Paper or plastic?
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.
Click HERE to get the newest eBook on cloth diapering, Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert!
What Kind of Cloth Wipes are Best?
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.
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.
- Boil water. (I haven’t thought to use my Berkey water, but I wonder if that too would help resist mildew?)
- Add some natural soap like castille soap or Shaklee Basic H.
- Add some white vinegar or tea tree oil for antibacterial properties and to help resist mold/mildew.
- 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:
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!).
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:
- Cloth diaper review: 25 styles/brands evaluated with videos for each one!
- Cloth diaper absorbency tests: how much do all those materials hold?
- Wet Bags and how much I love them
- 7 Tips for the Cloth Diapering Newbie
- Newborn Diapering
- The Best Cloth Diapers
- And sign up for a free email subscription or grab my reader feed to check back tomorrow for my basic routine and final thoughts and recommendations on cloth diapering overall.
If you cloth diaper, what’s your wipes routine?