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So you’re considering washable nappies? Don’t bother…

Actually do bother. I’m very glad we did for our two boys. But make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. While it makes economic sense in the long run, the up-front costs will seem like a big waste of money if you quit after three weeks…or even three days.

My much more detail-focused other half has just published a great blog post that tells you pretty much everything you need to know about washable nappies. If you’re really keen to give them a try then it’s a must-read. My approach here might seem a little more negative.

The five biggest stumbling blocks*

1. You don’t really want to use them. Or at least one of you does and the other is just going along for a quiet life. Washable nappies are NOT a viable proposition if just one parent (and it’s usually the already tired new mum) is taking most of the weight of the washing and other logistical stuff involved. It takes two to tangle with washable nappies, so have a serious chat before the baby arrives and make sure you’re both on the same page.

2. You’ll pick the wrong type. We’ve seen quite a few different brands and I can completely understand why some people give up quickly. We (actually, Nadine) did tons of research before settling on Flip nappies. While they may seem a bit faffy compared to some all-in-one models, there are many reasons why they will make your life easier in the long run. Picking the wrong type, or having a mix of different types, is the path to Pampers.

3. You’ll panic in the early days. Newborn babies go through a LOT of nappies. Even if you buy more than the recommended number of washables, you’ll still find yourself loading the machine on a daily basis for the first few weeks. And if you’re lucky enough to have plenty of time to spend at home in those early weeks, there are so many things to occupy your time, mind and energies that you’ll quickly wonder why you’re bothering with this washables lark when you could be using disposables like everyone else.

4. You’ll succumb to the thin end of the wedge. In response to not wanting to do so much laundry, or falling behind on getting them washed and dried, or the need to travel with the baby, you’ll decide to use disposables now and again. The thing is, once you start using them, that now and again will become again and again and, before you know it, there’ll be another washable nappy kit up on eBay. As the Small Faces said, it’s all or nothing. (I don’t think they were singing about nappies.)

5. You’ll meet carer resistance. Whatever childcare option you go with in the end – crèche, childminder, etc. – they’ll all raise an eyebrow when you tell them your child wears washable nappies. They won’t like having to so something that deviates from the norm they’ve become accustomed to. Having a special routine for one specific child won’t appeal to them, so you’ll need to be quite assertive in assuring them that it’s really not such a big deal.

So, why bother?

The reason you should consider giving them a try – and the reason you will stick with it, if you do – is because it will feel to you like the right and natural thing to do.**

We live in a world where we’re all using too much stuff. It doesn’t make sense any longer to default to a single-use, disposable solution when a reusable one can work. We don’t use disposable plates and cutlery at home; we wash durable products over and over again. When I’ve used this argument in the past I’ve seen that people are squeamish about the whole excrement thing: “yeah, but we don’t have poo on our plates and forks”. Well, many of my generation – and just about everyone older – were reared (if you’ll excuse the pun) on terry cloth nappies and it wasn’t an issue then. A 60º wash will take care of anything your baby can produce.

Happy in their nappies

Happy in their nappies

Robert, on the right above, wore Flip nappies from his third day until about two and a half years old. Declan, now three and a half months, has inherited them and will wear them until he too is potty-trained. (Robert is just modelling the nappy in the photo above – we prioritised the potty training for him as we were not keen to have two of them in the washables simultaneously. Fortunately it went smoothly and quickly…and there are some that say toddlers that wear washables are easier to toilet train as they have a better awareness of when they’re wet.)

There’s a whole lot more to the discussion than my broad strokes here. You should read Nadine’s post if you want to look into it more.

It’s really not a big deal if you decide they’re not for you, or if you try and just don’t succeed. You’ll be joining 99.9999% of other families in using disposables. I sincerely hope that washables will start to become a bit more common, particularly now that the textile technology has evolved to make them more manageable. Baby steps…


*And if you decide that the nappies are a bridge too far, or try and give up, then do at least consider going for washable wipes. Much less hassle – you can chuck them into any load of laundry and there’s no drying involved. We use Cheeky Wipes – more info in Nadine’s post.

**Edit: A discussion I got involved with on reddit prompts me to clarify here that I’m not saying the use of washable cloth nappies is the right thing to do full stop; rather that it will feel to you like the right thing for you and your family. If you are to make using washable nappies work for you then you’ll need something to drive you along. I don’t think the financial reasons are strong enough – it needs to be something almost emotional. For me/us it’s broadly about sustainability, among other factors. I’ve also removed notions of fail/succeed from this post – it’s not the right terminology.  🙂


2 replies on “So you’re considering washable nappies? Don’t bother…”


Cheers for this, always nice to get a decent opinion piece on Cloth nappies.

For reference, the reddit thread has just a few sour and tired parents, who just wanted to argue with you, best to actually ignore them I find.

DI you guys use essential oils in your wipes like cheekywipes recommend or did you bother?

Thanks Daithí. Glad to be of assistance. I tend to agree with you about the thread on reddit, but I still try to err on the side of being nice if I can.

For the wipes we did use the oil mix that you can get from Cheeky Wipes themselves. I’m not sure about any disinfecting properties but it at least makes them smell nice. They can smell a bit damp otherwise, since they are actually damp (which is the point of wipes after all).

Good luck if you’re about to start using washables. No regrets!

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