Do Reusable Nappies Really Save You Money?
BBC Better Than Sliced Bread
This article was produced by The Nappy Lady for the BBC Podcast Better Than Sliced Bread. You can hear Wendy and the full episode on the BBC site here.
Reusable nappies have gained popularity as an eco-friendly alternative to single use disposable nappies which are a growing percentage of household waste. While the environmental benefits of reusable cloth nappies are widely known, many parents wonder if reusables are cheaper and truly save money in the long run, especially since the energy crisis and rising energy bills. I'll explore the financial aspects of using reusable nappies and help you to determine whether they are a cost-effective option for your family and if choosing reusable nappies is right for you.
Cloth IS Cheaper!
The answer isn't initially clear cut especially when just looking at the size 1 nappies. However when all the costs of buying reusable nappies PLUS washing are compared to disposable nappies, reusable nappies work out cheaper long term, even more so when you factor in reusing for subsequent children.
The only exceptions are in the smaller sizes of budget disposables which are a fraction cheaper than using budget reusable nappies.
It is important to note disposables cost more per nappy in the larger sizes. Once baby moves into the large sizes of disposables at approximately 9 months old, reusable nappies remain cheaper every time.
|Product||Cost Per Use||Cost to Wash||Total Cost Per Use|
|Value Terry Square Kit - £100||2.2p||4.78p||6.98p|
|Little Lovebum Quickdry Kit, plus TotsBots Night Time Kit - £249.99||5.5p||4.78p||10.28p|
|Mother-ease Duo Perfectly Balanced Kit - £414||9.2p||4.78p||13.98p|
|Disposable Nappies Size 1|
|Product||Nappy||Wipe & Bag||Total Cost Per Use|
|Disposable Nappies Size 6|
|Product||Nappy||Wipe & Bag||Total Cost Per Use|
Full Details - How we completed the comparison calculations.
Below you will find our full calculations of disposables v reusable nappies. This prices quoted in the article are based on energy, water, detergent and disposable prices as of May 2023.
How Much Do Reusable Nappies Cost To Buy?
Switching to reusable nappies requires an initial upfront investment in purchasing the nappies themselves. These costs can vary depending on the brand, style and quantity you choose. How does this cost affect the price comparison?
- According to the Life Cycle Analysis report carried out by Defra in 2023 the average reusable nappy wearing baby uses 4515 nappies over 2.5 years between birth to potty training.
- There is an average of 20 nappies in a full time set of reusable nappies.
- 4515 nappy changes / 20 reusable nappies mean each reusable nappy will be reused 225 times.
Using these figures, here are the calculations to compare the cost per reusable nappy per change.
- Our Terry square budget kit costs £100. £100 / 20 nappies / 225 times reused = 2.2p per use
- Little Lovebum Quickdry Kit for day £160 + Tots Bots Bamboozle Fitted Kit for Night £84.99 = £249.99. £249.99 / 20 nappies / 225 times reused = 5.5p per use
- Motherease Duo Perfectly Balance Kit costs £414. £414 /20 nappies / 225 times reused = 9.2p per use
However, keep in mind that reusable nappies are designed to last through multiple children. Reusing the same nappies on your 2nd or 3rd children or by selling your used nappies on second hand gives you the potential to significantly reduce the purchase costs even further.
Washing - Energy, Water Costs
While reusable cloth nappies eliminate the need for constant purchases, washing nappies does come with additional costs related to washing and maintenance. Water, electricity, and detergent expenses should be taken into account. Choosing the right wash cycle is important to get your nappies clean but to also be energy efficient in these times of high energy prices.
Families also tend to top up their nappy wash with other household washing that needs a long wash such as bibs, muslins, small baby clothing. Topping up the nappy wash with other items removes / reduces other household washing costs.
