Making the Switch from Disposable to Washable Nappies

The thought of millions of used disposable nappies sitting in landfill for hundreds of years, refusing to biodegrade, is pretty disgusting. But what’s the alternative? Huge, baby-swamping terry nappies that need to be boiled for hours and then dried for days on the line? In fact, washable nappies have evolved so much in recent years that terry nappies will soon be a distant memory…

Washable nappies aren’t what they used to be. Until a relatively short time ago, ‘washable nappies’ meant enormous terry squares which swamped the baby; it meant fiddling with giant safety pins, and boiling tin buckets of soiled nappies on the stove every day to get them clean.

If that’s your childhood recollection of Mum using washable nappies on your little brother or sister, and it’s put you off the idea of using washables on your own baby, that’s understandable. In today’s fast-paced world we look for convenience in every aspect of our lives, and when it comes to nappies there’s no exception; who needs all that extra work and expense, when disposable nappies are so cheap and easy to use?

The reality is that just as the disposable nappy has made technological leaps and bounds in recent years, so has the washable nappy; today’s washable nappy is convenient, fully adjustable, hygienic and cheaper than disposables. And with all of us striving to leave behind a cleaner, healthier environment for future generations, switching from disposables to washable nappies is one simple – yet high-impact – step we can all make, with a minimum of effort and expense.

Not convinced? Here are a few facts and figures worth bearing in mind.

Environmental impact

Nearly 8 million nappies are thrown away in the UK every day, and we don’t know how long the plastics in them take to decompose.  Your baby will get through around seven nappies a day, from birth until two and a half years of age. That’s an average of 6,384 nappies per child, which will stay in landfill for literally hundreds of years.

Even the most eco-friendly fully disposable nappy is only 70-80% biodegradable. Yet the latest disposable inserts used with washable nappies are so natural, you can even dispose of them in your compost bin.

Disposable nappies also are made of superabsorbent chemicals, including a chemical called tributyl which is known to disrupt sex hormones. These chemicals sit close to baby’s skin 24 hours a day, and once the used nappies are in landfill, they’ll poison the ground and threaten wildlife.

Washing and drying

You might think that washing and drying a day’s supply of washable nappies would be hard work, and just as harmful to the environment as disposables. Washing machine set to ‘boil’, tumble dryer constantly running, or central heating left on for long periods to help your washable nappies dry – right?

In fact, many washable nappies are made from highly absorbent and fast-drying microfiber fleece, and come out of the washing machine almost dry, ready to be reused within a couple of hours.


The latest technological developments have produced a washable nappy that is set to turn the world of nappies on its head; you can now combine washable nappies with a disposable – and fully biodegradable – insert. The insert is the same price as a branded disposable nappy and is just as convenient to use when you’re out and about – without the environmental consequences.

This washable/disposable combination – the bumGenius Flip Nappy – sports adjustable poppers so it will fit a baby from birth to potty training; the outer part is fully washable, and you can choose to kit it out with washable inserts when you’re at home, or convenient disposable inserts when you’re not.


If you use disposable nappies on your child from birth to potty training – again, based on using an average of seven nappies per day – even if you can always find disposable nappies on special offer, conservatively you’re going to spend £800 per child (in reality, it’s going to be closer to £1,200).

However, if you use washable nappies instead, with complete nappy kits costing from £100-£300 the savings are obvious – even when you include the running costs of your washing machine. And, of course, your washable nappies can be used by your next child, and the next… so depending on how many children you have, you could literally save thousands of pounds by switching from disposables to washable nappies.

What’s more, most local authorities in the UK now offer cash incentives to parents who want to use washable nappies instead of disposables – so making the switch from disposables to washable nappies is even more affordable!


I'm Pete. Co-founder of Babipur, the ethical retailer of goods for all the family established 2007. When I'm not talking about wooden toys, inequality in supply chains and reusable lifestyle products you'll find me riding my bike, paddling my board or lost in the mountains of Snowdonia.

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