There has been a lot of media coverage recently about people who collect cloth nappies, and focussing on one mum who spent £160 on 2 nappies. Whilst it’s great that cloth nappies are making mainstream media, it is worrying that it is putting families with less disposable income off using them in fear of the cost involved.
A couple of weeks ago I did a cost comparison with the cost using cloth nappies versus the cost of disposables ( Are cloth nappies cheaper? ), but how much do you NEED to spend, in order to use cloth nappies.
Tip 1 – Choose 2 part nappies. The expensive part of making cloth nappies is the PUL (the waterproof bit) so if you are changing the whole nappy every time (as you do with All in Ones and Pockets), your nappies are likely to work out more expensive overall. Two-part nappies tend to work out less expensive as you only change the absorbent bit at most nappy changes. To have 20 nappies, you would need 4-5 wraps and 20 inserts, meaning 20 nappies could cost as little as £140 brand new. 2-part nappies are easier to pass down to several other babies too, as if the PUL wears out, you only need to replace the wrap, not the whole nappy.
Examples – Totsbots Peenuts (£18 for wrap and pads, £7.99 for additional pads), Grovia (Wraps £15, inserts £15 for 2), Ecobebe (£11.50 for complete nappy, £5.50 for replacement inserts)
Tip 2 – Buy second hand. There are loads of preloved groups on Facebook for buying second hand nappies, just type preloved nappies into the search bar. Some people sell second hand nappies on Ebay, but this is technically against eBay regulations and you may find that they won’t help if something goes wrong with the purchase. Freecycle or other pass it on sites also often have cloth nappies, if you are not too fussy about what you get. Things to look out for when buying second hand is whether the elastics and PUL are still going strong. Ask for close ups of waterproofing and leg holes and check them over carefully before using.
Tip 3 – Buy bulk packs and kits. If you know which nappies work for you (and we always recommend you try before you buy loads, whether that is via a nappy library or buying a select few of the ones you’ll thing you’ll like), then buying a bulk kit can work out cheaper eg a single Tots Bots Easyfit is £18, but a birth to potty kit costs £265, and includes 2 packs of liners and some washing powder.
Tip 4 – Consider using flat nappies some of the time. People are often put off using flat nappies (terry squares, prefolds) because the thought of folding them is overwhelming. However, I like to tell people I learnt to fold a terry square when I was four years old, so it can’t be hard. There are lots of tutorials on YouTube for the different folds. Flat nappies are really cheap, even new you are only looking at spending £2 a nappy, and as they dry really quickly, you don’t need quite so many of them.
Tip 5 – see if your nappy library has a relationship with any retailers. We often offer nappy libraries a discount code to allow their customers to buy nappies for a bit less.
What are your tips for doing cloth nappies a bit cheaper?
I originally wrote a blog post on this a few years ago, but the disposable and the cloth nappy markets have changed so much recently, that it’s worth visiting again.
When I first started running a nappy library and retailing cloth nappies, it was as clear that using cloth nappies would definitely be cheaper. However, disposables have gotten a lot cheaper, especially since Lidl and Aldi have entered the market, meaning it’s not as clear cut as it used to be.
We’ll start with the assumption that the average baby will go through 6,000 disposable nappies a between birth and potty training as that is what research suggests. We will also use the assumption that you only buy 25 cloth nappies.
In Aldi disposable nappies retail at 85p for 24 or £4.39 for 98. Pampers were on at £12 for 52 or £18 for 104 or £8 for 39 for their “Eco” brand. That makes 3.5p per disposable for Aldi newborn 4.4p per bigger size disposable. Pampers are 23p to 17.3p for their normal brand, or 20.5p for their eco brand.
So, the cheapest disposables would cost £240 over 2.5 years, Pampers £1,038 and Eco £1,230.
