The Ultimate Guide to Long-Lasting Nappies

If you are considering reusable nappies, you may be wondering how long before the fabrics and elastics begin to wear. There are lots of things to consider, for example the quality of the outer waterproof layers, different brands will vary, the type of absorbent inner as well as how the nappies are washed, dried and cared for. 

How long does a reusable nappy last?

A cloth nappy used and well taken care of should last around 4 years. It may vary, some may need to be replaced earlier, some may last many years longer. If you have a smaller nappy stash, these nappies will be used and washed more frequently and hence may not last as long.

Types of wear and tear in reusable nappies

Inserts- Inserts will lose fibres over time, through continuous washing. This will show up as balding patches, areas where the fibres have shed. The inserts can still be used but may need a little boosting.

Elastics- The elastics on a new nappy should feel springy, stretching to a good length and go tight again. With heavy usage and the general wear from washing, the elastic will become more relaxed and won’t tighten in the way they should. This isn’t necessarily a problem until the elastic become so slack that the nappy fit becomes compromised, hence leading to leaks around the legs. 

PUL- PUL may develop cracks, some small cracks are normal and this does not mean that your nappies will leak. However if you are finding that the nappy leaks soon after baby does a wee, have a look at the inside of the nappy to spot any substantial cracks or delamination (where the waterproof layer has detached from the nappy). If certain that the PUL is damaged and causing leaks, before retiring the nappy, you may wish to try some seam seal tape for laminated fabrics.

How do I make reusable nappies last longer?

Much of the wear and tear of cloth nappies can be mitigated by caring for the nappies in a way that prevents strain on the fabric and fibres. Here are some tips that may help.

What temperature should I wash at for to make nappies last longer? 

If possible wash at lower temperatures. Washing at 40C instead of 60C will be less harsh on the nappies. If nappies are heavily soiled, or little one is poorly you will need to wash at 60C. You may find that depending on the water hardness in your area, washing at 40C may not work for you, so experiment with both and do what works for you. Ultimately clean nappies will last longer.

Can high spin speed damage reusable nappies?

Yes! Always lower the spin on your wash cycle to no more than 1000. The spin of the machine is what causes friction between clothing in the machine, essentially getting things nice and clean, but also dry. Anything higher than 1000 will cause damage to delicate fibres and your cloth nappies hence reducing their lifespan. 

How long can I leave cloth nappies before washing?

No more than 3 days. 2 days is better. The ammonia begins to build up when nappies are left unwashed, which could damage the fabric. 

Prevent ammonia build up by keeping your nappies in a cool place with lots of air circulation. If you store in a wet bag, try leaving the zip open to allow air to circulate. 

Can I tumble dry cloth nappies?

Waterproof parts of the nappy- No. Absorbent cotton/hemp/bamboo- Yes. That said tumble drying will speed up the wear of any clothing so it ought to be a last resort. If you have the privilege of outdoor or even indoor space, air drying is always better for your reusable nappies.

Any sort of heat can damage the waterproof parts of your nappy, so keep your pocket nappy outers and nappy wraps out of direct sun when drying, and never dry on radiators or a heat source.


It is important to consider the above factors if you wish for your nappies to last. A typical t-shirt is expected to last 50 washes, but we expect a cloth nappy to last 400 washes! With cloth nappies being washed twice a week, it is very necessary to take the extra steps to care for and maintain them. In return the nappies enable us to lower our carbon footprint and prove to be more cost effective than disposable nappies.


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