I've spent a lot of time wiping butts around here over the last 13 months. And every time I do, I use two things: 1. a Diaper. 2. Diaper wipes. Based on that extensive experience (ha), I'm going to be reviewing the various brands of those items I've been using, from both a functionality perspective as well as an eco-cred perspective. First on the list: Wipes.
Functionality: Good. The wipes are thick, meaning you can clean up a baby's butt fairly easily without having the wipe bunch up on you or make the mess worse. The wipes have a smooth finish which makes it easy to slide it across the baby's butt. All Huggies wipes are scented, which I'm not fond of. The wipes container is resealable which does a great job at keeping the wipes moist, but it means that if you want to carry wipes with you you do need to move them to a different container as it's too big to be conveniently portable.
Eco-cred: Low. They come in a hard plastic container (although you can buy refills in a plastic bag and reuse the container). The wipes themselves are made from cellulose (a wood based fiber) and polypropylene (petroleum-based plastic) and are moistened with water and synthetic cleaning agents. The wipes are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable (while they do say the wipes will "begin to break down over a long period of time", the vagueness of this claim tells me they won't biodegrade appreciably anytime soon.) The plastic box and refill bag are both recyclable where facilities exist.
Price: $5.85 for a box of 72 wipes at Well.ca and many other retailers. Refill bag of 144 wipes costs $8.77.
They work very well, and they're planet-killers. Avoid.
Functionality: good. They are not as thick as the Huggies wipes, but they're still pretty good and don't bunch up very easily. Unscented. The packaging is soft and flexible, so the good news about this is that you can chuck the wipes in to your purse. The closure on the package (it's just sticky stuff that you peel off and press back on) does get kind of gummed up and doesn't close as well after a while, so I often chuck the entire package into a used ziploc bag to carry them around in my purse, just to keep everything dry.
Eco-cred: Moderate, and trying to be better. The wipes are made from biodegradable viscose from sustainably managed forests and are compostable, and the packaging is transitioning - I saw references to the old packaging being chalk-based; Nature Babycare states that the new packaging is in fact biodegradable. The wipes are moistened with water and many organic moisturizers. There are also some chemical preservatives in the wipes including phenoxyethanol. As a disposable product, these wipes have a one-way trip from manufacture to disposal thus requiring you to use a new wipe every time. While this practice is definitely higher eco-impact, I like what this company is trying to get at: The market for disposable products is huge and will never go away, so let's try to make a disposable product that's as eco-friendly as possible and that will lessen the impact overall. (Although, some of these wipes have found their way in to the washing machine around here and they come out fully intact and actually reusable. Wouldn't recommend it as a practice, obviously, but it's interesting.) These wipes are what we use when we're out or travelling - I bought a big box in bulk to save on shipping costs and keep them stored for whenever we need them.
Price: 70 wipes for $4.99 at ecobotts.ca and various online retailers.
Summary: A good wipe with functional packaging that's trying to be more planet-friendly. A great choice if disposable is the only way you want (or need) to go.
Functionality: excellent. In terms of cleaning up messes, using cloth wipes beats any other wipe hands down. The thickness, absorbency and size of the cloth means that even the most explosive diaper mess can be cleaned up rapidly, without getting any of the offending substance all over your hands. For use at Casa ecochick, I have about 25 Bamboobino baby washcloths to use as diaper wipes. (I liked the softness of the bamboo cloths, as well as the eco-friendliness of bamboo. Also, bamboo cloth is reputed to have natural anti-bacterial properties, which I liked since the cloths were going to be wet at all times and thus prone to growing things.) I keep them moist in a container and handy at all times.
Downsides: Effort. Cloth wipes do need to be washed, obviously. If you cloth diaper, the wipes can be washed with the diaper loads. If you do not, you can do individual wipes loads as required - around here we run out of diapers and wipes about every second day. I consider washing diapers and wipes very low effort - throw them in the washer, throw them in the dryer or on the drying rack, stuff and done, taking up about 10 minutes of effort total from me. For the wipes, I simply take the cloths from the washer, fold them into a large container (I use a ziploc container), add a little more water and perhaps a few drops of lavender oil (which is meant to have skin-soothing properties, as well as keeping the wipes smelling nice), put the lid on and voila.
These wipes do discolor and stain after a while, particularly once your child starts eating solids like blueberries. Stains don't bother me in the least, but if they bother you, a soak in Oxyclean would probably do the trick.
Eco-cred: High. While the manufacturing process of bamboo, cotton or polyester fabric is high impact, the reusability means that the landfill impact is lessened exponentially. Water and electricity usage to wash the wipes should be considered, and remember that the wipes do not need to be dried in the dryer or otherwise since they will be remaining wet so that energy hog isn't an issue.
Price: Bamboobino washcloths--5 for $14 at Bamboobino.com (also available at many other retailers) or for a less expensive alternative try Piccolo Bambino poly-cotton blend washcloths -- 12 for $6.99 at Babies R'Us and other retailers.
A word on price: Even if you go with the expensive bamboo washcloths, you're coming out way head in the long run. An outlay of $70 for 25 bamboo washcloths costs roughly the same as one box plus seven refills of Huggies wipes, which (assuming use of one package of 70/week) would take you through about three months of diapers. You can see how using disposables would add up. I've been using our cloth wipes for 13 months and they are still holding up extremely well; I don't foresee having to replace them at all while my child is in diapers. Even adding in the cost of laundering and soap, by using cloth you're coming out way ahead financially through the lifetime of diapering your child.
Summary: Cloth is by far the best butt-wiper, the best option for your wallet, and the best option for the planet.
Disclaimer: All products reviewed in this post were purchased by me. No products were provided for review by any company.