Washing – £1.00 for A or A+ machine and detergent = £125
So, from the table you can see, if budget brands suit your baby, then disposable nappies are fractionally cheaper. However, as you can use cloth nappies on more than one child and/or sell them on when you are done, then actually cloth would still work out cheaper. You could further save money by buying second-hand, bulk sets and kits and taking advantage of offers and sales. If you were planning on using Pampers or an eco-brand of disposables, you would definitely be saving money using cloth nappies.
Of course, the cost isn’t everything when it comes to using cloth nappies – there’s the environment and the cuteness to consider too. But knowing you aren’t breaking the bank while switching to cloth is always good to know!
A question that often comes up at this time of year is “should I take my cloth nappies with me on holiday?” As with many questions in the cloth nappy world, there is no one right answer for everyone, and I have to confess that most of the time when my kids were small, I took disposables as we were camping. However, here are some points to consider:
What accommodation are you staying in? If you are in a self-catering cottage with washing machine and all the mod-cons, then it will be much easier to take cloth nappies than if you are staying in an hotel with no laundry. You need to ask yourself how you plan to wash your nappies. Not having wash facilities is not necessarily a barrier to using nappies, but you will need enough to last the time you are away and the means to transport damp, dirty nappies home with you. If you plan on bringing dirty nappies home, I recommend given them a good rinse out (bidets are good for this!) and dry them, then do a good long wash when you get home.
Do you have room to transport your nappies? This will depend on 2 things – how you are getting there, and which nappies you are using. If you are driving, you have plenty of space to take nappies. If you are flying 20 all in ones will take up a sizeable chunk of your luggage allowance.
Will you have the time to deal with your nappies? Selfishly, the reason I rarely took cloth nappies on holiday with me, was that I didn’t want to spend chunks of my precious holiday in the campsite laundry, or, as I saw on one camping holiday, washing nappies in the sink. I know that this was part laziness on my behalf!
If you’d REALLY like to take something more sustainable than disposables on holiday, but don’t think you can with your existing cloth nappies, here are some low cost options:
Take terry squares or prefolds. These nappies are super versatile, quick drying and can handle being soaked. They are easier to hand wash than an all in one too.
,p>Take a hybrid nappy like a Flip or Grovia with disposable inserts. Because the plastic is in the reusable wrap, the disposable inserts are completely biodegradable
Whatever you decide, to cloth, hybrid or disposable, remember it’s your family, and your choice!
Feeling bamboozled by reusable nappies, but don’t know where to start? Here are my top tips on getting started with cloth:
1. Remember that all nappies need something absorbent, and something waterproof. All the different names and types are just different ways of putting them together. There are pros and cons to all the different types, which we’ll discuss later in the week.
2. How many you need depends on how often you change and how often you want to wash. The average newborn needs 8 changes a day, a toddler only 4 or 5. It’s a good idea to have 3 days worth of nappies (so 24 if starting from birth). That gives you enough to wash every other day, with a days worth to use while you get the dirty ones washed and dried.
3. You need somewhere to store your dirty nappies until you wash them. This can be a bucket with a lid, or a wet bag. Wet bags are bags made of waterproof material that can go into the wash with your nappies. You will also need a smaller wetbag to bring dirty nappies home in when you are out and about.
4. Liners are useful for keeping baby dry, catching poo and preventing your nappies from staining. You have a choice of fleece liners, which are great for keeping baby dry and can be reused indefinitely; and paper liners, which can be bagged and binned like disposable nappies. Fleece liners tend to work better with newborn baby poo, paper liners can be useful during the weaning phase.
5. Cloth nappies fit differently to disposable. They tend to come in three sizes. Size one fit from about 5lbs (2.4kg) and 18lbs (8kg), size two fits from around 12lbs (5.5kg) to about 35lb (16kg) and Birth to Potty, which in reality fit from around 9lbs(4kg) to 35lbs(16kg). The leg elastic needs to be up in the knicker line like pants, rather than round the thigh.
