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9 best reusable nappies that are comfy, convenient and eco-friendly

From cute prints to ones designed for water babies, all of these cloth nappies are Plastic Free July proof

Jessica Carter
Thursday 30 June 2022 15:31 BST
We bin around three billion single-use nappies every year in the UK
We bin around three billion single-use nappies every year in the UK (The Independent)

While reusable nappies are far from a new concept – disposables were only invented in the 1940s and didn’t become go-tos for some decades after that – they’ve come a long way in their time. For starters, there’s no risk of puncturing unsuspecting infants with safety pins these days – that’s a huge win in itself!

But the convenience of disposable nappies comes at a hefty price – it’s estimated we bin around three billion single-use nappies every year in the UK. As they can’t be recycled or composted, they go straight to landfill where they take centuries to decompose.

So this Plastic Free July, where over 100-million participants all around the world swear off single-use plastics for a month (and hopefully beyond), why not switch to a reusable option instead that will keep both your little one and the planet happy.

Cloth nappies now come in various styles, prints and sizes, and are designed to be as easy to use as disposable nappies while providing just as much protection from leaks. But the best bit is that the cloth ones are reusable, and most will see your tot from birth all the way through to potty training. Even taking into account the energy and water needed to wash them, reusables are kinder on the planet – especially if you wash in full loads and line-dry them. And while they might carry a larger upfront cost, they can actually end up saving you money, too.

There’s no need to go all-in with cloth nappies from the off, though – most people who use them supplement with disposables. Even using just one cloth nappy regularly can save hundreds of single-use versions throughout a little one’s first couple of years.

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If you do want to go full time, it’s handy to have the whole kit. That includes nappy liners (which make it easy to dispose of solids) and a wet bag for used nappies when you’re out and about (a plastic bag would work perfectly here, too – although admittedly it’s not as chic). It’s also helpful to have a bucket with a lid for keeping soiled nappies in until laundry day, and a fabric bag to line it with (that way you don’t need to touch the used nappies when you put them in the machine – just lift out the full bag and throw it in the drum).

How we tested

Our nine-month-old bairn kindly lent us his rear end to road test these nappies. When picking our favourites, we were looking for long-lasting, leak-free protection, comfort and a good adjustable fit. That’s as well as considering practicality when it came to changing on the go, washing and drying. We also paid close attention to how bulky the nappies were and whether they restricted our tiny tester’s movement or mobility.

To keep reusables in tip-top condition, be sure to read the care instructions. Most are best used with laundry powder as opposed to liquid, and all advise to skip the fabric conditioner (it coats the fibres of the fabric and makes the nappies less absorbent). It’s best to dry them naturally too, so resist laying them on a radiator to speed up the process (although tumble drying on low isn’t a dealbreaker).

The best reusable nappies for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Tots Bots bamboozle day two part nappy system: From £5.19,
  • Best cute prints – Kit & Kin reusable cloth nappy: £17.99,
  • Best for extra absorbency – Modibodi reusable nappy four pack: £75,
  • Best secure fit – Bambino Mio miosolo classic all-in-one reusable nappy: £13.62,
  • Best for swimming lessons – Splash About happy nappy duo: £17,
  • Best for variable absorbency – Baba+Boo one size reusable nappy: £18,
  • Best for size – LittleLamb reusable pocket nappy: £16.50,
  • Best for tasteful designs – Modern Cloth Nappies pearl pocket one size all in one reusable nappy: £16.95,
  • Best for the beach – Jojo Maman Bébé crab print swim nappy: £14,

Tots Bots bamboozle day two part nappy system

Tots Bots bamboozle day two part nappy system

Best: Overall

Rating: 9.5/10

Sure, “all-in-one” might be a phrase you’d rather see describing a nappy than ‘two-part system’, but this Bamboozle option is honestly really simple – not to mention cost-effective and laundry-saving. Those are some big boxes to tick.

These nappies are each made up of a soft, waterproof “wrap” and a detachable pad. Made from bamboo and super-absorbent microfibre, the pads are gentle on delicate skin and fasten to the inside of the wrap with popper buttons. They’re each made of two layers that can be split from each other and used alone if you don’t need as much absorbency (detaching them also helps them to dry quickly after a wash). Meanwhile, the wrap – made from recycled plastic – can be adjusted for size with popper buttons on the front, and does up much like a regular nappy, only with Velcro.

