Cloth nappies are reusable, not indestructible but how long should they realistically last? This is a really good question so let's break it down.
In the first 3 months of your babies life they are going to go through over 1000 nappy changes! Woah I hear you say! That's around 12 nappies a day which is quite a conservative estimate, it could be more.
Over the next 9 months you're looking at another 2000 nappy changes. That means in the first year you've changed around 3000 nappies, I wish I was joking but I'm not!
After bubs first birthday you've hopefully only got around another 2000 or so nappies to change before they toilet train. All up you're going to have changed between 5000 and 6000 nappies. That's a lot of nappies! At this point you are probably thankful that you decided to cloth because those savings are really starting to add up now.
Back to the topic of this post, how long should a modern cloth nappy last? Well this is where a couple of variables come in. If you have opted for say our full time pack of one size fits most candie cloth nappies to use from birth, by the time your little one has toilet trained they've been worn, pee'd and poop'd in and washed around 200-250 times. If you had a tshirt you'd washed 200 times you'd expect it to be showing a fair bit of wear, maybe it's faded and has the odd hole, well the same is to be expected of your nappies.
We would expect that some of the nappies (probably your favourites that were the first on the bum straight out of the washing machine) might be in need of elastic repair, some of the boosters and trifolds might need replacing but the nappies themselves should be in good enough condition that after elastic repairs they're ready for bub number 2. You can easily repair the elastic in the nappies yourself or have them repaired for a few $ by Nappies on a Mission.
There are ways to make your nappies last a bit longer and/or look a little better at then end of 2-3 years. Investing in newborn nappies for the first 3 months will save over 40 uses per cloth nappy, this goes a long way to making them look newer for longer and the bonus is your newborn nappies have only had a short amount of use and will be in great condition for bub number 2 and 3.
Try not leaving them in the nappy pail for more than 2 days. Remember modern cloth nappies have elastic and PUL, these are affected by ammonia and bacteria so leaving them sit for longer than a couple of days will just degrade the fabrics faster. If you don't have enough cloth nappies for a full wash every 2nd day you can bolster the load up by adding towels or other clothing or alternatively you can do a short wash with about 1/2 scoop of detergent and pop them in a pail until you've got a full load of nappies.
It's a good idea to avoid stripping your nappies unnecessarily. The process of stripping is harsh and does put extra wear on cloth nappies. Truth be told you really shouldn't need to strip them unless you've had major problems like a staph or thrush infection. Stripping should only ever be a last resort not a first option.
Try avoiding excessive use of the dryer. PUL and elastic aren't fans of extreme heat. If you decide to use the dryer just do so with the inserts and leave the shells to dry on a clothing rack. This is also true if you have super hot days in summer, pop the inserts on the line but dry the shells in the shade to help protect them a bit from the sun.
How you treat your nappies is entirely up to you but the most important thing is to have realistic expectations, as I said earlier modern cloth nappies are reusable not indestructible so a little tlc does go a long way.