Reusable Wipes vs Disposable Wipes
‘Reusable wipes are a hassle, who wants loads of baby poo in their washing machine? Gross.’
‘Disposable wipes are helping to destroy our environment, washing up on our shorelines and riverbeds, in the stomach of our marine life. Gross.’
Like everything when it comes to babies, there are lots of options out there on how to care for your baby and everyone has an opinion! That includes how to clean up your baby. Do you ditch the disposables or go eco with reusables? Which are better for your baby, the planet and your pocket?
There’s no doubt that disposable baby wipes are the ultimate throwaway convenience item and are nowadays considered the ‘norm’. They’re single use wipes, you simply wipe and throw away.
Our guide answers everything you need to know about reusable wipes vs disposable wipes:
- #Are disposable wipes good for your baby?
- #Which wipes are best for the environment?
- #How much do disposable wipes cost?
- #How do I use reusable wipes?
- #How eco friendly are reusable wipes?
- #Are reusable wipes good for newborns?
- #How much do reusable wipes cost?
Whether disposable wipes can be good for your baby depends on the brand of wipes, as some brands can cause rashes and irritation. As we said earlier, there’s lots of options out there for eco friendly baby wipes, including eco by naty and kit & kin.
Some parents find that they can only use certain brands of fragrance free or ph balanced baby wipes as others create rashes and discomfort.
Reusable wipes are best for the environment. You’ve probably seen pictures or documentaries about the problems that wet wipes cause (including the fantastic ‘Blue Planet’ by Sir David Attenborough, and ‘War on Plastic’ with Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall). 90% of wet wipes sold in the UK contain plastic which means they can take hundreds of years to biodegrade in landfill.
If they’re flushed, the problems are even worse, causing huge stinking fatbergs in our sewers and washing up on our beaches and in our oceans.
There are now brands which are plastic free and some claim to be biodegradable and compostable, however if wrapped in bin bag in landfill this is pointless. 'Flushable' wipes still take 12 weeks to break down, which is still long enough to create havoc in our sewers!
There’s also a huge eco impact in the production, shipping and onwards supply chain of disposable wipes and biodegradable baby wipes. Never mind the fuel consumption by late night supermarket trips when you invariably run out…
Disposables wipes cost between range from under £1 per pack to around £3 per pack for premium ‘eco’ wipes. Which seems like nothing when you pop them onto your online shop until you consider that you’ll be using 1 or 2 packs per week for up to 3 years because they aren’t just used for bums, but for hands & faces too.
That soon mounts up. At the budget end of the scale, two packs of £1 wipes per week for 2 years is £208. If you go for premium wipes, it’s more like £500.
You may not have come across the idea before, but this would have been what our parents / grandparents generation used.
Reusable wipes are simply cloth squares which you can use with plain water or a soaking solution to clean your baby both at nappy changes and when feeding.
The mucky wipes are simply washed in your washing machine, and reused.
It’s not gross, generally the first wipe of a baby bum is with the nappy and that removes the majority of the poo which is then flushed or binned. That depends on whether you're using reusable nappies or disposable.
Only the smeary bits are left on the wipe, much less than would be on a babygro if you’ve had a poo-nami for example.
Reusable wipes are very eco friendly as you don’t have to wash cloth wipes separately and you’ll likely have lots of washing with a newborn baby anyway. In fact, washing 25 cloth wipes as part of a full mixed 7kg washload every other day equates to just 6 additional loads of washing per year.
Obviously line drying is the cheapest way to dry them (and those little sock dryers are perfect for wipes). Even if you’re tumble drying them, again as part of a full mixed dryer load, the amount spent on drying them is negligible.
In terms of washing detergents etc, the environmental impact of washing 25 cloth wipes as part of a mixed washload or with your cloth nappies is very little. Of course there are more eco friendly washing options out there if you really want to lessen your eco impact.
Just like with disposable wipes, there are different fabric options available as reusable wipes. Bamboo wipes, cotton and microfibre are all popular options however if you’re looking to choose truly eco options, consider organic cotton over microfibre which can release micro plastics into our environment.
Yes, reusable wipes are GREAT for newborns as you will know exactly what is going onto your baby's skin.
Brilliant news for eczema sufferers or just delicate little ones, you can even use reusable wipes with just plain water, although there are lots of different ideas out there for soaking solutions. Chamomile teabags, coconut oil, soapy squares, essential oils, a splash of babies bod wash - you have complete control.
Reusable wipes cost between £8 for a pack of 10 wipes to £50 for a kit which contains everything you need. At the bottom end of the price scale granny’s favourite ‘flannel in a bag’ will cost just a few quid and will definitely suffice for wiping grubby hands & faces.
If you want to spend a little more, there are also all in one wipes kits which contain everything you need to make switching to cloth wipes easy. That includes wipes, wipes solutions and containers, mesh bag, travel bags for clean wipes and dirty wipes.
Priced at around £49, these are a great investment as compared to eco disposable wipes, they will pay for themselves over 2 to 3 months.
Whether you decide upon disposable wipes or reusables is down to you and your family. Whatever you decide, own that decision and know that you’ll have made the right decision for your family at that time. Which is the best that all of us can hope for.
About the Author: Helen Rankin is the founder of Cheeky Wipes, which since 2008 has been selling the original reusable wipes kit. Champions of ‘Simple Reusables’, with 4 kids of her own, she appreciates that switching to reusable alternatives needs to be easy. Along with her crack team, she spends most days talking about poo, pee and periods and loves a chance to talk taboos. The business was recognised with a Queens Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development in 2021, celebrating their hard work over the last 13 years.