Here’s where it gets really economical – you don’t need a new wrap with every nappy change. Just take out the wet pads and replace them with dry ones, and you’re on your way.

Made from sustainable materials, helping to minimise laundry loads and coming in at a reasonable cost (buying mainly pads and just a couple of wraps works out cheaper than many all-in-ones), these Glasgow-made nappies were a real win.

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Kit & Kin reusable cloth nappy

Kit & Kin reusable cloth nappy .jpg

Best: Cute prints 

Rating: 8/10

These nappies, with sweet animal face illustrations on the bum, were our favourite-looking of all in this list. That’s not to say that these all-in-ones sacrificed function for form, though.

Made from sustainable plant-based materials, the inner fabric is soft and fleecy, and features a sewn-in absorbent pad (although you can pull it out from the inner lining to help wash and dry more efficiently). If you need an extra layer of protection, you can buy reusable booster pads separately, to up the absorbency. The outer fabric is eco-friendly as well, created using old plastic bottles that would otherwise have gone to landfill.

The way these are tailored around the leg gives bums extra space and creates room to stuff another pad in if you like, without compromising the snug elasticated fit around the thighs. They stayed soft when wet and didn’t feel sodden – and they washed up really nicely, too.

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Modibodi reusable nappy four pack

Modibodi nappies  .jpg

Best: For extra absorbency  

Rating: 8/10

Perhaps best known for its period-proof underwear, Modibodi makes reusable nappies, too – and they aren’t just a token string to its bow. These cloth nappies are billed as the most absorbent on the market, tested to hold a pretty impressive 1,026ml of liquid when used with a booster, which comes in the pack as standard.

The inner fabric is really smart: it holds liquid inside its layers to keep skin dry; has antimicrobial qualities to neutralise odour and bacteria; and prevents solids from sticking to it, which we found made emptying and changing cleaner and easier. It’s also stain-resistant – though thanks to the black fabric, any stains that do manage to take hold won’t be visible.

These nappies are happily low-maintenance in terms of washing – just chuck them in the machine (having given them a rinse first to get rid of any solid residue) with your normal detergent and select a relatively thorough cycle. They’ll handle any temperature up to 60C easily, and Modibodi says there’s no need to wash them separately from your other laundry, either.

These became our go-to nappies for night-time – they saw our babe straight through for up to 11 hours.

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Bambino Mio miosolo classic all-in-one nappy

Bambino Mio miosolo classic all-in-one nappy .jpg

Best: Secure fit 

Rating: 9/10

Perhaps the best-known reusable nappy brand out there, Bambino Mio is a global operation these days – although it all started in the UK more than 25 years ago. This is its classic, award-winning, one-size offering.

Made to fit babies from birth right up until they no longer need nappies, this vegan-friendly reusable is simple to put on (the fastenings work just like a disposable). It’s also easy to adjust in terms of size, with popper buttons up the front and really robust Velcro all the way across the waist.

The waterproof outside layer is supple and stretchy, and it’s lined on the inside with velvety-soft fabric. Here, the quilted absorbency pad is sewn in at one end, and there are nifty little loops along the back of it for pulling it out of the lining after use.

We found these nappies simple to use and care for. And, no matter what our always-on-the-move tester got up to, they stayed snug and leak-proof.

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Splash About happy nappy duo

Splash About duo happy nappy  .jpg

Best: For swimming lessons 

Rating: 9/10

If you take your tot swimming regularly, you’ll know that lots of pools and swim programmes have a double-nappy policy, asking parents to put a swim nappy underneath the usual neoprene outer. While this number from Splash About looks just like a regular version of the latter, there’s actually far more to it.

Scientifically developed and rigorously tested, the duo happy nappy has a pretty smart inner layer, which does the job of that second (often disposable) nappy. While the outer layer contains any solids that might find their way out of your water baby, this special lining actually combats the harmful bacteria that comes with it, keeping pools clean and safe.