6. Washing them is easy. Drop in a bucket/wet bag until ready to wash, no need to soak. Throw in the washing machine and do a rinse cycle (this stops stains from setting), at this point you can put other things in the wash if you wish. Wash at 60 degrees (or the temperature recommended by your manufacturer if lower) with a full dose of your usual washing powder and jobs a good one (if you are worried about the temperature making them less green, read here )
7. Not all nappies suit all babies, so if you can, get along to your local nappy library and try some out. The people that run them are minds of cloth nappy info, so always worth getting in touch! Find your local library here
When my eldest child was a baby, my mum came to stay because I was unwell. One afternoon she popped into my bedroom to bring my son for a feed and cheerfully told me she washed my nappies for me. However, she said, that the wash hadn’t got the green out of the nappies that had gone a green colour, so she’d put them on to soak in Milton. I was horrified! For a start, my nappies were supposed to be green, I’d bought beautiful mint green fitteds from a WAHM, and secondly, bleach isn’t good for nappy elastics. My mum had been used to soaking terry squares in napisan, boiling them if they were still stained and hot washing, but she didn’t understand modern cloth nappies. A few washes after the soaking incident and my beautiful, (no longer) mint green, hand made fitteds fell to pieces at the legs where the elastic perished.
Recently, a group on social media has been advocating that people wash their nappies in toilet bleach. Yikes!
Washing nappies in toilet bleach is not recommended for a number of reasons. Firstly, toilet bleach is not skin-safe. It’s covered in warnings about not letting it come into contact with your skin. Do you really want something washed in toilet bleach next to your child’s most sensitive areas? Secondly, it’s not fabric safe. It will almost certainly take the colour out of most fabrics (even milton left a purple t-shirt horribly spotted when I was spot treating mildew and spilled a highly diluted form recently). It will also rot delicate fabrics like elastic. Finally, it will invalidate your warranty on most cloth nappy products.
So what do you do if you need to get your nappies really clean? It partly depends why you need to do it in the first place. A good wash routine will prevent most unpleasant smells, Go Real has the guidelines for good washing here . If you buy second hand nappies that are stained or smelly, then that link has some suggestions for strip washing, or these tips here could help. I’m a huge fan of a 60 degree wash with a full does of washing powder and scoop of Little Violets stain remover. General stain removing is best achieved with sunlight.
So please, when you are going to wash your nappies, think twice before using toilet bleach!
I have lost track over the years of the number of people who return cloth nappy trial kits to me stained with breastfed baby poo. For those not familiar, I’m talking chicken korma yellow, persistant staining. Some are embarrassed, some don’t mention it, some contact me before the kit is due back to ask how to shift it. I always tell them, it’s easy, just put them in the sun. Outside on your line preferably, but if you really can’t, in a window can help.
Quite often, people are incredulous that something as simple as hanging your nappies on the line can deal with a stain the a long wash in the washing machine cannot. But there is science on our side.
The yellow colour of baby poo comes for them billirubin in bile, and billirubin is broken down by ultraviolet light (which is why jaundiced babies are put on UV beds in hospital). Putting your nappies on the line allows the UV light in sunlight to destroy the billirubin and low and behold, your nappies are white again!
Not only that, but ultraviolet is also used in industry as a powerful anti-bacterial. So not only are your nappies bleached nice and white, any residual bacteria is given a hiding too! (source here)
Below are some before during and after pictures of a variety of stained nappies, before washing, after washing and after hanging on the line in the sun! (All nappies were washed and dried by trial kit customer before returned to me, washed by me at 60 degrees, with a full dose of Simply Washing non-bio powder tabs and a scoop of Bio D nappy fresh).
What is the Great Cloth Diaper Change? Well, it’s an international event run by the Cloth Diaper Association in the USA, but with events hosted by cloth nappy libraries, businesses and enthusiasts around the world.
