A Guide to Nappy Leaks

The basics

You need to start at the beginning and understand that the process of absorption on fabric in a cloth nappy is different to single use ones- there are no gels, so you need layers!! If your nappy is all in one you might not need to add any inserts but if they aren't then you must add inserts to them. 1 insert for a tiny newborn or an almost potty trained child, 2 or more for the rest as a general rule.

The inserts

Fabrics such as microfibre absorbs liquid very fast, it's an almost instant absorption, if you can, use this type of insert as the top layer. As good as microfibre is for speed, it doesn't do so well over time, you also need a slower, but with greater capacity, insert such as bamboo or hemp. So those inserts should be the bottom or middle layers.

Cloth Nappy Insert Absorbency Levels. Hemp = most absorbent Microfibre = least absorbent

The fit

If you have gaps in the legs they will leak, the same on the waist and around the back. Sounds obvious, but most leaks occur due to the nappy not being tight enough on. Some worry they will be too tight and lo and behold the nappy leaks. With experience, you will know the best waist circumference for your child, but if you are getting leaks you might have to try again. If your nappy has rise snaps you can adjust these to ensure the fit is snug around the legs. You can even mismatch the rise snaps for a tailored fit. Pulling the 'wings' up on each side of the waist can ensure a snug fit on the legs, especially useful for slim babies and toddlers.

Check out our nappy fit video guide here

All fabrics in

Fabric poking out is a no no, all fabric material should be tucked in and only the waterproof layer should be exposed. Make sure there are no bits of inserts, sewn in fabric or liners trying to escape.

Vests and clothing

Think of the inside of a cloth nappy as a nice, soft and absorbing sponge. The liquid with it is nicely contained but if you squeeze it too much, it will leak. The same principle applies to cloth nappies, clothing shouldn't be tight. Vest extenders are a great solution as they create more room.

Vest Extenders - Extend the life of your baby vests and allow extra room for cloth nappies


Has your newborn suddenly started to quickly soak the inserts? At birth baby's stomachs are small, they don't drink as much until one day it happens - you need to boost your nappies with extra inserts. You may then find a nice lull between this phase and the next, as babies pee little and often. Then your baby or toddler suddenly starts soaking (and out peeing) their usual inserts. That's probably because they learnt how to hold the pee in and then do it all at once. In both cases you will need extra inserts as above.

Find our guide to making nappies work at night time here

Underperforming waterproofs

Make sure your waterproof layer is sound. High heat can damage most the material that makes them waterproof. Using a tumble dryer or placing the cover directly onto radiators or heated dry racks can interfere with their integrity and compromise performance. So check for wholes or wrinkled patches on your nappy.


Make sure you aren't using any fabric conditioner, they can coat the fabric and liquid will just slide over them instead of absorbing it. You also need plenty water to rinse soap off the nappies. If your machine has a low water function, switch this off or add an extra rinse cycle at the end. If you think your nappies may have a soap build up give them a few rinses , leave in the bath overnight or out in line in the rain for a few days. If your nappy is new it may need a few washes to build up absorbancy, do read the manufactures instructions on this.