Our nine-monther wore these to his local swimming lessons and was happy as a duck in water. They saved us using a disposable underneath and made changing time quicker.

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Baba+Boo one size reusable nappy

Baba+Boo one size reusable nappies .jpg

Best: For variable absorbency  

Rating: 8.5/10

These nappies are designed to fit babies from around eight weeks old right up until they’re potty trained. There are three rows of poppers on the front, which you can use to fold the nappy up and make it smaller for tiny bums. More poppers stretch across the front of the waistband too, so you can get a great fit widthways as well.

That is a lot of poppers to get used to, but there are a couple of advantages they have over Velcro. First, your nappies won’t all get stuck together in the wash, and secondly, there’s no danger of the Velcro wearing out over time.

With a waterproof outer, these nappies have a super-soft microfleece lining (microfleece is a lighter, thinner type of fleece, meaning your tot won’t get too hot in warm weather), which our little ’un was very happy and comfortable in. Absorbent bamboo inserts (you get two of with each nappy as standard) sit inside an inner pocket – you can use one or both, depending on your need.

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LittleLamb reusable pocket nappy

LittleLamb reusable pocket nappy  .jpg

Best: For size

Rating: 8/10

We loved the fit of this reusable. It has a wide waistband, which is held in place really well with two sturdy poppers on each side. This meant everything was kept securely in place – the front band of the nappy never slipped down at the edges as it can with some designs. The leg holes are double-gusseted, too, meaning there’s extra wriggle room and the nappy stayed snug around those thighs.

Working a little differently from the other options on this list, this reusable comes in specific sizes. This is great if you find it tricky to adjust the fit of one-size nappies, or if doing up lots of fiddly poppers at every change is a struggle.

Each nappy comes with a large square of feather-soft (honestly, stroke it on your cheek) absorbent bamboo fabric. It just gets folded up and tucked inside the opening in the nappy lining. And can we talk about the too-cute, hand-drawn, farmyard prints, too? Well, we guess we just did.

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Modern Cloth Nappies pearl pocket one size all in one reusable nappy

Modern Cloth Nappies pearl pocket reusable nappy .jpg

Best: For tasteful designs  

Rating: 8.5/10

It’s a hemp and cotton mix that does all the heavy lifting when it comes to absorbency here. The hard-working inserts also have a special “shape stay” design – there’s a protected layer that stops them from shrinking and crumpling up in the wash, so no need to reshape when wet like some others. Ours came out of a 40°C wash looking as good as new.

The gorgeous neutral-coloured designs contain a gentle and fluffy lining, which wicks away moisture to keep bums feeling dry and comfortable in between changes. There’s a double gusset design here and tapered waist fastening, too, meaning you can get a really snug fit around the belly without pinching at the top of those plump little legs.

We found these nappies simple to use and effective at containing leaks. Like some other options in this round-up, you can boost absorbency for overnight wearing with an extra pad (bought separately).

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Jojo Maman Bébé crab print swim nappy

Jojo Maman Bébé crab print swim nappy  .jpg

Best: For the beach 

Rating: 7.5/10

These cute little trunks are great for holidays and beach trips. Unlike lots of swim nappies, there’s no need to put a disposable underneath, as there’s a special built-in layer to take care of business. Designed to contain everything that a regular nappy does, this reusable version won’t get heavy and bulky when wet like a disposable, absorbing all of that sea or pool water.

With elasticated leg holes and stretchy waistband, this nappy slips on and off like pants, and has a nicely snug fit to protect against leaks. That said, we noticed it was still soft on those podgy little thighs. We’re really into the cute crab print, too – and love the fact that the fabric is made from sustainable recycled plastic.

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The verdict: Reusable nappies

All of the nappies on our list performed really well, with comfortable designs and minimal to no leaks – we’ll be using all of them in the future. That said, we found ourselves going back to the Tots Bots bamboozle two part system the most often. Only needing to swap in fresh pads (the brand advises using a new wrap every three to five changes) makes changing time a bit simpler, brings down the cost, and lightens the laundry load a touch. Plus, only needing to take extra pads when we were out and about (as opposed to several all-in-ones, which are a bit bulkier) was a plus.

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