I always start my cloth nappy information sessions with a product you can use even if cloth nappies aren't your thing. They're called Cheeky Wipes and are neat little squares of terry cotton or bamboo that you can use in the place of disposable wipes. The full kit comes with a tub for fresh wipes and a tub for dirty wipes, both have a leak-proof and fairly toddler proof click shut lid that parents can manage one handed when changing a wriggly baby or toddler. Two wipes will clean up even the nastiest weaning poop explosion because the fabric has more traction than disposables.
You use the wipes in conjunction with water and essential oils, lavender with chamomile for the fresh wipes which is great on delicate skin and lemon scented tea tree oil which is a natural anti-bacterial. The basic kit includes 25 wipes, essential oils, tubs and travel bags for using the wipes out and about. It will set you back £40, I added a further set of wipes so I have 50 in total and an extra wash net as well as bigger bottles of the essential oils so I probably spent around £65. As with all cloth alternatives, that initial outlay makes some people think it's prohibitively expensive.
However, when Sam was tiny we were getting through at least a pack and a half of disposable wipes a week. If you shop around and buy in bulk, you can get some good deals on baby wipes. When I was using them regularly, I opted for fragrance free because the nicely scented ones dried out my hands, not to mention Sam's bottom. The own-brand fragrance free wipes cost about 50p for a pack of 60 depending on where you shop. The branded wipes on special offers usually come in at about £1 for a pack of 60 (all of these figures are rough, there doesn't seem to be much consistency of pack sizes).
I then learned that even the fragrance free ones contain some fairly horrifying chemicals – formaldehyde for babies gives me the shudders – so now when I buy disposables I opt for DermaH2O WaterWipes. If you get them in bulk, they're still over £2 a pack for 60 wipes. Taking £1 a pack as an average, I would have been spending £1.50 a week for wipes. That's £78 for a year and I've yet to meet a toddler who doesn't need at least a face wipe every day so make it £78 a year for three years and you get £234. Eeek!
And that's just on one child, we'll have two buy the end of July, so I'd conservatively say you would need one and a half times the wipes if you had two kids under three which brings you up to £351 for three years worth of wipes. So I'm starting to think that £65 for the reusable wipes is definitely worth it, especially as they can be washed with your normal load so they're not actually adding to the number of weekly washes. I started using cloth products for the environmental impact, but more and more I'm glad we use them because of the savings on our weekly shop.
I'm so convinced that I'm about to take another step towards hippy-dom and purchase some cloth sanitary products. There are all the same environmental benefits and although I don't need any at the moment, I usually spend about £2.50 a month on my preferred brand so about £30 a year. As I'm all set up for washing nappies and wipes, cloth pads won't be any more hassle and will just about pay for themselves within a year. The next step would be to go toilet-paper free, but I'm not sure the cost savings would be enough to convince my ever-patient husband that I wasn't setting us on the path to commune living and hemp clothing so I'll maybe hold off on that next step!