Just Stories

We've recently transferred this blog over from juststories.live. In this space we want to capture the ‘good’ stories. We want to share the journey of ordinary heroes who are making small changes towards living more justly. We hope you’ll be encouraged, challenged and inspired by our friends as they share their journey with us.

This blog is very much a community effort… we need YOUR story! If you have a story to share about how you (or someone you know) has been moving towards a more socially, environmentally or economically just way of living, why don’t you get in touch! We’d love to share your story so that together we can inspire others.

To cloth, or not?

Updated: Feb 9, 2019

By Sue Hobbs

I enjoyed Graham Gordon’s statement so much: No greater joy hath man than to see a line of clean nappies dancing freely on the washing line under the midday sun, with full knowledge that they will soon be dry, freed of their worst stains and with only the faintest aroma of urine. I enjoyed it because I related to it and it brought back memories that are fond ones now but weren’t so fond back then!!

32 years ago, in South Africa, there was no choice for us on whether to ‘cloth or not’. We used reusable cloth nappies! Disposables were just coming onto the market but were un-affordable (& unattainable in our local store).

I well remember our precious tiny 1st born being swamped by her over-large nappy and my fear that I’d prick her soft tummy with the huge nappy pin – my fingers were full of holes, nicks and scratches! Once the nappy was saturated I would change her and put the nappy into the nappy-bucket to soak in a solution which was meant to sterilise and clean the cloth. No such luck!! The stench was terrible, filling our small flat with a bad odour, which we tried to live with for 2 days so as not to wash too often. I would then have to lift this weighty bucket to the sink to pour off the “stinky” solution. No ways could I leave the nappies like this to dry – they smelt and the poo nappies were still stained yellow. So into bleach (!!) went the poo ones and into the washing machine went the others.

Now wash day was a dreadful day for me (hence washing every other day). Not being able to afford a fully automatic machine we opted for a twin tub. Does ANYone remember them? Cost effective, water consumption effective, power saving effective but time saving and back saving? Indeed not!

To start the mammoth experience you have to pull the machine out of its storage space & hook it up to the tap at the kitchen (or bathroom) sink.  Squeeze out the “stinky” solution, put the nappies into the tub, switch on the wash cycle. Once done, lift out the over heavy, full of water nappies & put them in the spinner (twin tub!), then back into the bigger tub to rinse and back to spin. Then put baby in pram, grab wash bucket of nappies, go down 3 flights of stairs to the back garden and hang up those pure white, sweet smelling nappies on the washing line under the midday sun and watch them dancing freely in a humid January wind in Durban while you played with your baby.

Lovely? And I did it twice more!! I could have changed to only disposables with baby no.3, but I still wouldn’t pay those prices!

Thirty years on, would I do it again? Or would I change to disposables?

If I did go the disposable route I would use biodegradable nappies but again the cost is prohibitive. Disposables are so quick and convenient. I can dispose of them but I cannot make them breakdown in the land fill & disappear!. I have visions of a floating island of nappies somewhere in the Indian ocean!! At present my area of Durban is having a terrible time with the sulphur smell from our local dump, causing eye and ear, nose and throat problems. I couldn’t add to that with my nappies.

So yes, I’d do it again. I’d go the cloth nappy route. They’re cost effective at best. My automatic washing machine is eco-friendly and I have a wonderful tumble drier (I do??) for wet, misty days when absolutely nothing dries.

Lastly my argument in favour of cloth nappies is they give babies cute bottoms!!

About the author: Sue is a wife, mum to three girls, and grandmama to 2 tiny girls – and she’s really rather good at these things (the convener of this blog site can say that with good authority as she is the said first-born mentioned in this post). When she’s not typing loooong documents for her husband you can find her hidden in her sewing room producing bits of glorious creativity. This is her first step into the world of blogging – welcome, we salute you Suey!


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