The thing with nappies is that parents can easily get through a dozen of them each day, yet once flung in the bin the stink they create is far from over. “Around 3 billion nappies are thrown away every year in the UK and that plastic is going to take around 500 years to break down,” explains Diana Szpotowicz, founder of The Weekly Shop, an online plastic-free store. 

So what’s the alternative? In an ideal world, we’d all use reusable nappies and the good news is that advancements in washing machine technology make this easier than ever before.

There’s no need to spend time presoaking or using expensive cleaning agents: you simply chuck your used nappy in a nappy bucket or laundry bag and, once it’s full, pop them on a hot wash (a long 60C cycle is best to ensure all bacteria is banished) with regular non-bio washing powder.

Your washing pattern will, of course, depend on how many nappies you buy and your baby’s routine: most parents find that changing a nappy every three to four hours is sufficient, just like you would with a disposable.

This means you’ll probably get through between six and eight a day (although very young babies might need closer to 10 nappy changes). Because of this, we’d recommend investing in around 20 nappies, which allow you to run a wash every other day and have a few spare while they’re hanging on the line. 

There’s a variety of options when it comes to reusables: hassle free all-in-one designs are a good place to get started, while two-in-one nappies allow you to layer additional booster pads (these are made of materials such as fleece, bamboo or hemp) on top of the inner layer to maximise the absorbency of your nappy.

“Even switching to one to two reusable nappies a day makes a difference,” explains Szpotowicz. So if you’re not able to go reusable full time, it could be worth also looking into eco-friendly disposables. 

The eco-friendly disposables we’ve featured have undergone testing to show their nappies can start decomposing much quicker than regular disposables (for example, with parts decomposing significantly in under 10 years, compared to the hundreds of years a regular one might). However, it is worth noting that some experts believe that this isn’t always replicated in landfill conditions, which are extremely crowded and lack oxygen. 

Despite this, unlike traditional nappies, eco-friendly ones are made with sustainable principles in mind – such as the way they source their materials, avoidance of certain chemicals (such as chlorine) and their commitment to helping the environment.

But when it comes to cost, which option works out cheaper? Well, there’s no denying that there’s a higher upfront cost when it comes to reusables: you’ll need to spend between £200 and £300 up front to get a bundle of reusable nappies.

Once you do, they’ll likely take you up to when your little one starts potty training. There’s also dedicated buying and selling reusable nappy groups to help you snap them up second hand and many councils offer an incentive scheme by providing a voucher towards your first purchase (see if you’re eligible here). What’s more, experts estimate it costs around £800 to keep a baby in disposable nappies for the first two years of their life and for every pound spent on them, it costs taxpayers 10p to dispose of them.

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Little Lamb one-size pocket nappy: £27 for three, Little Lamb

This one-size pocket nappy is both great value for money and incredibly slimline. Working out at just £9 per reusable nappy, these pocket nappies are extra lightweight – ideal if you don’t love the bulk some reusables can create under clothing. Although it’s recommended to use the provided boosters, we actually got several hours’ wear out of the nappy’s thin micro-fleece layer alone. But the beauty of this nappy is that it’s easy to customise too. Each nappy comes with two bamboo boosters to use, so you can tailor things to your needs and use both if your baby is a heavy wetter. A simple but incredibly useful pocket nappy that is a great place to start your reusable journey.

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Mama Bamboo biodegradable nappies: from £10, Mama Bamboo

If you’re looking to combine reusables with disposables, Mama Bamboo offers a biodegradable bamboo nappy. Unlike regular nappies, Mama Bamboo claims these decompose much quicker (with at least 60 per cent of the nappy being decomposed in less than three months) and are made from sustainably sourced wood pulp and bamboo. The result is an incredibly soft nappy that felt silky smooth as we wrapped it around our little one! Not only is the bamboo extra comfortable but it was also the most absorbent of the eco-friendly disposables that we tried.

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Bambooty easy dry nappy: from £10.99, Bambooty​

This easy dry nappy well and truly lived up to its name! Available in several different print options, this all-in-one option comes in its matching wet bag making it easy to take out and about. One thing we really liked about this nappy is that its inner layer actually has two flaps (made of bamboo and organic cotton) that fold over each other – meaning it’s really absorbent without having to add your own booster, which can sometimes make nappies feel bulky. Despite the double layer, it was actually quite lightweight and one of the quickest to dry too. A great all-rounder. 

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Bambino Mio Miosolo all-in-one reusable nappy: £15.99, Bambino Mio​

Another all-in-one option is Bambino Mio, a popular UK brand known for its funky prints and super easy-to-use nappies. The 100 per cent polyester inner works with a tab system, meaning you can simply pop the core out of the nappy for efficient washing and then slip it back in when they’re ready to use. There’s also the option of using their disposable liners range, which especially come in handy when catching and disposing of a poonami. Bambino Mio offers particularly impressive absorbency (lasting around five hours without additional boosters) and this one-size nappy can be used right up to potty training. The only drawback is that we found it took a little bit more time to get a perfect fit with the velcro waistline.

