Making the change from disposable items to reusable (and washable) options is not as hard as it may seem. It can also save you a heap of money. In the strange and unpredictable time of COVID19 that we are currently living in, we are seeing not only panic buying that has momentarily thrown our supermarkets and supply chains into chaos, but also the dangerous behaviour of people flushing materials unsuited to our sewerage system down the toilet. Even if you choose to be ready with reusable options in your house and don’t end up using them, at least, should you find yourself unable to access the items you usually use, you’ll be ready.
Pads and Tampons – Cloth Pads, Menstrual Cup or Period Underwear
What are your options?
Cloth pads: basically, cloth versions of pads. You can get them handmade by some amazing women working from home (or second hand – just Strip and Sanitise), and they might cost $5-$30 each. You may need 10 or so, so a fair investment. Great for post partum, and generally can be very comfortable. To wash, you can stomp on them in the shower which will give them a good rinse, and then just chuck them in the wash.
Menstrual Cup (Mooncup/Diva cup/The Keeper, etc): plastic or rubber ‘cup’ that you insert. It catches your period, and honestly, these are amazing. Once you get the hang of it, you cannot feel it at all, and you can change it once a day. I like to change and wash it in the shower. You can sterilize it every month in boiling water. Bam, easy done. Cost: $20+
Period underwear (ModiBodi/Thinx, etc): Underwear that has an absorbent area and can be absorbent enough for full time use for your period. Pretty amazing stuff. Great for that pesky pelvic floor too. Usually these cost $20+ a pair, but sometimes there’s deals and sales on. Luna pads are a cheaper (and inferior) version you can find at Woolies sometimes on special for $10 – good to stash up for your lighter days. Rinse them before washing like cloth pads, adhere to their wash instructions – usually cold wash only.
Cheapest and easiest is the menstrual cup as you buy it once and use it for potentially years. Most convenient would be period underwear, but you need to fork out a fair bit to get set up. If you want to go part-time reusables for your period, you could just invest in some cloth pads or period underwear for your lighter days. The environment, and your body, will thank you!
Toilet Paper – ‘Family cloth’
What you need to start:
Literally, anything. Squares of flannel cut up from a pair of old pyjamas. Small face washers. Cloth sewn into squares. Local company Earthy Bums makes cloth nappies, breast pads, bibs and baby clothes and sells fab little flannelette cloth wipes – packs of 10 for $5.
How do I clean and store them?
Keep two containers near the toilet, one with your pile of clean cloths to use, and one for the used ones. Every day, rinse the used ones and chuck into your usual wash. If you go all in for 1s and 2s – put on some rubber gloves, hot rinse the cloth wipes well under the laundry tap and you can rest assured no unwanted material will be in your wash.
This might be a pretty extreme idea for some of you. I thought so for myself too, but I’ve been wiping my babies’ bubs with cloth wipes for ages, and that didn’t seem too weird… so introducing the option for myself and my daughter who is just recently toilet trained seems logical. But, I am washing cloth nappies so chucking a few more cloth wipes into the wash is not a big deal.
Honestly, for someone like me who goes to the toilet to pee A LOT (thanks pelvic floor) using cloth wipes just every so often when I go is a great way to drastically reduce my toilet paper usage. Think about it, if the girls in your house are using the TP every time they go to pee – this is a lot of toilet paper you can save.
Tissues or Wet wipes – Cloth wipes, Face Washers and Hankies
I know the good old hanky isn’t exactly popular now, but honestly, we throw out a lot of tissues and flush a lot of toilet paper that we’ve used to blow our noses pretty unnecessarily. If you wipe your kids’ faces with face washers, it’s not that hard to do the same for yourself. Get yourself some small washers, cloth wipes like those mentioned above in the TP section, some flannel squares or hankies and use them instead. I made some flannel wipes. If you think they are too gross to chuck in the wash then just give them a quick power rinse under the laundry tap. Too easy.
(PS Also, for every day cloths around the house – forget the paper towel or the scourers! Flannel cloth, crocheted scourers, face washers etc, all these work fine for basic cleaning and wiping. There were ways of doing things before everything was able to be disposed of, we just need to collectively remember this.)
Disposable nappies – Cloth nappies
What you need to start:
For one child you need about 15 or 25 nappies (you might use 5-10 a day and will have to wash every 2 or 3 days). These may be: full modern cloth nappies – a waterproof nappy with inserts either stuffed, snapped or sewn in; an absorbent fitted nappy with a separate waterproof cover; or a more old school style flat or prefold with a waterproof cover. The last option might mean you need 15 or 20 prefolds and about 5 waterproof covers.
How much will it cost?
Cloth nappies can cost anywhere from $10 to $50+ each. For $10 or $15 you can get an ‘Alvababy’ nappy which are excellent quality for the price. If you start out with some of those, you can boost (add extra absorbency) with other inserts you might buy later, or just with a cotton tea towel folded in.
Better quality or more ethically made nappies might include Econaps, Baby Beehind, Designer Bums, Boho Babes, Alcmena, Minnie and Mae (there are so many nappy brands now!) and these will be $25-$40 a nappy. So – if you buy 20 nappies new, you might be spending $400. You can figure out how long it will take to start saving money depending on how much you are regularly spending on disposables.
Buying second hand is not difficult: join some Facebook groups or check Facebook marketplace for some deals. Ask a cloth mum friend for guidance if you are not sure whether you are getting a good deal. Do a Strip and Sanitise as explained on the Clean Cloth Nappies website.
What I would do to get started as a newbie to cloth nappies:
I would buy 10 or 15 prefolds either new (Real Nappies prefolds are $25 for a pack of 5 or 6) or secondhand (you could get them for $2 each if you are lucky) and 10 or so cheapish pocket covers (like Alvababy or similar) either new or second hand: $5-$10 each. Prefolds are excellent inserts for pocket nappies, generally awesome super absorbent cloths to have around the house for spilt drinks etc, and great for change mats on the change table. What I’m suggesting will set you back anywhere from $80 to $175.
*Prefolds come in different sizes: e.g. newborn, infant, crawler and toddler. No matter the size, any excess can be folded down at the front before being folded long ways into three to fit into a pocket nappy.
Obviously, you need to wash them! Seems hard; is not. Join Clean Cloth Nappies on Facebook, or check out their website. Please ask me for help if you need. You may think this will cause your energy and water bills to skyrocket, but research has shown the difference is very small.
Also, you need to deal with poo. That’s the thing really. I can’t make that sound good. Poo is gross. It just is. Make some micro-fleece liners which make it a little easier to deal with, and get yourself some gloves and a scrubbing brush.
Every time you use a cloth nappy, you are saving a nappy from going into landfill to join EVERY OTHER DISPOSABLE nappy that has ever been created, used and thrown out. You don’t need to go all in, 100%. Maybe just use them during the day. Maybe use cloth nappies for a couple of days in a row, wash them, use disposables for two days while you wait for them to dry and for you to fold them up again, then repeat? You don’t want them sitting around waiting for days to be washed though, so try to use a few a day if you can so it’s not too tedious waiting for enough to wash.
(PS Look up Elimination Communication if you are in lockdown and happy to chase your kid around with a towel and a potty and you might be able to say goodbye to nappies far earlier than you planned.)
Everything contained above is my opinion or experience, yours may be different.
Take care of yourself. 🙂 ❤