This is quite a popular question, especially as many of us hope to use our cloth nappies for more than one child. It should not be assumed that nappies will last indefinitely or be able to be used on several children without showing wear. Some of my nappies are on their third child – other lasted one before they fell apart. Some people have nappies last a year, others are on their fourth child. There are many factors that come into play.
It’s easy to assume that when the elastic goes or the waterproofing fails that there’s something wrong with the nappy. Most of the time, that’s not the case. Manufacturing faults usually show up fairly soon after you start using the nappy. If you're unsure if the problem with your nappy is wear and tear or a fault, contact the manufacturer/retailer for their opinion.
The quality of the elastic and PUL used in the manufacture of the nappy (as well as the quality of the construction) will tell in the longevity of a nappy. While price doesn’t always equal quality, you should not expect that a $10 nappy will have the most durable components.
How long do you expect your other items of clothing to last? Keep in mind that if you're using One Size nappies and your child toilet trains at 2.5 years that your nappies may be washed around 400 times or more! That’s a lot of wear!
Here are some of the factors that will impact on the longevity of a nappy:
The size of your stash
If you are using one size nappies, we recommend having more nappies in your stash than you technically need to get between washes since the more nappies you have in rotation, the less wear each nappy experiences. So if you have 30 nappies, theoretically they will last twice as long as if you had 15 nappies.
Regular soaking in nappy sanitisers will break down the fabric fibres faster and damage PUL and elastic (it’s also a drowning hazard and the chemicals can give babies nappy rash).
Your local water - hard water (like in Adelaide and other places around the country) or bore water can damage fabric fibres.
Some washing machines (generally top loaders) are harder on nappies (and clothes) than others. Altering the spin cycle speed can make a difference.
Washing in hot water frequently can reduced the life span of elastic.
Rinsing out urine before placing in the dry pail can help prevent strong urine eating away at the fabric.
Using the dryer will wear out nappies faster than line drying - all that lint your filter collects are fibres from your nappy fabric.
Drying on high heat will damage elastic - if you use pockets or AI2s, don't put the shell in the dryer (it air dries really quickly), just the inserts - this will help save your elastic.Hanging nappies on the line so that the leg elastic is stretched by the weight of the nappy will cause premature sagging of elastic.