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Mum and You eco-nappies trial pack: £2.50, Mum and You

This trial pack is a great way of seeing if eco-friendly nappies could work for you. Mum and You’s nappies are made from sustainable wood pulp with the plastic-free packaging being made from renewable sugar cane. With a cute kitten design, these nappies feel almost paper-thin and while they didn’t last as long as some in our round-up, they still do a decent job staying dry. We’d also recommend the brand’s plastic-free wipes, which fully decompose within four to six weeks in landfill conditions and can be used for home composting.

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Little Lamb organic cotton nappy: £12.50, Little Lamb

For babies with particularly sensitive skin, these organic cotton nappies, designed to be combined with nappy wraps, are a godsend. Made from organic materials (which are certified by GOTS), they use 90 per cent organic cotton – resulting in a thick, plush nappy that is gorgeously snugly on your little one’s bottom. The simple velcro design means these ones aren’t one-fit (size one goes up to 9kg, size two should take you up to potty training and size three can be used from 16kg onwards) so you will need to repurchase when your baby grows older. These truly are one of the softest nappies we tried and are a great option for overnight or heavy wetters. However, it’s also worth bearing in mind the thickness of the material can make it a little bulky and thick – so perhaps they’re more suitable for winter nights than summer ones.

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Close Nappies pop-in-newborn single printed nappy: £10.99, Close Nappies

In collaboration with baby charity Bliss and Babipur (£3 of each purchase goes directly to the charity), this superhero print nappy is specifically designed for premature and/or tiny babies and can be used from birth. Because of this, there are a few special features you won’t find on other reusables. Its front section, for example, is designed so it sits below the umbilical cord. A great thing about this nappy is how easy it is wash: the outside wipes clean so you can just wash the terry soaker (which detaches by poppers) and replace – meaning it’s great if you need something that dries in a hurry! Because it dries so quickly it’s worth mentioning that it is less absorbent than most (which is understandable, given it’s designed for newborns who will have more frequent nappy changes). However, if you’re lucky enough to have a newborn that sleeps through the night, you can get around this problem by teaming it with their handy pop-in night-time nappy booster, which is made of bamboo and fleece.

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Kit and Kin eco nappies: £8, Kit and Kin

Another eco-friendly disposable with impressive credentials. Kit and Kin’s hypoallergenic nappies might not be reusable but they do their bit to help the planet. Both the packaging and nappies are made from an oxo-biodegradable material, meaning they could biodegrade within six years. Not only is the brand’s subscription model (receive four packets a month direct to your door) hassle-free but for every 10 purchased, it funds the purchase of one acre of tropical rainforest. We loved the cute animal print design on the bottom of the nappies, making these perfect for tummy-time snaps, and they held up well on the absorbency test. Unlike most reusables, this one doesn’t have a wetness indicator, making it a bit trickier to figure out if a change is due.

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Bamboozle stretch waddle: from £12.99, Babipur 

The Bamboozle is specially designed to work as a night-time reusable and has won best reusable nappy five years on the trot in the Mother and Baby awards. It’s designed to be used as a two-part system with one of their waterproof nappy wraps, and while it is super absorbent by itself, many parents choose to team it with an additional booster if their baby is a particularly heavy wetter and sleeps long stretches. It was certainly heavy by the time morning came around but we can confirm there were no leaks with this one at all when used throughout the night. The only slight downside is that because it’s so absorbent, it seemed to take forever to dry – so you’ll need a few in your stash while waiting for the washing line to do its thing.

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Baba+Boo one size reusable pocket nappy: £14.95, Baba+Boo

After giving up work to be a stay-at-home parent, the founder of Baba+Boo decided to turn her passion for cloth nappies into a business. Its one-size reusable nappy is easy to use and, unlike many reusable nappies, relies on an array of carefully located poppers rather than velcro (which can sometimes fray). The result is that you can use it any time from when your little one weighs around 8lbs, right up to potty training. We loved the vibrant, bright design of this one and its popper placements allow you to find the perfect fit. The fleecy inner-liner is lovely and soft but we found we needed to use a booster if using it for more than a few hours at a time. Another great thing about this nappy is that it also dries extremely quickly. 

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The verdict: Reusable and eco-friendly nappies

We especially loved Little Lamb’s slimline all-in-one pocket nappy, which couldn’t be easier for starting your nappy journey. If you’re looking for an overnight nappy, Babipur’s Bamboozle nappy is definitely a good choice. While reusables are more eco-friendly, Mama Bamboo’s sustainably made disposables are still a great alternative to traditional nappies.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.