Why are my cloth nappies leaking? @austnappyassoc


Many thanks to ANA Founding Member, Fiona Ward of Darlings Downunder, for sharing with us on this subject.


If you are experiencing leaks with your cloth nappies, here’s a troubleshooting list to help you work out why the leaks are happening, and how to stop them.



Getting the fit of a cloth nappy right will solve a lot of leaking issues.

  • Always make sure the nappy fits snuggly round the legs and waist and that the inside of the nappy (including any boosters) are all tucked under the waterproof layer.
  • With an adjustable One Size Fits Most nappy, fitting to the legs before the waist can make a big difference. One Size nappies usually have quite stretchy leg elastic, and you need to make sure you stretch the leg elastic out before pulling it up between your baby’s legs for a snug fit around the legs.
  • When you pull the front of the nappy up between the legs, don’t let the leg elastic settle across the thighs, instead, try fitting the nappy so the leg elastic falls in the leg crease.
  • Ensure that your baby’s singlet or other clothes aren’t tucked into the nappy, otherwise moisture can wick.

If fit isn’t the issue, have a look at your child’s nappy after they’ve experienced a leak. That will give you clues about what is going on.


Failing to Absorb

If the nappy is relatively dry after experiencing a leak, then something is preventing the nappy from absorbing.

  • The absorbent fabric in a new nappy can take several prewashes before reaching its full absorbency. You know how an old tea towel is better for drying the dishes than a brand new one? It’s the same principle. Depending on the fabric it can take between 3 and 6 washes to become fully absorbent.
  • Nappy rash creams can clog up the fibres of a nappy’s fabric preventing absorption. If you use zinc or petroleum based rash creams on your baby’s bottom, always make sure you use a liner to protect the nappy.
  • Using fabric softener will actually make a nappy repel liquid, so don’t use it on your nappies.
  • If your nappies are not only leaking, but also smelling, then you may need to adjust your washing routine to get a better clean.

Occasionally, some children’s wee comes out hard and fast: sometimes so quickly that it is too fast to all be absorbed at once. This is most obvious in a nappy with a stay dry layer as that layer slows down absorption. Switching to a nappy with a natural fibre inner which absorbs faster, or laying a natural fibre booster inside the nappy will solve this problem.


Not Enough Absorbency

If the nappy is completely wet the cause of the leakage is insufficient absorbency for the length of time the child is wearing it. This is solved by either changing the nappy more frequently, or increasing the absorbency of the nappy.

  • You can increase the absorbency of a nappy by adding boosters. If more absorbency is needed for night time, or if your child has become a heavy wetter, you can look into more absorbent nappy options or specialised night nappies.
  • Nappies that use microfibre only for the absorbent layer can be subject to ‘compression leaks’ when the nappy is full and liquid can be squeezed out if the baby is applying pressure to the nappy for a sustained period of time (ie when in a car seat or having a nap). This problem can be solved by adding a bamboo or hemp booster to the nappy – both these fabrics are much better at holding on to liquid (which is why they take longer to dry!).


If you’re experiencing leaks with a particular nappy and having trouble solving the problem, contact the manufacturer or retailer for advice. They will often have extra tips or tricks to help you out.