Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Cloth Wipes: DIY, Free, or Fancy?

May 10th, 2012 · 35 Comments · Green Living

Paper or plastic?

reusable wipes for cloth diapers

No, I’m not putting plastic on my baby’s bottom, but the question for grocery shoppers might as well be the question for young moms: Cloth or disposables?

Just as we used to be asked again and again at the grocery store, “Paper or plastic?” we now encounter the “disposable or reusable” question multiple times a day: when blowing our noses, wiping dirty fingers, cleaning up a spill, loading up those groceries, and of course, diapering a baby.

Even if you’ve already decided between cloth or ‘sposies for the diaper itself, there are still other parts to the elimination routine that need to be addressed.

When I diapered two babies with disposables, I used homemade baby wipes almost exclusively. Spending about $12/year on wipes instead of $12 every few months was a no-brainer for me, even at first when I wasn’t doing anything particularly “natural” with my wipes solution.

Now that we’ve been using cloth diapers for about 3 months, I’m still in this weird limbo between reusables and disposables as I settle into a routine. I usually have both on hand, which means I have a pretty good idea of which is easier.

Here’s my official opinion to help you make your decision: Use wipes that match your diapers.

Not to be fashionable, but to be practical.

If you have disposable diapers, it’s much easier just to make homemade baby wipes from paper towel. You’re not doing diaper laundry, so cloth wipes are a major burden on the cleaning end, even though they’re equally as little work on the prepping end.

Similarly, if you’re using cloth diapers, it’s easier to use cloth wipes. They just go in the wet bag along with the dirty diapers and through the wash without even thinking about it.
 
Cloth Diaper Guide
Click HERE for get the newest eBook on cloth diapering, “Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert!”

What Kind of Cloth Wipes are Best?

wipes for cloth diapers (5) (475x356)

As usual, I have plenty of opinions to share.

A few companies who participated in the massive cloth diaper review also sent some wipes, so I’ve tried cloth wipes from Babykicks, Kissaluvs, and Wooldins (all pictured above). They’re mostly made from nice organic materials, some of which are more absorbent and some of which are more cute. I also had a set from a small Etsy seller than I won years ago in a blog giveaway – they’ve been happily tending to stuffy noses after trying them once or twice on a baby’s bum and learning the “use wipes that match your diapers” lesson for the first time.

Wipes available for purchase have been one of two styles: made much like a baby washcloth, soft and supple, or nice and thick with two layers of fabric.

I don’t like any of them.

Cranky sounding, I know.

But let’s keep it simple.

wipes for cloth diapers (4) (475x356)

My favorite cloth wipes are an old T-shirt, cut into squares with pinking shears. Here’s why:

  • They don’t take up as much space in the wipes box as the rather bulky purchased wipes I have. Far, far less, which means we run out less often.
  • I can make them the size I’m comfortable with.
  • No sewing, no fraying.
  • I like thin – I’ve always opted for the thinnest baby washcloths for highchair cleanup, too, and I think it’s the same philosophy. Just as I want to be able to feel the peas jammed along the side of baby’s nose, I want to be sure I’m getting all the crevices where poo might hide, and I have trouble with bulky cloths that just seem to get in my way. When I first jumped into cloth diapering, I asked on Twitter and Facebook if people thought I could use an old T-shirt, and some thought I should sew them in 2 layers because they’re so thin. I left the sleeve doubled, and I don’t like it. Too bulky for someone who’s used to thin homemade wipes (and who would cut purchased wipes in half when she used to buy those, way back at the beginning of parenthood!).
  • No fuzzies. I don’t like when the soft velour or flannel wipes leave fuzzies on the rump that I then need to make another pass (or two or three) to clean up. Keep it simple; cotton T-shirts are soft enough (better than adult toilet paper, probably!).
  • FREE. Free! I can’t emphasize that enough. I know you have an old T-shirt around (or, for more softness, flannel shirt). I used ones that were personalized such that no one I might donate it to would really want to wear it anyway – so if you attended the Christian Leadership Institute in 1995 with me, thank you very much, your kind words written on my back are now gracing my baby’s bottom doing very important work.
  • If it stains…or smells badly…I don’t feel terribly about just pitching it in the trash. But actually, they go through the diaper laundry remarkably well.

