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Reusable Nappies vs Disposable Nappies – As Told By Dad

Curious about whether to take the plunge into the world of reusable nappies? Maybe you’re looking to do your bit for the environment, or trying to reduce you’re outgoings?

As long as you’re not bothered by a little extra poo, then reusable nappies could be for you!

Whatever your reason, keep reading to find out how i’ve navigated the laundry bulk *yuck* with three out of my five kiddos using them at some point in their life.

Reusable Nappies – Are They More Hassle Than They’re Worth?

Before delving into the world of reusable nappies, brace yourself for the extra workload. We typically use 6-10 reusable nappies a day, but that can spike to 15-20 during bouts of illness. Whilst the upfront cost is significant, the long-term financial and environmental gains justify the investment, provided you’re committed!

As the primary laundry-doer in our household, which, I oddly find therapeutic (when my back isn’t out). Let’s be real—the smell isn’t exactly pleasant. It’s more reminiscent of living in a house with an outhouse instead of indoor plumbing (those that know, know – although the men’s loos at the Camden Underworld are also pretty close if you’re struggling for nasal clues).

But knowing I’m reducing landfill waste helps me power through. Plus, depending on which brand you go for, there’s a whole bunch of different designs to pick from. (I always end up singing Pokemon when this bad boy goes on).

Thanks to my fantastic wife’s choice of TotsBots & AlvaBaby nappies, we’ve encountered our fair share of poop. Over three children, we estimate we’ll divert around 10,000 nappies from the landfill—a stat that makes the odour worth it!

Choosing Between Reusable & Disposable

Ultimately, the choice on whether or not to pick reusable or disposable nappies might not be up to you. I struggle with sensitive skin and eczema, a trait that S#3 and D#4 also suffer from; and while I was eager to use resuables for them, their skin reacted terribly to them.

This was incredibly frustrating as both children looked absolutely precious when donning their reusables, but I was applying sudocrem and emoillients around the clock which became increasingly difficult to remove from the cotton and bamboo inserts.

The inlays offered some protection, but inevitably I had to resign myself to disposables for more than half of their potty training journey.

Then there’s the post-vaccination poo’s that supposedly demanded disposables for health reasons. After further research, it turns out reusables can be used post immunisation, but should be washed at 60c after the rotavirus vaccination to prevent contamination.

Overall, I’d say I’ve had varying success using reusables, with a 50-60% usage across my youngest 3 children.

Pros & Cons for Resusable Nappies

Now, I like to do my research and not sow seeds of misinformation whenever possible. So in the interests of proving a point as to whether reusable nappies are in fact more environmentally friendly, I went scouring the internet for everybody’s favourite night-time reading adventure – “An updated lifecycle assessment for disposable and reusable nappies via”.

I even made a thing, because the research paper needed something to perk it up

Key Takeaways: Environmental Net Positive (Mostly…)

So, under the assumption that you wash 100% of your nappies with a full load and line dry them… AND use them on multiple children, then they are up to 40% less harmful to the environment than disposables.

This study considers various factors affecting the environmental impact of nappies. It accounts for energy consumption, including the heating of water used for washing the nappies. Additionally, it takes into consideration the amount of water required to grow the cotton used in the production of the nappies vs say the oil required to produce disposables amongst other things.

Based on my partial usage of nappies and using a dehumidifier to dry to nappies through the winter months, I’d guess that my percentage would be closer to 10-25% less harmful to the environment.

Not the 200-300% less harmful that I was hoping for but i’ll take it.

As per the research paper, I’ve picked out the key points for you.

Pros for Reusable Nappies:

  1. Reduced environmental impact: According to a government study, the global warming impact of disposable nappies over two and a half years is approximately 550kg of carbon dioxide equivalents, whereas reusable nappies have a baseline impact of around 570kg. However, proper laundering practices can significantly reduce this impact.
  2. Potential for significant reduction: The study suggests that combining beneficial scenarios such as washing nappies in fuller loads, line-drying them outdoors, and reusing them on multiple children can lower the global warming impact by up to 40% compared to the baseline scenario.
  3. Reusability: Reusable nappies can be reused on multiple children, further reducing their environmental footprint and potentially lowering overall costs for families.
  4. Consumer control: Unlike disposable nappies, the environmental impact of reusable nappies is largely determined by consumers’ behavior after purchase, allowing for more control over their environmental impact.

