Why Use Cloth Wipes?
Parents prefer cloth wipes over disposables for several reasons.
- Simply work better. Much like a washcloth, cloth wipes really grab the mess – making it much easier to clean up. You’ll find that you use far fewer wipes as a result!
- Produce far less solid waste than conventional wipes. Babies go through thousands and thousands of diaper changes before being potty trained – the folks over at diaper decisions estimate about six to eight thousand changes (yikes!). If you use two wipes per change (and let’s be honest…some of those poopy explosions are going to need more than two disposable wipes), we’re talking over ten to fifteen thousand wipes. Picture all that in your local landfill!
- Are free from the chemicals found in most commercial baby wipes.
- Are far softer on baby’s bum.
- Will save you a ton of money!
Even if you don’t cloth diaper, it is a great idea to use cloth wipes as they don’t have all of the harmful chemicals found in traditional wipes.
Buying or Making Cloth Wipes
You can buy cloth wipes, or make your own. Either way, you’ll want to have two to three dozen on hand.
Some parents find it easiest to purchase wipes. Thirsties and other brands sell their own cloth wipes. Also, you can buy cloth wipes on Etsy. But many parents give great reviews to using baby washcloths for wiping, including Circo brand washcloths from Target. Basically, any baby washcloth should work fine as a baby wipe.
When making wipes, you have a lot of fabric choices. Whatever fabric you use, an 8×8 finished size is common for wipes; most sewers make two-layer wipes by starting with fabric that is 8.5 x 8.5 inches. They put the outsides in (facing each other), sew most of the way around with a machine or by hand, then turn the wipe right-side-out and finish with hand stitching. Also, some people prefer to serge the edges, depending on the fabric and machines available to them.
Some common fabric choices for cloth wipes include:
- Flannel wipes: Old flannel sheets or stained receiving blankets can have a new life as wipes.
- Terry cloth: Some crafty mamas turn old towels into cloth wipes. Others use a soft fabric called “baby terry,” available at fabric stores.
- Cotton or Bamboo Velour
- Cotton or Bamboo Fleece
- Mixed fabric: Terry cloth on one side; flannel on the other.
Here is a great little video I found that shows how to sew wipes with both a serger and sewing machine.
How to Use Cloth Wipes
Since disposable wipes come pre-moistened, you might be wondering, “How do I wet these wipes?” Again, you have options. You can store the wipes dry until you’re ready to use them, or you can pre-wet a supply in advance. Let’s look at both methods.
Keep the wipes dry until use:
It seems that most parents keep their wipes dry until diaper change time. Keeping your wipes dry makes for slightly more convenient storage, and you can store the wipes any way you wish. One great method is in a drawer near your sink in the bathroom. Some parents re-use a disposable wipes box, some keep the wipes in a basket or decorative box on top of the changing table. There is no right or wrong way, as long as they are close at hand when changing time comes!
If you store your wipes dry, you’ll want to have on hand a way to wet the wipes. One option is to keep a spray bottle on the changing table/dresser top. (More on what’s actually inside that bottle in a minute.) A more popular option is to use a peri bottle, which essentially is a plastic bottle with a “sport top.” Peri bottles are more frequently used because they dispense water more quickly than spray bottles, are easier to use, and take up less space on the changing table. Many hospitals send new moms home from the hospital with a peri bottle for cleaning. Whichever bottle you choose, you can either wet the wipe or wet baby’s bottom – or both. Wetting the wipe seems less messy to me, but do whatever works for you.
If you want to wet the wipes in advance:
You might find it easier to wet a one or two day supply of wipes in advance. If so, you’ll probably store your wet wipes in a box that formerly held disposable wipes, although there are of course other storage options. The most important features to look for in a storage box are ease of opening (especially when you’re holding a crying baby with one arm!) and tightness of the seal (if you’re wetting wipes in advance, you want them to be still wet at diaper time).
What’s in Your Wipes Solution?
Many parents use plain water as the wipes solution, either in the bottle or to wet the wipes in advance. But some mamas choose to add other ingredients to the mix. My advice? Start with water, and then play around with some of these additions to suit your taste.
If you are cloth diapering, it’s important to make sure that you don’t make a wipes solution that will harm your diapers. Here’s a short list of ingredients that some parents add; most use a few drops per cup of wipes solution unless otherwise noted:
- Baby soap (Be sure to use something that is chemically safe like Burt’s Bees, California Baby, Earth Mama Angel Baby, etc.)
- Essential oil (such as lavender essential oil)
- Tea tree oil (said to help with diaper rash, but also said to be bad for little boys)
- Olive oil
- Baby oil, such as Burt’s Bees apricot baby oil
- Grapefruit seed extract
You can also buy dissolvable solution cubes that you mix with water.
A helpful trick for storing your wet or dry wipes:
Pop up wipes – just like disposables.
I used this method when I first started, but I found that it just took too much time and was not as easy to use as simply stacking my wipes. You may like it though!
Washing Cloth Wipes
Most parents who use cloth wipes use cloth diapers. If you’re in that boat, cleanup is a breeze – just wrap the dirty wipe up in the dirty cloth diaper, and toss it all in the wash together
However, you can use cloth wipes even if you use disposable diapers. You’ll want a wet bag or separate diaper trashcan just for the wipes. Then toss a load of wipes in the washer with your regular baby detergent.
Have other cloth wipes tips to share? We’d love to hear it, please leave a comment!
**Special thanks to Lucy for all of your help with this post!