The Great Cloth Diaper Change, Newcastle will be a fun morning, with entertainment for the wee ones, stalls for parents to browse, refreshments and a chance to meet other cloth bum mums. We have entertainment provided by Kalma Baby Newcastle.
We have a raffle, with great prizes supplied from cloth nappy manufacturers and local baby and toddler focussed businesses (if you run a baby related business and want to get involved, let us know!). Oh, and not forgetting special offers from us at Grow Up Green!
Parenting North East sling library will be in attendance and refreshments will be provided by the very yummy Van-Illa Treats
22nd April 2017
Held at Broadacre House, Market Street, Newcastle, NE1 6HQ
If you spend any time at all on Facebook cloth nappy forums (and for your own sanity I suggest that you don’t), you will be aware that there is a lot of debate out there on how to wash your nappies. Grandparents, remembering terry squares and twin tubs often recommend washing at 90°, the uber-eco conscious recommend 30° and a whole host of other temperatures in between.
Go Real, the reusable nappy campaigning body recommend washing at 60° (there full washing instructions are here http://www.goreal.org.uk/real-nappy-washing-guidelines), as do the UK Cloth Nappy Library Network. The reasons for washing at 60° rather than a lower temperature is that research shows that a good dose of detergent, combined with washing at 60° will kill or remove most bacteria. 30°-40°is very close to body temperature and can encourage bacteria to breed.
Advise to wash at 90° is particularly worrying. The Environment Agency report of 2008 specifically mentioned that washing at 90° was one of the reasons why using cloth can end up being as bad for the environment, whereas washing at 60° or lower reduces the carbon footprint of your nappies (washing a full load and line drying when possible also helps with this – see my blog on whether cloth nappies are actually greener). A very hot wash can also cause your nappies to delaminate (when the waterproof layer comes away from the fabric). I actually had this happen when my husband put the nappies on at the wrong temperature by accident. Finally, from a financial point of view, washing at 90° will invalidate your warranty with the manufacturer. Most manufacturers recommend washing at 60° (and some even as low as 40°) so always check the wash care label on your nappies when washing them!
If you are worried about staining, a cold rinse before washing can help prevent stains from setting.
So remember, wash at 60° or lower to protect your nappies, protect the environment and protect your warranty.
In the almost 10 years that I have been using cloth nappies, the market has expanded beyond recognition. I take great delights in explaining to trial kit customers that when I had my eldest is a Motherease One Size was considered an innovation!
This growth in the market is all for the good, it means there really is a nappy for every family out there, but it does mean that the choice can be somewhat overwhelming. I wrote a post before about how it is important it is to try before you buy if you can, but in the meantime, here is a quick fire overview..
The first thing to note is that all nappies require an absorbent part and a waterproof part. How the absorbent bit and the waterproof bit go together is what differentiate the different nappy types.
All in Ones
All in ones (AIOs) are so called because each nappy is a complete unit – ie the absorbent part and the waterproof part are sewn together. The advantage of these is that they are easy to use and change just like a disposable. This is particularly useful if lots of people are going to be changing baby’s nappies (eg grandparents, day care etc). The downside is the cost. The most expensive part of a cloth nappy is the waterproof bit, so the more often you’re changing that, the more expensive your nappy system is going to be.
Pockets are so called, because they are made up of 2 parts – a pocket which tends to be waterproof material on one side and fleece on the inside. You then put absorbant inserts into the pocket to make the nappy usable. Inserts vary from brand to brand, some are all microfibre, some are bamboo (more on materials later in the guide). Once “stuffed” with their absorbant inserts, a pocket nappy is as easy to use as an AIO, with the added advantage that you can choose how much absorbancy to add – meaning you can make them slimmer fitting for a newborn, and more absorbant for a toddler. Like AIOs, they tend to be more expensive (although there are cheap chinese imports on the market).