At the time of writing May 2023 energy costs are based on £0.33 per KWH
|Cycle||Energy Usage kwh||Energy Total||Water Usage Litres||SE Water||SE Water Total|
|Miele 9kg||Cottons 60||1.45||£0.48||65||£2.63||£0.17|
|Samsung Eco bubble Series 7, 9kg||Cottons 60||1.504||£0.50||134||£2.63||£0.35|
|Bosch Series 6 Washing machine 9 kg||Cottons 60||1.75||£0.58||98||£2.63||£0.26|
|Miele 8kg||Cottons 60||1.35||£0.45||57||£2.63||£0.15|
|Miele 9kg||Eco 40-60||0.819||£0.27||67.1||£2.63||£0.18|
|Samsung Eco bubble Series 7, 9kg||Eco 40-60||0.809||£0.27||71||£2.63||£0.19|
|Bosch Series 6, 9 kg||Cottons 40||1.29||£0.43||98||£2.63||£0.26|
|Bosch Series 6, 9 kg||Eco 40-60||0.87||£0.29||75||£2.63||£0.20|
|Miele 8kg||Eco Cotton 40||0.72||£0.24||62||£2.63||£0.16|
Cost Per Wash Heavy Soiling Soft Water
Cost Per Wash Heavy Soiling Medium Water
Cost Per Wash Heavy Soiling Hard Water
|Fairy non bio||Tesco||£0.31||£0.31||£0.37|
|Persil non bio||Asda||£0.20||£0.27||£0.39|
|Own brand non bio||Aldi||£0.12||£0.15||£0.17|
|Tots Bots Potion||£0.44||£0.66||£0.88|
Total Washing Costs
How many reusable nappies you put into the washing machine for the washing cycle will affect the cost to wash each individual nappy. The more nappies you wash per cycle the more cost effective washing becomes. Washing guidelines for reusable nappies are to wash every other day.
How many nappies each baby uses per day varies depending on their age. Based on NHS guidelines a newborn baby will use up to 12 nappies a day while a toddler will use around 6-8 per day. Using this information I have calculated the following cost table based on the cost of washing every two days with 14 nappies per load.
Cost Per Wash Energy, Water & Detergent
Cost per nappy based on washing 14 nappies
|Cheapest way to wash 40deg + own brand detergent||67p||4.78p|
|Most expensive 60deg + Persil||115p||8.21p|
It is always best to air dry or line drying your nappies either on an outside washing line or inside drying rack. Air drying has a lower environmental impact and lowers the carbon footprint of your nappy washing compared to using a tumble dryer.
Air drying is also better for the long term condition of your cloth nappy fabrics, but importantly air drying offers you a cost saving compared to tumble drying your nappies.
What do Disposable Nappies Cost?
Understanding the financial implications of using a single use disposable nappy is crucial for parents seeking the most cost-effective nappy option. In this section, we delve into the expenses associated with disposable nappies and other hidden expenses such as disposable wipes and nappy sacks to provide a comprehensive analysis of their financial impact. By exploring the true cost of disposable nappies, we aim to help parents make informed decisions regarding their budget and sustainability goals.
Disposable nappy prices taken from stores as per the table in May 2023 and are a mix of own brand disposable nappies, market leading brand disposable nappies and eco disposable nappies. The largest pack size for each brand in each size was used.
Cost of pack
Cost per nappy
|Size 1||2-5kgs||Mamia Premium||24||85p||3.5p|
|Size 2||3-6kgs||Mamia Premium||60||£2.35||3.9p|
|Size 3||4-9kgs||Mamia Premium||56||£2.99||5.3p|
|Size 4||9-20kgs||Mamia Ultra Dry||78||£4.99||6.4p|
|Size 5||11-25kgs||Mamia Ultra Dry||72||£4.99||6.9p|
|Size 6||16kgs+||Mamia Ultra Dry||60||£4.99||8.3p|
|Fred & Flo (Tesco)|
|Size 1||2-5kgs||Fred & Flo Newborn||50||£1.80||3.6p|
|Size 2||3-6kgs||Fred & Flo Newborn||58||£2.27||3.9p|
|Size 3||4-9kgs||Fred & Flo Ultra Dry||56||£2.99||5.3p|
|Size 4||9-20kgs||Fred & Flo Ultra Dry|
|Size 5||11-25kgs||Fred & Flo Easyfit Pants||38||£4.25||11.2p|
|Size 6||16kgs+||Fred & Flo Easyfit Pants||34||£4.25||12.5p|
|Size 1||2-5kgs||Pampers newbaby||80||£12.00||15p|
|Size 2||4-8kgs||Pampers newbaby||76||£12.00||16p|
|Size 3||6-10kgs||Pampers newbaby||42||£7.50||18p|
|Size 4||9-14kgs||Pampers Activefit||37||£11.00||30p|
|Size 5||12-17kgs||Pampers Activefit||32||£11.00||34p|
|Size 6||14-19kgs||Pampers BabyDry Pants||28||£10.00||36p|
|Size 1||2-5kgs||Naty Newborn Eco Nappies||25||£4.50||18p|
|Size 2||3-6kgs||Naty Eco Nappies||33||£7.50||22.7p|
|Size 3||4-9kgs||Naty Eco Nappies||50||£11.50||23p|
|Size 4||7-18kgs||Naty Eco Nappies||44||£11.50||26.1p|
|Size 5||12-18kgs||Naty Pull On Pants||20||£8.50||42.5p|
|Size 6||16kgs+||Naty Pull On Pants||18||£8.50||47.2p|
|Ecoriginals (Nappy Lady)|
|Size 1||up to 4kgs||Ecoriginals Newborn||30||£12.95||43.2p|
|Size 2||4-7kgs||Ecoriginals Infant||28||£12.95||46.3p|
|Size 3||6-11kgs||Ecoriginals Crawlers Pants||22||£12.95||58.9p|
|Size 4||10-14kgs||Ecoriginals Toddlers Pants||20||£12.95||64.8p|
|Size 5||13-18kgs||Ecoriginals Walker Pants||18||£12.95||71.9p|
|Size 6||16kgs+||Ecoriginals Junior Pants||16||£12.95||80.9p|
What do Disposable Wipes and Disposable Plastic Nappy Sacks Cost?
