Terry square nappies made easy

Terry square nappies have been the staple of our cloth nappy journey almost from the start. I say “almost” because for the first month or so of Talitha’s life, we folded muslin cloths instead.

Knowing that I use cloth nappies, I’m often asked about brands and styles that I’m honestly not well-versed in. Terries really are that good. I’ve not needed to explore.

A lot of people seem to find this way of nappying daunting. In fact, cloth nappy advocates often try to encourage skeptics by explaining that cloth bums have moved on from your grandma’s traditional nappy, which is what a terry square is.

I still think terries are a valuable option though so I thought I’d put together a clear, simple guide on why and how we use them.

Why terry square nappies

They’re the cheapest cloth nappies
There are lots of reasons for using reusable nappies from environmental to health. Honestly, saving money is a big motivator for us.

Even if you buy a new birth to potty set of modern nappies you’re estimated to save hundreds of pounds over the first few years of your child’s life and more if subsequent children use them.

That said, a lot of people are put off by the initial outlay. It is a commitment. For us, it involved money we just didn’t have at the outset. So we decided to go with my mother’s suggestion that we use traditional nappies as she had.

Terry squares are the cheapest nappy option, especially if you get them second hand or make them yourself. I’ve seen lots of people giving them away on Facebook groups and in forums.

My mother bought terry toweling material, cut it into squares and ran a seam around the edges with a sewing machine.

We got our covers second hand off Freecycle and eBay and our nappy nippas off Freecycle. Even if we bought our covers new it would still be a massive saving.

They fit perfectly
There are no concerns about shape or size here. You can fold a terry on to your baby to get the perfect fit from birth to potty. Muslins work better at the start though. Use a velcro cover and you have a custom fit there too.

They wash better and dry faster
My pockets and all-in-2 have needed to be stripped due to detergent buildup but my terries have never had that problem. They are also the fastest drying option, no question.

Back in August when we found ourselves in Grande Riviere in Trinidad where we couldn’t find anywhere that sold fruit, let alone disposable nappies. We’d brought enough terry squares to last us the time we’d originally intended to stay but we’d decided to stay another night.

So I washed the terries in the hotel sink and laid them out on the beach to dry in the sun. I couldn’t have done that as effectively with a modern nappy.

They’re versatile
Terry squares also have lots of other uses: burp cloths, bibs, floor wipes…

When making the squares, my mum had some scraps left over. We’ve used those as reusable wipes for nappy changing at home. I also froze them in a lavender solution to treat my perineal stitches postpartum.

Recently, Talitha had a stomach bug and I used terry squares to protect the mattress and catch her sick.

We’ve started trying elimination communication and I’ve kept terry squares to hand for misses. I also put her in a terry nappy without the cover when we’re home so I can change her as soon as she’s wet. So many uses.

What do I need?

24 terry squares is what they say. I have more than this and don’t need that many. Ours are 58cm x 58cm. So far it’s worked beautifully. We just adjust the size of the fold according to the size of the baby.

3 nappy nippas so you always have one to hand. These fasten the terry squares. No more pins. Though you can use pins but these are so easy to use and pins scare me.

Nappy liners to catch the poo and put it in the loo. You can get fleece ones which the poo falls off (sometimes with encouragement) or disposable ones which you flush.

I prefer the disposables, to be honest. I have bought them but I’ve also had whole packets off Freecycle or in charity shops.

You can do without the nappy liners too – just wipe the poo off into the toilet with toilet paper, get your gloves on and hand wash the nappy before sticking it in the washing machine.

Basically, you don’t want to put a big gunk of poo in your washing machine. Let’s just say it spells disaster.

Nappy covers for outside the nappy. This is the waterproof bit. I’ve tried lots of covers and like Motherease best. I personally wouldn’t bother with any others.

They’re roomy so fit well over the bulkiest terry square while fitting well on the legs. I’ve heard people suggest having five but we’ve got on well with just three at any time. Currently we’re getting by with just two! The older the baby the faster the covers get tired though.


I was overwhelmed with all the different folds so learned the easiest one, the kite fold, and just stuck with it. I let bits overlap when Talitha was a newborn and moved them out as she grew older.

To make things easy, I fold our nappies as they come off the line or airer and stack them in the drawer of our nappy changing station so they’re ready for action when needed.


I wash all my nappies together and wash them the same way. I have done a strip wash once using the dishwashing tablet method but haven’t really needed it. Here’s what I do: nappies stored in dry covered bucket (no soaking), cool rinse, wash at 40 degrees with non-biological washing powder but no fabric softener (I will be trying an Eco egg soon so will let you know how that goes), optional last quick rinse.

Every other wash I wash at 60 degrees for peace of mind.

If stained (this doesn’t really happen anymore), lemon juice and sunshine sorts it.

The water in Bristol is hard and makes my terry squares a bit stiff and crunchy. This really doesn’t bother Talitha or her skin in the slightest but it bugs me a bit.

I combat this by taking all nappy covers and any modern nappies with PUL outers out of the machine and putting a tablespoon of vinegar in the drum in the last quick rinse. When I take the nappies off the line or airer, I rub them together to fluff them a bit.

With a tumble dryer you don’t need any of this. They’re instantly soft.

I have had times of nappy envy and have treated myself to one pretty custom nappy but all-in-all terry squares do the job.

If you’ve used terries, do you have anything to add? If you haven’t, would you?

Follow Circus Queen

Join the discussion

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • You’ve certainly made me consider terry squares if we have another baby one day. We use a mixture of cloth nappies (mainly Bambino) and disposable, as F is with a childminder during mornings and they’re not keen on cloth. That said, it’s soon time to ditch the nappies completely. Gulp.
    Molly – Mother’s Always Right recently posted..A day with my daughter

    • I’m not sure how Talitha’s nanny-sitter-thing felt about cloth but she gave it a good go. I bought a pack of disposables the other day and could not believe how much they cost though!!

  • Just thought i’d say if you have hard water use a magnoball or similar. it is basically a magnet that naturally softens the water and they last about five years. i originally bought it to protect the washing machine but found it softens clothes too. i use it for both the nappies and the clothes (but don’t put it with woollens as they felt!) and so the nappies are soft. i also put the vinegar in where the fabric softener goes and this both softens and strips the nappies (but it washed out in the rinse) so doesn’t irritate skin or smell. I also use soapnuts with my nappies and have no problems with staining (but then i do hang my nappies outside to dry so this naturally bleaches them).

    • All brilliant tips, thanks! We’ve just bought a new washing machine so will look into the magnoball. Bristol water is seriously hard.

  • hi im new to using reusable nappies how do you put them on I understand you need a terry cloth, liner and water proof cover does it go on in that order and ive seen some nappy covers on amazon would they be fine to use x many thanks

    • Hi Laura, I’ve written about how we put them on here: http://circusqueen.co.uk/2012/02/how-we-do-flat-terry-nappies/ Liner goes inside cloth next to baby’s skin, fasten cloth with nappy nippa, then waterproof cover over the whole thing. It depends on whether the covers you’re looking at are generously sized enough to go over terries. Bear in mind that when your baby is a toddler, you’ll probably need to boost them to protect against “power wees” so you’ll want some extra space (you don’t say how old your baby is). I’ve always liked Motherease wraps as they’re quite spacious and the velcro ones can give an especially great fit and they’re some lovely prints.

Further reading