The great cloth debate.


There is a debate going on all over the internet. It’s been going on for a while now. To cloth or not to cloth, that is the question.

Those of you who know us or have been around Inked in Colour for a while probably know that we are big cloth bum fans. I don’t write about it much, in fact I think we’ve only really written about it once or twice in the past seven months. I don’t write about it much because I really don’t see it as a big deal. There are a few reasons why we decided to use cloth instead of disposable nappies… and that’s that.

But, as I was trawling the internet in the early hours of the other night, I came across an article that made me sit up and take notice. The article, Nappy Days: Ditch the Disposables,written by Robin Barker, was interesting. I’ve never been a Robin Barker fan, I greatly disliked Baby Love (her very famous Australian baby book, it wasn’t my cup of tea. Her opinions in this article however, I agreed with. She has a very even, academic approach to the cloth debate and has some extremely practical suggestions for those considering cloth. It wasn’t the article however, but the comments that really got me riled up. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but there are some pretty ignorant, self-absorbed and completely ludicrous opinions out there that I find… upsetting, for lack of a less profane better word.

So, instead of writing a post about why I think cloth nappies are awesome, and I do, I thought I’d bust a few of the cloth-nappy myths that were brought up in the comments on this article. Myths busted by a mama who is using cloth nappies right now, every day, not an armchair parenting expert who used (or chose not to use) cloth nappies in the past.

Here we go:

Cloth nappies are expensive: They can be, like everything there are expensive and inexpensive options on the market. I buy second hand. Always. It’s better for the environment and better for our budget. I have spent less than $300 on our nappy stash and it is big and diverse and perfect. We won’t need to buy any more, ever. This lot will do Bo and any babies to come in the future. Cost effective? $300 for the entire nappy-life span of my babies? Can’t argue with that.

Cloth nappies aren’t better for the environment: They are… to think they are not is just foolish. There is not much extra energy used to wash/dry the nappies. They do not go to landfill (please recycle, reuse and buy second hand – this makes ALL the difference too) and they do not get left in mothers rooms, in waterways, dumped on buses or trains – there is nothing worse than seeing disposable nappies discarded and not disposed of properly. If nothing else, using cloth stops people from doing this… Use disposables if you want to, but use them responsibly!

Cloth nappies use heaps more water: I don’t think so. Nappies are an extra two washes on average  a week in our house. I wash them with the soiled bibs and baby clothes as well, which are loads of laundry we would have to do anyway. We wash only in cold water and we have NEVER had a problem.

The pins are a pain (and dangerous): There are no pins! Modern Cloth Nappies (MCN’s as they are known here in Australia) have no pins at all. They either have snaps or velcro. No sharp or stabby bits to speak of. Same goes for plastic pilchers etc. You can still use them but there is absolutely no need any more… all MCN’s are made with a waterproof lining already built into the nappy.

Cloth nappies leak: They only do if you haven’t fit them properly on your babe. We have had very few leaking problems. We use them on long car trips, in remote places, etc. And haven’t had a problem.

You will pay a fortune in extra detergent costs/chemical soakers: Wrong. You do not. Cloth nappies require plant based, natural detergents which are both inexpensive AND environmentally friendly. Win? I think so.

You need to use a dryer (hence more electricity etc.): You do NOT need a dryer. Cloth nappies dry better in the sun. The sun acts as a natural steriliser AND bleach. Sun removes stains and smells. Easy as. Dryer is only necessary if you live in a very wet climate or your nappy stash is very small. We have NEVER used a dryer as we have never had one during our nappy days.

Cloth nappies are inconvenient: Well, I guess that depends on your definition of inconvenient. For us, we try to live as simplified a life as possible. So taking a bit of extra time to wash, fold and put away nappies… it’s really not a big deal.

What about nappy rash? The few times we have used disposables are the only times Bo has ever had a nappy rash. Cloth clears up nappy rash within a few hours. It’s much kinder on her skin with no nasty chemicals.

Child care won’t do cloth. Wrong. They will. I know lots of cloth mamas who send their munchkins to childcare along with a stash of nappies without any issues at all.

So there you have it. Cloth is pretty awesome. But if it’s not for you, then it’s not for you. I don’t care what you do as long as you love your babies and take good care of them. Parenting is not a competition… if you think you are winning because you use cloth (or because you think cloth is stupid) then maybe you should take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror. If you honestly think you are winning at parenting… everyone else probably thinks you’re an asshole (I tried to find a better word… there wasn’t one). Just saying.


