How to: Go green & save money with cloth nappies

by Lala

When most South African moms hear “cloth nappies” we think of those white squares of terry cloth, that our own mothers and grandmothers used, before disposable nappies became widely available. But those are a thing of the past. Modern cloth nappies are shaped and function just like disposables, except that they are re-usable and sustainable. This means that you and your baby aren’t contributing huge mounds of plastic disposable nappies to landfills for the three years or so it takes to toilet train your little one.

Read this short article for more information about the environmental impact of disposable nappies in terms of landfill space, chemicals and raw materials used.

I first found out about modern cloth nappies from American baby care websites. I ordered a few samples, and then a bigger stash, from a local mom, Marion of Eco Nappy Solutions, and a few more from overseas. After trying them out and seeing how easy they are to use, I’ve been hooked. The nappies are not only great for the environment, because plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose, but they are also really economical compared to disposables. Currently, we are using cloth diapers on my baby when we are home. If someone else is looking after him, disposables are used. Every little bit helps. I do hope to fully transition him to cloth only.

There are a few different types of cloth nappies available in the market. The website Thinking About Cloth Diapers has a great run down of the options and this handy info-graphic:

Cloth nappy options

I use the pocket style because they are really convenient for me. They consist of a waterproof outer cover with a pocket, into which you slot in an insert that absorbs the urine. You can place an additional insert on top, with a liner sheet on it to catch the poo. You simply flush that, rinse the nappy and wash with soap, or store in a dry pail until you have enough to wash. I prefer to hand wash them, but they are certainly machine washable. You also need to avoid fabric softeners because over time, they make the materials less absorbent, or even water repellent. The pocket nappies are great for me as dry fast, because they aren’t one bulky piece of material.

I bought the Eco Nappy Solutions charcoal bamboo which has a smooth outer cover, and I also have one white “minky” nappy which has a soft fuzzy exterior although it is also waterproof. My favourite type is definitely the pocket charcoal bamboo, because of the fluffy, grey inner fabric that doesn’t stain. While I really like the cuddly feel of the minky, it’s white inner fabric might not last long with the heavy washings and bleach it will need to keep it looking sparkling.

My favourite inserts are the hemp ones, which are incredibly absorbent. My little one has had no nappy rash and no leaks at all with these nappies, using the hemp insert in the outer pocket and the charcoal bamboo insert as a booster inside. My 6-month-old son is very tall for his age and he has chubby legs, but this isn’t a problem, because the nappies come with snaps to adjust the size. These nappies will fit most babies from the day they are born, until they reach potty training age. This adds to the cost savings.

My son wearing the cloth nappy (and repping our alma mater). The cloth nappies fit fine under most baby clothes if you get one size larger.

My son wearing the cloth nappy (and repping our alma mater). The patterned ones are cute enough to wear without shorts when it’s hot. The cloth nappies also fit well under most baby clothes if you get one size larger.

The great thing about buying fluff (a word that cloth diapering mamas use), is you will be able to buy a set of 20 or so and use them for the next 3 years, or even for a second child if you buy quality. You can expect to pay from R100 – R400 per nappy. The higher end of the price range will usually be for all-in-one nappies (no inserts) by brands like Charlie Banana, Grovia etc. It might seem steep at first, but remember it will be a once off purchase, unlike disposables.

BambooBaby has this handy calculation of how much disposable nappies cost you over the time from birth to potty training. It should be close to R20 000 spent on nappies at today’s prices:


Small – R2.14 each*
Medium – R2.26 each*
Large – R2.32 each*
Extra Large – R3.14 each*

*Cost on average from cheapest to most expensive brands available, January 2011 from Pick ‘n Pay Online –

How many changes needed?
0-3 months 12-15 times a day
3-6 months 10-12 times a day
6-12 months 8-10 times a day
12 months+ 6-8 times a day

How much does this cost?
0-3 months = (3 x 30 days) x (R2.14 x 13 changes a day) = R2503.80
3-6 months = (3 x 30 days) x (R2.26 x 11 changes a day) = R2237.40
6-12 months = (6 x 30 days) x (R2.32 x 9 changes a day) =R3758.40
1-2 years = (365 days) x (R3.14 x 7 changes a day) = R8022.70

Total for first two years = R16 522.30 per child
Many children only potty train at 3 years old when using disposable nappies, and many still wear night time nappies at age 4!
These figures were based on 2011 figures. It is estimated that the total cost now for the first two years is closer to R18000.

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Bianca May 27, 2019 - 2:18 am

These are so cute. Aside from the ‘green’ benefits, it’s also less costly.

Nare December 17, 2019 - 7:56 pm

I’m pregnant nd would love to try this.
Please send me price list on my email

Lala April 30, 2020 - 2:18 pm

Dear Nare, I do not sell anything. Please check my various posts for nappies that I have reviewed. There will be links to sellers. I wish you all the best in your motherhood journey.


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