Modern Cloth Nappies (MCNs) have changed the way we think about nappies. Gone are the days when using cloth nappies meant hours in the laundry soaking, rinsing, scrubbing then drying square sheets of terry toweling, followed by the struggle of folding them into shapes an origami master would envy and attempting to pin it to a wiggling squirming bundle of joy.
If you are new to the MCN world, it can seem confusing and overwhelming. Devout believers start throwing terms at you that mean nothing – AIO, PUL, Pockets, Microfleece, snap in boosters, stuffers, wicking, hemp, WAHM…not to mention the different nappy sellers! It’s enough to make you run for the nearest stack of terry-towelling flat nappies to hide under!
Modern Cloth nappies are a new style of nappy that is user friendly and evironmentally friendly. They are a nappy that is shaped like a disposable, as easy to use as a disposable...but rather than throw them away you wash them and re-use them.
Think of the money you save, the water, the environment and the beautiful soft fabrics against your baby's skin. I know what I would prefer against my skin :)
To start off on this journey below is a list of common cloth nappy terms to help you with the jargon. Once you have finished reading through this you may like to visit the 'what nappy is that?' section to learn about the different types of nappies available to use.
- All In One (AIO): A complete nappy that is no-fuss - just put straight on. It is a fitted nappy that has an outer waterproof layer built in, as well as the absorbent layer built in and doesn't require a separate cover. These nappies have a longer drying time due to the absorbent layer being built in.
- All-in-two Nappies (AI2) These are a nappy that are complete but have a snap in absorbent layer to make for faster drying times. An AIO can be considered an AI2 if it has an added booster to aid the absorbency of the nappy. One benefit of these nappies are that the waterproof outer layer and absorbent inner layer can be washed and dried separately.
- Aplix: Aplix is like Velcro and hook and loop, just another brand name. It is used to fasten nappies rather than snaps.
- Bamboo: Fabric made from the bamboo plant. It resembles cotton but is softer, more absorbent and has antibacterial qualities. Available in fleece, terry and velour.
- Booster: A booster is an additional piece of absorbent material placed inside a nappy to increase its absorbency. It can be as simple as a folded piece of absorbent material such as hemp or bamboo or a sewn booster containing several layers of absorbent materials.
- Citrus Circles /Pail Pals: Deoderising disks used in nappy buckets to control and cover smells.
- Cloth Wipes: A fabric square or rectangle, often of flannel or terry, that is used instead of a disposable wipe. Many people use a special recipe of essential oils in their wipe water or plain water with a tiny amount of mild soap may be used to wet the wipes. If you store your wipes wet, change the water every other day to avoid bacteria growth.¹
- Cover: A cover is used over fitted nappies or traditional terry squares to stop wetness from wicking through onto baby’s clothing. Covers are usually made from waterproof breathable fabric such as PUL (polyurethane laminate), wool or 100% polyester fleeces. Some people refer to covers as “wraps” or pilchers.
- Diaper: American term for the word nappy.
- Dry-Pailing: Is to simply place your nappies in an empty nappy bucket with a tight-fitting lid and adding nothing to them. When you have a full bucker add them to your washing machine and wash! No soaking required! There is no need to soak nappies, in fact excessive soaking can damage MCNs.
- Doubler: Another name for a booster – absorbent material added to a nappy to increase the absorbency of the nappy.
- Flat Nappy: Traditional terry toweling square nappies that need to be folded in to a nappy shape and either pinned on or attached using a snappi nappy fastener. They are otherwise referred to as terry flats or flats. You can also have flats made out of either hemp or bamboo terry.
- Fitted Nappy: Are a sewn shaped nappy made out of various materials including flanelette, bamboo or hemp. They close with either hook and loop or snaps. Fitted nappies are used with a cover.
