Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Great Wipe Debate

Apparently there is a big debate going on over whether or not to use cloth or disposable wipes. Is it worth it? Do they work as well? Is it something I should be doing? So I decided to weigh in on the issue.

The truth is that I am torn. As with anything, there are pros & cons to using cloth wipes. I think it ends up coming down to what is most important to you and what works best for your lifestyle.

The Pros:

1. Less waste. Anything that is reusable instead of disposable has this advantage, so this should be no surprise here. It also means less guilt about having to use several wipes in one change. If your spouse is like mine, they use one entire wipe per swipe of the tush, which can add up pretty quickly. So in the end, it's a financial saver as well.

2. No digging through icky mess to remove the disposable wipes before tossing into the diaper pail. When there is a big mess, it is much easier to be able to toss everything into the pail all together. With disposable wipes you really shouldn't be putting them through your washer/dryer, so you would have to remove them to toss into the trash before dumping the diaper. This can be quite a messy situation.

The Cons:
(I should preface this section by saying that I am not using actual flannel cloth wipes. I received a money saving tip that using baby washcloths works just as well & they are much, much cheaper than the wipes are. So I think that some of these "cons" might be reduced by using cloth wipes actually intended to be wipes.)

1. I feel that they are harsher on my baby's bum than disposable wipes. Not the solution I am using, but the material of the wipe itself. I feel that it is more abrasive than I would like. I have used the non-scrubbing side of the washcloths & I still feel it's not as gentle as it could be. I do plan on purchasing some flannel wipes with Baby #2, and I think that might help with this.

2. They stain fairly easily. Shouldn't be a big deal, but this makes me not want to use them for other messes, such as pasta sauce on my daughter's face. The cloth wipes should be versatile so that you can eliminate all disposable wipe use entirely. But I am not comfortable wiping my daughter's face with something that has a poop stain on it. Even though I know it's perfectly clean. So I still buy disposable wipes to handle the other messes, and I carry 2 wipe cases in the diaper bag when I'm going out. I have considered buying a set of wipes & designating it for "other" uses and not for diapers, but I think it would get confusing while out & about & everything would end up mixed-up together anyway, and it's not eliminating the need to carry around 2 wipes cases.

The Unclear:

1. They can get expensive initially, on average about $1 a wipe - the same cost as a prefold diaper. As I mentioned before, someone gave me a tip to use baby washcloths instead and it did save me a lot of money, about 1/4 of the cost. Instead of $12 for 12 wipes, I paid $3 for 12 washcloths. But I am not 100% satisfied with my wipes, so maybe it is worth it to break down & buy the flannel ones.

2. Many people claim that cloth wipes clean your baby's bottom better. I don't feel that either one cleans any better than the other. Some moms claim that they can clean up a big poopy mess with 1 cloth wipe as opposed to 4 or 5 disposable wipes. I don't agree with this. If it's a big mess, I am going to be using more than one wipe so that I feel that my child's bottom is clean enough, regardless of whether it's disposable or cloth. I think the clean-up difference is in the diapers; I think that some cloth diapers wipe the poop off the butt better than disposables, but it depends on the diaper & it depends on the poop. We all know that some poops are just explosive & it's a project to clean them up! However, I do enjoy that clean-up can be a mini bath on her bottom. I make our wipe solution at home out of mixture of water & very tiny amount of gentle soap. So if she's particularly dirty, I can get the wipe really wet & fight the urge to toss her in the tub for while!

3. I find that you can't let clean wet wipes sit for very long without them getting that milew-ey, wet sponge smell. As I have said previously, I am a smell person and bad smells make me crazy. So this was something I had to play with. I didn't like spraying the wipe or K's bum with a pre-mixed solution - I just didn't think it got clean enough. So wetting them before the change was the way to go for us. I find that you can have wet wipes around for about 2 days before they start to stink, and can usually push it to 3 days if I have to. So every morning I douse a number of wipes with water & that gentle soap and store them in the travel case. If I overestimate, I can just use them the next day before I wet any more, but I have to make sure I use them first. So another part of the CD routine to add. Not really a positive or a negative, just another thing to consider.

So overall, I am undecided on how I feel. I will continue to use my cloth wipes because I have them & they work fine enough. I do look forward to the softer wipes with Baby #2, but K is almost out of diapers so I am not investing any more money into CD-ing for her.

How about you? Do you use cloth wipes? If so, what do you like & dislike about them?


  1. I wasn't sold on cloth wipes initially, either. I used 7th Gen wipes for a while, until I had enough cloth ones to stop getting the others & wow! What a difference on my wallet! I couldn't justify buying the 7th Generation wipes anymore. We've got about 36 wipes, and they're all flannel. I used to use a solution, but found that to be a pain after a while, so now I just wet a stack to fit in my carrying case and bring along extra dry ones just in case. I will use a washcloth if I feel the need to use some soap after a particularly icky poop, but otherwise, it's straight up water.
    To help with the stains, I rinse the wipes out along with T's poopy diapers. Sometimes there still are stains, but my periodic bleaching of the dipes helps rid them of those. I tend not to use the cloth wipes on his face or hands either, unless I'm out of the extra burp cloths I take along with me. After 2+ years of cloth diapering, you kind of get used to all the extras! :)
    (PS - I'm making you a stack of flannel wipes. :) :) :)

  2. Julia, as ever, you are the best! I hadn't even thought to keep the burp cloths around after the spit-up days!!! And K stopped that so early on that it's been well over a year since we've even had those out! So do you just use one giant wetbag for everything while you're out or do you have a separate one for just the burp cloths? And do you pre-wet the burp cloths too? I'm trying to get away from using as many disposable tings as possible, so any tips are a great help!!

    Oddly enough, we also ave 36 wipes! I guess that happens when you buy them in dozens, haha! I do always spray off the wipes when I do the diapers, but they aren't always spray-worthy & they still stain like crazy, and the periodic bleaching didn't fix it. (Really though, I've only bleached twice since October) As wipes for the butt, I don't care too much about the stains, but I can't bring myself to use it on her face. So digging up the burp cloths might not be a bad idea!