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Which is better - Disposable nappy or cloth nappy?

May 03, 2022 5 min read

A popular topic of conversation amongst many mums is whether disposable or cloth nappies are better. The average child needs between 6000 to 7000 nappy changes before they transition to underwear. This means a lot of nappy changing, so it is important evaluate what is best for you and your baby. Keep in mind that works best for someone else may not work best for you, so it is important to do a bit of research and maybe try a bit of both! In this blog we highlight important factors to consider such as: cost, time, convenience, performance and environmental impact to analyse both options. These factors may vary for each individual but we’re here to provide food for thought!

Types of re-useable cloth nappies:

  1. Terry Towelling –traditional method of folding cotton, hemp or bamboo cloth and pinning or clipping. Fit well to children of all ages but work best with a leak-proof cover and can be bulky (Approximately $1/$2 per nappy)
  2. Pre-folds –soft layers of fabric that are cotton or bamboo folded and placed inside a fitted, leak-poof cover. Not as absorbent as other reusable nappies however aren’t bulky and dry quickly (Approximately $5 - $15 per nappy)
  3. Modern cloth –consist of a water-resistant outside layer sewn with an absorbent inner layer. They’re shaped and can be fastened with velcro, clips or press studs. Simpler to use but slower to dry (Approximately $7 - $35 per nappy)

Re-useable nappies – pros and cons

There are pros and cons to using re-usable nappies dependant on who you are and what your lifestyle is like. Re-usable nappies require a routine which involves a lot more changing, washing and drying which ultimately means you must have one thing that people struggle with managing alongside a baby – time!

The initial purchase of cloth nappies is what is most daunting to new parents. The most popular re-usable nappies are the modern cloth which are usually around $30 per nappy, and babies need approximately 12 per day. Dependant on how frequently you do your washing will depend on how many nappies you need to buy if you wish to use cloth. If you don’t do your washing daily, you may need around 30 re-usable nappies to begin with which can be a large up-front cost to parents amongst all other baby necessities. However, if you plan to have more than one child, re-usable nappies can be passed down to your next child making it a more cost-effective option if your budget and time allows for it. If you wish to use other re-usable nappies such as terry towelling, they are cost-effective but difficult to perfect and take a lot of getting used to. However, they are good for newborns as they are durable, easy to wash and quick to dry.

Environmental impacts of re-usable nappies can be higher or lower dependant on how often they are washed and how they are dried. Re-usable nappies aren’t as absorbent as disposables so require more frequent changing which results in more washing and drying. Re-usable nappies may not be suitable for you if you struggle with draughts in and around your area due to the volume of washing they require. However, if you are purely concerned about water usage, front-load washing machines use less water than top load ones. The really valuable thing about reusable nappies is that if you wash them in a full load of washing, hang them out to dry (instead of putting them in the dryer) and pass them down to your next child, you will reduce your carbon footprint by 40%. To do that, it does take a lot of additional time and effort as there are a few steps you have to follow to contribute to reducing your carbon footprint. Firstly, it is important to only wash your nappies in a full load of washing to avoid wasting water. For hygiene reasons, it’s a good idea to wash your nappies all together, therefore, a full load is considered eight to ten nappies. Secondly, nappies should be hung out to dry instead of placed in the dryer, drawing out the cleaning process. If they are washed in half loads and then tumble dried, you actually end up defeating the sole purpose of trying to be more environmentally conscious. As the most popular re-usable nappies are the modern cotton cloth, they take longer to dry. This can either limit your supply if not washed frequently enough or could cost you more upfront when considering how many to purchase based on how often you launder.


Disposable nappies are definitely a more convenient option being a single use-throw away item. They obviously don’t require as much time to prepare as they don’t get washed or dried. Parents also quite like the fact that they can budget their nappies each week for their child. There isn’t that initial daunting upfront cost that re-usable nappies have and you never have to stress about doing the washing to have enough supply. Although the nappies can be budgeted into weekly costs, in the long run disposable nappies can be more expensive than re-usables. It depends if you value the convenience factor of disposables enough to not worry about saving those extra few hundred dollars in the end. Disposables are also easier for when you take your baby out and they need changing, you can have a few spares in your bag and don’t have to take the dirty ones home. Now, although disposable nappies are more time friendly, they don’t have the same positive environmental impact that re-usables have if they are washed and dried for correctly. In saying this, Happy Little Camper nappies contain up to 34% biodegradable materials and come in recyclable packaging to be as environmentally conscious as possible.

What is better?

Many people believe that re-useable cloth nappies are better for your baby’s skin compared to disposables, but that is not necessarily the case.  It solely depends on what disposable nappies you are comparing it with. Many commercial nappies contain harsh chemicals that are bad for your baby’s skin and can cause allergic reactions and nappy rash. Nappies such as Happy Little Camper, are natural, contain no harsh chemicals and are hypoallergenic to be safe for your baby’s skin. In comparison to re-usable cloth nappies, both options are good, but neither one is beneficial if you don’t change it frequently enough. There are pros and cons to each so let your choice be a reflection of you and your baby’s needs and lifestyle.



Additional Resources

Momigliano, A. (2019). What I wish they’d told me before I started using cloth diapers.


Raising Children.net.au. (2020). Nappies: Cloth nappies and disposable nappies.https://raisingchildren.net.au/babies/health-daily-care/poos-wees-nappies/nappies

Stewart, E. (2020). Cloth nappies or disposables? We crunched the numbers so you don't have to.


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