Real Nappies Vs Disposables – Cost Breakdown

So you may recall that I took part in the REAL nappy challenge back in January.

My three main reasons for wanting to give cloth nappies a go were:

  • to reduce my household waste
  • to find out if they were as easy to use nowadays as I had been told v’s the hard work they were when my mum used them on me
  • to see if there were big differences in costs between them and disposables
It is the latter of those, the costs, that I have been investigating over the last couple of weeks as a few readers of my blog were keen to know if they would actually save money by switching from disposable to re-usable.
During my week long nappy challenge I was amazed by how many people I tweet with and whose blogs I follow, who actually use real nappies themselves for their children and they passed on some brilliant tips and words of advice to me (thank you if it was you!). I discovered a real nappy group on twitter called #nappuvinno and thanks to them and some other helpful real nappy using mums I was able to establish how many I would need to use (and buy) for Jenson. I was also tweeted by the natural nursery who was very lovely and emailed me a load of information on the costs of real v’s disposable nappies as she had carried out a similar investigation last year. 

So bearing in mind that my baby is now 10 months old (if you were starting out with cloth nappies from newborn the costs would be a little higher as you would need more cloth nappies – it as suggested that 20 was a good starting point) it appeared that the average total I would need by the suggestions that I was given on twitter was 10 which would allow me about 2 days worth of wear. As it happens I have 8 as I figured that I may still use a disposable at bedtime which may change as I get used to using reusables but for now this is my plan.

Therefore, based on the Miosolo all-in-one nappies which I trialled which cost £14.95 each (and I will base this on the 10 nappies that were suggested to me that I buy), that totals £149.50
Add to this the liners which cost £4.95 (for 160)
The nappy cleanser powder which costs £4.60 (for 50 washes)

Pack of bio boosters (for extra absorbency) which cost £6.79 (for 3)

So the total so far is £165.84 
I haven’t bothered buying a nappy bucket and a nappy bag for days out, as if I am at home I will use a large tupperware box that I have and if I am out and about I will use a linen shopping bag or something similar. 
Now lets compare this start up cost with disposable nappies. I am going to base this comparison on a well know brand of nappies – obviously if you buy supermarket own nappies you are saving more money, but for the purpose of this I need an average price. I have to be honest when I have shopped for disposables I always buy whatever are on offer with the branded nappies as usually they have an offer of some sort one. 
Anyway, lets say the average size 4 branded nappy costs 20p each (bearing in mind that supermarket own brands are less again) and I would say that on an average day I get through about 6 which is £1.20 per day which equates to £8.40 per week which is £436.80 a year. At 10 months old, based on him being toilet trained at the same time as his brother who was 28 months (which isn’t an accurate guide as he may be completely different and take much longer, but I need an average length of nappy wearing time) this means he still has another 18 months of nappy wearing 
So the total is £655.20 
(based on 20p per nappy over 18 more months from now)

I will probably continue to use disposable wipes for now at least, although I am going to try and use flannels when I am at home so I am not going to bother adding or removing wipe costs because if you wanted to work this our for yourself then again most wipes start from about £1 a pack (either supermarket own or brands when on offer). 
*Did you know, you can wash disposable wipes in your washing machine? a mum on twitter does this and says you can get several uses out of them?*
So at the moment the re-usable nappies cost a LOT less than the disposables at this point in the proceedings – a difference of £489.36 in fact. Although of course the disposable costs are spread over those 18 months whereas the real nappies have to be bought and paid for in one go.
Of course with re-usable nappies comes the fact that you have to wash them at 60oC which includes electricity, washing powder and water. Thanks to the  natural nursery I have some costs I can include here which are based on findings taken in 2011
I am thinking that I will be washing my re-usable nappies every 2 days so on average that is an extra 3-4 washes per week so i will say 4 to round things up. So over the next 18 months that adds up to 312 washes. Again I am basing the wishing powder costs on a well know brand of washing detergent – other asking powders will cost you less of course – but 50 washes (4kg box) costs £12.00 which averages at 24p per wash. BUT according to real nappy manufacturers you only need to use half the amount of recommended powder per wash which equates to 12p a wash.

