All the acronyms and terminology can be overwhelming for those new to the cloth nappy world. Here is a list of the common language you will find in our interviews and other cloth nappy resources:


  • AIO – All in one
  • AI2 – All in two
  • BTP – Birth to potty
  • CC – China cheapie
  • DISO – Desperately in search of
  • GSM – Grams per square metre
  • ISO – In search of 
  • MCN – Modern cloth nappy
  • OSFA – One size fits all
  • OSFM – One size fits most
  • OTB – On the bum
  • PUL – Polyurethane laminate 
  • S&S – Strip and sanitise
  • TPU – Thermoplastic polyurethane
  • WAHM – Work at home maker or mum

Common terminology

All in one – A style of modern cloth nappy whereby the absorbent inner (or insert) is sewn into or onto the waterproof outer or shell. Considered to be user-friendly in being most like a disposable nappy; however, can take longer to dry and be more difficult to boost.

All in two – A style of modern cloth nappy where the absorbent inner (or insert) is separate to the waterproof outer or shell. The insert is simply laid on top of the shell or sometimes press studs allow it to be snapped in place.

Ammonia – Can be caused by dehydration or build up in nappies over time due to hard water, too much or too little detergent or nappies sitting too long. Maintain a thorough wash routine to avoid ammonia. Refer to Clean Cloth Nappies.

Booster – An absorbent pad made from any fabric, which is added to a nappy to increase its absorbency.

China cheapie – Refers to modern cloth nappies mass produced off-shore, usually in China. They tend to be made with low quality materials and include microfiber or bamboo charcoal inserts.

Cloth wipes – Used in place of disposable wipes, either with plain water or a wipes solution of the user’s choice. Can be made from any fabric suitable for use on the most sensitive body parts; though, are often made from bamboo, cotton, flannel or a blend of these materials. 

Contour inserts – Inserts shaped to fit the body or around the legs. Often an hourglass shape.

Cover (or outer or shell or wrap) – A water resistant layer used over any nappy that doesn’t already have a water resistant layer to prevent leaks. Can be OSFM or sized. Can be fastened with snaps, velcro and in other ways. Can be made of PUL, wool, fleece and other materials. Can be aired between use if it isn’t soiled.

Delaminating – The process where the PUL covering inside a nappy starts degrading or peeling away from the outer fabric of the nappy shell. This usually occurs as a result of excessive acidity (very acidic urine), not washing frequently enough (bacteria in fecal matter can delaminate nappies), or from excessive heat in drying. 

Desperately in search of – Used in the secondhand marketplace, usually buy buyers seeking particular prints on cloth nappies.

Disposable liners – Single use liners. Any poo needs to be removed from the liner then it needs to be put in the bin. Often marketed as biodegradable and confused as flushable. No liners should be flushed down the toilet as they will block sewerage systems.

Double gusset – A double layer of elastic at the leg of the nappy. Useful for adding extra absorbency to a nappy. An extra line of elastic sewn into the stay-dry layer of a nappy is also referred to as a double gusset. This is useful for containing poo.

Doubler – Another name for a booster. An absorbent pad made from any fabric, which is added to a nappy to increase its absorbency.

Dry pail – An open basket or bucket used for storing nappies until wash day. The more air holes the better, to minimise the formation of ammonia by evaporating the water from urine. Plastic is preferential to metal as metal can rust.

Dry pailing – A method whereby nappies are stored in an open basket or bucket until they are washed. It is dry because the nappies are not soaked before washing. Air flow minimises the development of ammonia.

Elimination communication – A practice in which a caregiver uses timing, signals, cues, and intuition to address an infant’s need to eliminate waste.

Family cloth – A reusable alternative to toilet paper. Basically, washable wipes – used in place of toilet paper.

Fit – Often used in terms of a correct or incorrect fit. An incorrect fit can result in leaks or red marks on baby.

Fitted (or shaped) nappy – OSFM or sized nappies that are made entirely of an absorbent material. Can be boosted with additional inserts. Require a water resistant cover.

Flats or flat nappies – Large square or rectangular shaped single layered cotton nappies that require folding and fastening with a pin or Snappi, and a water resistant cover.

Front snaps – Usually refers to a type of cloth nappy – one which closes as the front of the body with one or two rows of snaps.

Hip snaps – On cloth nappies that contain two rows of snaps across the front, the hip snap or snaps are those found closest to the hip. They help prevent the nappy from drooping, and can be useful for either tightening or loosening the leg hole for babies with skinny or chubby legs.

Hook and loop – Another term for Velcro. Also known as Aplix. Used as a fastener on modern cloth nappies.

