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How much work are cloth nappies? Really?​

(by cloth mom Tara Midgley) 


When I was pregnant and people heard I was planning on doing cloth nappies I’d get The Look. You know the one. The one that says “Oh Honey, you have no idea do you?”. They’d smile and mumble something along the lines of ‘Oh that’s nice’ while I could practically see what they were thinking; “She’s so naive. She has no idea how much work a baby is and now she’s going to add cloth nappies on top of all that. She’s crazy.”


Well they were right. I had no idea how much work a baby was


We didn’t use our cloth at first simply because they didn’t fit. My stash is entirely composed of ‘one- size-fits-all’ nappies which are known not to fit skinny new-born legs very well. So we used disposables for about the first 6 weeks. However, when the time comes for Baby #2, you can bet there’ll be some teeny tiny new-born fluff in my stash!

10 months down the line, my stash has grown and I still LOVE my cloth nappies. Everyone asks me ‘So are you still using those nappies?’ Aren’t they a mission?’. I got to thinking, how much time do I spend, day to day, on cloth chores? How much extra laundry is it? Really? It doesn’t feel like that much extra. So I started a little experiment. For 6 weeks in August and September 2014 I tracked every minute I spent dealing with my nappies. I used a little app on my phone called TimeSheet which recorded the task to the nearest minute. I then entered all the data into an Excel Spreadsheet.


I split the tasks into ‘active time’ and ‘laundry time’. Active time when I was actively dealing with the nappies hands-on (spraying poop, unstuffing & loading machine, hanging up, re-stuffing/folding and packing away). Laundry time was when the washing machine was occupied, but I was able to do other things.

The Background


We have one Little Boy and we use cloth full-time (day and night). I have 24 pockets, 10 AIO and 3 covers in my stash. All pockets are double stuffed with 1 microfiber and 1 bamboo insert. My AIO consist of 5 Grovias and 5 CherubTree Bamboo Velour nappies which I use at night only.

We have a front loading Telefunken TFL-600 6kg machine and wash with Omo. We do not have a tumble drier.

While we do have a lovely nanny who helps around the house, I am the only person who does the nappy laundry. I work fulltime so I deal with nappy laundry either over weekends or after Little Boy has gone to bed (~7pm). My routine is to collect the dirty nappies from the bucket on the changing table, sort them into ones that need spraying and unstuff the rest and toss them in the machine. Then I spray the poopy nappies and add those to the machine. I run a rinse & spin cycle then a long wash which includes a final rinse. Once that’s finished (usually around the time we are heading to bed), I take the nappies out of the machine and hang them on our wooden clothes horse and stand that in the lounge. If the weather is good (not windy), I move the clothes horse outside in the morning so the nappies can get some sun.

I stuff and fold nappies and put them away the following evening after our supper, usually while watching TV. During this experiment, the nanny occasionally stuffed nappies for me. When that happened, I unstuffed the batch and re-stuffed them so that I could time how long it took.

I took note of round when I pegged nappies to the outside washing line. (Marked with a *)

The Results

I worked out the time taken in two ways. First, the time per ‘round’ of laundry from start to finish. I also worked out time per day (see later in document).

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The red cells represent the rounds which took the MOST time. Unsurprisingly, this was when I had to wash my entire stash in one go after having no water for almost a week (Round 6). However, if we disregard that round for a moment, Round 4 appears to have taken the longest under normal conditions. This seems to be because I pegged everything to the line outside. Pegs are fiddly! The quickest round was a mini-load before we went away for a long weekend (Round 8). I didn’t want to leave dirty nappies in the nappy bin for that long

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On average I spent a total of 20 active minutes per round of nappy laundry and my laundry cycle takes 2h 30mins. However, this isn’t the whole story because I seldom stuffed and folded nappies on the same day that I washed them. So I looked at active and laundry time per day. This is much more interesting (to me) because it shows how often I do laundry and give a better idea of daily time commitments.

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I only started the experiment on August 10th and you can clearly see the week without water (21-28 Aug). The most time I spent dealing with nappies in any one day during this whole experiment was 38 minutes. That was stuffing and folding and putting away my whole stash; special circumstances I’m sure you’ll agree! After that, the most active time I spent dealing with nappies on any on one day was 24 minutes. On average though I spent between 9 and 11 minutes dealing with nappies more or less every other day. Laundry took on average 2h 30 mins to run every 2 or 3 days. I could probably go longer between washes, but I wash when my nappy bucket is full.

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Final Say...?

I must admit even I was a bit surprised at how little hands on time there is. Granted if you have more than one child this will be longer but I doubt it’d ever be excessive. For EBF new-borns you can even skip the rinsing step as EBF poop is water soluble!

10 minutes every other day? Easy peasy!

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