Nappy Laundry Services
Sunday, 21 November 1999
A nappy laundry service takes your nappies away to be laundered on your behalf, exchanging this with a clean set for you to use in the meantime. These were popular services some years ago, but more recently they are very infrequently found, if available at all. As someone who has always washed her nappies at home, I am a bit ambivalent about nappy laundering services. There are positive and negative things to consider:
- Any system that takes a child out of disposables is a good idea, in my opinion.
- Excellent if you do not have either washing or (more likely) drying facilities at home, or if washing may be difficult (eg a parent or caregiver with a disability).
- Because the nappy laundering is done by the service in large quantities, water and detergent use per child are lower than home washing. Thus, nappy laundering is a very environmentally friendly option.
- Laundering convenience - it's not you that needs to deal with any stains.
- Maximum hygiene - nappies are fully sterilised, although the guidelines are closer to home washing temperatures than you might imagine.
- Reasonably wide choice of prefold size, so you can easily adjust if your child is a particularly light or heavy wetter.
- You can buy your liners and wraps from the service, which is convenient (although there is unlikely to be much choice in the wraps - Mio wraps are often used by laundering services).
- Some councils may subsidise an initial period of the service, as part of their commitment to reduce local waste levels. At least one local council provides a council tax rebate to users of the local nappy laundry service.
- The cost. As of 2005 the cost was £30 to £35 a month. This service is currently roughly in line with the price of disposables, but is becoming comparatively more expensive as the cost of disposables falls (a deliberate policy on the part of disposables manufacturers). That's a lot of money to pay just to avoid putting on an extra wash every couple of days. After all, you're already doing the hardest thing, which is taking off the disposable liner and popping the poo in the toilet. Many people give up using a nappy laundry service at about 8 months, which is when the cost in comparison to disposables may no longer make sense.
- Nappy Bin emptied no more than weekly, just like a binful of disposables (but without as much poo, and so no more smelly than the nappy bin for a home washer). In some areas, the bins may be emptied only fortnightly, although this is rare.
- You are limited to whatever nappy system the service uses, which is usually prefolds.
- There is normally a registration fee, typically around £50, although this might be council-subsidised in some areas.
- Not all services are as reliable as they might be in terms of collection and delivery, so you will need to have contingency plans (eg some of your own cloth nappies). The nappy laundry service should be prepared to give you a few contact names of existing long term customers for you to ask their views about the quality of service they receive - if it is good, they will be keen for you to take up these "references".
- Many nappy laundry services have had to close down, now that the hospital laundries they used are themselves closing down because of hospital outsourcing. It is difficult for them to compete price-wise with disposables if they need to use commercial laundries.
If you are back at work, a nappy laundry service might suit you better than washing your own nappies, simply because it is one less chore to have to think about. You have to balance the cost with the effort saved, and decide whether this is a price worth paying for you. Or, if you are new to cloth nappies and there is a service in your area, you might want to use this for a while to get into the swing of things, and then get your own when you have fully researched which would suit your circumstances best.
There are very few laundry services left in the UK as most people chose to wash their own nappies. Your local NCT would be the best place to check if your local area has area services left. At the current time (2022) we are not aware of any services in the UK.
Below are examples of the type of nappies and wraps provided by laundry services: