Cloth nappies really aren’t that much effort

A few people have commented recently on how unusual/strange/excessively demanding it is that we use cloth nappies. I know I’m a bit evangelical on the hippie-baby stuff, but really, this is not rocket science nor hard labour. Here are the reasons I like them a lot:

1. I know that environmentally there’s no difference really, but washing cloth seems less gross than accumulating landfill. Cloth nappies are not actually more environmentally friendly than disposables – or so say the eco-warriors I’ve met that have actually done the math (I haven’t). I wish I could say they were, just because I think they’re a better choice for other reasons. But the truth is that in a country with severe water shortages in most provinces, it’s probably as damaging to do a machine wash daily as it is to dump a bucketload of disposables into landfill. Although, admittedly, the former option still sounds less gross to me.

2. Cloth nappies definitely work out significantly cheaper than disposables. Especially if you use the traditional old flat nappies. The fancy shaped ones that I got in the UK are a bit more expensive (though worth it for convenience in my opinion). Glodina do a version of them in SA; the other popular cloth option here is Bambino Mio prefolds. Even the fancier, pricier and well-designed ones don’t come close to the expense of buying disposables week on week for two to three years.

3. Disposables smell and feel grim in comparison to cloth. It’s my opinion, but I’m sticking with it. Would you want to wear plasticky paper impregnated with weird-smelling chemicals for two years of your life, especially with sensitive skin?

4. Disposables entail muuuuch more handling of icky pooey stuff, surprisingly. I’ve seen people change disposables. The thing is, a disposable nappy is designed to such moisture away from the skin so that the baby is unaware for as long as possible that he needs a nappy change. This means your kid is sitting in excrement for a fair amount of time. That means squishy stuff caked everywhere. With cloth, your baby lets you know pronto that the nappy needs changing. Or you can tell yourself, as there are no chemicals masking the smell. And if the nappy contains anything, you just toss it into the loo with the biodegradable liner. There’s seldom much left on the nappy itself.

5. Cloth nappies are not actually a lot more work. When you take a disposable off a baby, you still have to bag it and bin it and take that bin out at some point. When you take a cloth nappy off, you just bin it in the nappy bucket. The days of soaking in Milton are long gone; a dry bin with a few drops of tea tree oil and a lid that closes properly pretty much does the trick. I guess there is the work of dumping it in the washing machine, hanging it up and bringing it in. I must admit, I do find that fairly soothing work though. It also involves …

6. Seeing a whole lot of lovely white nappies hanging on the line is oh-so-happymaking. I can’t explain this one further.

7. In cloth nappies, your child will not be under the misapprehension that their nappy is still dry when it isn’t. Down the line, this helps them to stay aware of their elimination patterns in a way that will help potty training. OK, so this is my “elimination communication” evangelist emerging, but, really, using cloth is helpful in this regard.

8. Modern washing machines make the cloth-nappy experience muuuuuuch easier than it was in our parents’ day. These machines wash fast and efficiently, and stuff comes out properly clean and nearly dry.

9. Cloth nappies are a million times cuter. Like, really.


About Lisa

I live in South Africa with my husband and two small children, doing things, thinking about things and sometimes writing about them.
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8 Responses to Cloth nappies really aren’t that much effort

  1. I love cloth diapers (nappies)! I live in Seattle, in the USA, and am fortunate enough to have a local diaper service that drops off a load of fresh, clean cloth diapers every week — sooo easy and the same cost (we figured out) as buying generic disposables, and because of the scale, the service uses less water than washing at home. I don’t know if a similar service is available in SA or other areas with water shortages, but that’s a thought for the environmental impact.

    I keep reading the studies and articles about cloth vs. disposable for environmental impact, and I just can’t figure it all out. But I totally agree with you that cloth diapers are so much more wonderful!

    We just returned from a trip where we had to use disposables, and I was struck once again by how uncomfortable they seemed — and how much they reeked!! I can’t believe how much they smell once they’ve been wet in. I don’t know why cloth diapers have such a bad rap for being smelly, because in a dry pail, you wouldn’t know they were there. I had to physically remove each used disposable from the room. Bleh! We do part-time EC as well, and it was hard to tell when our baby had gone when he was in disposables, and more cumbersome to get them on and off for pottying, even though we bought supposed pull-ups.

    As for #9 — yes! I read in another post that you also have had to use disposables when traveling. Does this happen to you? — It always makes me sad that the relatives we’re visiting won’t know how cute our baby looks in his usual outfit of soft, colorful wool diaper cover, and instead see horrid commercialized scratchy plastic. Sigh.

    Ok, I’ll stop rambling. It was just so much fun to read a fellow cloth lover’s writing. Thanks for your post, and I’m glad to have discovered your blog!

  2. tallstar7 says:

    Hey Lauren, and thanks for the heads up on your own blog. Laughing at your comment; on our last trip, I actually got quite secretly snobby and miff about the photos that would record Kolya for posterity in those icky disposables!!

  3. We use cloth diapers, and it is not excessively demanding.. how silly! It is really quite easy… People can be strange sometimes I guess.

  4. Charndra says:

    I think people don’t realise that using disposables involves shopping, transport, storage, smelly storage and disposal, rather than throw them in a bucket then in the wash!

    Ahh, you’re an EC’er then? Have you visited my website, Tribal Baby?

    I have two new site focussing on resources helping people get started with EC part-time:

    (I’ve linked to the pages about Modern Cloth and EC to be more relevant!)

    There is a free ‘guided tour’ about EC called “The 7 Secrets to Developing Your Nappy Free Confidence” which I had great fun putting together.

    Pop over and have a look! The first secret has a bonus of over 40 “potty Songs” to sing with your baby – they are SO much FUN!

  5. Lisa says:

    Hey Charndra
    Yes, I’ve definitely seen your website Tribal Baby, when I was first reading up about EC. (Anyone who hasn’t, please check out Charndra’s webiste!) To be honest, I’ve found EC so straightforward and intuitive that I haven’t needed to do much more research. Just listen out for those distinctive squawks and wriggles, and take the little one to the loo. Easy peasy. Will head over there now to check out those songs though 🙂

  6. Rae says:

    I’m in Seattle WA too and was lucky enough to have 6 months of free diaper service with my last child. I thought the idea of washing diapers was disgusting but once I started doing it I realized that actually, I love the habit of it. I don’t hang dry my diapers, but I love when they come out of our dryer all warm and fluffy and I can fold them neatly and put them away and organize them. I love the simplicity of prefolds but I tend to become a bit obsessed and addicted to the other options out there (, etc)

  7. mysmartypants says:

    I make nappies for a living and so very agree with #9……cute indeed!!!!

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