My Green Nappy Discovering Modern Cloth Nappies and Eco-Friendly Disposable Nappies

October 25, 2010

Ask Our Cloth Nappy Experts: How Do I Stop My Modern Cloth Nappies from Leaking?

Spring Green Promise Nappy Sponsors – Congo Advice #1

The Sponsors of the Spring Green Promise Nappies are your Nappy Experts for this series of ‘Congo Questions’.

All Spring Sponsors were invited to contribute their expertise. Each donated a special cloth nappy as a giveaway prize to become an ambassador for ‘Nappy Change’ as it stops a disposable heading to landfill each time it is worn. This seasonal giveaway strives to reach 100 donated nappies in a future round, and you can register at any time to play. You can enter into the draw for one nappy, or all of them!

How do I stop my modern cloth nappies from leaking?

I’m pleased to have contributions from a number of your Green Promise Nappy Sponsors included in this article. I’d like to thank them for their time and for sharing their experience to help you make the most of your green nappies! We have Kyra from Bubbalooba, Louise from Nip Naps, Katerina from Twinkle Lily, Michelle from Sustainable Hemp Products, Lara from Extremely Nappies, Rebecca from Bean Sprout Bubba, Yoland from Bumbino, Nyssa from Snow Pea Nappies, Nat from Little Diamond Bums, Fiona & Catherine from Darlings Downunder and Liz of Real Nappies NZ.

It may seem like a simple reason – the nappy doesn’t fit, but you’ll find there are a number of reasons you may find your baby’s modern nappy is leaking – most of them are fixable when you tweak your knowledge a bit. Below you will gain perpectives from a range of cloth nappy experts – you can expect they’ll tell you the solutions that have worked best for them, their customers and from amassed nappy-lore. What I like about these congo answers is that you get an insight into what the nappy expert feels is most important, and a range of replies – you’ll see the reinforcement of many similar explanations that will help you to remember and apply their knowledge to your own situation, baby and stash.

Let’s see what our nappy experts have to say about leaky cloth nappies:

Kyra from Bubbalooba:

If you are having problems with leaking wee, adding more absorbsency should help – you could fold up your current boosters and put them in the wet zone, or buy extra boosters. If it is poo leaking, it could be the fit of the nappy – some brands fit some babies better than others – it’s good to shop around and have a few different brands of nappies in your stash.

Louise from Nip Naps:

Make sure the nappy fits properly – snug but not tight around the legs and waist. Make sure the waterproof layer is not worn out. If the nappy is leaking because it is saturated, change more often or add a booster.

Katerina from Twinkle Lily:

There are a number of things you can do to troubleshoot a leaking nappy;

a) Make sure it has been pre-washed a number of times as per manufacturers instructions

b) Check to make sure the fit is correct, ie no gaping at legs or tummy area

c) Your baby may be going through a heavy wetting phase in which case you can simply add an extra booster into nappy.

Michelle from Sustainable Hemp Products:

Make sure you have enough absorbency in them by adding a trim booster so as not to overboost either which can be a cause of leaking in itself. Make sure you have the right nappy for your baby- some just won’t fit every babies shape and size.

Lara from Extremely Nappies:

If your nappies are leaking, it’s because either the fit isn’t right, the absorbency isn’t adequate, or the nappies are repelling moisure. Each has a solution.

Fit: make sure there is no gaping around the legs.  Make sure it’s a snug fit when putting on, and that the elastic is still stretchy.  Velcro closure nappies like Extremely Nappies alllow a very exact fit.  Snap closure nappies might need closing at a tighter setting.

Absorbency:  If you’re using all in ones, you can’t do much.  If you’re using pocket nappies, the absorbency is adjustable. You can tailor the amount of absorbency to match baby’s growing bladder.  Most pocket nappies come with boosters that should be sufficient for a few hours, so if your having leaks as baby gets bigger, either change nappies more regularly, or just add another booster to get a few more hours out each of one. For example, Extremely Nappies come with 2 boosters (microfibre and bamboo) which will be fine for about 3-4 hours on a baby under 1.  But adding an extra booster will turn it into a night nappy for a baby, or  5-7 hours on a big toddler.