If I were to buy wipes instead of DIY, I’d probably just grab some cheap baby washcloths. If organic material is really important to you (I prioritize stuff that touches skin for more than 30 seconds and still have a long way to go in that area), then you’ll love the sustainable options from all 3 companies mentioned above.

How Do you Make Cloth Wipes?

I make cloth wipes the same way I make homemade baby wipe s with paper towel.

  1. Boil water. (I haven’t thought to use my Berkey water, but I wonder if that too would help resist mildew?)
  2. Add some natural soap like castille soap or Shaklee Basic H.
  3. Add some white vinegar or tea tree oil for antibacterial properties and to help resist mold/mildew.
  4. Pour over wipes in a box.

Simple! Because cloth wipes take up so much more space than my disposable ones, they do run out faster, so I’ve taken to making extra solution and storing it in a bottle or jar near the changing table. Then I can just cram a few clean cloth wipes in there and pour the solution over top when I need a refill.

What About When You’re on the Go?

One part about cloth diapers that I’ve struggled with is that it’s harder to have a bunch of diapers in the diaper bag because of the bulk. Similarly, cloth wipes take up a lot of space, and I prefer to have a small wipes container so I don’t need a huge diaper bag.

Thus, I’m still in hybrid mode, like this:

wipes for cloth diapers (1) (475x356)

Homemade paper towel wipes in the middle, cloth wipes on the sides. That way, I can still have some for on the go (and we defer to them when the cloth ones run out, which reminds me of that rule that it’s easier just to match up diaper and wipes!).image of dermah2o pack

Another option for on the go might be these Water Wipes, made with only 99.9% water and 0.1% fruit extract, and no preservatives. With no preservatives, I’m not quite sure how long they’ll last, but mine have been open a few weeks and are still doing okay. My only problem is with the packaging, at least the travel size – the opening is so small, it’s nearly impossible to extract just one wipe, and then another feat to get the extras back in the bag. I’m not exactly sure if the material is bleached or what (they are white), but the website says they’re at least biodegradable.

Just promise me you won’t buy Huggies or other mainstream brands – they’re heavy-laden with chemicals, including even parabens in some! Yuck.

For more on cloth diapering and all my strong opinions, be sure to check out:

If you cloth diaper, what’s your wipes routine?

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35 Comments so far ↓

  • Laurie M.

    I like your t-shirt idea. I might give that a try. I have been using flannel wipes that I up-cycled from a flannel sheet. Any pills in the fabric are long gone. I reallllllllllly don’t like to premoisten them, though. Instead I make up some wipe solution (H2O, squirt of baby oil, squirt of soap, lavender oil, tea tree oil) and put it in an empty rubbing alcohol bottle. Easy peasy.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Sarah D Reply:

    Katie,

    You can even use the wipes solution you already make and put it in a spray bottle instead. Cloth wipes stay dry and you spray baby’s bottom then wipe with a dry cloth. No mildew issues!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Michelle Reply:

    I just read your solution concoction you use on your baby… so you just have the solution ready in a bottle then on a flannel wipe you moisten BEFORE wiping the bottom? This is genius! Did I get this right because I’m going to copy!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Cathy

    My mother in law made a bunch of flannel wipes for me. I never presoaked. I just got them wet with water when I needed them. If it was a particularly messy change, then I might use a tiny bit of their homemade soap on a wipe.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • KatieC

    Um, is it bad that I use spray bottles? I have a stack of thin baby washcloths that I got very cheaply (Grovia, I think, maybe $6 for 36 on amazon?) and two large spray bottles – one soap/water mix and one water/witch hazel mix, both mixtures heavy on the water. I just spray down the cloth from whichever bottle I need (mostly just water, but often poo needs a little of the soap mixture), wipe and go. I sure how this isn’t a bad arrangement…I’ve been using it for 9 months, lol!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Katie, Sounds brilliant to me! I just do it in the box because it’s familiar… :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Nicole

