Disposable vs. reusable wipes

Disposable Wipes

If you have a new baby around the house (or it's your 2nd, 3rd or 4th baby), you're going to end up using a lot of baby wipes – plain and simple. Disposable wipes might seem pretty inexpensive and low-impact on the planet (being like tissue), so its a product that most of us don't consider when reducing our impact. But wipes can build up over time into small toxic mountains - costing your wallet and the planet over time. Here are some things to consider:

  • Impact: The average family can use 15-25 baby wipes per day, or about 5,475 - 9,125 baby wipes per year with a one-year-old in the house. Hence, in one child's life, you'll be sending 13K - 22,K wipes to landfill by the time they are 2 and a half years old (a.k.a. a small toxic mountain). Not to mention the plastic packaging they are covered in.

 

  • Not Flushable or Organic: Despite claims of some wipes being "compostable," "biodegradable," or even "flushable," the City of Toronto cannot process wipes alongside organics and they end up straight in landfill like disposable diapers, or they can clog up our sewer system when flushed down the toilet. 

  • Toxicity: Unless you are sourcing purely water-based wipes, most disposable wipes on the market have unnecessary chemicals that can be harmful to the environment (and your baby), including Parabens, Phthalates, Formaldehyde and more. In some cases, these chemicals are causing diaper rash for your baby.  (Read this article by Natural Baby Life for more).

Reusable Cloth Wipes

Reusable wipes are a cost-efficient and easy solution to disposable wipes.  These small pieces of cloths are super soft, economical, and chemical-free. Here are some key things to know:

 

  • Wipes Kit: On average, have at least 2 dozens wipes handy for use (if you're washing every second day) and a water spray bottle. To travel, have a waterproof clutch bag for your wipes and diapers to go into (more info below).

  • Fabrics: Cloth wipes are made from a variety of materials including cottons, bamboo, velours, flannels, microfleece, minky and more.

  • Usage: Spray your wipes to dampen them with a spray bottle (or see more options below). If baby has peed, use a dry or damp wipe to dry them off.  If baby has pooped, use the diaper to take off as much poo as you can as you take it off, then use a damp wipe or two to clean baby’s bum. Wash everything together on wash day (to learn more, read our diaper cleaning page here).

  • Traveling: You can travel with reusable wipes too, same rules apply. Pack dry wipes and pre-wet them just before use at the sink or with a small spray bottle of wipe solution (see below for more). Then put your pre-moistened cloth wipes in an empty disposable wipes travel size container, or clutch size wet bag. After use, store your dirty wipes along with the used diaper(s) in a wet bag to wash when you get home.

 

More options: Wetting your wipes

  • You can simply keep your wipes in the bathroom nearest the change table and wet them with warm tap water on your way to your baby changing area. This is what we personally did most often when we were at home since it made the wipes a nice temperature for baby before use.  We kept the wipes rolled up in a little decorative basket next to the sink so they were easy to grab with one hand while holding baby.

  • You can also use a pre-mixed wipe solution such as Applecheeks Gentle Bum Cleansing Spray or Thirsties' Booty Lustre to either spray directly on baby or to wet your cloth wipe before use.  Bonus: wetting your wipes with a solution like these means gentle ingredients and they are naturally scented with lovely essential oils such as lavender (anti-bacterial) and others for a fresh feeling.  This option is amazingly convenient, works really well and it’s super easy to keep a small bottle in your diaper bag for fuss-free diaper changes when you’re out on the town (perhaps not within easy reach of a sink).

  • You can use a small container (or a wipe warmer) - some moms use an empty disposable wipes container - to put your wipes in and pre-wet them in the container so they’re always ready and waiting.  To do this, pour the wipe solution of your choice over the dry wipes in the container and you’re good to go.  (Note: if you use this option you’ll want to clean out the container and put in fresh solution and new wipes every few days to keep it from getting musty).

Disposable Wipes

Photo: Amazon Elements Baby Wipes, a disposable wipes option.

Cloth (Reusable) Wipes

Photo: Bumkins cloth baby wipes, a reusable wipes option.

Cloth Wipe Kit

Photo: Cheeky Wipes Kit including container, bags, essential oils and cloth wipes for at-home system or travel system.

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