Disposable and cloth nappies buying guide

What's best - cloth or disposable? We'll tell you about the environment effects and other issues.
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  • Updated:22 Jul 2003

05.Cloth vs disposable

  • Disposables are more convenient than cloth nappies, especially when away from home, but they produce a lot of waste. They don’t require accessories such as pilchers or fasteners, but have to be bought regularly and are much more expensive than cloth nappies washed at home. They are more absorbent and tend to keep your baby drier.
  • As far as nappy rash is concerned, some medical evidence suggests that high-quality disposable nappies with absorbent polymers may reduce the incidence of more severe nappy rash. Other studies suggest that it’s more important how clean the nappy is rather than what it’s made from. To prevent nappy rash as much as possible, all types of nappy should be changed regularly.
  • Cloth nappies washed at home create little solid waste but use more water – which could be an issue in drought affected areas -- and energy. They’re much cheaper than disposables, but require some time to maintain. Apart from a few dozen cloth nappies, you’ll also need accessories such as pilchers or fluffy overpants, a fastener or pins, and perhaps disposable or reusable nappy liners.
  • One of the most important advantages of cloth nappies is that their most significant environmental impact occurs during the use (rather than the production) stage of their lives — so you can minimise that impact by changing the way you wash them. For example, if you use a nappy treatment and wash them, use cold or warm water rather than hot and dry them on the line when possible.
  • Cloth nappies are available as terry towelling, flannelette or muslin squares or fitted, panty-shaped nappies.
  • Cloth nappies from a nappy wash service are great for people who prefer cloth over disposable nappies but still want convenience. It’ll save you time, wear and tear on your washing machine and dryer, and electricity and water costs. While it’ll end up much more expensive than home laundering, using a nappy wash service is generally less environmentally damaging due to economies of scale.

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