Why Use Reusable Cloth Nappies

Using reusable cloth nappies is not like it used to be!   When many parents think of washable nappies, they think of flat terry squares that need to be folded and fastened with safety pins and then covered with plastic pull on covers. They may also think that the clean-up involved with using reusable nappies will be tedious and messy. It seems as though many people have missed the total evolution in cloth nappies that has occurred over the past decade or so. New choices in materials and high tech fabrics are causing an increasing number of parents to reconsider whether disposable nappies are the best choice. We now have cloth nappies with elasticated legs and waist that are fitted and snug with velcro or poppers fastenings , waterproof,  and in many instances breathable, with some (bumgenius, totsbots easyfit and popin) that go in one piece just lika a disposable. They are as easy and as convenient to use as disposables.  Of course, it is not just their functionality and convenience that has drastically improved in this evolution either.  Cloth nappies available today are absolutely adorable and come in a variety of gorgeous colours and prints with luxurious textures and organic and natural fabrics. That is a big selling point for many parents because there is nothing cute about a disposable nappy. Quite simply washable nappies are a convenient and cost effective choice which is healthier for our children, and better for our environment. I feel as though the real question parents should be asking themselves is, why use disposables?   Anyway here are 4 very good reasons to use cloth nappies:

Cloth Nappies Are Cheaper Than Disposable Nappies

As a general rule it is almost always cheaper to reuse than to buy new every time. This is no different with nappies. Most parents go through 4000 to 6000 nappies per child from birth to about age three. If we take an average of what those nappy cost that equates to between £800 to £1000 per baby.  Once a disposable nappy has been used it is thrown away and can’t be re-used.  So a significant chunk of our hard earned money has gone to buying what is essentially garbage. In comparison, enough cloth nappies to last for three years will usually cost between £250 to £350 and washing costs are roughly £200 over that period* At a minimum that is about £250 saving. But wait! Consider too that those cloth nappies may last for one or more successive children and your savings doubles and even triples.  And consider too that most parents using disposable nappies will also use disposable wipes and nappy sacks, which will add another £300+ onto the bill.  (Using washable wipes is easy work in conjunction with using cloth nappies.)  Of course, it is difficult to make any hard and fast statements in this regard because of the varying costs of nappies, electricity, water, and detergents.  Cloth nappies will mean an extra two to four loads of laundry per week but washing your nappies is not as time consuming or complicated as it used to be and there is no soaking.

Cloth Nappies Are Healthier For Your Baby

Disposable nappy manufacturer’s use so many different chemicals to make them absorbent, whilst still remaining thin. When using cloth nappies you are guaranteed not to expose these chemicals to your baby’s skin. Some of the chemicals found in disposables are as follows:

TriButylTin – otherwise known as TBT was found in disposable nappies by the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) and Greenpeace. WEN found levels of 3.6 times the recommended level. TBT can be absorbed by your baby’s skin and is a toxic chemical, which is a known endocrine disruptor. It is known that TBT causes sex changes to occur in shell fish. TBT is found in the plastic of the disposable nappy.

Sodium Polyacrylate is a super absorber. This chemical was considered to contribute to Toxic Shock Syndrome and the use of it in tampons was banned in 1985. Sodium Polyacrylate gives the illusion that your baby’s skin is dry and actually it isn’t. Sodium Polyacrylate when found in a disposable nappy looks like small crystals. Anyone who has used disposable nappies, know that as the nappy gets wet it expands and turns to a gel like substance. Sometimes this can leak from the nappy onto your baby’s skin.

As disposable nappies have only been around since the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, there has not been any long term studies on all the chemicals found in the disposable nappy. A German study back in 2000 found that disposable nappies increased the scrotal temperature of boys and whilst new born baby boys testicles are still developing, this is a concern. Increased scrotal temperature is known to be associated with infertility in men. The German study also examined fertility rates in Men. The research found that the average sperm count in these men had decreased by some 25% and showed that the number of men being treated in fertility clinics has increased over the last 30 years.  Unlike disposable nappies cloth nappies do not contain the chemicals dioxin, Tributyl-tin (TBT) or sodium polyacrylate.

Cloth Nappies Are Better For The Environment

There is no such thing as a disposable nappy. A disposable nappy takes 200-500 years to decompose!

Many people believe that scientific studies have shown there is very little difference between disposable and reusable nappies in overall environmental effects. This is not in fact the case.  In 1991, two major lifecycle studies of nappies were carried our by Procter and Gamble which concluded that there was very little difference in overall environmental impact between disposable and reusable nappies!   WEN (the Womens Environmental Network) then commissioned a critique of these two studies which set out to establish the impacts of both nappying systems; from the growing or extraction of raw materials to their use and then disposal.  They found that the Procter and Gamble studies had focused only on the “use” stage, where reusable nappies have their greatest impacts, and had completely excluded the other stages of use.  This independent and unbiased study shows that disposable nappies use 3.5 times as much energy, 8 times as much non-regenerable raw material and 90 times as much renewable material as reusable nappies. They produce 2.3 times as much waste water and 60 times as much solid waste. They require between 4 and 30 times as much land for growing natural material as reusable nappies.  Proctor and Gamble have now stopped using environmental claims to advertise its nappies in the UK!

After a few hours of active service, a disposable nappy is thrown away (8 million a day in the UK alone!) and these generally end up in landfill, where they sit as neatly wrapped packages of excrement, entombed or mummified, for several hundred years. They are the third largest single product in the waste stream behind newspapers and beverage containers. The urine and feces in disposable nappies enter landfills untreated.


Cloth Nappies Are Every Bit As Convenient As Disposable Nappies

The options available today prove that cloth nappying doesn’t have to be inconvenient. Washable nappies nowadays are fitted with elastic in the legs and back area and have easy hook and loop closures or snaps. Many different fabric choices and absorbency levels allow parents to choose the best nappy system for the individual needs of their child. It just can’t get any easier. There is no time like the present to make a firm commitment to your child, to your pocket book, and to your planet. Start using cloth nappies today!


When you consider the unnecessary depletion of our valuable forests, the huge volume of rubbish created, the toxic air and water pollution and the potential health risks to children it is very difficult to comprehend how washing and reusing cloth nappies could ever be considered an inconvenience.  They are a rewarding investment all round – a financial investment, an investment in our childrens health and an investment in our planet.

washing cost figures were taken from WEN website (www.wen.org.uk) which measured the cost of washing cloth nappies at 60° on a full load,  and included the cost of water, electricity, detergent and depreciation of your washing machine over a two and a half year period.  They came up with the figure of £150.  However this figure was given about 5 years ago so I have increased it by 33% because the increased cost of electricity.