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The problem with disposable wipes

Posted on: July 5, 2022 by
Katharine Brennan.
View other posts with tag disposable wipes | modern cloth nappies

What actually is the problem with disposable wipes?

Well, where do we start? There are actually SO MANY problems with disposable baby wipes. Let’s assume you are at the start of your eco friendly baby journey and you’re trying to figure out how to use cloth nappies (as we all were one day!) there is a lot to learn…

Firstly, disposable wipes, as opposed to reusable cloth wipes, are used alongside disposable nappies because: convenience. Most people do not think about how many they use or what happens to them after they are used, the truth is, many people using disposable nappies wrap the wipes up within the nappy and place the whole lot in a plastic nappy bag that then goes in another plastic bag – your bin. That’s a lot of plastic! All those non breathable layers increase the breakdown time of both the nappies and the wipes: estimated to be anywhere from 150-500 years! (No one really knows because they’ve only been around for the past 50 or so years). We talk a lot about disposable nappies but not as much about wipes!

Now let’s get to what is in a baby wipe?

Most are made from a polyester base which can’t biodegrade due to its petrochemical content ( Brands in Australia do not have to disclose what is in a wipe (or nappy) so they tend to use phrases like ‘gentle’ and ‘simple’ to greenwash us. As for the cleansing solution in the wipes- it contains preservatives, perfume, emulsifiers, stabilisers and humectants…many of which are irritating to a baby’s sensitive skin…so nappy rash could actually be caused by the wipes you are using to clean your baby’s most delicate parts! Ouch.

Also, once you use cloth wipes you realise baby wipes are absolutely rubbish at cleaning up your average code brown. They are really only good for one maaaybe two wipes before they start getting holes and your risk a finger in that mudslide. So hence, you have to use more and more and more! Have you also noticed the way they come out of the packet tightly joined together, so (as I have seen) when parents are trying to clean up a big mess holding the baby’s legs with one hand and pulling wipes out with the other, they normally end up with at least 5 at a time instead of one. This ensures you need to keep buying more more more!

Some people also flush them down the toilet which causes MASSIVE problems in the sewerage system, not to mention your own plumbing! Same as wet wipes, toilet wipes, even bamboo nappy liners- none are designed to breakdown in a toilet.

Cloth wipes are a better alternative

But good news, there is a safe, simple, cheap, effective alternative! CLOTH WIPES. If you are using reusable nappies aka modern cloth nappies, it makes total sense to use cloth wipes at the same time. You just put them in the wash together, so easy. Most people store them in a container next to the change table and either wet them as needed, or store them damp (personally I have never had any problems with mould as you tend to go through them within a few days, but to be safe I do cover them with pre boiled water just in case). When you are out and about- same deal, take them dry and wet as needed for example if you are changing your baby in a bathroom just use tap water OR again, take some moistened in a wet bag or container. In terms of storage, this is where wet bags are your friend, you will need at least 2 – one to store clean/dry items and one to store wet/dirty items –a great invention is the large wetbag with 2 compartments.

So there you have it; if you are using cloth nappies it makes sense and is so easy to use cloth wipes at the same time!