June 15, 2014 by Dadinator
My second Living Green post is about nappies, so maybe I should rename this particular post “living brown” (I’m sure that’s bad marketing though).
I’ve had this post half written for some time now. I wanted to write a “why cloth nappies are awesome” post. I tried. I ummed. I ahhed. I wrote. I rewrote. It sounded terrible.
I changed tack. Instead I’m going to write about what life is really like with cloth nappies and what we do to make it work. I hope to help readers make an informed choice about using cloth nappies, and the best way to do that is to give you a little poo-and-all account live with MCNs (modern cloth nappies), as well as an understanding of why we choose to do it anyway.
So I was going to write a little paragraph illustrating why cloth nappies are great and why we use them, but then I found this picture that sums it up more effectively than my ramblings ever could:
If you want to read more comparisons on cloth vs I can’t recommend my fellow Aussie Daddy Bloggers post here enough. He also breaks down the cost difference between cloth and disposables with a table and everything. Basically cloth nappies are cheaper. Cloth nappies are better for the environment. Cloth nappies may (jury is out) be healthier for your babies bum. And I know, more washing=more power and water, but wash them right and they still come out ahead easily both in terms of cost and overall environmental impact. They also last more than one kid, which amplifies all the benefits. So here’s the go on living with cloth nappies:
We wash a load of nappies every two nights in our front loader for our two kids. We have enough nappies to keep them going while we wash them on this rotation, and it makes sure we wash a full load in the machine so we’re not wasting water and energy.
We don’t soak then first, there is no need. We wash in a warm water load (40 degrees) with a detergent made specially for cloth nappies. We line/clothe horse dry as much as we possibly can, but we do occasionally use the dryer (it’s running tonight, for example). We minimise our electricity bill by washing/drying either overnight or when our solar panels are cranking out power.
For the greenies reading this, yes the washing side of nappy use does use energy/water, but it still has a lower overall environmental footprint than disposables provided you don’t wash on a hot (60 degrees+) cycle and your machine is reasonably efficient.
Also worth noting we went with the most efficient washing machine we could afford (5 star water, 4 star power), pay attention to the water and power star ratings as it directly affects the value of your cloth nappies. It’s no good buying a tonne of cloth nappies and washing them in a machine that has the carbon footprint/energy bill of a large truck.
It also means that some of our evening is taken up folding nappies in front of the TV. We can live with that though.
Changes with cloth are a little more complicated than with disposables. The main issue with cloth nappies is that you don’t just chuck them out at the end, you have to set them aside, finish the change then take care of the nappy. If a nappy has been pooped in we take it to the toilet where we turn our nappy sprayer on it. A nappy sprayer has proven itself to be a must-have in our house. We lived in a house with ancient plumbing during 2012 and couldn’t mount our sprayer to the toilet. It was awful. The sprayer means you just blast the shit away, literally, and then you can leave the nappies in a pail till they are ready to wash. No sprayer means you dip a well turded nappy in a toilet bowl over and over again before poking it with the toilet brush, or even your hands, to clean off the gunk. It was horrible. Get a sprayer.
In terms of putting cloth nappies on, they are no more fiddly than disposables, in fact (probably because I’m used to them) I find them a shade easier, lining up press studs is less complicated than finding which part of the nappy a tab sticks to in my experience.
Oh we also use cloth wipes, face flannels will do, and wash them with the nappies. Saves more money, reduces landfill a little more, you get funny facial expressions when you wipe them with cold water. What’s not to like?
Cloth nappies are not as portable as their disposable cousins, and I’m not going to gloss over that fact. However, you can easily carry a days worth in a nappy bag (3-4 does it even for long trips). You also carry a ‘wet-bag’ for keeping soiled nappies in. A plastic bag or two will do the trick just as well. Oh, on the topic of nappy bags, we don’t actually have one. We use a courier satchel that The Mamanator got in an op shop for 10 bucks. It’s worked perfectly well, and makes us look young and hip to boot!
When we are out and about we line our nappies with disposable liners (made of bamboo or similar) which can be flushed down a toilet. This means that any solid waste will slide out of the nappy after it’s used and travel off into the vortex of human filth that is the sewerage system. There are people who use liners like this full-time, we cannot because they would clog up our septic system (country living).
When we take longer trips these days (a week away for example) we take disposables. We gave up after we had the second baby and the thought of a shipping container load of nappies became too much to bear. We use biodegradable disposables though, because we don’t want rubbish that lasts 500 years to have been put there by us.
HAND ME DOWNS
This is the best part about cloth nappies. They can be used for a few bums in a row. Our daughter wears the ones our son wore when he was little. We bought our first lot of cloth nappies second-hand via eBay, and if you can stomach the thought I’d strongly recommend looking for second-hand nappies (and second-hand EVERYTHING for babies). It’s both a cheaper option and a better environmental choice.
We were always going to cloth nappy, it was never even a question we raised, each of us just assumed the other supported the idea and it just made sense because (much as it’s a cliché) we live in a throw away society, and we are trying in our own small ways to reduce our contribution to it. But look, I get that they’re not for everyone. There is a high gross-out factor, and that can really effect some people out there. It also demands a pretty strict adherence to a washing schedule.
But there are benefits. They cost a heap less, your bin will be a lot lighter and, frankly, they look a lot better than any disposables I’ve ever seen. Modern Cloth Nappies are also much easier to use than their terry towelling ancestors (the sort I was wrapped in once upon a time), not a safety pin in sight and no folding required. So have a think about it.
Oh and he warned, it’s a slippery slope….
Are you a cloth nappy-er? Is that a word? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below, and let me know if there’s anything you do differently in your house. Also, if you have any questions or want any more detail about our experience I’m happy to keep adding to this list as time goes on.
If you know someone considering using cloth feel free to share this post with them!