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What are Reusable Nappies: A Thorough Overview for Eco-Friendly Parenting

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  • Bambino Mio
  • Bambassadors FAQs
  • 09 / 06 / 2023

Discover the best reusable nappies and the benefits of using reusable nappies. Let us guide you on a path to happier nappies and help you start your most important sustainable parenting decision today.

What are reusable nappies?

Simply put, reusable nappies are nappies that you wash and reuse, rather than just throw them in the bin. Many parents use the same set of nappies on their baby from birth to potty training and then on subsequent children. You might also see reusable nappies referred to as cloth or washable nappies. 

Reusable nappies perform the same function as disposable nappies - they soak up your baby’s wee and collect their poo. With reusables, however, you wash and dry them after they’ve been soiled, so you can use them again once they’re dry. 

Disposable nappies are just that - when you change your baby’s disposable nappy, you throw it away and that one nappy will probably end up in a landfill for up to 500 years (1).

Most parents choosing reusable nappies for their children do so for environmental reasons - a recent DEFRA report (2) found that reusable nappies have a carbon footprint 25% smaller than disposables. 

There are also significant cost benefits, too. Reusable nappies can save a family up to £700 by the time your child is potty trained. If you use your set of cloth nappies on future siblings, you’ll save even more!

The environmental benefits of reusable nappies

Reusable nappies really are better for the environment as you’ll be reducing your CO2 footprint by 25%. Can you imagine how much CO2 would be produced during 3,000 journeys to the moon in a car (that’s 700 million miles, btw)? If every baby in the UK was in reusable nappies rather than single-use, the amount of CO2 saved each year would equate to this!

The average child goes through around 5,000 disposable nappies until they’re potty trained, whereas a set of 16 reusable nappies will last from birth to toddlerhood. This represents a saving of 97.5% in raw materials with just one child.

Reusable nappies are designed to perform well wash after wash, and if cared for well, can last through not just one but multiple babies.

Disposable nappies, on the other hand, can take centuries to degrade and most of the UK’s disposable nappies are languishing on landfill sites. More than 3.6 billion disposable nappies are tossed away each year in the UK, creating a 400,000-tonne methane-generating pile of rubbish.

The cost savings of reusable nappies

When you’re using disposable nappies, you casually sling a packet into your shopping trolley (whether real or online) with scarcely a second thought, until you’ve hit that daunting number of 5,000 or so. 

We found that the cost of a UK branded disposable nappy in December 2022 was 20p - that’s 5,000 nappies at 20p each. At this rate, you’ve racked up a bill of around £1,000 by the time your toddler has conquered the potty.

A complete set of Bambino Mio Miosolo all-in-one nappies, however, will cost you £284.99 from birth to toddler. Even if you factor in  washing and drying costs of around £175 for the duration, you’re making a saving of around £540 over your baby’s nappy years.

If you have a second or third baby and your cloth nappies are still going strong due to your loving care, you’ll start that saving cycle all over again. 

The second and third time around is even better for making savings as you don’t have the initial outlay for your nappies (hurrah!).

The different types of reusable nappies

There are a few different types of reusable nappy to choose from.

All-in-one washable nappies

An all-in-one reusable nappy consists of an absorbent inner section stitched to a waterproof outer wrap so that any moisture stays inside the nappy until it’s change time. All-in-ones are popular with parents as they are one size and, if washed and dried carefully, should last for years.

Bambino Mio’s Miosolo Classic nappies are great examples of all-in-one reusables. They grow with your baby up to toddlerhood and are easy to care for. The Miosolo Supreme features bamboo in its core for extra absorbency and makes a useful addition to your reusables collection.

Two-piece reusable nappies

Fitted reusable nappies consist of an inner nappy and a separate waterproof cover. The entire inner nappy is absorbent, which makes these nappies slightly bulkier but also makes them useful for night times. 

The award-winning Mioduo is a simple and versatile two-piece reusable nappy. the nappy includes a one-size foldable insert and a water resistant outer cover and is suitable to use from baby to toddler. Fold the insert into the cover for easy, no-fuss nappy changes.

How to wash reusable nappies

Most people find they only need to wash their cloth nappies every other day so they alternate their stash - one half is ready for use and the other is drying.

It’s also really important to wash your reusable nappies before you start using them as this opens up and fluffs out the fibres, making them more absorbent. Just remove any inserts, fold over the tabs and wash at 40C with a non-biological detergent (but no softener as this reduces absorbency). Line drying is the best option, but an indoor airer or a cool tumble dry is also great.

You can use a washable nappy liner with each nappy so that you can easily remove any poo and flush it away (the poo, not the liner!). When it’s changing time, you simply place the soiled nappy, liner and reusable wipe into your lidded storage bucket. Bambino Mio’s nappy bucket comes with a mesh bag so you can easily transfer your nappies into your washing machine.

Modern washing machines can clean dirty nappies thoroughly at just 40C, so you don’t need to wash at high temperatures. Washing at 60C or higher isn’t necessarily more effective, but it certainly is more expensive and increases your carbon output.

You can add a boost to your wash with our Nappy Cleanser to get your nappies extra clean if you prefer, but chlorine-based bleaches and fabric conditioners will shorten the life of your nappy sets.

How to dry and store reusable nappies

In an ideal world you’d be able to line dry your washable nappies every time, but it’s not always possible. Air drying on a rack or in an airing cupboard is a great way to get them ready for action and while it’s tempting to put your cloth nappies on a radiator, this can affect their performance and damage them.

If you tumble dry your cloth nappies then only use a cool setting as heat isn’t just expensive, it can damage the fabric and any waterproof outers your nappies may have.

Once your stash of cloth nappies is dry, it’s a good idea to place an absorbent insert and a reusable liner in each one before folding them up and stacking them next to your changing to make life even easier.


FAQs

How long do washable nappies last for?

With low-temperature washing and drying, no chlorine bleaches or fabric conditioners, you can expect your cloth nappies to last through not just one baby but a couple. If you no longer need our nappies, we encourage you to pass them on to a friend or nappy library for them to be reloved.

If you’re using a two-part system then you might have to replace the wraps a bit earlier, but the nappies themselves should keep going strong.

Can a newborn baby wear reusable nappies?

Absolutely! Washable nappies are suitable from birth and are designed to grow with your baby from birth to potty training.

Should I use fabric conditioner with my cloth nappies?

You should not use fabric softeners or conditioners with your reusable nappies because these laundry additives are formulated to coat each fibre of your fabrics. While this might make your favourite jeans feel softer, it’ll make your nappies unable to absorb liquid and will also damage your nappies over time.

How many reusable nappies do I need?

We recommend that you start with a Complete Set, which includes 16 reusable nappies, so that you have some “in the wash” and some ready for action every day. You’ll probably change your baby’s nappy between six and eight times a day for the first few months and five or six times a day as they grow, so with 16 nappies you’ll always have a clean, dry nappy to hand.