Repelling: sometimes the nappies might aquire a build up of detergent (or creams) that acts to repel fluid, causing it to leak out the sides.  Make sure you’re not using barrier creams or petroleum based products directly on your nappies.  You can remove a buildup by doing a strip wash. Easy.

Rebecca from Bean Sprout Bubba:

Find out where it is leaking.

Take steps to stop the leak.

a. Leaking through leg holes? Or the Waistline?

i. make sure absorbent material lies FLAT within the crotch area, not bunched up within the nappy.

ii. If the inner lining is made of microfleece or microsuede, consider doing a strip wash as the lining might be repelling fluid.

iii. If the outer of the nappy is made of quilter’s cotton or any other absorbent fabric, moisture will tend to wick out onto the nappy outer usually through the leg area first, so change cotton-outer nappies once wet.

iv. If the inner lining is absorbent, make sure to tuck it inside the nappy once the nappy is on.

v. Check around the legs of the nappy after putting it on baby. The nappy should fit snugly around the thighs and waistline to prevent blowouts.

vi. Make sure there is enough absorbent material for your baby’s individual wetting needs.

b. Leaking through the body of the nappy?

i. PUL may have deteriorated, contact your nappy seller/manufacturer.

ii. The nappy may be a fitted nappy (i.e. the whole nappy is absorbant) which requires a nappy cover over it.

Yoland from Bumbino:

I’m going to assume that the nappy is fitted and washed correctly, the insert has been laid in nice and flat and that the waterproofing fabric is in good order….

All cloth nappies will leak once the inserts have soaked through.

The first thing to consider is how long the nappies are being left on the baby. There are several health and hygiene reasons for changing nappies frequently. So sometimes a leaking nappy is just a good reminder that it is past the time that the nappy should have been changed.

But if the nappies are not working as they should then I would say that the key to avoiding leaking nappies is to tailor the best inserts/boosters to suit the nappy that you are using. Some nappies are packaged or sewn with inserts that are suitable only for very small babies and unfortunately will be very prone to leaking once baby is bigger. This is particularly true of pocket or All In One nappies which have only a single microfiber or synthetic inserts. You will need to boost or replace the inserts with absorbent bamboo or hemp fabric. They can be simply made and don’t have to look wonderful to do the job.

Nyssa from Snow Pea Nappies:

Make sure they’ve been washed a few times before using them, inserts made from hemp or bamboo reach their peak absorbency after 6-8 washes. Make sure you have a good fit on your bub, if using a OSFM nappy you might have to try a few different size settigns before you find the best for your bub. Add extra boosters if you have a heavy wetter, most sites can sell you extra inserts if you need them but don’t be scared to use any other absorbent fabrics for boosters. For example you can use cotton face washers, microfibre cloths, or you can make boosters out of old terry or flannelette nappies.

Nat from Little Diamond Bums:

Modern Cloth Nappies shouldn’t leak if used correctly. If you are experiencing leaking issues, try the following:

Is your baby a slim fit? Try adjusting the snaps or Velcro to a smaller setting

Are you using bamboo or hemp? Try washing the nappy a few more times natural fibres achieved greater absorbency after a few washes

Is your baby a heavy wetter? Try adding an additional insert.

Does the nappy need to be changed more frequently? The nappy should not be left on for longer than 3 hours.

Fiona & Catherine from Darlings Downunder:

There are are several reasons a nappy can leak.

First, check the fit to make sure that the legs and waist of the nappy are snug against your baby with no gaping.

Then have a look at the absorbency. If it’s new, has the nappy been washed several times before using to build up absorbency? Is the nappy completely soaked when you change your baby? If so, try adding a booster and see if that makes a difference. It may be that your baby is ‘outweeing’ the nappy and you need to boost it or try a different size/brand. If you child does frequent wees throughout the day, it may be that their nappy needs changing more frequently as well.

If the nappy is still mostly dry and you’re still experiencing leaks, there may be something preventing the nappy absorbing. Fabric softener, a build up of detergent or a barrier cream can all stop nappies doing their job. Do a ‘strip wash’ then try washing your nappies with half the amount of detergent, don’t use fabric softeners, and make sure you always use a liner when using barrier creams.

