Wednesday, 11 January 2012

How MCNs work for us

I'm a big fan of modern cloth nappies - here's the howwhatwhenwherewhywho of what we do.

What do you use?
We use pocket MCNs with microfibre inserts. We also use disposables at night and on occasion during the day.

Why do you use cloth nappies/ diapers?
The two main reasons that we use cloth nappies are financial and environmental.

The last box of disposable nappies which I bought (with 81 nappies in it) took Chubs five and a half weeks to work through. If she was using them full time it would last 10 - 14 days. The initial cost of cloth nappies isn't significant, especially when compared to the ongoing cost of disposables. I also only purchased 12 to begin with, and then another 12 later when we were sure we would keep using them to spread the cost.

The environmental cost of disposables is huge - every single disposable which has ever been used is still in landfill somewhere. Disposables are made of chemicals and use energy and water to manufacture. Of course cloth nappies are made of chemicals too, however each is only produced once and used many times. Based on our current usage rate and assuming that Chubs toilet trains at two and a half, then each of our 24 nappies will have been used roughly 100 times each. There is obviously a water and energy cost when it comes to washing the cloth nappies. To be honest I'm not really sure about what the actual cost is for disposables since it's very hard to find data. What is in my control, however, is to minimise the environmental cost of washing the cloth nappies. I wash in cold water, line dry and don't iron the nappies. (Seriously, I once read a study where people ironed their nappies, and they used that to work out the energy and time cost?!?!?)

As well as the production and washing cost of nappies, there is the breakdown of nappies and the transport. A disposable nappy/ diaper needs to be delievered in trucks from the factory to the shop, transported home from the shops, and then taken away to the dump by a garbage truck for every single nappy change. Cloth nappies only need to be transported once. Using our rate of usage as I said above, that means that we have 1% of the transport impact that Chubs' nappies otherwise would if she was in sposies full time. Assuming we throw out her nappies when she toilet trains (and that they last as long as that) then there will also be a lot less nappies sitting somewhere in landfill.

How do you use them?
The cloth nappies we have are very simple to use. The microfibre insert goes inside, a disposable paper liner on top and then it snaps on the same as a sposie. When it's time to take it off the paper liner (and any interesting 'presents') go into the bin, the insert gets pulled out and the cover and insert go into a regular rubbish bin. If we are out, then I still pull the insert out and put the cover and insert into a wet bag or a plastic bag. When we get home I empty the bag straight into the washing bin. No pins, no plastic pants, no folding, no soaking - woo hoo!

Where do you use them?
We use cloth nappies almost always when we are home and when we are out. As I said above, the nappies go into a bag (a cloth wetbag or just a plastic grocery bag) if we are out. We use disposables sometimes when we are at home and overnight as they are more absorbent than our MCNs (although there are dedicated night cloth nappies available). Chubs also uses her cloth nappies at day care. In our spare/ emergency packs in the car, at Nanny's etc we have disposables.

Each time whe have travelled, either for a business trip or to visit rellies, we have used disposables, mostly to save space on the plane trip and also because we don't always have access to a line to dry (only tumble dryer). Next Christmas we are spending at World Heritage listed Fraser Island and I will probably take the cloth nappies then so that Chubs' nappies don't stay not-rotting there forever. Fresh water is also abundant/ unlimited on Fraser because it's a sand island (which provides a natural desalination filter) so washing won't be a problem. Not sure what we will do if it rains though, I will have to think about that more.

When do you wash?
I wash twice a week overnight. On Saturday and Wednesday nights I empty the bin bag of nappies into the washing machine, fill it with water, normal detergent and nappy soaker. Some places recommend not using nappy soaker, but I find it makes them brighter and I haven't noticed any damage. I pause the machine and delay it several hours so the nappies can soak overnight. The machine comes on at about 5am and I hang them out in the morning.

If it's rainy or we have a crazy week, then I just take the bin bag, tie a knot in it to contain the smell and chuck it in the corner of the laundry. If I run out of cloth nappies then we just use sposies for a few days. I do like having the 'wiggle room' of using the disposables - it relieves much of the pressure to get the nappies washed and dried.

Who has the time to use MCNs?
Well, I do. It's important for me to spend lots of time with Chubs, and I can do that with cloth nappies. From a financial point of view, keeping out costs down means that I can work less hours. Washing nappies isn't time away from Chubs, either. She 'helps' me hang out the nappies, we got for stroller rides around the washing line and hang up one nappy each time and we play peekaboo when getting them off the line. Last week it took me over an hour to bring the nappies in. It would have taken me less than five minutes if I'd just gone and taken them off, but with all the giggling, hiding in washing baskets, making nappy towers and singing silly songs it was a lovely hour well spent :)

This post is part of Works For Me Wednesday. Pop over to Kristen's blog to see what others' tips are.


  1. Your diapering habits sound almost identical to mine... except the disposable liners. Fortunately, I have a clothesline on my porch and I'm happy to say I haven't had any trouble getting them dry this winter. :)Growing up I hated the cloth diapers my mom used, but now I know that pocket diapers are amazing!

  2. MCNs are a very different to terry squares, aren't they! I loved having a look around your blog today too, thanks for posting!

  3. Sorry this is such a pathetic question, but I'm not getting what nappies are...Are they diapers that are washable?

    Thanks for stopping by my blog :-)

  4. Hi Malisa,

    It's ok, nappies is just the UK/ Australian word for diapers. Nappies/ diapers are the same thing. We use washable ones most of the time, and disposable ones a bit. :)


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