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Real nappies are a great alternative to other nappies. They are soft, chemical free and over time they can save you money.


Different types of real nappies

Most real nappies are shaped exactly like disposables. They're easy to change and fully adjustable for a good fit. They use poppers or velcro fastenings, so no pins or clips needed. There are two main types:

  • All-in-ones: each nappy is a single item with a waterproof outer layer, absorbent middle layer and internal wicking fleece for no-fuss changes.
  • Two-part: these have a separate waterproof cover that can be used all day and soft nappy inside which is replaced at each change. They're quicker drying than all-in-ones and durable enough to use for more than one child.

Both options usually feature an extra pocket for absorbent boosters.

Many real nappies come in an adjustable 'birth-to-potty' size. Others are specific sizes, such as 6-20lbs, 16-35lbs or 35lbs +. These are a better fit, but will need replacing at least once as your child grows.

Cheaper alternatives to shaped nappies are:

  • Flat nappies or 'terry squares': flat material which you fold into a nappy shape then place a waterproof wrap over the top. Cheap and quick-drying, but more difficult to change and may need a 'nappy nippa' pin to fasten them.
  • Prefolds: flat nappies that have been stitched so they require less folding and sit within a waterproof cover.

Not sure what you need? Try The Nappy Lady's questionnaire or talk to North Herts Nappy Library.


  • Nappy liners: use liners to wick away liquids and catch solids. Paper liners can be thrown away or sometimes flushed. Fleece liners can be washed, after solids have been shaken off.
  • Boosters: these can be placed inside a wrap or nappy to provide extra absorbency. They come in different fabrics, like bamboo, hemp and cotton, to suit different needs. Flat nappies can also be used as boosters.
  • Waterproof wraps: Used with 2-part systems and flat nappies. They come in three sizes, or a 'grow with your baby' option, to ensure a good fit and avoid leaking. They need changing less often than inner nappies.
  • Washable wipes: a cheap and chemical-free alternative to disposable wipes, which you can wash with your nappies. Make your own out of old towels or sheets to save money and waste.
  • Nappy bucket or wet bag: for storing used nappies until wash day. No need to soak them, just put them in as they are.

How many will I need?

ItemHow manyCost
Nappies 15-24 for each nappy size, depending on how often you wash them. £5-£20 each. Many retailers offer a discount if you buy a full set.
Waterproof wraps At least 4 for each nappy size.  £6-£12 each.
Nappy liners Washable - at least 12.
Disposable - around 1 roll per month.
Washable - around £1 each.
Disposable - around £3 per roll of 100.
Boosters At least 15. From around £1 each.
Washable wipes At least 20. Around £25 for a set.

Washing tips

  • Wash brand new nappies a few times, without detergent, to build up their absorbency.
  • Use half the normal amount of non-bio detergent and no fabric conditioner, as these coat the fibres and reduce absorbency.
  • Wash nappies at up to 60 degrees celsius and wraps up to 40 degrees to protect their waterproof coating.
  • Dry your nappies and wraps on a line rather than using a tumble dryer or radiator. Sunlight naturally bleaches out discolouration and keeps them softer and fluffier.

Where can I buy real nappies?

Real nappies are easiest to find online. The Great British Nappy Hunt has a list of retailers.

They're also increasingly available in high street shops like Boots, Mothercare and Tesco.

You can buy them second hand in good condition from websites like Ebay, Gumtree and Freecycle. Check Facebook for nappy swaps and sellers in your area.

Terms and conditions

If you live in Hertfordshire and your child is under two years old you can apply for a real nappy starter kit, or real nappy reward. Find out more from our terms and conditions.