When you have a baby, often your income is limited and your costs go up, so one of the best ways to economise is with cheap nappies. You might notice that reusable nappies appear to cost a lot to buy initially - but they go on and on and on, and in time can make substantial savings over the overall cost of buying disposable nappies each week.

For those that are thinking 'erm nope not for me can't be doing with dealing with pooey nappies' it might not have occured to you that not only do babies poo whichever nappy (or not!) they have on, but that actually reusable nappies, by dint of the fact they are made to be used again and again, are actually going to be better made than one made for just single use. So if you've had poo to the hairline experiences, it's worth knowing that washable nappies have elastic along the back of the waist - few single use dispoable nappies do. Hence some of my customers claim to get LESS washing with reusable nappies!

Using washable nappies rather than disposables will save you money, even taking in to account the washing costs and wear and tear on your washing machine. The actual amount saved can be from a couple of hundred pounds up to about a thousand pounds, and will be even more for subsequent children where the same nappy system can be used again. As most parents have found, their Little Star can soon dig a hole into savings and the weekly wage packet, so any respite from this financial drain is very welcome.

So how much can I save?

Womens Environmental Network estimate the average savings to be around £500 per baby.

But how much would you actually save? There are very many (and variable) factors to take into account:

How many nappies your baby will need: a newborn uses more than an older baby, a baby that notices the slightest drop of wee demands very frequent changing!

Cost of disposable nappies: premium branded disposables are more expensive than own brand, although you may obtain vouchers or special offers.

Washing costs: if your baby uses a lot of nappies you'll wash more frequently.

Drying costs: line drying is free, if you use a tumble drier this will cost more.

Cost of nappy system purchased: All-in-One nappies (where the waterproof layer is an integral part of the nappy) are the most expensive options; pouched nappy systems such as the Fuzzi Bunz or Stuffable are a little cheaper as they dry quicker, two part systems are usually cheaper than All-in-Ones; some nappies require the purchase of two or more sizes, others adjust to fit from newborn to potty; prefolds or terries are perhaps the cheapest options.

Re-use of nappies: will you be reusing your cloth nappies for subsequent children, thereby saving more in the long term? Or can you sell them on after use and recoup part of the initial outlay?

I spent some time researching this question a couple of years ago, and I have endeavoured to show the true cost for the most expensive and also the cheapest cloth nappies and washing scenarios. I have based the washing costs on Which Online's (then) Best Buy Bosch washing machine, costing £500, however there are cheaper and more expensive machines available.

Washing costs can be as little as £40 per year, or with tumble drying and washing every day as much as £150. Your own cost of using washable nappies will fall somewhere between these two extremes. I have compared the costs against the cost of premium branded disposables and also own brand economy disposables.

Please note these calculations are based on recomended nappy changing frequency (many people will change less often), and are now a little out of date, having been calculated over 3 years ago, but give a good indication! Products have also changed in the intervening years, there are more and different cloth nappy options, and the disposable brands now heavily promote expensive pull-up style nappies for older toddlers. Full specific details of my calculations, including sources, are available by clicking here.



A) Cost Of Own Brand Value Nappy @ 10.5p x 7000 per baby: £ 735

B) Premium Nappy @ 17.3p x 7000 per baby £1211


Total cost of least expensive nappy system, washing alternate days, line dried £280 SAVING 930 against premium nappies SAVING 455 against own brand disposable nappies

Total cost of most expensive nappy options + daily washing + tumble drying £802 SAVING 409 against premium disposable nappies

Total cost of most expensive nappy option, daily washing, but line dried £638. SAVING 570 against premium disposable nappies

I've not included a comparisson of the cost of washable wipes vs disposable, but, as you're washing nappies anyway, it seems more logical to use a fabric wipe and water which you can throw in with the nappies, than to spend typically between 2p and 4p PER WIPE (did that surprise you?) on cleaning your baby's bottom. As your health professional will probably recommend using warm water rather than purchased wipes for a newborn, may people are discovering how simple, chemical free, and cost effective washable wipes are for their new baby.

Note these prices quoted are pre the 2008 fuel increases.