I have based these costs on 7 nappy changes per day. I have allowed for using 1 disposable wipe per nappy change plus 2 extra wipes to allow for pooey nappies. This is a very conservative amount and I know many people have to use significantly more wipes for nappy changes. Please alter the costs to reflect your own wipes usage. Parents who use reusable nappies tend to use reusable wipes and wet bags which they pop into the same wash cycle as their nappies.
Wipes Per Pack
Cost of Pack
Cost 9 Wipes A Day
|Tesco||Fred & Flo||720||£7.20||£0.09|
|Tesco||Tesco Soft Spring Fresh||40||£0.65||£0.15|
|Pampers (Tesco)||Sensitive Baby 0% Plastic||52||£1.25||£0.22|
|Boots||Naty Sensitive Unscented||168||£5.70||£0.31|
|Waterwipes (Tesco)||Waterwipes biodegradable||240||£11.00||£0.41|
|Ecoriginals (NappyLady)||Goats Milk Eco Waterwipes||210||£14.95||£0.64|
|Nappy Sacks||7 bags a day|
|Tesco||300 nappy sacks||300||£0.60||£0.01|
|Tesco||Fred & Flo||150||£0.95||£0.04|
|Boots||Naty disposable nappy sacks||50||£1.99||£0.28|
What are the best reusable nappies?
I get asked this every single day by eco conscious parents. The simple answer is there isn't a "best reusable nappy" as every family has different needs and requirements, but here are some examples of our most popular cloth nappies across a range of price points.
The cheapest reusable nappies are going to be flat nappies such as Terry Squares. We sell a full time onesize bundle of nappies for under £100
Middle Price Range - Super Easy To Use
If you prefer not to fold nappies then consider the La Petite Ourse Day Time Bundles. Little LoveBum Quickdry Bundles or the Tots Bots Starter Kits.
Best Night Time Option
For Night time you can't beat our Nappy Lady Ultimate Night Time Kit with the Tots Bots Bamboozle Stretchy and Mother-ease Airflow wraps which have been loved by generations of babies.
Top of the Range
If money is no object then the top of the range would be the Mother-ease Wizard Duo Perfectly Balanced Kit or Wizard Uno Kits
See below for details on local council incentive schemes to help with the upfront cost.
Reusable Nappy Incentive Schemes
A growing number of local councils offer a voucher or cashback towards the purchase of reusable nappies or a starter kit. Visit our comprehensive list of incentive schemes running in the UK. Even if your local council doesn't offer a scheme The Nappy Lady has a nationwide reusable nappy incentive scheme for you to help you get started. These schemes' benefits can further enhance the economic advantage of reusable nappies.
Reusable Nappies Resale Value
Another aspect to consider is the potential resale value of reusable nappies. If you take good care of your nappies, they can retain value and be sold or passed on to other parents for use on subsequent children, further reducing your overall expenditure.
Is it OK to use second-hand cloth nappies?
Some people are shocked when they hear there is a market for second hand reusable nappies, affectionally called 'pre-loved'. Cloth nappies are not cheap, so once you've finished with your stash you can sell them on and recoup some of your initial outlay. Selling on your nappies helps families who might struggle to afford to buy new but it's also environmentally friendly. Premium brands of reusable nappies tend to hold their value better than the budget brands. Whenever you plan to buy second hand it's always important to get many photos of the nappies to check the condition. Find out how the family washed the nappies and stored them. Ask questions how the family got on with them. Make sure you know what you are buying: if it's a brand you've not heard of, is no longer available in stores or you can't find independent online reviews of them then it's probably best to avoid. Visit our article on buying and selling second hand nappies for more advice and tips.