing too.
For bedtime, Mother-Ease advises adding a Wizard Booster between the absorbent core and waterproof cover for 12+ hours of leak-free wear. The one downside to this nappy is that it’s a very popular choice, so it’s best to buy when you can.
Key specs – Size: Two sizes available (Newborn: 6-12lbs; Onesize: 8-35lbs) ; Type: All-in-one; Drying time: Quick