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Real Nappies (Cotton Nappies) or Disposables - The Debate

by Graham Nicoll


It is pretty scary to think that by the time your baby is potty trained you will have completed over 4,000 nappy changes and often many more.


I’m sure you have heard some of the debate surrounding real nappies, whether you should use them, the environmental impact of disposables and so on.  Well, this short summary provides, what I believe to be, a balanced view of the pros and cons of real nappies. 


This is not designed to be a complete dissertation on real nappies v disposables, it is an overview – succinct and to the point.



Advantages of Real Nappies


       Can reduce waste – up to 50% of a “one-baby” households waste is made up of disposable nappies.  In the UK alone over 8 million nappies are disposed of daily and traditional disposable nappies take hundreds of years to biodegrade.

       Estimates show that the cost of using real nappies are half that of using disposable nappies – so if counting the pennies is a priority then this could be a worthwhile option.

       You can re-use real nappies for a second or third child and it is not uncommon to see real nappies being sold on the likes of ebay.

       There are lots of different styles, colours and sizes of nappies available therefore from an aesthetic point of view you have more choice with real nappies.

       Modern real nappies are just as quick to change as disposables, with no safety pins in sight as they come pre-shaped, with either poppers or Velcro.


Cons of Real Nappies


       Added washing – which does take time (unless you use a nappy washing service).

       Space requirement for drying nappies – either you use the tumble drier, hang them outside when the weather is good or pop them on a drying frame or radiator.  Do remember that some nappies will dry quicker than others so do bear this in mind when making your buying decision.

       Upfront cost – you are likely to have to make a slightly larger up from investment to buy real nappies – although in the medium to long term they are the more economical option.


Do remember that it is not an all or nothing – a lot of people choose to mix real nappies with eco-friendly biodegradable nappies, which can be a more convenient or effective option at night time or while travelling.  Most importantly you need to be comfortable with your choice of nappy. 


There are plenty of sites on the internet where you can buy real nappies, as well as eco-friendly biodegradable disposable nappies.  Have a look at


Real nappies are also extremely comfy for your little one while taking part in their daily activities.  To find out more about parent and baby activities in the UK have a look at

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