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  • October 10, 2012 - 7:51 am

    Cassie Nguyen - Teeheehee! Absolutely. 😀ReplyCancel

  • October 10, 2012 - 8:12 am

    Melissa - love it!ReplyCancel

  • October 10, 2012 - 8:20 am

    Colette Beguin - You would think someone who knows so much about babies would do some research before writing an article!ReplyCancel

  • October 10, 2012 - 8:33 am

    jo - fantastic and very true!! i shared on my page and hope to convert disposable user friends 🙂ReplyCancel

  • October 10, 2012 - 8:36 am

    Roshi - Perfectly written sash! And made me laugh too. Can you please write a book/s and fill them with your blog entries. I swear they’d be best sellers. Taking the weird competition that is definitely out there, towards parenting and replacing it with the joy, the love and the honesty about what it is to be a parent/caregiver/foster whatever, I think would be devoured by the world. Just look at how well your blog is doing! I myself would lovelovelove a book of yours xxxReplyCancel

    • October 10, 2012 - 8:47 am

      Sash - Rosh, I’d love to write a book. I really would… but it’s probably not in the forseeable future… what with work, masters and babies. Lol! xoReplyCancel

  • October 10, 2012 - 8:43 am

    Cloth Mumma - Personally I use cloth, but not second hand, I live by a I would not want to wear second hand undies (that probably haven’t been pooped in) so my son shouldn’t have to wear second hand nappies which with out a doubt have been peed and pooed in (no matter what the condition) he also has lots of allergies and some detergents flair him straight up so not know what they have washed in their whole life doesn’t help the matter. Also stains, I get a bit curious about stains, what did the child eat to create that stain or if that stain grew from being in a dry nappy bucket for a week? Stains always make me want to know more about the history. Which second hand nappies are fine if you personally know the original and how they care for their nappies and if you know their child, well. But other then that I wouldn’t go there, my nappies when I have finished using them will go to nappies on a mission to those who are disadvantaged and can’t afford nappies at all, so that they are recycled and still continue being used. In saying that buying new there is also some amazing finacial benefits, I have a large range of nappies with a stash of about 30 (with no china cheapies) which we paid about $600 for which when comparing costs (huggies $30 a box) which lasted a week we broke evan on the nappy cost at 20weeks of use and put in washing costs ($100 is what we worked out on extra electric and powder for an extra 2 loads a week for 2.5 years) 24 weeks and we are diapering for free. Or if you buy the cheapest nappy we could find @$17 a week we were looking at diapering for free after 42 weeks (so still under a year) can’t say it is expensive.ReplyCancel

    • October 10, 2012 - 8:47 am

      Sash - I understand what you are saying on the second hand debate. But, I’m still a HUGE second hand advocate! I also love China Cheapies, we have some (second hand – gosh!) and they are AWESOME! None of my nappies have stains. Maybe we’ve been super lucky with the second hand ones we have bought… but I can’t fault them. 🙂ReplyCancel

      • October 10, 2012 - 5:22 pm

        Cloth Mumma - I have no issue with other people using them, as everyone has their own needs, budgets and how people think about things, I guess my tired response came across wrong I was just trying to show people you don’t need to buy second hand to save money!ReplyCancel

        • October 11, 2012 - 4:53 am

          mumof4 - in debate of 2nd hand nappies being dirty and you dont want to use someone elses undies. blah blah crap.. do you use them on your other children cause even though you say you know where your nappies come from and know what they are washed in they will still and always be 2nd hand to your other children and that means you have been putting your other children in used “undies”. if you buy a good washing machine that is eco friendly most are these days.. and only use the cycle on low water wash then you are really only using about 20cent of water if that” well in saying that im from new zealand so no water charges apply” and if cold water then no power charge. other than running the mains for washing which lets face it you wont see a dent if you have lots of kids and for ever washing.. as for china cheapies to me i take offense to that word for that fact that just cause they are made in china doesn’t make them any less un-useable. and im not too sure how to make your comment as to me what the writter is trying to say that most people use cloth not just for saving money over time which i have used my cloths for all 4 of my babies and my oldest is 7 now. and i have never had to buy disposables.. i paid 200 all up for my nappies basic kind i actualy use the big square ones and fold them with a cover to put on top and i have all in ones. that are cheap and 2nd hand.. no stains on them. you use cloth for reasons stated. save money, eco freindly, as in no nappies get taken to land fill and sit there to rot for years and years. as old cloth nappies will be either burnt or unpicked and made into something else. a cool fashion to your everyday outfit. they help with nappy rashes, if you wash them in powder that doesnt affect your child so idealy chemical free… anyways there is my say for the day.. 2nd hand or not they still will always be the best nappy for your child. but you didnt have to come out and say you dont buy 2nd nappies cause to me that came out as im better than you cause i spend alot of money on brand new un china cheapie nappies but yet i will pass them on the the poor people.? i dont get it.ReplyCancel

        • October 11, 2012 - 6:36 am

          Sash - Glad we’re on the same page 🙂ReplyCancel

  • October 10, 2012 - 9:02 am

    Lilybett - I really like this article, which is specifically for an academic setting, but probably should be translated to other areas of life too – essentially, you are not entitled to any old opinion- you’re only entitled to what you can prove.