In search of – Used in the secondhand marketplace, usually buy buyers seeking particular prints on cloth nappies.

Insert – An absorbent pad used inside a modern cloth nappy to collect waste.

Lanolin – The grease from sheep’s wool. Used to help waterproof wool nappy products.

Leg warmers – The perfect clothing/ accessory to show off cloth nappies. Keeps baby warm without covering the nappy. Also useful for protecting the knees and for easier dressing when toilet training.

Liner – Used as a stay-dry layer or to make cleaning nappies easier. Both disposable and reusable (cloth) options are available.

Modern cloth nappy – A reusable nappy shaped like a disposable nappy to fit around a baby’s thighs and belly. Fastens with snaps or velcro. Includes absorbent fabrics such as cotton, bamboo or hemp to collect waste. Come in a number of different types (see AIO, AI2, pockets).

Nappy belt – Worn around babies’ waist to keep a cloth nappy (usually a prefold or square of fabric) in place. If you need to change the cloth, you can do this without removing the belt. Popular amongst families who use elimination communication as the cloth can be quickly removed when responding to baby’s cues.

Newborn nappy – A modern cloth nappy designed to be used from birth.Come in a number of styles.

Night nappy – A nappy with extra absorption to help it last all night. 

One size fits most (or all) and birth to potty nappies – A modern cloth nappy that comes in a variety of styles, but can be adjusted to fit most babies. Usually adjusted with snaps on the front of the nappy.

On the bum – A term used to refer to the cloth nappy currently being worn e.g. What’s on the bum today?

Pilchers – Traditionally a cheap cloth nappy cover made from plasticised PVC. Covers made from polyurethane laminate (PUL) are now more commonly used.

Pocket nappy – A style of modern cloth nappy whereby separate inserts can be placed inside a pocket on the water resistant outer or shell.

Poppers (or snaps) – Plastic press studs used to fasten nappies, or fasten inserts to covers.

Prefold – Square or rectangular shaped nappies made of three sections of multi-layered cotton, bamboo or hemp fabric. The middle section is doubled up for added absorption. Used similar to a flat where it requires folding, a fastener and a water resistant cover, or can be used as an insert in a pocket nappy.

Prepping – Refers to washing new nappies before their first use. All nappy inserts and covers should be washed at least once with detergent before use. Nappy inserts made of natural fibres (bamboo and hemp) will continue to build absorbency over time, so can be washed up to 12 times before they reach full absorbency. 

Pre-wash – A separate wash that occurs prior to the main wash to remove excess soiling from nappies, so that the main wash is done in clean water to produce best results. Refer to Clean Cloth Nappies for more information.

Rebranded China cheapie – Local companies have their own label sewn onto nappies that are mass produced off-shore. The benefit to consumers is the customer service that comes with a local company. However, this customer service comes with an additional price.

Rise snaps (and settings) – Found in rows at the front of a cloth nappy. Used to make the nappy smaller or larger to suit the different shapes and sizes of babies. Snapping ‘up’ refers to making the nappy smaller. Snapping ‘down’ refers to making the nappy larger. The number of rows of rise snaps can also be referred to as rise ‘settings’ ie. a nappy that has one row of male (outter) snaps and three rows of female (inner) snaps would be referred to as having three rise settings.

Side snaps – Usually refers to a type of cloth nappy – one which closes at the side of the body with two to four snaps. This style of nappy usually does not have rise snaps.

Sized nappy – A nappy that comes in a variety of styles but will fit a specific weight range. 

Soaker – A knitted woollen nappy cover. They are also referred to as woollies. Short-legged soakers are also referred to as shorties and long-legged onesies can be called longies.

Snake – A long absorbent insert (shaped like a snake) that folds where needed when placed into a nappy. Has the advantage of a quicker drying time due to fewer layers.

Snappi – A stretchable, plastic, T-shaped fastener with grips that hook into cloth nappies.

Snaps (or poppers) – Plastic press studs used to fasten nappies, or fasten inserts to covers.

Stash – A term used to describe a family’s collection of cloth nappies.

Stay-dry layer – A layer of fabric either sewn into an insert or placed over an insert to wick moisture away from baby’s skin. Common stay-dry fabrics include suedecloth and microfleece.

Strip and sanitise – A washing process used on nappies in need of a thorough clean. Needed for nappies purchased second hand, nappies containing an ammonia smell and nappies that are causing rashes. Refer to Clean Cloth Nappies for further information.

Swim nappy – Designed to contain poo but not wee.