    I went the cheap baby washcloth wipe route and those things aren’t worth it! They repel water and really aren’t all that soft. I also cut up tshirts but didn’t like that either, once baby was bigger. My solution was to buy some flannel on sale and serge my own. It took me two hours to make 50+ wipes and they are much nicer IMO. I am hoping this keeps me from buying wipes as the two previous options were such a pain that I would resort to just buying disposable wipes. But I agree that the price of cloth wipes when bought by a major brand are not the only way to go!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Jenn B

    My favorite wipes right now are cut squares from an old cotton sheet. I keep water or wipe solution in a travel spray bottle (from the Target 99 cent section) and spray the baby rather than the wipe. With my older son I kept a peri bottle full of water next to the changing table. It’s great for cleaning poopy bums once baby is eating solids.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Stephanie L

    When my oldest child was born, we found an old plastic shoe box, bought about 3 or 4 packs of those white face cloths from Wal-Mart and Target (I think there were ten per pack), folded them in half, stuck some in the shoe box, filled it with water and there you go. It was easy and the BEST way to rid her of diaper rash. We used disposible diapers with her. But we had a trash can with a lid and just tossed the wipes in there and I washed them every few days. Four and a half years later, when my son came along, we dug the wipes that survived out, bought a few more packs of the white wash cloths and did the same. But with my son, we cloth diaper. He is now 22 months and we are going strong with the wipes. Just plain old water, the cloths and the shoe box. Every now and then I clean it with soap. And I only put in maybe 5 or 6 wipes at a time and enough water to make them all wet. I have never had a problem with mold (maybe because I live in Colorado and it is DRY here?). We love it. I honestly can’t imagine spending money every single month on wipes. And I don’t care that they are plain white. We could have done colors, but hey – its a wipe. :) My husband will put in a few in a zip lock bag when we go out, and that works well because we have a wet bag for diapers. I love this discussion! It’s fun to see other ways of doing it – but I have to say, I would do it the same way again if we have another baby. It has worked out really well for us.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Jodi

    When we first started cloth, we also used the inexpensive wash cloths from Walmart and a shoe box. I found that they always made baby too wet, then I’d have to use a dry one to dry him down a bit before diapering. I ended up picking up a yard of flannel on sale for $1 and cut them into 7″ squares. I don’t have a serger, so took some time & zig zagged the edges. I absolutely love them! They fit perfectly into a regular wipes box, and I find that I almost only need 1, so filling the small travel wipes container is no problem for when we’re out. For wetting them, I take a small stack, wet them (plain water), wring them out, and put them in the container. It’s enough for 2-3 days & no problem with mildew or smells. By the way, the wash cloths from Walmart work great as napkins. That’s all we’ve used for the last 5-7 years or so. Family thought we were crazy, but I can’t imagine how much $$ we’d go thru in napkins with all of us!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Shiree Martin

    I use baby washcloths and some wipes I made out of old diapers. I just fold them so they’ll pop up, wet them with water, wring them out and then put them in the wipes container. I made a wipe solution and put it in a small spray bottle so I could use it when needed. I often only need water. EXTREMELY CHEAP AND EASY

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Heather

    My favorite wipes are 2 layers of T-shirt fabric sewn together. I’ve tried flannel, stretch terry, towel terry, and french terry, but the T-shirt fabric ones I made out of a yard of fabric I don’t like the print on are the best yet. I don’t pre-soak. I keep a bucket of dry wipes on the diaper table, where they get used for tushes, kid noses, and whatever small clean-up jobs, and tossed into the diaper pail. I just get them wet with tap water at diaper time. With this baby, I’ve had the diaper table in the bathroom for the first time. Ladies, if you can swing this at all, it is SOOO convenient! The water is right there, the tub is handy in case of blowouts, the bathroom is centrally located. Much better than being off in a bedroom (we co-sleep, so baby doesn’t have a bedroom of his own anyhow. He’ll go in with his brother when he’s older.) My diaper table/baby dresser is just a low dresser from the free section of craigslist. My bathroom is skinny but long, and the dresser fits along the wall, between the toilet and the door.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Janelle

    I could never figure out why anybody would spend so much money on those fancy wipes!
    Yeah, they’re cute….but they’re just wiping poop! Mine are pieces of flannel that my mom or I zig-zagged or serged the edges. Super easy. I love the t-shirt idea though….pretty sure that’s what I’ll be doing with my husbands overabundance of t-shirts!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Skwerl Reply:

    Well, just speaking for myself here, but I spent money on fancy wipes because I was on active duty when my babies were born, and their daycare provider was not going to mess with cloth diapers or cloth wipes. Also, working 40+ hours per week outside the home with a deployed spouse and two children under 4yo leaves little time or energy for things like….making baby wipes. Hope that helps!