These nappies get their name from the fact that the absorbent parts popper into their waterproof outer. Once poppered together they are very easy to use. Their main advantage is that if the nappy is only wet, or the poo has been contained by the aborbent pad, then only the pad needs changing and a fresh pad can be poppered into the waterproof outer. The advantage of this is that you can usually use several absorbant inners to each waterproof outer, which brings the cost of your system down.
These nappies get their name from the fact that they are often a sized nappy (most of the AIOs, pockets and AI2s are birth to potty). They are a 2 part nappy system. The nappy itself is absorbant, it is then covered by a waterproof cover. When the nappy needs changing you just change the internal nappy, not the waterproof outer (although these will need changing at least once a day). As a rule you will need 1 waterproof cover for every 4 or 5 nappies. The advantages of these are that they tend to be better fitting, work out as cheaper than all in ones and many people find them more reliable as there are two lots of leg elastic to hold any “explosions” in! The disadvantage is that each time you change a nappy you have to put 2 layers on.
Flat nappies are, well, flat pieces of material that are folded to fit baby. There are 3 main types – terry squares, prefolds and flips.
Terry squares are squares of cotton towelling which can be folded into a variety of different shapes to fit any baby and secured with a nappy nippa (a y-shaped piece of rubber with grips) and a waterproof cover putting over.
Prefolds are a pad of layers of smooth cotton which are folded in 3 and placed in waterproof cover, they also can be secured with a nappy nippa. These come in sizes depending on the size of the baby.
Flips are a budget option from Bum Genius. There are a choice of inserts, including an organic cotton flat nappy that can be folded in a variety of ways to fit a baby of any size!
Some people also use muslins as newborn flat nappies as they can be folded very small. The main advantages of flat nappies are that they are cheap and flexible. As well as being used as nappies they can be used as sick cloths, as emergency change mats and for nappy free time. (they also make great floor cloths!). The disadvantage is that they can be tricky to fold.
Brands include Junior Joy and Bambino Mio
Things to bear in mind:
Wraps Waterproof covers for 2 part nappy systems
Inserts Absorbent pads for use in pocket and snap in 2 systems
Boosters Additional absorbent material mostly used with AIOs, but also fitteds and other nappies
Liners Sit inside the nappy to make dealing with poo easier. “Flushable” ones are generally made of plant cellulose manufacturers claim can be flushed down the loo, however water companies advise caution. Fleece ones are washable once the faeces has been tipped into the toilet
Micro fibre A man made fiber that is quick drying. Moderately absorbant
Bamboo Also viscose/rayon from Bamboo – a man made fibre from natural sources. Bamboo is highly absorbant, but slow to dry.
Hybrid This can be a confusing term because different manufacturers use it differently. It can mean a nappy like the Gro Via and the Flip which can be used with disposable inserts. Other manufacturers use it to describe a thick fitted nappy with a thin water repellant layer that can be used for short periods as an all in one
PUL A waterproof material (polyester urethan laminate) usually used for waterproof outers
Minky A fluffy material that can be laminated to make it absorbant. Laminated minky is often used for the outside of pocket nappies. Nonlaminated minky is sometimes used as part of the absorbancy in some AIOs
Wetbag A waterproof bag for bring cloth nappies home in
One of the first questions I am often asked when talking to new parents about cloth nappies is “How much do they cost?” This is a difficult question to answer as there is a huge gap between the cheapest and the most expensive cloth nappy systems, but I always reassure them that they will save money no matter which nappies they go for.
“But, really?!” they ask, “Even with the cost of washing accounted for?”
So here is a breakdown:
For disposables: The average child goes through 5,850 nappies in it’s lifetime. At an average of 15p per nappy that equals £877. £93 on nappy bags and £200 on wipes. Total £1170
Yes, that much!
Right, assuming 24 nappies and washing every other day:
In summary, depending on which nappies you go for, you can save between £625 and £321 (although the actual amount will depend on which disposables you bought). However, if you use your nappies for more than one child, or you sell them on when you are finished, you can save even more!