Advantages of Using Cloth Nappies
1. Just natural materials, no plastics or chemicals next to baby’s skin. You can even get organic cotton and bamboo nappies so you know your baby’s skin is chemical-free. (Although, you can now buy bleach-free and chemical-free eco disposables.)
2. Know that you are putting contents of the nappy down the toilet where it should be, rather than in the bin!
3. Have control over the environmental impact of your baby’s nappies. If you wash at 60 degrees or lower, use environmentally friendly detergents and line dry, the environmental impact of your baby’s nappy years is far smaller than if you used disposables. If you use your set of nappies on more than one child (either your own babies or by passing them on or selling to others) you reduce the impact on the environment even further. Buying nappies made from organic fabrics also makes a big difference. Disposable users can’t do anything to reduce the waste they create.
4. Financial benefit, especially if used on more than one child. Disposables will cost between £600 - £1000 per child (*see below), whereas a really good set of modern cloth nappies will cost between £200 and £500 with the accessories (nappy buckets, mesh, washable wipes, fleece liners etc) costing about £30 - £40. You can spend even less if you use terry squares with nappy nippa fasteners and a wrap over the top (gorgeous patterned one of course!).
5. Better containment of nappy contents with the use of two-part nappies. Less leaks, less complete changes of clothes, therefore less washing of baby’s clothes.
6. Produce less household waste. About half of the waste a family with a baby produces will be nappies if they use disposables. By potty training a baby will have used the same weight in disposable nappies as an average family car, and this will still be sitting in a landfill site when they are grandparents!
7. No smelly disposables. Many brands of disposable nappies smell even when they are just wet.
8. Choosing cloth nappies allows you to choose from a wide range of very ethical companies to spend your money with. Ethical Consumer Magazine awarded Tots Bots and Motherease cloth nappies the highest score (16 out of 20) in their Ethiscore Buyers Guide to Nappies. Pampers scored a dismal Ethical score of 0 and Huggies a not-much-better 5.5. See the Ethical Consumer Free Buyers Guide pages for all the info.
9. Washable nappies and wraps are often beautiful, or snazzy, or fun, disposables are not!
Disadvantages of Using Cloth Nappies
1, Nappies have to be bought up-front, rather than gradually as with disposables. (But look into Council schemes to help with this. And even just one cloth nappy will save you money in disposables, and you can put this towards buying the next one!)
2. One more load of washing every three days or so (more for newborns) to put from the bucket to the machine (and press the button!). One more load of washing every three days to hang up to dry - this takes longer than the putting-the-washing-machine-on bit!
3. Bulkier changing bag. Disposables are slimmer.
4. Bulkier bum! Depending on the type of cloth nappy you buy, your baby may have a more padded bottom than in disposable nappies. (Softer landing when they fall on their bottom though!) Most baby clothes are designed for disposables. Most people don't really find it a problem, but if you do, you can buy "vest extenders" to give you a bit more room in vests that popper between the legs. Having a bulkier bum does not cause a problem for baby at all, in fact paediatricians say that it gives better support to their hips.
5. Nappy addiction: a very common affliction, similar to being addicted to buying shoes but applies to nappies, especially when new ones are brought out that you just have to try. Don’t worry, you have to go a long way before you spend as much as you would if you were using disposables! And you can sell all cloth nappies second-hand for usually about 50% or more of the new price.
If you can think of disadvantage and it is not here it probably appears on our Common Misconceptions page.
We have not included anything about nappy rash as studies have concluded that the type of nappy makes no difference to how much nappy rash a baby gets. Some babies seem to get a lot more nappy rash when wearing disposables, some seem to be more prone to it in cloth nappies. Using cloth is versatile and if there is a nappy rash problem it is often sorted quickly by the use of stay-dry liners next to baby’s skin.
* The £600 figure is based on the 4000 nappy changes being the reported average by the disposable nappy industry, using the cheapest nappies and not using nappy sacks. The £1000 is based on 5500 nappy changes (most people would agree this is slightly more realistic for a normal baby!) and buying premium brand nappies and using nappy sacks to store them in before refuse collection day. And we haven't even mentioned the savings you can make by using washable wipes . . .