baby in a cloth diaper

The Facts About Cloth Nappies / Diapers

Once a product reserved for hardcore eco-mums, cloth nappies (diapers) are now growing in popularity. In fact, they’ve become something of a fashion statement for your baby’s bottom. Michelle Williams, Julia Roberts and Gwyneth Paltrow are all celebrity fans of cloth nappies. There are lots of reasons why people opt for reusable nappies over disposables, here we look at some of the main ones:

Better for the planet:

  • During his first year of life, your baby will need 3000 nappy changes. That’s a lot of nappies! If you’re using disposables, that’s a lot of rubbish.
  • Each disposable nappy takes at least 200 years to decompose. In the UK, eight million disposable nappies end up in landfill each year.
  • Once in landfill, the disposable nappies release methane. Methane is widely considered to be the worst greenhouse gas because it reaches the atmosphere so much quicker than other greenhouse gases.

Better for your purse:

  • If you’re looking at the price per nappy, you might think cloth nappies are crazily expensive. Remember though, each nappy will be used countless times, unlike a disposable nappy which will just be used once.
  • It is estimated that disposable nappies will cost you around £1000 / $1,500 USD from birth to potty training. Cloth nappies, on the other hand, will set you back around £300 / $450 USD for a kit. Of course you then have to factor in washing and drying, but even then it will be less than using disposables.
  • See it as an investment. Once a disposable nappy has been used, it needs to be chucked out, but a cloth nappy can be used time and time again. You will be able to use them on more than one child, and will even be able to sell them on second hand when you’re finished with them.

Better for baby:

  • Lots of chemicals are used during the production of disposable nappies. You can buy organic cloth nappies that contain no chemicals.
  • Cloth nappies look great. Gone are the days of simple terry squares with giant safety pins. Now cloth nappies are available in a whole array of bright colours and fun designs. You can even get them personally embroidered with your baby’s name.

If you aren’t sure whether cloth nappies are for you, you can borrow some for free from your local cloth nappy library. There are cloth nappy libraries across the country offering a selection of brands and styles for you to try for free. This will give you the chance to try out the nappies, without spending lots of money. It will also help you to choose the right brand and style for your baby.

Written by Fiona, proud owner of a toddler, @fiona_peacock

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2018. All rights reserved.

Fiona PeacockThe Facts About Cloth Nappies / Diapers

Comments 24

  1. Kandace

    This is my first baby and I will be clothe diapering, I have purchased over 35 diapers and it cost around $90 for me, which I don’t think is bad considering where I leave the only place that sells new clothe diapers near me costs $25 each. I got all most of mine from, just have to be careful not to buy something not as it looks, and read all the comments before every purchase. The diapers I purchased were alvababy, and they look great, I used to work in a daycare and these are just as good quality as the diapers several mom’s came in with. Pretty excited to use cloth!

  2. Markelle

    We exclusively used cloth diapers for our first 2 boys and will be using them again for this baby as well. For us it is a no brainer. My advice would be to not buy your whole stash before baby is born, because you will want to try different styles of diaper (pocket, all in one, prefolds and covers, fitted and covers…) and see which style works best for you, as well as different diaper inners, such as stay-dry versus organic cotton/ bamboo. My first was a stay-dry baby, but my second’s skin was sensitive to the synthetic material, so we had better luck with bamboo inners with him. There are tons of great websites out there with loads of information on getting started. For us, cloth diapering was so easy, saved us tons of money, and as an added perk, helped with potty training too!

  3. Kate

    I am opting for disposable. The reason being is that I already have an eight year old boy with a bladder distinction and I have to do at least 3-4 loads of washing per day. He can go through 3-5 pairs of school trousers per day and wen you factor in normal clothing, bed sheets and duvet covers it’s just too much on top of trying to help him go to the toilet every hour. It’s hard work washing and dryin and washing and drying, it’s takes hours. adding nappies on to that would be impossible for me. Some may think adding in a few nappies would do no harm, but it’s hard enough as it is keeping my eldest in clean clothing all day.

  4. Alicia

    I plan on using organic disposables. They have no chemicals in them and the reviews I read from other mothers said that they do not leave diaper rashes. Be just as careful with your laundry detergent too as the harsh chemicals can leave rashes on your baby’s body as well. Go organic and natural for everything with your as the safest route.

  5. 1st baby

    What about the indirect environmental impact.

    More use of washing machines/tumble dryers = more electricity/water consumed plus detergents and their associated production, waste packaging and the additional pressure on water treatment facilities to take care of the additional water with detergent in it.

    Often environmental issues end up directed elsewhere with some products. Something to consider.

  6. Christine

    I found a blog comparing the top selling cloth diapers and decided on the Flip Diaper Cover. It is a shell that adjusts from birth to toddler and it uses foldable or pre folded inserts. I selected the foldable because, as I need to use less if them for diaper changes, they work well for spit ups! When cared for properly, there is no odor and, when baby is changed regularly, there are no leaks. You can also choose different absorbencies for overnight use or for use with older children. You also have your selection in terms of what material touches your baby’s skin. I never even considered disposable diapers.

  7. Esther

    I have decided to use disposables. I was seriously looking into cloth diapering for a while, but every baby is different and every brand has a different fit. There are so much brands to choose from, and all have such diverde reviews (some moms swear by them and others hate them, some have absorbancy or leaking issues,… ). I don’t have a super tight budget, but not enough to try different brands and see which ones will be right for me. I know disposables will cost me more in the long run but the cost will be spread out instead of an investment right now trying to find the right brand of cloth diapers. It’s not as popular here in Belgium as in other countries, so a resell is a lot more difficult as well. If I’d know beforehand which cloth diapers would be best, I’d be sold immediately, but it’s just not in it for us right now. Maybe with our next kid!