Cons for Reusable Nappies:

  1. Laundering practices: The environmental impact of reusable nappies is highly dependent on laundering practices. Tumble drying and washing at high temperatures can significantly increase their global warming impact.
  2. Increased energy consumption: Tumble drying reusable nappies or washing them at high temperatures can result in a much higher global warming impact compared to baseline scenarios.
  3. Effort and consideration required: Properly reducing the environmental footprint of reusable nappies requires careful consideration and effort from users, including line drying whenever possible, washing fuller loads, and avoiding high-temperature wash cycles.
  4. Initial investment: While reusable nappies can lead to long-term cost savings, the initial investment may be higher compared to disposable nappies, which could deter some families from making the switch.

Covenience Or Consideration: A Dad’s Reflection on Nappy Choices

There have been moments when I found myself in a pinch, whether due to unexpected circumstances or the mischievous antics of our furry friends leaving surprises on the kids’ beds (usually during the weekend wash rush). In those frantic times, I’ve reluctantly turned to disposables when I couldn’t keep up with the laundry.

During my last child’s journey through infancy, I’ve relied on two packs of newborn-sized nappies and even had to resort to a pack of size 4 during a trip without access to a washing machine. The convenience of disposables however, became especially apparent during a bout of nasty tummy bugs sweeping through the family.

How Hard Is It To Use Reusable Nappies?

In the grand scheme of things, I probably dedicate about 2-3 hours each week to the tedious cycle of scraping, washing, hanging, drying, and stuffing those nappies.

Do I wish I could be doing something else?

Absolutely. Yet, in a bizarre turn of events, we’ve managed to turn the chore into a source of mild entertainment. From makeshift nappy towers to speed-stuffing competitions and using them as projectiles, or even seeing how high we can pile the nappies (I hold the unofficial record at a towering 12), we’ve found ways to make the task bearable.

If you had asked me 15 years ago whether I’d ever consider using reusable nappies, I probably would’ve laughed in your face.

But now, I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t go back to disposables unless absolutely necessary.

Maybe you’ve stumbled across this post because your partner has asked to get reusables. You might be hesitant for all sorts of reasons, but really, unless you don’t have the 2-3 hours spare a week, there’s no reason not to make the swap.

Depending on the type of reusable you get, the difficulty of use varies from easy, to “if I can’t do this, then I really shouldn’t have had a child in the first place”. It takes a while to get a good routine going and there have been times where i’ve wanted to pack it all in (looking at you tots bots… the damn things never seemed to completely dry), but give it a go and leave a comment below if I’ve persuaded you to try them!

Is It Cheaper To Use Reusable Nappies?

When it comes to reusable nappies, there’s a hefty upfront investment to consider. My wife and I splurged on around 60-80 of them over the course of our reusable adventures, plus inserts, at roughly £8 each. That adds up to a grand total of £800, including the nappy pail and reusable wet wipes.

Then there’s the ongoing expense of washing. Roughly £1 per wash, multiplied by three washes a week, and 52 weeks a year, comes out to around £156 annually.

Now, we’ve had our fair share of mishaps, like me accidentally turning the tumble dryer into a nappy-destroying machine. I’ve lost about 20-30 nappies over 8-10 years because of it.

So, £800 upfront, plus £156 per year, over 8 years, totals £2048, or around £256 per year. Mind you, I haven’t factored in the skyrocketing energy costs lately, so it’s probably closer to £1500-1600 adjusted.

£200-250 a year savings doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

Now, let’s talk disposable nappies. Over the past decade, they’ve become pricier, but back in the day, I’d aim for 8-15p per nappy, depending on brand.