    [Reply to this comment]

    m Reply:

    I don’t think she meant disposable wipes. Pretty sure she meant the fancy cloth wipes with pretty patterns on them, like the organic ones pictures above.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Amanda

    I keep a basket of cheap, white washcloths in the bathroom. On my way to the changing table, I stop by the bathroom, get a couple washcloths wet, and use those. If, once I’m changing the diaper, I find what I have is insufficient, I use a package of wipes that I keep on the changing table for that purpose.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • RG

    I just have a question that is kinda gross and maybe asking for too much info, but here goes. I was camping once and there were no civilized methods of using the rest room. A lady with our group had me use an old cut up tshirt for the after effects of the business. It was fine, but it didn’t get me dry. Later this hurt because it was sore, having not been dried for a couple of days. Anyway, so do babies get sore when you use t shirt wipes? Does it really dry their bottom enough? Is there a particular type of fabric that would do a better job than another type? I always use a dry cloth to wipe my babies after I use disposable wipes for this reason, but cloth wipes is an intriguing discussion.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    RG,
    I haven’t noticed that any type of fabric keeps baby wet more than another; it all depends on how saturated the wipe is to begin with. Sometimes I pat the bum dry with the new diaper, but not too long with a boy b’c of the risk of getting squirted myself! ;) I think if you use a dry cloth after a disposable wipe, it would be even easier to have a dry cloth wipe available for the same purpose. My guy hasn’t been too sore, but not perfectly w/o any redness, either.
    :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Christina

    I also use flannel cut into 8″ squares and zig zagged at the edges. I don’t pre-wet them. I just grab a fist full and shove them in a pocket of my diaper bag. I always carry a bottle of water and most of the time change my baby in a bathroom anyway- so I just get the wipe wet in plain old water and wash her off. I always pat her bottom and wait for her to get dry before I put the diaper on. (This is becoming more of a challenge as she get more mobile!) At home I have a bowl of water that just sits on the changing table to dip wipes into (only clean ones!). I’ve often thought about using a solution on my wipes- but what I do doesn’t cost ANYTHING and creating a solution would. I’m not sure why she would need anything else to wipe her off anyway…. if it’s really bad I just put her in the bath and bypass wiping all together.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Melissa

    I’ve been cloth diapering for 2.5 years and about 6 months ago a post here inspired me to cut up some old receiving blankets for “snot rags” and one blanket became cloth wipes. I’m too lazy to mix up solution, though – I just use plain water. The wet cloth is more than sufficient to clean a bottom and I hate using disposable wipes now because it takes me so long to get a clean bottom.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sarah

    All we used for a long time was cheap white baby wash cloths (one side was sort of terry cloth-like and the other side was smoother and softer). In the beginning I mixed up some sort of solution to dip them into, but eventually we would just get two or three damp at the bathroom faucet before changing a diaper. Wipes + solution versus wipes + water never seemed to make any difference. I think I also mainly used them to change dirty diapers and maybe very wet diapers– if baby wasn’t completely soaked I don’t think I bothered with a wipe every single time. Is more than that really necessary?

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Favorite Link Friday

    [...] A great post about choosing your DIY wipes based on your type of diaper–Kitchen Stewardship [...]