If you’re still stuck, contact your local cloth nappy store and ask their advice.

Liz of Real Nappies NZ:

MCN so work and if yours don’t there are usually a few simple steps that you can follow and have your wonderful cloth nappies working for you in no time.

Believe me you will never look back…

1. Washing. Make sure you have followed the instructions and washed your nappies the correct amount of times before using them. This may seem like a laborious task but it is a very necessary one. It’s a little like using a towel before it has been washed – not very soft and absorbent. Real Nappies use cotton inserts and we suggest washing them 3 times before use (no need to dry them in- between washes). Your cotton prefolds will shrink and fluff up and become super absorbent. Other fabrics such as hemp or bamboo will require more washing – sometimes up to 6 times, but please check with the company you have purchased from.

2. Sealing. It is very important that you do not have any nappy poking out from your cover. Real Nappies wraps have a snug elasticated leg hole and fully adjustable ‘velcro-type’ pads to get a really snug fit. It is very important that you fasten the wraps firmly so that there is a snug seal around the legs – firm but not tight. If any of the nappy is protruding, simply poke it back in.

3. No Up-size thanks! Do not be tempted to try to put your baby in a bigger size nappy before they are ready. MCN manufacturers have worked hard to give you an accurate sizing guideline usually based on weight of bubs compared to the necessary absorbency levels, so please follow the guideline. A nappy too big for bubs will be too bulky for them and you will not get that snug seal. A nappy too small will most likely not be absorbent enough. Real Nappies have 4 sizes of nappies to give a snug, leakproof fit through all the stages of your baby’s development.

4. No Origami please! Gone are the days of labour-intensive nappy folding and fastening with pins – hooray! Some nappies you ‘stuff’ the nappy inside a pocket, some have the padding built in. Other you can adjust to your baby. As not all babies pee in the same place, depending on boys, girls and sleeping positions, with Real Nappies you are able to fully customize your nappy to suit your baby’s requirements. Simply adjust the fold for a boy / girl or newborn.

5. No bleach or fabric softener. One wash with bleach or fabric softener can literally destroy your nappies and covers and they will loose there absorbency and waterproofness immediately. There are ways to help some products such as Real Nappies. Although we only recommend using this method as a last resort: Run your covers and cloth nappy prefolds through a wash with hot water (if allowed by manufacturer’s washing instructions). Run a second wash using 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup vinegar in the wash – and 1/2 cup vinegar again in first rinse cycle. Run a second rinse cycle with plain water.

6. Simple ways to protect your MCN’s: Don’t use too much detergent – this can lead to stinky covers, remember less is more. Be careful when using nappy creams, these can leave stains and destroy the fabric of your nappies. Protect your nappies by using a liner such as Real Nappies flushable liners. Do not use laundry detergents that contain perfumes, dyes, chlorine bleaching agents or fabric softeners – our fave is Persil Sensitive. Unfold your nappies before washing to allow complete cleaning. Some MCN’s do not allow you to open them totally up for cleaning, with Real Nappies this is made easy as the prefolds are separate from the cover, meaning easier and quicker washing and drying. Plus less washing as you do not have to wash the cover every time just take our the inner prefold. Do add occasionally a 1/2 cup of vinegar to the first rinse cycle in order to remove any residual detergent. This deodorizes, sanitizes and brightens. Don’t overuse or use in final rinse, as this will have the opposite effect! Your nappies may become smelly. Don’t use vinegar on nappy covers except one time when you are trying to strip detergent residue off. Do use an extra spin cycle after washing. This will reduce drying time up to 25%! Do throw a dry towel in the dryer with your nappies. This will reduce drying time as well!

How did you find this advice? Do you have further questions?

– Our Nappy Experts –

Discover Expert Advice About The Modern Cloth Nappy – Information About Modern Cloth Nappies – Advice About Frequently Asked Cloth ‘Newbie’ Questions – Lots of Tips and Tricks to Help You With Your Reusable Nappies – Learn From the Experts in Cloth Nappies –

Discover More from Our Nappy Experts…


  1. It might also be helpful to have a “strip” wash explained on here. Even though we didn’t have any leaks, I noticed that some of our pocket nappies weren’t lasting as long as usual, and I found stripping them fixed the problem. But I had to search the net to find some useful instructions on how to do the strip.