So, here’s the breakdown:

  • £350 a year at 8p each, using 12 nappies daily.
  • £438 a year at 8p each, using 15 nappies daily.
  • £657 a year at 15p each, using 12 nappies daily.
  • £821.25 a year at 15p each, using 15 nappies daily.

Now, I get it. Not everyone has the luxury of time or the stomach for dealing with poo. But imagine this: by making the switch, you could be pocketing a few hundred quid a year!

(Just don’t think about the 300-450 hours you’ll be spending on nappies per child).

Not for me – So I haven’t managed to convince you to join the fold. Don’t worry, if you’re put off by the idea of dealing with nappies, then there is a “half-way” point with reusable wet wipes.

Reusable Wet Wipes: A Dad’s Guide to Saving Cash

So let’s start by talking about the money side of things. I spend a fair bit on wet wipes. I tried cheeky wipes for a while, but the stains were proving troublesome, it added an extra load or two to the already packed washing rota and this issue was only compounded by the fact that my second washing had machine packed it in.

Now, I’m mulling over giving them another shot because we’re easily dropping £4-5 a week on wet wipes. Plus, I really should replace the other machine – I mean, it’ll pay for itself in 2-3 years anyway, considering how much I’m throwing away on disposables!

Maybe you’re still on the fence?

Picture this scenario: you’re a new parent, dreaming of a big, bustling family. If you’ve got the time and the patience, you could be looking at savings in the thousands by the time you’ve got your third child out of nappies.

Do What Works Best For You: Final Thoughts

While reusable nappies may come with their own set of challenges, such as the occasional “poo-nami” or extra laundry load, the financial and environmental benefits are noticable. Personally, I find using reusable nappies to be a rewarding experience, knowing that I’m making a positive impact on both my wallet and the planet.

If you’re unsure about making the full switch to reusable nappies, starting with reusable wipes is a great way to dip your toes in the water. They’re not that much extra work, they’re gentle on your baby’s skin and can help you reduce waste without committing to a full switch.

Maybe try out a small pack of reusable nappies for a day to see how they work for you and your little one. With smaller packs available for around £30-50, it’s a low-risk way to give them a try.

Remember, you don’t have to make a big investment upfront. Just giving reusable nappies and wipes a chance for a day can give you valuable insight into whether they’re the right choice for your family.

Who knows, you might find that they’re not as daunting as they seem, and you’ll be “one of us” in no time!

Nappy Incentive Scheme’s – Free or Heavily Discounted Reusable Nappies

So you’re all in on the reusable nappy train, but the price tag’s got you feeling a bit hesitant? Fear not, there are a LOT of subsidies available from councils and retailers also offer substantial discounts too.

Some councils offer rental kits, so you can give these nappies a test spin without dropping a ton of cash up front. Others offer discount vouchers. London has the “RNfL” (Real Nappies for London) and these vouchers can vary from £35 to £70.

Some councils offer a little bit more (up to £100 cashback) and Herefordshire did offer a £200 voucher, but at last check the scheme was closed.

So, before you throw in the wet wipe (it’s nearly midnight, forgive me), check out what your council and retailers have on offer. With these subsidies and discounts, you’ll be kicking off your reusable nappy journey without breaking the bank.

See if your council offers a subsidy voucher (via The Nappy Guru)
The Nappy Lady’s own nappy incentive scheme for free sample packs or heavily subsidised purchases.
BellzBumz incentive scheme – Roughly £80-120 value
BabiPur voucher acceptance details
CheekyWipes voucher acceptance – Ideal for those who don’t necessarily want the nappies, but still want to try the wipes!

Thank You For Reading

Thank you for taking the time to read through this post! I hope you found the unexpected dive into reusable nappies both informative and entertaining. While I may have strayed from the original objective of this post, I hope that my musings and mumblings have provided some value along the way.

Your feedback, experiences, questions and insights are warmly welcomed, so please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

So whether you’re a seasoned pro with reusable nappies or just starting your journey, I’d love to hear from you!

  • TheDad

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