16/06/2023 - Fantastic news! The energy price cap is set to drop below the EPG, meaning the average bill will reduce by 17%. This also means that the cost of washing reusable nappies will go down, making them EVEN cheaper than disposables!
In the UK, we've seen soaring energy rates already in 2022/2023, it's easy to see why parents might be worrying about the cost of washing their reusable nappies. This blog post has been up since the beginning of 2022, and I am keeping it updated with the latest energy prices regularly - we are currently at July 2023!
How much are energy prices right now?
The UK average will lower to 30.11p/ kWh as of 1st July 2023, but it varies by area of the UK, so I'm going to write this article at this average rate in July for the most accurate price, and ignore the standing charge as I will be paying this regardless of washing nappies. It's worth noting that you usually get a small discount for being on direct debit, making the average cost lower in this case.
How much do reusable nappies cost to wash?
Energy: According to my washing machine manual my intensive nappy cycle (cotton wash) uses 0.88kwh, and I am assuming I am on a tariff of 30.11p/kwh, so my cost per cycle is 26.49p. I have a large 10kg machine so I can wash 30 nappies at a time (if I don't have enough I top up with clothes anyway), meaning each nappy costs 0.88p in electricity to wash - less than a penny each!
To calculate your cost per cycle, have a look in the manual for your wash cycle which will show the energy consumption in kwh's. Multiply this figure by your energy rate to calculate the cost per cycle. Mine is 0.88kwh x 30.11p = 26.49p per wash. Then divide this by the average number of nappies you have in a wash. For me this is 26.49p ÷ 30 = 1.05p per nappy.
Water: This cost only applies financially if you're on a water meter, which most houses are so I will include this. My nappy cycle (and rinse) uses just under 100L of water in total. Given I wash 30 nappies at a time, each nappy uses 3.3L of water to wash. I currently pay just under 140p/m³ for supply and 174p/m³ for sewage (1 m³ = 1000L), meaning each wash is costing me 14p in water and 17.4p in sewage costs, so a total of 31.4p per wash, which means each nappy costs 1.05p in water to wash.
Note - This may seem like a lot of water but the manufacturing process of disposables actually uses WAY more. The figures vary greatly by source (and probably brand) but I've seen anything from 2x to 5x the water usage per disposable. Our household waste water is also carefully managed to strict regulations, whereas disposable nappy manufacturers abroad are often held to much lower standards for disposal of waste water.
Detergent: This is going to depend on a few factors - your water hardness, detergent brand and your washing machine size. I live in a hard water area, with a large 10kg washing machine, meaning I use more detergent than most. ASDA detergent costs me around 18.1p per wash to use, or 0.6p per nappy in detergent costs.
To calculate your detergent cost, work out the correct dose for a nappy wash on the back of the box (heavy soiling, correct water hardness), divide the total weight of the box (e.g 2kg = 2000g) by the weight of a dose (g). Divide the cost of a box by this number, and you will have the cost per dose!
This brings the total cost of laundering the nappies to 2.53p per nappy.
Upfront Cost: Of course, there is the upfront cost of reusable nappies. Our full time nappy kits vary anywhere from £125 to £400, and generally last at least 2 children. Assuming 5,000 nappy changes per child, this means a cost of 1.2p to 4p per nappy.
Note - If you already have a set of reusables and want to know if it's cost efficient to continue using your current reusable nappy stash then ignore this cost.
Total Cost: Reusable nappies cost roughly 3.73p to 6.53p per change if you include the cost of purchasing the reusable nappies.
How much will disposables cost?
As of September 2022, disposable nappies have already increased in price, here's the average prices, per nappy, that we came across:
'Budget' supermarket disposables cost anywhere from 4p for size 1, to 11p for size 6.
The most popular nappy brand costs from 12p for size 1, to 43p for size 6.
'Eco' disposables cost from 18p for size 1, to 47p for size 6.
You can view the cost per nappy on most retailer websites. It's worth remembering that nappy manufacturers have energy bills too, so it's likely their nappy prices will rise with each energy increase.
As you can see by the graph below, reusable nappies are almost always cheaper than disposables.
What about wipes?
If you're using or considering reusable nappies, it's worth remembering that you can save hundreds of pounds by using reusable wipes too! Reusable wipes cost anywhere from £16 - £50 depending on how extravagant you want your set-up to be, and these will last multiple children and can be added to your nappy or clothes wash at no extra cost. Whereas disposable wipes cost £230 per baby, and that's for the budget supermarket brand! Read more about the cost of wipes here.
Are reusable nappies worth it?
Yes, without a doubt! Reusables can save families so much money, and provide some security in knowing that they are always there when you need them. Not to mention the positive environmental impact, reduced nappy rash and increased comfort for baby.
If you already have your reusable nappy stash, then carrying on using them is by far the more cost-effective choice for you. And if you're currently considering reusables then go for it - they'll save you hundreds, if not thousands of pounds! Have a read of our nappy advice to learn more, or take our reusable nappy finder quiz to find the perfect nappies for you!