  • sarah

    we use old cut up flannel baby blankets… we had a million of them and weren’t using them anyways, since they are too small after the first couple weeks of baby’s life.

    thanks for the boiling water tip, i was wondering how to get rid of the mildew-iness.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Cori

    I used to use the flannel wipes that I bought from my cloth diaper store, but every wipes recipe, including plain distilled water, would result in a rash on my little guy. So, I’ve pretty much given up and gone back to disposable wipes. I go for fragrance-free, paraben-free ingredient lists, but I generally don’t know much about the other ingredients. I guess I’m at a loss about what else to do…I can’t just let him continue to get rashes if I can prevent it.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Heather Reply:

    Don’t worry about a “recipe”. Babies’ bottoms have been being successfully cleaned with just plain water since Man lived in caves. I’ve had no actual rashes through 3 kids in cloth diapers, wiped with cloth wipes wet with tap water–and no special drying the bottom procedure, either.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Country Fun

    In my childcare I use disposable diapers, but make my own wipes using the same recipe as here. Love it. I use paper towels mostly, but also have a batch of old t-shirts that I can use and rinse for a heavy mess. Will be trying the spray bottle idea.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • nopinkhere

    I made my own wipes for at home. One side flannel, one side washcloth material. I don’t soak them in solution (very similar to yours). I have the solution in a spray bottle and just spray till everything is wet. Sometimes I do wish I had something thinner for getting poo out of small spaces and crevices, but I’m generally happy with mine. What used to take me 5 or 6 store bought wipes, now takes one wipe or two “just to be sure.”

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Angie

    I keep a spray bottle of mostly water, little bit of Castillo soap and tea tree oil. I grab a dry wipe and spray it. If its really messy, I spray the bum! We also keep some 7th gen disposable wipes around for dad or when you need more than you thought and only have one hand! FOr the diaper bag, same thing. I have a little pump bottle, but usually just try to wt the wipe at a sink if I can!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • A Dozen {Not So Crafty} Ways to Use an Old Sheet | Green Your Way

    [...] Make homemade baby wipes (although I’d only use cloth wipes for cloth diapers; an old T-shirt is cut up in the photo [...]

  • Carli Hench

    Hi. I wanted to try cloth wipes since I use cloth diapers sometimes. I like the idea of using a cut up t shirt or cheap washcloths and a squirt bottle with solution in it. I bought some Castile soap and put some vinegar and water in a bottle. I think I put way too much though. Can you tell me about how much I should use?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Heather Reply:

    I wouldn’t use more than a few drops, if you feel the need to use any. I’ve cloth diapered 3 kids, and I never have. I made my own diapers, and just made wipes out of diaper-making scraps. I just use plain water. From the sink. You can have it as warm as you want and there’s no bottle to worry about. Just wet the wipe(s) at the sink on the way to change the diaper.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Carli Hench Reply:

    Thanks heather. Also, I’ve been having a ton of problems with my cloth diapers leaking! That’s why I only do it part- time. Any suggestions? I have alva baby and something else that’s similar.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Heather Reply:

    I don’t really have any experience with diapers other than my own homemade, but at my house a lot of leaks might mean it’s time to change more often, or go up a diaper size, or maybe the wool cover is too small or needs lanolizing. I use velcro-closing fitteds with wool soakers/diaper covers. Most of the covers are the upcycled sweater kind, some are hand-knit (but I can upcycle a sweater on the sewing machine MUCH faster than my slow knitting–especially because babies tend to think that Mommy sitting down means it’s time to nurse, and I haven’t figured out knitting while nursing!). We co-sleep, and we dislike waking up to a peed-on bed, so I always use a doubler at night–usually with wool longies (upcycled sweater sleeves!), because they seldom leak.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Carli,
    Heather is right, just a few drops or a squirt if you’ve got a 2-4 cup bottle. The vinegar is supposed to help keep mold away (never does) and work with possible yeast on the baby. So plain water would be fine!

    As for leaking, many of my diapers leaked a LOT at first. Drove me nuts. They just needed like 10 washes to be fully “prepped.” Also, if you’re using creams that aren’t approved for cloth diapers, you can cause build up on your inserts that will make the moisture repel.
    :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • New Baby Essentials « Mama B's Hectic Home

    [...] constantly get lost and you need them all the time.  They are easy to make (Try this tutorial from Kitchen Stewardship) .  You can cut up pieces of fleece, flannel, towels, or t-shirt material and use those as quick [...]

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I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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