  8. Megan

    This is my first baby an I decided to take the plunge and use cloth! I’m super excited! I know the washing will be “extra work” but if you think about how much you have to change babies (after spitting up etc) it’s really not! You’re doing tons of laundry anyways! I started looking into it, because when I got pregnant, the only income we had was mine so my hubs and I were on a REALLY tight budget and I just couldn’t afford disposables! Now that we are both working were in a better position, but the benefits I learned about beside cost far outweigh the work it is going to take, plus, like the article said, they’re so cute!

  9. Fleur

    You can buy them from various websites, there’s a lot of choice! You also have different types of fabric, each with their own qualities. And different types of nappy systems. Just use google, it’ll lead you to a huge variety of websites and forums full of products and information. To respond to the people that say cloth smells, that’s due to poor maintenance I’m afraid. You need to use non-bio powder, about half the dose you’d use for your normal wash, no liquid and no fabrics softener, add an extra rinse cycle afterwards, at the temperature the manufacterer advises (mostly 60°C to kill bacteria) and give them a good strip wash every so often (you can look online how to do that). New cloth nappies come with instructions, they will tell you how to care for your nappies properly and if done correctly your clean nappies will not smell. When it comes to absorbency, it’s yet another myth. You are supposed to change a baby every two hours during the day, regardless of wether you use cloth or disposable. Leaving a child longer will cause nappy rash if using disposable, due to the chemicals. And yes, in cloth it will cause leaks instead. But basically, change your baby a bit more, like it’s advised and it’ll be fine. There are certain types that are much more absorbent and ideal for nighttime use.
    Finally, I’d like to say that if you really want to save big amounts of money, buying cloth nappies second hand is a great option too. Most people are very proud of their cloth nappies and take good care of them. Aternatively,you can sell your own cloth nappies on after your baby is potty trained, and get back a large percentage of your initial cost.
    So yes, this mum is a definate fan!

  10. Fem

    Looking forward to using cloth!
    So much easier than what we remember from when I was growing up.
    All it takes is dry pail, drop them in the washing machine, hang to dry….less energy and water used in washing then there is to create disposible (and keeping more out of the dump is especially great news.)

    I’m looking at a wide variety that include bummis, applecheeks, best bottom, gro via.

  11. Penni McClelland

    Please I would like to get my son some of the clothes diapers he will arrive on the September the 2nd, what is the website to buy them.

  12. Anita

    As I’m a dab hand with a sewing machine I’m making my nappies and each one is costing less then £10 to make and they are gorgeous 🙂

  13. Laura

    I used a mix of cloth and disposables when my son was really small and going through the stage of needing a change every couple of hours! The cloth ones paid for themselves in a few weeks. The liners made messy nappies easier to deal with and I didn’t have any problems with staining or smells once washed (40degC with non bio and nappy cleanser). I found disposables easier for when out and about though. Will definitely be doing the same for my next one!

  14. Sarah N

    Wow! I actually spent less than $200 on my cloth diapers and those will last from birth to potty training for all my kids, what brand of cloth are you getting your price estimates from?

  15. Louise

    My clean cloth nappies do not smell. If others do they need to change their washing routine.

  16. Fifi

    To answer Natalia’s question. There is actually more water, electricity and fuel spent to manufacture, pack and deliver per disposable nappy than the water and electricity spent washing a cloth nappy. They can be washed in cold water and its actually preferable to line dry them in the sun (not use a drier). Did you know it takes 3 litres of water to collect/manufacture, package and deliver 1 litre of bottled water? If everyone in the world used bottled water and disposable nappies, we would literally run out of water and landfill. Quite a thought, huh? I bought a massive supply of good quality second hand grovia 2-in-ones for $100 AUD that will last my baby from birth to toilet training. It’s only one extra load of washing a day and they look sooooo cute. No need for any other bottoms during summer, so they save money there too. 🙂

  17. Reb

    I think the article was well written but doesn’t talk about the cons of cloth nappies. No matter how much you wash them they still have a definite smell. And they are not quite as absorbent as disposables. I’m not saying they’re a bad idea. I just think pros and cons need to be presented.

  18. Sarah

    I love cloth. They are so cute and not gross at all. They look so much better than disposable and you can never get your money back from disposable. You never have to run out to buy more, just throw some in the wash. The only problem I have is I spend way too much on all the cute new prints.

  19. Louise

    You don’t soak cloth nappies now you dry pail them, mine go in a bucket lined with a mesh in the bathroom and the mesh just lifts out to put them all in the machine. I have used cloth on both of my children and will do for number 3 too. Love love love my cloth, I have saved so much using them. As I have said to friends who turned their nose up at them, if I was given a choice between cotton underwear or plastic I know I would choose cotton everytime, why shouldn’t my little ones get the same comfort.

  20. Natalia

    Nappies might be a great alternative for disposables. However when consider it from saving money and nature prospective, let’s remember they should be washed regularly. How many fresh water and electricity are used for the same period of time?

  21. Rocsy

    I’m guessing that the celebrities that used the cloth nappies did not have to personally change, soak & wash those nappies.

  22. Charmi

    Hi I like ur product just want to know from where clothes nappies are available in which store ??? Because I find out in so many stores but it not available ..

    So plz could u just tell me..,

  23. Lucy Hunn

    Hi Fiona, what a lovely & concise blog. I think you sum it all up perfectly.

    We just started out using a few cloth nappies but were so impressed (even Mr. Hunnybums agrees!) that we ended up setting up hunnybums and selling them. The thing that we always say to people is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing – even we use disposables (or despicables as a hardcore friend of ours calls them) occasionally.

    Every reusable nappy that’s used is money saved, landfill reduced & fewer chemicals against baby’s skin.

    And these days, there’s not a nappy pin in sight!

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