- Flanelette: Very soft densely woven cotton used for fitted nappies, lining of AIO's, boosters and for absorbent layers within nappies and boosters
- FOE: Fold over elastic. An elastic available in a range of colours which is usually 2.5cm wide. It has a fold in the centre to make it easy to 'fold over ' to sew on covers and nappies like a binding edge. As well as providing a nice finish to a product it is also elastic so normal elastic is not required..
- Hemp: Hemp is an absorbent fabric made from the pulp of the hemp plant. Like bamboo, it contains antibacterial properties which help to ensure the nappies stay clean and mould free. It is soft to touch, strong and absorbent.
- Hemp Terry: A variety of hemp fabric that is smooth on one side with terry loops (like a towel) on the opposite side. The loops allow for the fabric to be used with snappis. Hemp Terry has the same absorbency as hemp fleece.
- Hemp Fleece: A variety of hemp fabric that is smooth on one side and fluffy on the other. Hemp fleece is hemp terry which has had the loops brushed to make it softer and fluffier Hemp fleece has the same absorbency as hemp terry.
- Hook and Loop: A generic name for velcro, apilix and touch tape, which are all used as fasteners for nappy products.
- Lanolin: Lanolin is the grease from sheep's wool. It is used to help water-proof wool nappy products. A small amount of lanolin is added to warm water and the woolen product is left to soak in the solution for 20 minutes or so. The wool absorbs the lanolin which increases it’s hydrophobic properties.
- Liner: A liner is used directly under baby’s bottom to both keep it dry and also to make disposing and cleaning off of poo easier. Cloth liners are usually made from polar fleece, microfleece or silk as these allow the moisture to wick through to the absorbent part of the nappy. Polar fleece and microfleece liners can not be used on a nappy that already has a 100% polyester lining as two layers of fleece = repel liquid. Poo can be easily lifted out using the liner and rinsed off into the toilet.
- Longies: Knitted woolen long pants used as a nappy cover.
- Microfleece: A synthetic fabric made from recycled PET (Polyethylene terephthalate). It’s very soft and sits on the part of the nappy that touches baby’s skin. It is hydrophobic, making it wick water away from baby’s sensitive bottom and into the absorbent part of the nappy. Microfleece is a finer fabric than polar fleece making it popular for its trimness.
- MCN: An acronym for Modern Cloth Nappies.
- Pilchers: Usually refers to the old style of nappy covers. PVC Non-breathing plastic pants used to cover fitted or terry flat nappies.
- Pins: Or nappy pins. Used to fasten terry flats.
- Polar Fleece: A synthetic fabric made from recycled PET (Polyethylene terephthalate). It’s very soft and sits on the part of the nappy that touches baby’s skin. It is hydrophobic, making it wick water away from baby’s sensitive bottom and into the absorbent part of the nappy.
- Polyurethane laminate: Frequently referred to by it’s abbreviated name PUL (Said as either P-U-L, or Pull). PUL is a soft clear coating of polyurethane that is applied to the back of fabrics resulting in a product that is both waterproof and has a small amount of breathability, making it a perfect choice for nappy making. PUL comes in either 1MIL, or 2MIL, the MIL referring to the thickness of the laminate. Most fabrics are laminated with the 2MIL as it withstands frequent washing and is longer lasting. The laminate is applied to either cotton fabric or polyester fabric.
- Pocket Nappy: A nappy made by sewing together a waterproof liner and a cover, leaving an opening, or pocket, for adding absorbent material. For wet nappies, just the stuffing can be changed rather than the entire nappy. Pocket nappies are usually fastened with snaps or hook and loop. Pocket nappies are a fast drying convenient nappy.
- Prefold: Prefolds are prefolded terry, flanelette, hemp or bamboo nappies. They are sewn, divided lengthwise in 3 sections, usually in a 4:6:4, the middle section needing to be the most absorbent. They are then folded into a nappy shape, fastened and are used with a cover.
- PUL: See polyurethane laminate above.
