Reasons to Choose Cloth Nappies

Cloth nappies today are made out of a wide range of materials like cotton, microfibre, bamboo, hemp and PUL.  Most modern cloth nappies use a combination of these materials which make them superbly absorbent, leak free, breathable and kind to the environment.

When asked “why do you use cloth nappies?” How do you respond?

The reason I hear most often…


Yes, they are more expensive to purchase up-front but in the long run, cloth nappies work out to be cheaper.  Granted that you don’t get carried away and buy a stash that is too large for your needs.

Once setup with cloth nappies you could save $15 – $30 each week (depending on what brand you use).  It may not seem a lot but it all adds up over the 2 years or more your baby will be in nappies.

Setup costs for cloth nappies depend on what type of cloth nappy system you want to use, the graph below shows the most expensive option and includes washing and flushable liners.  If you use your cloth nappies for more than one baby, you can save even more as you only need to buy cloth nappies once and then pay washing costs!

Cost Graph showing the cost of nappies per child


It is quite worrying what kind chemicals go into disposable nappies and the fact that they are sitting right next to your delicate babies skin for most of the time for around 2 1/2 years.

Here’s some of the things I found:

1.  Because disposable nappies are bleached, they contain traces of Dioxin.  Dioxin has been connected with causing cancer in humans and also causing other diseases and health problems, such as diabetes, endometriosis and heart attacks.  Dioxin is also present in our environment through other means but by using cloth nappies you can eliminate at least one source of this harmful chemical.

2.  Have you ever seen those little gel-like crystals stuck to your baby’s bottom after using a disposable nappy?  That’s sodium polyacrylate, it’s used to soak up wee.  There are still some large gaps in the research of the safety of this substance.  It was banned in the use of tampons as it is linked to causing toxic shock syndrome.  When it comes in contact with the skin it can also cause irritation.

No wonder when parents with a sensitive skinned baby make the switch from disposables to cloth they notice an almost immediate improvement of their baby’s skin condition!

3.  The debate is still out on whether some disposable nappies contain other chemicals like Tributyl-tin (TBT) and Triclosan, it is hard to find a lot of solid ‘proof’ and research on whether this is the case.  I did find that baby wipes often contain Triclosan.

Triclosan is linked with cancer, development and reproductive problems and the irritation of skin, eyes and lungs.

TBT  is known to cause hormonal problems in humans and is highly toxic.

I did find a news article from Kimberley-Clark Australia & New Zealand (released April 2010) stating that:

Triclosan “is not used and has never been used in HUGGIES® or SNUGGLERS® disposable nappies or other disposable nappy brands to Kimberly-Clark’s knowledge.”

And also this from a Press Release (May 2000) from Greenpeace about TBT found in disposable nappies in Germany:

“New tests carried out by Greenpeace found the hormone pollutant TBT (tributyl tin) in “Pampers Baby Dry Mini” babies’ nappies sold in Germany by the company Procter & Gamble.”

As there is no requirement to list everything that goes into disposable nappies, it is difficult to be sure what the potential health risks are when using disposable nappies.


I knew disposables took ages to break down, but when I found that no one knows for sure and it is estimated to be 250 – 500 years I was gobsmacked.  Really?

Consider that the first disposable nappies (like the one’s we know today) were made in the 1980’s – that means they must still exist today.  It means that they will not fully compose until around the year 2230, if not longer!  That’s long, long time away.  In the mean time, we are still making babies, most people are still using disposable nappies and each baby will use around 4000 nappies….that’s a lot of disposable nappies worldwide that need to break down!

Then there’s the environmental impact on our resources making disposable nappies.  The following is taken from the Green Party website:

1.3 million trees a year are felled for NZ babies in disposable nappies.

Disposable nappies use 3.5 times more energy, 8 times more non-renewable raw materials, 90 times more renewable materials than reusable nappies.

Some people argue that power and washing consumption for washing cloth nappies outweighs any environmental benefits, however modern fabrics and washing machines means that we can now wash cloth nappies smarter.  By not soaking your nappies, washing full loads, line drying your nappies and avoiding harsh chemical cleaners, cloth wins hands down.  By choosing cloth nappies that are made with easily renewable sources such as hemp or bamboo the environmental benefits are even greater.

For more information on comparing the impact of both disposable and reusable nappies, here is the updated report released in 2008 by the UK Environmental Agency:


If the above reasons don’t resound with you, how about the cute factor of cloth?  Who can resist a cute fluffy bum?  With limited edition prints and custom-made one off nappies your baby’s nappy can certainly become a fashion statement.  There’s no need to cover up your baby’s nappy when it’s already seriously cute.

Cute factor of a fluffy bum

As a side note, what are the alternatives to cloth or disposable nappies…?

Well there is Elimination Communication or you could use an eco-friendly disposable nappy like Moltex.

Elimination Communication involves learning babies cues for when they need to ‘go’ and helping your baby to go over a toilet or elsewhere instead of a nappy.

Moltex disposable nappies are made from a biodegradable protective film, are unbleached (so contains no dioxin), contain no TBT or other chemicals.  They can also be composted (this includes the packaging) and break down within 8 weeks.

I don’t like making people feel guilty that they use disposables and that’s what these kind of articles always feel like.  But once I spent an hour or so on google doing a little bit of research (and a little bit is all it took), I was put off using disposables on my children as I find the facts scary.  My husband was totally on board with the amount of money we could save by using cloth (I thought I had a bit of convincing to do there) and the cute factor is just a bonus.

What are your reasons for using cloth nappies?  Are they the same or different?

Sources and further reading:


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