Greening the Nation’s bottoms

August 3, 2009

One thing most parents seem to share is dread at the cost of nappies. These things are seriously expensive, and if you chose the wrong option, then you’re talking several thousand dollars over the duration. One friend commented specifically that their grocery bill plummetted after their 2nd child graduated.

To address this dreadful expense my partner and I talked over our options before the wee tacker was born, and settled on re-useable nappies. And he being 8 months old tomorrow I thought I’d give a progress report.

In short: Not so bad.

We thought that things might become… different… when he moved to solid food, but we’ve been lucky and the reusables options has worked out well. The principle of the nappy is that it has a waterproof cover, an absorbent cloth, and a disposable liner. The liner is supposed to act as a “catch-all” that allows you to easily dispose of any offending solids. And that’s pretty much exactly what it does. You just gather up the liner and flush it. Since there are no solids heading in the wash cycle the need for a rigorous soaking/washing sterilisation process is less, and a decent warm wash followed by sunlight by kill any bacteria.

And that’s the next issue. Hot washes. We’re still tracking the power bill compared to last year, but it’s being complicated by bad billing in 2008 (a topic for another day), and this winter being so much more cold. But initial figures suggest it’s not too bad, and it includes the additional washing needed to keep on top of grubby baby clothes (feeding is messy!). Total power bill for 2008 was $1021, and this year to date is $633 (6 months). Mind you, we are only using warm washes, but it seems to do the trick, and every few months we spend a week doing spanking hot washes, just in case.

Meanwhile, costs for cleaning are not substantial. Our entire detergent bill last year was $58 (seriously…), and cost to date (January to July), is $50. That includes concentrate, baking soda (bleach), and white vinegar (disinfectant), the latter two bought from Moore Wilsons, the former from the Warehouse in 5kg bags.

Pretty good right?

But! I hear you say. But the initial cost of he nappies!! It’s a killer!!

Well, total cost of nappies including disposables (used at night or when/if we travel), is [drum roll maestro]… $602.

Compared to the cost of buying disposable nappies that is a fairly big saving. We figure the boy will run through a minimum of 6 nappies a day (not skimping and making him wear them for longer), but at least 8. A 20-nappy pack costs a minimum of $10 on special, but more usually $12. Wolfram Alpha tells me that we have 243 days between 4 December and 4 August. This gives us a potential consumption of 1944 nappies, costing us a minimum of $972. Of course this is in reality likely to be higher.

And, we can change the boy as many times in a day as we want. The most water we ever need use is the minimum setting on the washing machine, so 8 nappies or 15 nappies makes no difference. Plus, the disposable liners are actually good for a couple of washes if they have only been peed on! Another saving!

We’re thinking that we won’t have to make the outlay for the next size up nappy for several months (his growth has evened out at around 11.5kg), so the next $180-odd so a little way of, meaning that from here till then the only cost is cleaning and purchasing additional liners ($10 for 100, cost to date included in the $602).

The final word? Well worth it.



  1. Good on you! I might say that it works out really well if you start with you first child (assuming they are reused for subsequent kidlets). I only started with #2 and then she suddenly stopped needing them.

    Oh and the disposables I buy on occasion – never more than $7 a pack.

  2. Just wondering how childcare centers deal with non-disposables? Are they happy to use them?

    • ours does!

    • ours does! which is what counts, really.

      but if we absolutely had to use them on account of childcare, we would. (frugality and zealotry are not the same thing 🙂 )

  3. I concur – a much cheaper option. I buy ours on trade me or get relatives to donate cash to buy them for birthdays, Xmas etc. If I had been more organised, I would have asked for them as baby shower presents rather than the clothes he grew out of in a nanosecond. We have also been lucky that our boy has a skinny arse, so even though he’s 18 months old, he’s still in mediums. We have about 10-12 in rotation, and our childcare providers don’t mind a bit.

    • ditto our young one. he’s been in “toddler”-sized nappies for months now, so there hasn’t been any outlay. skinny bottoms appear to be a frugal inheritance.

  4. And might I add that you can resell them for damn close to what they cost, even quite used. For this reason I buy new, better able to resell.

    And while we’re on the subject, I’ve used every cloth nappy under the sun, and the best so far are Itti Bittis, they’re cute.

  5. We’re using reusables as well, like Artandmylife, never need to spend more than $9 a pack on the odd disposable (and our lad is a champion wetter, goes thru the reusable in 2-3 hours even with booster liners, am about to start experiments with regards to that – suggestions welcome…). Outlayed a bit more to buy one-size fits all (Mommy’s Touch 18 nappies for around $750 with extra hemp inserts and some night inserts – which didn’t really do our premmie newborn, but oh well) which are still doing our (9kg) 10 month old well, am interested to see if he will grow out of them at all.

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