Cloth Wipes for Diapering

Of all the baby care products which I believe commonly give the most toxic exposure to babies, disposable wipes top the list (it’s a close contest with lotion/chemical sunscreen).

I had carefully chosen every natural shampoo, soap, and lotion for my first two babies. So imagine my horror when my third baby was 6 months old and I finally turned over the Huggies wipes to read the ingredients. I discovered a list of chemicals I wasn’t comfortable with, including methylparaben, which I knew to be highly associated with breast cancer. And, whereas I only bathed my babies once or twice a week (thereby minimal exposure to baby shampoo), I wiped this concoction on their genitals several times a day! (Note: don’t be fooled by the “Natural Care” line from Huggies . . . the addition of Aloe and Vitamin E hardly makes up for the all the chemicals still in them.)

I looked into “natural” wipes, and these are an OK option if you can afford the price. I still buy Earth’s Best wipes or Seventh Generation wipes from for keeping in the diaper bag.  But I felt that these would be too costly for daily use, and on the raving recommendation from a friend, I plunged into cloth wipes.

Actually, I plunged into cloth diapering, but that is the subject for another post. Even with a paper diaper, cloth wipes are a huge step away from chemicals for your baby. And it’s really simple.

  1. You’ll need to obtain the wipes themselves. I purchased organic cotton flannel wipes, which are just a piece of flannel with the edges serged. A friend made nearly the same thing by zig-zagging inside a pinking-sheared edge, cut from an old receiving blanket. That is far more economical than the $1 each which I paid. I have 12 of these, and they work better than any disposable wipe I’ve tried, including Huggies with their thick texture. I also have some polyester terry “baby washcloths” in my stash . . . I don’t think they work quite as well, but I already had them, so they are a fall back. My latest addition has been Kissaluvs Terry Wipes, which are amazing for messy diapers. The thick cotton terry loop really does clean up really, really well. I have 6 of these. The number you need on hand will depend on how many you use per change, and how often you do laundry. With roughly 24, and doing laundry every 2-3 days, I’ve never run out.
  2. You’ll need a way to wet the wipe. When I first started with cloth wipes, I tried loading them into the old Huggies tub, and spraying them down with my wipe solution. However, they tended to get sour in the bottom of the container before I could use them. Now I keep the dry wipes in a stack at the changing table, and either wet one in the sink with warm water, or squirt one in my hand with my wipes solution. (I’ve also heard of spraying the bum directly.)
    I make my solution in a squirt-top bottle (most moms will have that peri-bottle that came home with them from the hospital) with water and lemon witch hazel. I fill the bottle nearly full with water, then squirt a little witch hazel in the top, shake, and the whole thing is a smell-great cleansing solution. (Note: witch hazel feels great on healthy skin, but if your baby develops a rash/broken skin it could sting; in this case, go to something more mild, like natural baby wash/shampoo in the water, or just plain water.)
  3. Since you aren’t disposing of these wipes, you’ll need to launder them. If you plan to use cloth diapers, process them right along with them. If you are using paper diapers, then rinse poopy wipes out in a utility sink before adding them into the load with underwear. To keep things sanitary, I wash our family’s underwear separate from kitchen towels and napkins. The underwear load (which would include your wipes, and any other baby clothes which have succumbed to a wet-through or blow-out) should have an initial wash cycle in cold, with half the detergent amount. This is to wash out the fluids/solids still on the fabric. Then a full wash cycle in the hottest water your machine will set for, with half the amount of detergent, and a scoop of oxygen bleach for sanitation. Line dry in anti-bacterial sunshine, or in the dryer on hot.

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