    • October 10, 2012 - 9:45 am

      Sash - LOVE it. Right up my alley. Thanks Lilybett! 🙂 Another place for me to lose a few hours in the opinions of other people xoReplyCancel

  • October 10, 2012 - 12:52 pm

    Rachael Edwards - I would like to see so many more cloth nappies on babies bums or at least people trying it once or twice. We use both in our house in the Congo and only disposable in the Uk, this works for us very well for us.
    We use the cloth nappies for a few reasons, one disposables are MASSIVELY expensive out here (DRC), two I think that they are healthier for not only our beautiful little girl but also for our environment and three they are soo pretty! However I did find that if used all day and night she did get nappy rash, this may have been because our clothes were washed with everyone elses in camp (we lived in a bush camp for a bit) using a harsh detergent (even though I always tried to get hers washed in her own detergent). Also not using them at night means no night changes and most of the time the morning poo in something I can throw away. Here we have to Tumble dry, I would probably go mad if not. In the DRC I live in fear of Putsy Flies, that lay eggs on damp clothes…. I’l leave it at that, they are beyond horrible.
    In England we use disposable for two reasons, laziness and inconvenience, we are so very very busy and often travel and stay with parents…. it simply dosn’t work for us in England.
    I think cloth nappies are fantastic and I’m so pleased we have some for our daughters lovely little bottom. I’m also so pleased to see that so many people do use them, as currently I am the only one of my friends to use them!
    As ever thank you for your wonderful posts, they help me feel sane!ReplyCancel

  • October 11, 2012 - 6:40 am

    » Because tradition became tradition for a reason (ERGObaby GIVE-AWAY) Inked in Colour - […] nappies I have never seen it necessary to write too much about it… babywearing (much like cloth diapering) is a no brainer as far as I’m concerned. But, in light of this week being International […]ReplyCancel

  • October 11, 2012 - 10:06 am

    Jelli - Loved your most recent 2 posts! I have no dryer either, and even here in the humid tropics it doesn’t seem to be a problem. My little girl has serious issues with diaper rash, so I can only imagine just how terrible it would be if we didn’t cloth diaper. Thanks for sharing, Sash!ReplyCancel

  • October 12, 2012 - 1:57 pm

    Olga - Just want to point out that sun drying is not an option every where. Here in Vancouver (Canada) you could only do it for about 3 weeks a year (I am not kidding!) My nursing pads are still wet after 2 days on a line, so electricity cost is a factor for sure. We used diaper service, but it’s actually more pricey than the most eco-friendly disposibals. I though I would never use disposibals, but now I do…ReplyCancel

  • October 17, 2012 - 4:45 am

    Allison - I’ve just started my cloth stash! We’re moving to the Philippines in June [our daughter will be 6 months when we get there] and our language teacher tells us cloth is very common there so I hope cloth works well for our family!ReplyCancel

  • October 25, 2012 - 5:52 am

    Luna U - We’re a cloth family and love them! As soon as I became pregnant I knew we would use cloth on Anouk. We did use disposables for the first few months when we were finding our way (also, Anouk was really small and the cloth didn’t tighten enough seeing as we didn’t buy the infant size).

    I’ll admit to still using disposables at night as the cloth tends to need a change after about 3 hours and I got tired of being weed on in bed, and also when we are out for a whole day (I don’t have a wetbag for carrying nappies home so I don’t smell like poo).

    That said, one box of disposables lasts us a few months and I feel as though this is positive both environmentally and for the hip pocket!ReplyCancel

  • June 20, 2013 - 1:27 pm

    Inked in Colour: Sustainable baby: Tips for consuming less. - […] 1. Go cloth in the nappy department. You don’t have to use them all the time or at night or traveling or whatever if you don’t want to. Using cloth even 30% of the time makes a difference, and they are really easy to use. Trust me. […]ReplyCancel

  • December 27, 2014 - 11:44 am

    Lolali - nice post, ecological diaper is best solution for the treatment of diaper rashReplyCancel

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