    Hi Sara,
    Here are a few links to articles with information about strip washing included:

    Insights into Leaking PUL Nappies: Tips From Our Nappy Experts
    Mould or Mildew on Your Cloth Nappies? Tips to Remove then Prevent Mould From Staining Your Nappies
    Mould or Not? Dealing With Nappy Staining – More Suggestions.

    Comment by Sara — October 28, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

  2. Hi there,
    I must be doing something wrong. I get at least 3 or 4 big leaks a day and still change them every 2-3 hours. My baby is 6.5 months old and is quite a long lean baby at 7. 5kgs. I have the kind that has the insert in a pocket and the nappies have snaps to adjust.

    Am just about to give up – in fact he’s in a disposable now as the 2nd outfit got wrecked before i got out the door this morning.

    My nappies are relatively new so i doubt it it build up of product – and I washed them several times first – not much detergent and no softeners etc.

    I’m not even sure where the leak is coming from – i.e. sides or top. There is a bit of a gap at the top but the size smaller is really tight. They also seem to wriggle down so that could be a problem. I noticed the other day when he was in the pram for a few hours he was fine but when he gets moving and crawling they seem to leak…

    Any help is appreciated. Thanks so much. I really want to keep using them.

    Hi Elise,
    I have sent a request to our list of Nappy Experts, and I will compile the responses into a new article. Thanks for your question, there is no doubt that others are having the same question. Let’s hope we can find you a solution! – Charndra

    Comment by Elise — October 20, 2011 @ 12:11 pm

  3. Hi Elise,
    I would suggest trying a different brand. There are alot of different types of nappies available and some fit certain shapes better than others. You also tend to pay what you get for IMO.
    If you are not sure what to look for there are places that also offer a library service where you can try many different brands before you buy.

    Comment by Tam — October 21, 2011 @ 9:05 am

  4. Some brands or nappy styles don’t suit all babies, it could be that the nappies you are using are not fitting your baby well. A strip wash is basically a long wash with dish liquid in the machine, lots of bubbles to really clean the nappies, and then keep rinsing until no bubbles are left. If this has helped i would suggest trying a different style, a nappy without pul and use a cover may help, these nappies are all absorbent and less likely to leak, a nice wool cover will prevent and moisture getting out. The mother ease bamboo nappy with a woollybottoms cover are the way to go.

    Comment by misty from fluffybuns — October 21, 2011 @ 9:06 am

  5. Hi Elise. its either a fit orabsorbency problem- there are a number of things you can do- if it is not enough absorbency you can add extra absorbency to the nappy with a lay in booster against bubs skin, you can also use a cover and wool would be ideal as it absorbs what the nappy doesn’t and also waterproofs and also if it is the actual fit of the nappy you may have to change brands

    Comment by Michelle — October 21, 2011 @ 9:32 am

  6. It may be from nappy rash creams? If you use zinc based creams it can build up on your nappy and it is very hard to remove. Or you may have to put more absorbency in the nappy? Or really you may just have to try another brand! I hope this helps, I hope you don’t give up on using them!

    Comment by Cassie — October 21, 2011 @ 9:47 am

  7. Hi Elise,

    You didn’t mention how many boosters you are using, and what sort: at around 6 months you generally need more absorbency than you did before.

    Assuming the fit is right (no gaping) and the inners aren’t repelling (do a strip wash), it could simply be a case of adding another booster.

    In the nappies I make for instance, there’s a microfiber booster (3 layers) and a bamboo booster (2 layers of thick, fleece bamboo). If your equivalent is less than this, try adding another booster. I recommend adding an extra bamboo after bub is 6 months anyway, to get longer out of each nappy.

    There’s strip-wash instructions and trouble-shooting on my website:

    Comment by Lara — October 21, 2011 @ 8:06 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security word shown in the picture. Click on the picture to hear an audio file of the word.
Anti-spam image

Powered by WordPress