- Repelling:Repelling of nappy fabric can be good or bad. You want the outside, water resistant layers of AIOs/AI2s and covers to repel moisture. You don’t want the inner layer of a nappy or AIO/AI2 to repel, because then the urine can’t get through to the absorbent layers underneath and might just run off the fabric without soaking in. This problem generally occurs when a synthetic fiber is used as the inner layer, although natural fibers that still contain residual plant oils can also repel. Detergent build-up or even the pH of your water can cause repelling. The best remedy is additional washing and rinsing. Adding 1 or 2 drops of Dawn dishwashing liquid to the load can help “strip” the nappies but some may need to have the inner layer scrubbed with an old toothbrush and more Dawn. To prevent unwanted repelling, use only a small amount of laundry detergent and add an extra warm rinse to the end of each cycle if possible. Never use fabric softener on nappies as it will coat the fibers and cause the bad kind of repelling. Drying fleece covers with a fabric softener sheet can aid in water resistance, the good kind of repelling.¹
Sherpa is an absorbent terry knit fabric that has been brushed to raise the fibers and give a fluffy soft feel. Most sherpa used for nappies has a high cotton content, and a small polyester content such as 75/25 or 80/20. The cotton content is found in the loops of the fabric, while the polyester content is found in the backing and lends durability to the finished product.¹
- Shorties: Knitted woolen short-legged nappy cover.
- Snappis: Snappi's are used to fasten terry flats. They comprise of a three-pronged rubber clasp that “grabs” the nappy on either side and from below to hold the nappy in place. They are used in the place of pins.
- Snaps: Snaps, or press studs, are used to fasten nappies. They are positioned either at the front, the side or the back. A snap set consists of a cap, stud and socket.
- Soaker: A knitted woolen nappy cover. They are also referred to as woolies. Short-legged soakers are also referred to as shorties and long-legged onces can be called longies.
- Suedecloth: A 100% polyester fabric that is super soft to the touch. It is used as the lining in nappies and wicks wetness away from babies skin. It is highly stain resistant.
- Velour: Velour is a velvety fabric made from a mix of cotton and polyester for cotton velour, or bamboo and polyester for bamboo velour. It is used in the cotton variety as a liner for nappies, in the bamboo variety it can be used for liners as well as boosters, or for fitted nappies.
- WAHM: Work At Home Mum. Most sellers and makers of Modern Cloth Nappies are mums running business from home whilst caring for their children.
- WAHP: Work At Home Parent. As above but with the gender-neutral term parent rather than mum.
- Wicking - Good: Wicking describes the way moisture is absorbed into fabrics. Good wicking is when a stay-dry fabric like microfleece or suedecloth is working correctly. When baby wees onto a wicking fabric like microfleece (as a liner in your nappy), the moisture is pulled through the microfleece layer and into the absorbent layers below, leaving a drier surface behind. This in return leaves baby feeling dry.
- Wicking - Bad: Bad wicking is when moisture is drawn out of your absorbent layer onto the outside layer of clothes your baby is wearing. This can happen via the leg area of the nappy ,for example, when the absorbent layer/boosters are full of wetness and needs to be changed. It can also happen when using a fleece outer nappy, as compression, due to sitting etc can allow the wetness from the absorbent layer outwards to the outside layer of clothing.
- Wool: Wool refers to fabric woven or knitted from the shorn hairs of sheep (merino, lambswool, etc.), goats (cashmere), or llamas/alpacas. Nappy covers or longies made from wool are naturally durable, breathable and water resistant. They are excellent for night time or any time. Sheep’s wool naturally contains lanolin and can be added to the other types of wool during washing. Lanolin has a chemical reaction with urine that keeps the wool clean so wool covers only need to be washed every few weeks or when soiled. Air out wool covers between uses. Treat wool with extra lanolin every few washes by melting a small amount of pure lanolin in hot water and adding it to the wash water. Soak for 1-4 hours, squeeze out extra water and line dry. Some brands of wool covers can be machine washed. Wool repels moisture back into the absorbent nappy until it is saturated, then the wool can continue to absorb up to 30% of its weight.¹
Information gathered from the following sources:
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