We have a baby and use tissues often to wipe him after feeding, cleaning his nose etc. The alternative would be to use cloth and wash it on a regular basis. My gut feeling is that cloth is more sustainable, but I had the same gut feeling about disposable vs. reusable diapers, and they apparantly come up even.

The tissues are not from recycled paper, they just claim to treat their forests "responsible". Our Washing machine has A+++ efficiency rating, we wash tissues at 40°C

So, given these conditions, would be using cloth be more sustainable than tissues?

p.s. When thinking about the issue, I came upon an interesting question - how to compare different use cases, on will use a cloth far more often than a tissue but how often? How dirty will it be, how dirty will a tissue be?

  • does the baby-care tag make sense
    – mart
    Dec 13, 2013 at 17:52
  • 2
    it also depends a lot on where your energy and water come from. If you're using tank water with a solar/wind setup then you're a long way ahead of most of us, but if you're (worst case) using oil-powered desalinated water with coal-powered electricity then the tissues are the least of your sustainability worries. Unfortunately those factors are key to knowing which is better.
    – Móż
    Dec 15, 2013 at 23:54
  • Specifically, if you're using sustainably harvested water and renewable electricity (100% "green" power can be bought in many places) then I'm guessing the cloth option is better. Ideally you'd line dry them, but with renewable electricity there's a counter-argument that by using more of it you're helping increase demand...
    – Móż
    Dec 15, 2013 at 23:56
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    Disposable diapers are just as sustainable as reusable ones? That does not make sense to me. There are landfill and disposal issues to contend with for disposable diapers.
    – Blue_Hat
    Dec 23, 2013 at 19:13
  • Another factor to consider would be the effort that goes into producing the tissues, transporting the tissues, the fertilizers and pesticides that may be used on the trees, who produces the tissues (what company) and what do they do with their wealth. For example the Kochs might (might I don't know just inventing an example) fund anti climate change propaganda.
    – hortstu
    Jan 11, 2014 at 5:55

1 Answer 1


Depends on the type of cloth. Natural fibres such as cotton and wool often make sustainable materials, especially if they are certified organic as this adds a greater level of sustainability to the product. Wiping cloths for babies can be washed by hand to reduce the water use and increase the sustainability of its usage rather than using a washing machine.

My wife and I use natural fabrics like cotton and wool (all organic) for both our children then we wash them by hand. It is a bit easier than you think to wash by hand since they are small and require minimal agitation once they are stored properly after usage. They can be soaked in water until it is time to wash them, we usually purchase enough so we won't have to wash more than once or in worse cases twice per week.

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