Terry flats – This is the traditional nappy that has been around for a century. A square of cotton towelling fabric that can be folded in a variety of different ways and fastened with pins or a Snappi. A cover is needed to make it waterproof.

Trifold – An absorbent insert that folds into three before being placed into the nappy. Has the advantage of a quicker drying time due to fewer layers.

Waist snaps – On front snapping nappies, the waist snaps are those found along the top of the nappy, used for fastening. It is equally common to find one or two rows of front snaps. On nappies that contain two rows of snaps across the front, the waist snap or snaps are those found closest to the centre of the nappy. 

Wetbag – A water resistant bag made of PUL.Comes in many sizes and with zippered, snapped, Velcro-ed and drawstring closures. Machine washable and commonly used for storing soiled nappies while out and about or before dry pailing. Also well known for being useful for innumerable other reasons.

Work at home mum (or maker) – Nappy makers who work at home. The term can be used to refer to both the person and the nappy.


Athletic wicking jersey – Used as a lining in nappies. It wicks moisture away from the skin, and is breathable, quick drying, anti pilling and stain resistant.

Bamboo – A soft and highly absorbent fabric commonly used commonly in cloth nappy inserts. Bamboo wicks moisture away quickly, dries quickly, and can keep your baby comfortable and cool, even when wet. The eco-friendly nature of bamboo fabrics is commonly misunderstood. Because bamboo fibres are short, most bamboo fabrics are made in a process that relies on chemicals to dissolve wood pulp into a rayon fabric, which means that it is essentially a synthetic and not a natural fibre.

Bamboo charcoal – A synthetic fibre made from the charcoal of bamboo. Essentially the same as microfibre, it absorbs quickly and is prone to compression leaks.

Cotton – One of the oldest and most familiar fabrics used in cloth nappies. A natural fibre that is affordable, absorbent and readily available.

GSM – A metric measurement meaning grams per square metre. It is how much one square metre of fabric weighs, and the higher the GSM number the denser the fabric will be.

Fleece – Popular as a type of bamboo fabric used in nappy inserts. Fleece is a knit fabric that has one flat side and one fleece side (similar to sweatshirts). It is soft, wicks moisture away quickly and can keep your baby comfortable even when wet.

French terry – Popular as a type of bamboo fabric used in nappy inserts. French terry is a stretchy fabric that consists of thousands of small loops. The loops stick up on one side only.

Hemp – A durable and super thirsty fabric that dries quickly and is not prone to shrinkage. Usually blended with cotton to make it softer and more comfortable. Hemp inserts can become quite stiff, but you can soften them in a dryer, or they will soften when placed against baby’s skin. The most sustainable insert option as it requires no chemicals and less water than cotton to grow.

Microfibre – A cheap, synthetic fabric which absorbs and dries quickly. It is good for babies who flood their nappies, but prone to compression leaks (like a sponge) and should not be placed against babies’ skin because it is so drying. Works well in conjunction with a natural fibre.

Microfleece – Sometimes called micro terry fleece. A fabric commonly used to make reusable liners for use in nappies, on top of inserts. Microfleece has very fine, tightly woven loops on both sides of the fabric but, unlike other types of terry fabric, it is not made from a natural fibre; it is made from polyester. The fabric is readily available at most fabric stores and simply needs to be cut to shape because it doesn’t fray. Use as a stay-dry layer or to make disposing of poo easier. 

Minky (or minkee) – A synthetic fabric that is variant of microfibre. It has a velvet-like pile and is often used on the outside of nappies. Very quick drying and resistant to staining.

PUL – Pronounced P-U-L or pull. A waterproof and breathable fabric that is created by either heat or chemically bonding a clear coating of polyurethane to cotton or polyester.

Suedecloth – A 100% polyester fabric that is very soft to the touch. It is used as the lining in nappies and wicks wetness away from babies skin. It is highly stain resistant.

Terry – Popular as a type of bamboo fabric used in nappy inserts. Terry is a stretchy fabric that consists of thousands of small loops. The loops stick up on both sides of the fabric.

Velour – A soft, knit fabric. Bamboo velour is often used in cloth nappy inserts; it does not wick moisture but feels comfortable when wet.

Wool – Lauded for its absorbency and breathability, wool can hold up to four times its weight in liquid, is warm in winter and cool in summer. Unless soiled, wool can simply be aired out between uses and washed approximately every month. It does, however, need to be lanolised in order to be waterproof.

Zorb – A blend of cotton, bamboo, hemp or microfibre, designed specifically for cloth nappies to reduce costs and improve performance. Highly absorbent and not prone to shrinkage.