Are real nappies really cheaper? Ethical Superstore explores.

If you’re expecting your first child and wondering whether to ‘go real’ and opt for reusable nappies, then there has never been a better time.

If the shocking fact that 3 billion disposable nappies a year get trashed in the UK – that’s 8 million a day – isn’t enough to win you over to the benefits of a soft, cotton-covered bottom, then the fact that using real nappies can cost you less than half the price of disposables, might just tip the balance.

And the difference is quite substantial. Opting for real nappies can save you between £500 and £600 until your little one is two and a half – and hopefully toddling to the pot themselves. To demonstrate just how, we sort the sums for you in a celebration of Real Nappy Week.

So, just what are the costs of using real nappies?

First, you need the kit.

Based on one of our best sellers Bambinex, 34 cotton nappies (a mixture of size 1 and size 2) plus 10 wraps, will set you back £188. This will take you through till your little nipper is out of nappies.

Then there’s the cost of laundering.

Here we had some expert help from our friends at the Women’s Environmental Network who have done rigorous tests on washables. Based on their detailed study, the laundering expenses ring in at around £133 over the two and a half year period. This includes detergent, energy usage as well as washing machine depreciation. Take a peek if you want to see the nitty-gritty analysis.

So, that’s £188 for the kit, plus £133 for laundering. A total cost of £321 for real nappies.

And what about the cost of disposables?

Defra’s most recent study (updated last year), suggested an average use of 3796 nappies over the two and a half year period. That’s 4.3 nappies per day. Basing calculations on an average nappy cost of 17.1p, you’ll have to fork out a whopping £650 on disposables.

So, already you can see disposables can cost you twice as much as real nappies.

And if you follow the advice of paediatricians such as Dr. Miriam Stoppard, and change six times a day (instead of Defra’s 4.3) that’s even more money wasted on disposables – giving you a total disposable nappy outlay of £903 – almost £600 more expensive than using real nappies.

Even based on using an own brand ‘budget’ supermarket variety costing 12p per nappy, using real nappies still ring in at over £130 cheaper.

And we believe in making real nappies cheaper still – our bundle kits can save you a further 25 per cent for starters. Not to mention that by taking proper care of your nappies (not tumble drying or using intense heat such as radiators or ironing), they will be ready to pass on to baby number two, three – even more – or over to a friend, spreading the costs further still.

That’s a good reason to get real.

Read are real nappies greener than disposables too as part of our celebration of Real Nappy Week

Any questions on using real nappies, or if you have managed to cut the costs even more, let us know your tips and suggestions by commenting below.

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6 Responses

  1. Lindy Clydesdale says:

    I appreciate the comments about disposable and non-disposable nappies and agree in so many ways. However – take one tired working mum/dad – long days and not much sleep, and dispoable nappies somehow seem so much better! Factor in a lot of extra work as well. We didn’t have the option of disposables but I remember those days well!

  2. Carl says:

    I’m not sure I agree Lindy – I have just had a little boy and so far we have not found it a problem using reusables at all – we have occasionally used disposables when out or at night, but only because we were given some by friends. We have got into the routine of using reusables and they only require minimal extra effort. I have friends who haven’t been able to get into the habit of using them but I must say for us they are working great, and as we don’t drive it’s great not having to lug huge packs of nappies home from the shops too!

  3. SlayerKat says:

    It’s so easy to use modern washable nappies. I’ve used real nappies from birth with my youngest two and there is so little effort involved. You are washing clothes anyway so bunging in a few extra nappies is no more hassle. Disposable nappies should only be used in emergencies like broken washing machine or going on holiday a bit like you would only use disposable cutlery at a party.

  4. Jo Wilding says:

    I’m expecting my second child, used washables for the first as well, and I managed to buy all my reusables second hand – I got some from the NCT Nearly New Sale, some through the Netmums website – and some from the Friday Ad, which is the local free ads paper, so much reduced the outlay for the kit. And of course if you remember to soak the nappies in vinegar or tea tree and keep them reasonably stain-free, etc, then you can always sell them when you’ve finished with them and get some money back – can’t do that with disposables!
    Another option though if you think you’ll struggle to wash and dry them, eg living in a tiny flat with no drying space, is to use a laundering service where the clean nappies are delivered to your door and the dirty ones taken away and washed by someone else. Although they obviously pick them up in a vehicle, the fact that they’re laundered on an industrial scale can actually mean energy efficiency is increased, though it would probably cost a bit more over the whole time you use nappies but then you don’t have the initial outlay of buying nappies.

  5. kyra meeke says:

    I tried reusable nappies when my son was born. Basically a washable cotton sheet wrapped in the equivalent of tracing paper, stuffed in the bottom of waterproof pants. I found them bulky, uncomfortable for my son, they leaked, caused nappy rash, all in all – despite my hating conventional disposable nappies I chose to use them.

  6. Beverley Cook says:

    I used re-usable terrytowelling nappies for all 6 of my babies [14-32],and always found them practical and cosy and cheap!!
    Soak dirty nappies in cold saltwater,rinse and wash in soap-powder,rinse in vinegar or softner and linedry!!
    The children did not have nappyrash ever as bum was coated with zinc and castor oil cream or petroleum jelly.
    The secret was not to leave the baby in a dirty nappy!!
    And I for one loved to see a line full of clean nappies drying outside[sun helps clean and brighten them also]
    So bring back real nappies !!not the disposable ones that take forever to rot,so are polluting our planet!!
    Bev Cook [mum of 6]

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