My Green Nappy Discovering Modern Cloth Nappies and Eco-Friendly Disposable Nappies

May 10, 2010

Natural Nappies: 3 things you must know about choosing Organic, Sustainable and Unbleached nappies for your baby.

All modern cloth nappies are the more natural nappy alternative, however, you can choose to favour organic nappies, nappies with more sustainable fibres such as hemp and bamboo, and unbleached nappies for your baby.

This article is about your choices in natural fibre materials, organic and unbleached fabrics being used in modern cloth nappies.

Unbleached fibres – Unbleached Cotton, Unbleached Hemp, Unbleached Bamboo – these are choices you can favour if you are keen to support retailers who support a reduction in the use of bleaches in preparing fabrics, as this is not good environmentally.

Let’s look at 3 key terms you should know before buying natural or organic nappies in Australia and New Zealand:

1. Bamboo – Organic Bamboo – Bamboo Blends

Giant Bamboo

Bamboo is a fast growing crop. Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on our planet; it has been measured as growing as much as 121 cm in one day. It is a ‘thirsty’ fabric, which makes it ideal for nappies! With bamboo material, you can find the most amazing softness – bamboo velour is something that, once you touch it, you will be in love!
Bamboo fabrics can be combined with other fibres for various reasons, and you can find organic bamboo – this isn’t the most environmentally sustainable option, but in terms of reducing your baby’s exposure to potential chemicals, it is clearly the way to go.

Wiki: There are two methods by which bamboo may be processed into fiber for fabric, both developed in China. The first is a mechanical process similar to that used to process flax or hemp; the stalks are crushed and natural enzymes break them down further, allowing fibers to be combed out.

[My note: This is the method you want to support in your choice of nappy fabric. The other is called Bamboo Rayon, and is a process harmful to the environment.]

Bamboo fabric is known for its softness and boasts strong absorbency and anti-microbial properties, though the chemical process in bamboo rayon destroys any anti-microbial quality.

2. Hemp – Organic Hemp – Hemp Blends

Hemp stem showing fibres

Hemp is a robust, sustainable and adaptable crop with a long history as an effective fibre. Hemp is one of the earliest domesticated plants known, with a history stretching back 10 thousand years. It is a very fast growing crop and it is very environmentally friendly as it requires few pesticides and no herbicides. Industrial hemp does not contain enough of the chemical found in the lesser variety to cause any psycho active effects from the cannabis plant, which has weak fibres unsuitable for cultivation as a useful industrial crop.

In the image there you can see the ‘bast’ fibres, which are used in 100% hemp products. Hemp is a thirsty fibre. It lasts longer than bamboo. It is a very versatile fabric – you’ll find it in nappies, breastpads, cloth pads, to baskets, bags, clothing and of course reusable wipes. Hemp fibre is notable for its strength and durability, for its resistance to ultraviolet light and mold, good absorbency and comfort as a fabric.

Wiki: The fibre is one of the most valuable parts of the hemp plant. It is commonly called bast, which refers to the fibres that grow on the outside of the woody interior of the plant’s stalk, and under the outer most part (the bark). Bast fibres give the plants strength. Hemp fibres can be between approximately 0.91 m (3 ft) and 4.6 m (15 ft) long, running the length of the plant. Depending on the processing used to remove the fibre from the stem, the hemp may naturally be creamy white, brown, gray, black or green.

3. Organic Cotton

Using organic cotton nappies is preferable to regular cotton, which is a dreadful consumer of resources and even worse, the chemicals needed to mature the crop are quite shocking!

With these three ideas you’ll find it easier to navigate your options in natural, organic and unbleached nappies. Do you have a ‘natural’ nappy in your stash? What if you have a look at the options via My Nappy Style Window for Organic and Natural Nappies and resolve that your next nappy you buy will favour a more natural and sustainable fibre, be an unbleached nappy or be an organic nappy. Having a few key ideas means you can make a more educated decision, as well as read through the manufacturers detailed information more easily.

Of course, you’ll want to know that your chosen nappies are made of organic materials. Certification is a very costly process. What some commercial cloth nappy manufacturers do is make spot checks on various nappies – having them tested as being the correct fabric and organic. Retailers who make their own check for organically certified suppliers.

As a consumer you can look for information on the site about organic and unbleached fabrics, so you know that they are informed and you can always ask questions about how their fabrics are sourced, checked and for care instructions to keep your natural or organic nappies in their best condition for as long as possible.

You’ll know you are giving your baby a more sustainable future by using washable, reusable modern cloth nappies. Every baby should have at least one ‘green’ nappy in their wardrobe – and you can find it by exploring the resources here at My Green Nappy.org

Visit the Modern Cloth Mini Trend featuring Organic and Natural Nappies

A question for you about your cloth nappy stash:

Tell us about a natural, unbleached or organic nappy in your stash – where did you buy it, and how is it to use – practically as well as in terms of your eco-karma?

5 Comments »

  1. Good article!! I am pleased to see you have addressed the issue about bamboo fabric processing. There has been a bit of hype about this lately and I have seen web banners from Consumer stating that ‘bamboo is actually rayon’ I feel that this is likely to put people off using natural modern cloth nappies and that should not be case!

    Comment by Kyra from E Weez (NZ) — May 10, 2010 @ 8:29 am

  2. We use bamboo as my lil one is a heavy wetter and it is the only fabric which she doesn’t soak through quickly. Plus it is so soft, washes well (though it takes longer to dry), and it is a natural fabric.

    Comment by Cindy — May 10, 2010 @ 8:30 am

  3. My absolute favourite nappies are my Baby Beehinds bamboos. They are SO thirsty! I also have a Bumgenius Organic, but I find the design a bit more fiddly and it also takes forever to dry.

    Comment by Elizabeth — May 10, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

  4. I love the softness and absorbency of bamboo. I don’t like using anything else on my bub’s bum overnight.

    Comment by Rebecca — May 15, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

  5. We use BBH bamboo fitteds, especially at night. Great for heavy wetting!

    How can we know which method of bamboo is used to make the fabric for nappies?

    Comment by Sara — May 16, 2010 @ 7:57 pm

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