So total washing powder cost is approx £37.44
(for 18 months)
Meaning I would also need 312 washes worth of nappy cleanser so extra cost for 6 more tubs = £27.60
The average ‘B’ rated washing machine uses 1.15 kw of electricity per load at 60oC** , at an average cost of 12p kw/h which is 13.8p per load 
So total cost of electricity is £43.01 
(for 18 months)
* So in conclusion *
Disposable nappies (not including wipes or nappy bags) for 18 months =
Re-usable nappies + washing powder + nappy cleanser + electricity + liners + boosters for 18 months = £375.24 

Which makes using re-usable nappies quite appealing from a money saving point of view doesn’t it?

I have decided to use real nappies although I will still keep disposables to hand for emergencies!

If you are contemplating using real nappies would these savings help you to think more seriously about using them instead of disposables? I would be interested in reading what you have to say.


Prices for consumer products based on online prices at supermarkets and BambinoMio January 2012
 The prices for the energy providers, January 2011

Thank you also to the natural nursery for their help and cost information

this is not a sponsored post and I was not asked to write this post by anyone, it was something I wanted to find out for myself . Other brands of real nappies are of course available.
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Thank you xx

22 comments / Add your comment below

  1. This is brilliant Jenny. I have a customer looking for just this information, she will be thrilled as she is having an argument with friends over the cost savings!

  2. thanks – its taken me a while to compile as I wanted to make sure my maths are correct!! (baby brain not helping!)
    i hope it helps your friend 🙂 x

  3. Wow, this is quite an impressive amount of money to save. Eve will tell me off again but I am still afraid of poo in my washing machine…

  4. to be fair i haven’t had any nasty poos yet! only a bit of skid action lol !! its been ok – as i mentioned i haven’t done away completely with disposables ……yet but i may as time goes on. x

  5. Would be great to find out how you get on when Jenson has an explosive nappy. I might have to give him some curry next time I see you, haha x 

  6. Great comparison, and I imagine it will be a bigger difference out here due to the fact that disposables are so expensive here.  I’ll wait and see what happens I think and maybe try and get someone to buy us some,   I’m sure MIL would love the idea of us using them  🙂

  7. Or you could what I did and put a tweet out asking if anyone has any for you to trial? You never know xx

  8. This is a really cool breakdown! I use nappies that cost £3 each or I don’t buy new, I also don’t bother with a nappy sanitiser and as I have so many nappies it’s only an extra 2 washes a week, so I reckon it would be even cheaper for us.  OH, and don’t forget there is a huge market for selling on washable nappies so you’ll make some of your money back when you’re done with them.  

    As for poo in the washing machine, when I can’t flick or shower most of it off into the loo, I remind myself that when potty training, there will definitely be times when poo in the machine is inevitable 🙂

  9. A few things though. You dont need special nappy powder, bold 2 in 1 is just as good. There are other brands apart from mio solo, some cheaper some more expensive. Check pre loved boards on facebook to get nappies second hand for cheaper. and you don’t need to use liners. Other than that nice work 🙂

  10. Reusable wipes are just bits of terry cloth, get a sheet and cut it up. Some water in a tub with lavender oil and/or CJs carcass cleaner in for moisturising and just chuck them in your nappy tub to be washed with them. Reusable wipes are the best thing ever.

    My washing machine broke down for 6 months (Sep – April) and I had to go back to using disposables and the cost of wipes, nappy bags, *nappies* was approximately £25 a month (not including petrol or delivery charges for home delivery)

    I have just gone back to using cloth again now and it is the best thing ever. I really wish I had done it with my eldest.

  11. Reusable wipes are a HUGE moneysaver! They cost next to nothing to make: you can cut up a towel, or some fleece fabric, and just use plain water. Then they just go in the wash with the nappies. I also use washable liners, which cost £5 for 15 on Ebay, so that’s a lot cheaper too. I don’t use any special nappy powder, just Aldi Sensitive powder, I put all the nappies/wipes/liners on a 30 minute rinse cycle, then a 30° C 30 minute wash with one Aldi powder tablet and a tiny bit of ‘Vanish’ powder. They come out as good as new! Thanks for all your calculations, I think it’s great for people to see the savings they can make, and it can be even cheaper if you plan carefully!

  12. If you search UK Cloth Nappy Libraries you will find a map of every cloth trial scheme and nappy library in the UK and Ireland. Most are non-profit, some are free. All volunteer led to help you see if cloth is for you!

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